Sorry I haven’t posted in a while. I was away in San Diego for vacation. I am building a web page to describe the trip… should be done soon. In the meantime, here’s an exceedingly nerdy post.

Upon return, I received my Hauppauge WinTV-PVR-350 from Amazon. This weekend I got it set up and am now successfully running MythTV under Linux.

A few weeks ago, I got Linux running on my old machine from college (600 Mhz P3) added a free network card to it, and got it running as a home router and DHCP server. I can also use it as a CVS/Web/FTP server, which freed up my other computer for this MythTV project.

What this MythTV thing basically allows me to do is use my computer like a TiVo. The WinTV card has onboard MPEG-2 encoding and decoding, which means it can record and display TV shows with very little use of the local computer’s CPU. The TV-guide functionality is free from XMLTV, so there are no service fees.

The program is pretty cool. My favorite part so far is that because it’s based on a client-server architecture, you can actually stream TV shows to other computers on the network. It has a number of other features and plugins (image gallery, weather reports, web browsing, even a news feed reader so I can read these dumb blogs on the TV).

For right now the computer is in my room, but eventually I’m going to hook it up to the TV. That will involve doing some work on silencing the computer so it’s living-room friendly. Optionally, you can also hack up an X-box to sit in the living room, and stream the TV shows to it. I kind of like that idea, but it’s a little more expensive than making an existing PC quiet.

If anyone wants to do this themselves, there’s a pretty nice guide here that helped me out tremendously.

Professor Ipod

This article on Wired is somewhat interesting. I’ve never seen anyone put so much thought into something I’d normally think is unimportant.

…for example, music allows people to use their eyes when they’re listening in public. I call it nonreciprocal looking. Listening to music lets you look at someone but don’t look at them when they look back. The earplugs tell them you’re otherwise engaged. It’s a great urban strategy for controlling interaction.

No HD-PVR on the Horizon

Although HDTV and PVR technology were featured at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) this year, there still doesn’t appear to be an HD-PVR out there for people in my shoes. TiVo’s HD-PVR still isn’t going to fly for people who get their HD Signals over cable.

he TiVo HDTV reference design will offer all the same unique recording and viewing features currently available for the TiVo Series2 and will also support all high-definition formats, including 480i, 480p, 720p and 1080i. The source of the HDTV signal may be ATSC terrestrial HD broadcasts or satellite HD broadcast.

Which basically means if I don’t want to buy a satellite dish/subscription, I have to get my HD over the air with a regular antenna, and I’m not even sure if I have that many stations in range. Comcast doesn’t yet support a device like the Motorola DCT6208, so no luck there either. That would effectively be a combined Cable Box, HD Tuner, and PVR in one. And, as far as I know, there are no HDTV-tuner cards (for computers) that support digicipher 2, which is how Comcast sends the HD signal out to their boxes.

So that kind of sucks. I guess there aren’t many people utilizing HD via their cable company or this problem would have been solved by now. Bastards.

A fine idea

This recent slashdot story is similar to something I’ve been wanting to do but never gotten around to. This pluto box really shouldn’t be very hard to build with commodity parts. I would probably cut out the PVR stuff so you could use really mediocre hardware, and I figure you could put this box together for well under a grand. The trick would be creating a nice GUI to tie the whole thing together. It really doesn’t sound hard, and once we got it right could be sold out of a garage (or apartment) online with minimal inventory required.

I’ve been working on getting a voicemail system running in my apartment with VOCP but it’s been tough finding a good modem with working Linux drivers. Working out all those hassles and then selling a box with known good hardware sounds like the way to go.

I’ll post back shortly when I make my first million.

Death of Tube TVs

A fairly interesting article here about the anticipated death of the conventional tube-based television. Interestingly, the anticipated “future” technology is not plasma, but LCD.

But plasma, which looks best in a showroom, is far from perfect. Like computer displays of old, it suffers from burn-in if a static image or one smaller than the screen is displayed too long. Over time, the picture will lose half its brightness.

Many in the industry see plasma as an interim technology, to be replaced eventually by a pure LCD flat screen.

Sneak Peek at new Treo

I just received this link from Handspring via e-mail. The new Treo 600 does look very cool. I’m still up in the air on what the optimal cell phone/PDA combo will look and feel like. The tradeoff between having a big screen and a compact device seems to be insurmountable.

TiVo for Radio

As posted on Slashdot, there is an interesting article on a few products that have TiVo-like functionality but for radio.

I was looking for a product like this back when Opie and Anthony were on the air, but now I’m not so interested. If I had sucessfully recorded a good chunk of their shows back when they aired (I was only able to get a few) I wouldn’t be so bored in the car all the time today.

No Highs, No Lows, Buy Bose

I’ve been shopping for speakers recently (home theatre-type) and in doing research unearthed what kind of surprised me, but in retrospect doesn’t. Ask most people who dig electronics, or even who just visit Best Buy or Circuit City from time to time what the best speakers around are, and in general you’ll hear “Bose.”

Well, after a few trips to audiophile-type newsgroups, I quickly learned that Bose are generally regarded as cheap, overpriced speakers. This FAQ was pretty interesting (although it’s a bit dated). I’m currently looking at Paradigm, and based on a test listen at a small local speaker store was pretty impressed.