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.

    1. I'm doing a similiar thing, also installed showanalyzer + comskip. We'll see how that works out.

      One thing that bugs me about windows 2k is time. Do you use a utility to keep your clock accurate? A few minutes off and you can lose the end of a show.

    2. Check this out...