Sunday, February 08, 2004
Further homebrew DVR explorations
I'll be posting some more detail in my ongoing homebrew Digital Video Recorder (DVR) explorations, but my overall take at the moment is that TiVO stands head and shoulders above anything you can put together on your own with the (admittedly notable) caveat that you can't easily (as in without serious hacking) extract the video files from the TiVO for editing/burning to DVD/etc. The PC hardware that you can buy these days for DVR purposes such as the Shuttle-based systems is really quite good. That's not the problem. The problem is the software. For Windows-based systems, I've tried the ATI software that came with my Radeon All-in-Wonder card, Showshifter, and Snapstream. I've been underwhelmed. Certainly none have anything like the ease of creating and editing season passes that the TiVO has; all are much more oriented toiward a "programming grid" display. The ATI software that comes with the Radeon is fine for watching but very awkward to use for recording and playback. Showshifter makes you go a highly manual process (which includes writing batch files!) to get the programming listings and, even after you do this, I didn't find the software very easy to use. Snapstream seemed to have the most promise. Unfortunately it was quite unstable on my system. I've read comments from others that it "likes" the Hauppague tuner cards like the PVR-250 more than the ATIs and indeed, that's what the company sells to use with its products. For slot reasons in my system, I prefer the AGP ATI card so that I have a free PCI slot to which I could add a high-end sound card at some point. But, perhaps I'll give the PVR-250 a shot anyway at some point.
Perhaps everyone else knows about this already, but this "open source" (open collaboration really) encyclopedia has really gotten quite good. I think I looked at it a while back and it didn't make much of an impression. But I had occasion to take another look-see recently. I didn't make a detailed survey but my impression is that there's considerable depth and breadth and the accuracy seems quite high (if not perfect). It also seems to be a great example of an open project where many people can effectively contribute. By comparison, at least individual open source software projects end up being the work of a relatively small core group.