Author Topic: Confused by all the alternatives  (Read 1841 times)

WeeGraeme

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Confused by all the alternatives
« on: August 17, 2008, 09:13:20 am »
Hi.

The more I tried to read and learn about media options, the more confused I'm becoming.  I'd like to ask for some help restoring some clarity of thought in that regard.

I've recently bought my first large screen, HD lcd tv.  It's a 46" Samsung 650.  I previously had a 32 inch crt and a LG hdd / dvd recorder.  When I bought the HD tv, I realised that the component video connection doesn't really cut the mustard.  The DVD recorder only has analogue TV tuners as well, so it's time for an upgrade.

I started off looking at a direct upgrade of my current style of recorder, but they record to DVD's in SD unless you get a blu-ray recorder, but I've only seen these advertised at around $2500.  You still have limited editing capabilities, which means copying it to disc and then to a PC before burning it again.

Then I discovered some of the HDD based PVR's.  Some of these are network capable, which means I wouldn't have to copy stuff twice.  Many of them have dual HD DVB-T tuners which would be nice.  The drawback there is that I'd need a separate DVD or DVD / Blu-ray player.

Yesterday morning, I learned of XP / Vista MCE and then last night, I learned of LinuxMCE.  As a result, I'm reaching information overload.  The worst part is that I don't actually know anyone who uses any one of these systems, so I can't even start to ask for first hand experience.

I think I'd like to go down the LinuxMCE path.  I tried converting my Windows laptop to Linux a year or so ago.  I liked it, but couldn't get the wireless network card to work reliably, so regrettably, I had to change back.  I saw a YouTube video showing Linux MCE controlling a surround sound and lighting.  I doubt that my hardware is capable of that.  It's very cheap.  I only bought it because I didn't know why people made such a fuss about them, so I bought a real cheapie.  It gave me a bit of an idea, and I'll likely spend a bit more one one one day.

I do want to connect my satellite pay tv tuner to it.  It only has composite output and S-VHS, although knowing my pay tv provider, the S-VHS has probably been disabled.

Does it sound like LinuxMCE is a overkill for what I want to do?  I've read some posts where people say it takes a bit of tweaking.  That's fine to a point, but after tweaking, I want non-computer literate people people to be able to operate it easily.

Many of the TV cards I've seen recommended for XP/Vista MCE say that they're designed to run with XP/Vista MCE.  Does that mean that they won't run at all, or as well in LinuxMCE?  I'm just talking generally here.  I don't have any specific hardware in mind as I haven't chosen the path I want to take yet.

Many people talk about the need for HDMI connections.  Can you get those with HTPC setups as well?  My current, el-cheapo surround sound doesn't have it anyway, but my TV does.  The surround sound has optical and coax as composite connections.  I'm not too worried about that side of it at the moment, although if replacing it meant not having to buy something which is dead technology and therefore of limited value, I'd consider doing that now.

Sorry for raving on.  I'm just finding this all quite confusing.  It's like learning a new language without hearing it spoken, and you don't even know what language it is.  :-)  Whatever I do, I just want to do it once.

Thanks.

colinjones

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Re: Confused by all the alternatives
« Reply #1 on: August 17, 2008, 02:36:34 pm »
It did ramble a bit, didn't it?! You ask if LMCE is overkill for what you want to do - but you don't really say much about what you want to do, just about what you have read and have got currently....

All I can see in terms of requirements from your post is connecting your sat pay-tv and being able to record shows, and you mention something about editing, but I'm not sure what you want to do there.

If all you want is a way of recording TV, then it probably is overkill. MythTV might be a better idea. However, if you are to try LMCE you will quickly develop more "requirements" once you can see what it does :)

You can certainly put DVB-S/T cards in a LMCE device and decode TV directly as long as your provider allows you to decode on things other than their own device. Or you can use an analogue capture card from your S-Video (assuming you meant that) or even composite.

HDMI/DVI is better, but not essential - if you have the option, use it, but don't spend a lot on the cables, there are a lot of rip offs out there!

The more you want to do, and the further you veer from the recommended hardware, the more tweaking you may have to do - but that is only in the setup, this doesn't mean normal users will see any of that. The interface is very simple and intuitive (and getting better all the time).

LMCE brings together a media player, security system, telephone system, home automation, etc all into one integrated package - there is no comparison with the Microsoft product, which is a media system only (and a pretty poor one at that).

As for your sound system, if it has an IR remote, then you can almost certainly control it through LMCE with a compatible IR blaster. There will either already be a template to control it with, or you can learn the remote commands yourself so that LMCE can change the volume, inputs, power, etc for you...

norjms

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Re: Confused by all the alternatives
« Reply #2 on: August 18, 2008, 04:09:10 am »
If all you're looking for is a media center setup that you can record and archive your satellite TV. Choose Windows Media Center...

If you want to learn l how to use Linux and eventually expand the system to include other functions them try LMCE but, understand this is not exactly plug and play.

Windows MCE -
Pros -Records TV - Archives Movies - Better plug and play hardware support - Stupid simple to setup
Cons -It will never let you have the freedom using Linux allows - Windows itself tends to be unstable - It costs money

LMCE
Pros Records TV - Archives Movies -Controls your Security System - Home Automation - Controls your home network - Free
Cons - Somewhat sketchy hardware support - Some features are difficult to setup

tschak909

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Re: Confused by all the alternatives
« Reply #3 on: August 18, 2008, 06:35:22 am »
people keep saying it's not plug and play
but guess what? if you use the hardware we recommend, it is.

-Thom

WeeGraeme

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Re: Confused by all the alternatives
« Reply #4 on: August 18, 2008, 08:57:27 am »
Thanks for all the feedback.

colinjones, your psychic abilities are amazing.  That's pretty much what I wanted to do.

I'd like to install one or more DVB-T HD cards and possibly a DVB-S card.  The DVB-S card option isn't actually permitted by my pay-tv provider, but I've read of some doing it.  If that doesn't work then it looks like I could use a composite output from the existing pay-tv box and control it with the IR blaster mentioned.

I thought if I'd gone the Windows MCE path, I'd be able to use a licence for Windows XP which I have, but I see from the MS website that it's a whole different version of Windows, not an add on programme.

I've always wanted to learn about Linux, so I'm thinking I'll give Linux MCE a go.  Now all I need to do is decide on hardware.  :-)

Thanks.

WeeGraeme

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Re: Confused by all the alternatives
« Reply #5 on: August 18, 2008, 10:56:20 am »
As I've read a bit more, I see that LinuxMCE wants to be the router.  I have a combined modem / router / VOIP ATA.  Will I need to replace these in order to use Linux MCE?

posde

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Re: Confused by all the alternatives
« Reply #6 on: August 18, 2008, 11:03:29 am »
You don't need to replace your existing router, but it makes things easier for a couple of things. I am using an external router and it works.

HOWEVER, LinuxMCE MUST be your DHCP server for all the things it needs to control, and you MUST have two network cards for LinuxMCE being capable to control devices on the network.

rgds
Oliver

colinjones

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Re: Confused by all the alternatives
« Reply #7 on: August 18, 2008, 02:00:24 pm »
Sounds good - that's all possible. Do your hardware research well, on the wiki but also here, and in people's signatures. And really read the install instructions well. So many people make elementary errors that screw them up and tie them in knots that could easily have been avoided if they had followed the instructions (rather than the rush of blood after watching the videos!)

And on the router issue, no I would recommend you keep your router/modem - it services your existing home network and anything you decide to keep on it, and keeps it a nice simple routed environment. Just be careful that you don't get confused by lax terminology on this point - often you will see your broadband router referred to as "router" and other times people are actually referring to the DCE Router as "router".

The DCE router is actually one of the software modules on an LMCE core/hybrid machine. It is a "message" router - in other words it is the hub of communication between all of the other LMCE components. Most of the code in LMCE is implemented in discrete chunks known as Devices. They cover everything from the Xine software used for replaying audio and video, Asterisk for telephony, the security and home automation modules, and even the on screen Orbiter (the graphical remote control system). So talking about the DCE router means to talk about how the guts of LMCE talks to itself and achieves what it does, whereas talking about a broadband router is just about networking and access to the Internet.

Some people also use additional routers on their network for various networking reasons that are neither to do with Internet access nor how LMCE works.

Zaerc

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Re: Confused by all the alternatives
« Reply #8 on: August 18, 2008, 02:01:39 pm »
If all you're looking for is a media center setup that you can record and archive your satellite TV. Choose Windows Media Center...

If you want to learn l how to use Linux and eventually expand the system to include other functions them try LMCE but, understand this is not exactly plug and play.

Windows MCE -
Pros -Records TV - Archives Movies - Better plug and play hardware support - Stupid simple to setup
Cons -It will never let you have the freedom using Linux allows - Windows itself tends to be unstable - It costs money

LMCE
Pros Records TV - Archives Movies -Controls your Security System - Home Automation - Controls your home network - Free
Cons - Somewhat sketchy hardware support - Some features are difficult to setup


If that's all you want have a look at one of the mythtv distros like mythbuntu, that alone already blows windowsmce out of the water without the cons.

Windows MCE MythBuntu -
Pros -Records TV - Archives Movies - Better plug and play hardware support - Stupid simple to setup
Cons -It will never let you have the freedom using Linux allows - Windows itself tends to be unstable - It costs money

"Change is inevitable. Progress is optional."
-- Anonymous


Techstyle

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Re: Confused by all the alternatives
« Reply #9 on: August 18, 2008, 02:05:13 pm »
weegreame,

Give LMCE a try, I started on Win MCE and then moved on to LMCE because of the vast amount of extra things it can do over Win MCE.  I just need to upgrade my wife now because she firstly prefers the look of Win MCE (no taste!) and secondly feels like a widow because I am forever adding extra things to it  ;D - Media Directors, PDA orbiters, remotes and RF mice, control of my reciever and TV, VOIP, security cameras, X10 lighting - pleasure land for the tinkerer!!

Seriously though, the basic system can be up and running very quickly especially, like Thom says, if you stick to recommended hardware.  I just used old stuff I had knocking around and then tinkered with it!!

Techstyle


charlie1953

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Re: Confused by all the alternatives
« Reply #10 on: August 18, 2008, 02:33:38 pm »
Hi weegraeme,

I see you are from Oz. I am from NZ and found that my DVB-S card (a SkyStar 2 from TechniSat) was not detected and set up automatically by lmce. I wanted to connect to the New Zealand Freeview satellite service.

The following link helped me do the setup manually using the Myth backend which is available on the orbiter menu under "Computing" "Myth TV Setup".
http://www.wlug.org.nz/FreeViewMythTvSetup

This link wont be exactly what you want because it is specific to my card and the NZ Freeview service but it may give you some hints if you have trouble getting a TV signal.
I get the feeling that lmce is perfect if you live in the US where the cable services etc have been loaded but for us down here there may be more to setup.
(Perhaps ColinJones could give us some pointers here).

My next challenge is to see if I can automate my lights using Z-Wave. But I have been told that the standard Z-Wave frequencies are allocated to the military over here.
(It may be fun to get control of a guided missile with my lmce dimmer control  :D.

 

colinjones

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Re: Confused by all the alternatives
« Reply #11 on: August 18, 2008, 03:10:29 pm »
hmmm... its all DVB (same as EU and most of the rest of the world use), so you still have to "tune" the stations, beyond that its much the same. Don't get confused with encrypted services - that's the same everywhere. If the provider lets you decrypt with your own hardware (or you can crack it) then away you go, otherwise analogue capture is the only way - that doesn't vary with geography...

Sure in some areas, hardware is more limited in A/NZ - and in particular there is a dearth of HA stuff in both countries. There is no ZWave for either yet, nor Insteon. ZWave is more globally widespread, with plenty of stuff for EU. However, remember although having EU versions means 230v/50Hz (also which covers most of the rest of the world), the socket types make it ugly, and RF as you say.

There were new frequencies allocated for A/NZ some time ago to cover ZWave, but they are not the same as EU or NA, so that means different versions beyond just power sockets. ACT are interested, but need a partner here (I have asked Smarthome, but no reply yet!) I doubt very much the 900MHz ISM band is being used for military applications though, it is unlicenced but only in NA, Australia and Israel (Region 2), so doesn't cover NZ - however the registered frequency for ZWave in A/NZ is in this range anyway (921MHz), so any product for AU would be legal in NZ as well.... now just to get someone to build them!