Saturday, July 23, 2005

Kubrick Graffiti

You might have noticed the interactive masthead at the top of this site. It's basically a Flash version of the Kubrick Template's header with a basic drawing script layered in. Not the most impressive piece of code in the world, but for some reason I just can't stop drawing with it.

Keeping in line with Kubrick's open source design, you can download the source code for this little mod here.

Thursday, July 21, 2005

Someone owns

I accidentally held down the 'w' key on my keyboard and then pressed the 'enter' key. Sure enough, someone owns almost every length of repeating w's on the net. Most of the short ones are different companies, but one place seems to own from about 10 w's on.

...and on and on...


I mean this is crazy. I know URLs are cheap, but who in their right mind would buy 85 W's dot com.

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Welcome Ray and Steve!!!

My boss and my co-worker should be stumbling across this half-hearted blog and day now.

Sunday, July 17, 2005

DIYPVR: What's Next?

Well, GB-PVR seems to be getting updates about once every three months so I will definitely continue to keep the software up to date. Also I'd like to explore writing some plug-ins — if I can think of a good idea for one.

Also, if you've read this whole series, you know that I run my PVR of a basic antenna and I really only get seven stations—ABC, NBC, CBS, FOX, WB, and two PBS stations. Even with that limited choice of stations, I still find that I need to record two programs at once, or watch and record at the same time. So, my next big purchase will be another PVR-150, but this time the less expensive MCE version because I won't need another remote.

After that, additional hard drive space might be in order, or maybe an HD tuner – of course I'll need an HDTV to make proper use of that.

  • Last time, The MediaMVP.
  • Thursday, July 14, 2005

    DIYPVR: Media Extending with MediaMVP

    First a quick explanation of “Media Extending”(a build on Microsoft's definition...)

    With “Media Extending” you store all your digital media on a Media Center PC — photos, music, videos, live and recorded TV — and bring it all to life throughout your home through a piece of hardware that displays and controls your central Media Center PC.

    One of the other reasons I chose GB-PVR as my TiVo-like software solution was it's ability to be controlled via a relatively inexpensive piece of hardware called the MediaMVP. The MediaMVP can be picked up for about $90 and provides remote access to all your recording, MP3s, photos, etc. that are stored on your GB-PVR enabled PVR.

    So, in my case, my main entertainment center in located on the top floor of my three story home, and I have a small 17” LCD TV and bookshelf audio system on my 1st floor. By running a 100' ethernet cable between the two floors, I am able to stream nearly everything from Live TV to recordings to Internet radio. Currently, I'm in the process of running a second set of audio outs from my MediaMVP to the radio in my kitchen so I can listen my favorite on-line radio station throughout the house.

    The MediaMVP isn't the most reliable piece of hardware out there, but since it takes a only a few seconds to boot-up, it's hardly a hassle when it locks or resets. (Which only happens about once a week.) Other than that, the S-Video output is pretty good, and the remote is the same one that came with the PVR-150 so the human interface looks just like my my main PVR.

  • Next time, what's next.
  • Last time, all about the software.
  • Sunday, July 10, 2005

    DIYPVR: The Software

    As I mentioned before, I tried most every free and/or open source TiVo-like software out there for both Windows and Linux before deciding on GB-PVR.

    GB-PVR is a fully featured Personal Video Recorder (PVR), allowing you to schedule TV recordings and view and pause live TV. In additional to this PVR functionality, it also acts as a media center allowing you to watch movies, listen to music and view pictures. GB-PVR also supports specialist hardware decoders including Sigma Designs XCard, Hauppauge PVR350 and Hauppauge MediaMVP, with support the full application including On Screen Display (OSD). GB-PVR also supports multiple tuners, allowing you to record more multiple channels at one time.

    I was a little uneasy running a PVR project on a Windows 2000 install for stability reasons. Try explaining to your wife that you didn't record the last episode of 24 because of the blue screen of death. But I figured that a light install of Win2k with most everything turned off, wouldn't be so bad. It also didn't hurt that I owned the OS, so all the licensing would be legit.

    With the help of nLite I built a tiny install of Windows 2000, service packs, GB-PVR and all other requirements plus on one CD-R. I figured this way, it would be easy to port my PVR to better hardware at a later date if needed.

    GB-PVR setup is pretty straight forward if you stick to the base plugin structure, but there is a lot more functionality available via free 3rd-party plug-ins. My one complaint here is that everybody has a slightly different setup procedure. Some plug-ins get unzipped to the Plugins directory, some to the base directory, some have installers but expect your GB-PVR directory to be the default one. (I guess I should stop complaining and write a standard plug-in installer and give it to all the plug-in authors.)

    I kept the base GB-PVR "Blue" skin on my system, but I did like the looks of the "BlueMCE2" skin which is a port of another PVR software called MediaPortal. Which in it's own right is a clone of Windows XM Media Center Edition. Even with new skins GB-PVR isn't as pretty as Windows XP MCE or MedialPortal, but it is extremely functional for TV guide searching, video playback, and MP3 playback.

    Long story short, it records programs well, and lets me do scheduling from my laptop via it's WebAdmin interface, playback looks better than my Time Warner/Scientific Atlanta DVR box, not to mention the whole thing was cheaper than I imagined.

  • Next up, let's extend the reach with a MediaMPV
  • Last time, the hardware line-up.
  • Monday, July 04, 2005

    DIYPVR: The Hardware

    I had built a TiVo-like box a while back using MythTV as a test just to see what the whole "Build Your Own TiVo" was all about. I used a leftover Pentium 2 mother board and a craptastic ATI TV Wonder VE. It all worked well enough, but it wasn't as good as my TiVo-like box from Time Warner, so I scrapped the idea.

    But when I upgraded my home system last Christmas, I was left with a fairly decent Athlon 2100+ system with 512MB of RAM and an 80GB hard drive just sitting around. (At the time of this post a similar system could be bought new on eBay for under $300.) So, I decided to give it a go--return my TiVo, cancel digital cable, and take a step backwards to "rabbit ear" TV.

    I only wanted to spend about $200 getting there, so I could re-coup those expenses in a few months of a cable-free lifestyle. So, here's my final configuration and costs:
    • Athlon 2100+ system (old computer, $0)
    • 512MB of RAM (old computer, $0)
    • 80GB hard drive for recordings (old computer, $0)
    • TDK DVD-R (old computer, $0)
    • 2U black rackmount case (salvaged from work, $0)
    • Hauppauge PVR150 TV Tuner (Amazon, $89 free ship)
    • Vantec Stealth 120mm case fan (, $12 + $2 ship)
    • TERK TV-55 HD Antenna (eBay, $50 + 15 ship)
    • GB-PVR software (Free, but I donated $5 to the project)

    As you can see, I came in under my budget by about $27 and ended up with a pretty nice system. To build one from scratch though, you'd need about $500 which makes it kinda pricey for a hobby.

  • Next time, the software.
  • Last time, the overview
  • Saturday, July 02, 2005

    DIY: My TiVo-like experience with GB-PVR

    A couple of weeks ago I decided that paying $60 a month was too much for cable when all I was watching were sports and prime time shows like Desperate Housewives, 24, Lost, Alias, etc. (Please don't tell anyone that I watch Desparate Housewives.) So I figured that I'd make the switch back to an "old school" antenna setup and save myself about $700 per year.

    But, what I was really going to miss were two things--my TiVo (which was provided by my cable company) and OnDemand movies. TiVo (as most anyone who tried it would say) is freakin' awesome and if I am only going to have 5 channels of TV, I want to be able to pick and choose what I want to watch. For OnDemand, I might pick-up a NetFlix account as see what that's all about.

    So this major life decision prompted me to dig out some old computer parts (in this case an Athlon 2100+ CPU and motherboard and an full height rack mount server case) and start building a PVR.

    After trying MythTV and Freevo (both Linux) I settled on GB-PVR because it would run on Windows 2000 (which I had lying around as well) and I hoped I'd be able to run a few other things on that box to make it more of a video/audio/data server.

    So, over the next few posts, I'll chronicle my experiences with the software/hardware and wrap the whole thing up in one big review.

  • Next time, the hardware.