For a little over 6 years I've had my tv connected to a pc running MythTV. It's really cool, and I could never go back to watching regular live tv. Even 6 years ago it was not a new pc that I used. It was my old gaming rig, so it had a reasonable spec when bought, and was only slightly aging when pressed into mythtv service. In the time since, I've had to replace the PSU twice, the motherboard and the graphics card. i also started out using a pvr to grab the output from a NTL cable box, and an IR blaster to control it. About 3 and a half years ago I switched to a digital freeview tuner. Despite all this the spec of the system didn't change much. It has done a petty good job, but has struggled a little. Most notably it couldn't play streamed video in full screen. And sometimes things would really slow down. To be fair I *also* ran my email server on the same box, and made some light use of the webserver.
I have often looked to replacing the setup, but until recently it's been prohibitively expensive. Then I heard about the Asrock Ion 330 from Dale. He bought one to set up a pvr system for the first time.
Lucky for me I have an awesome girlfriend, and Kat bought me one for my birthday.
The two immediate benefits are 1) size...the asrock is tiny and fits on one side of a shelf beneath the tv, compared to the full tower pc that used to live behind the tv. 2) noise...the asrock is really quiet. You can hear it if you listen, but compared to the background roar of my old pc it's basically silent.
I started out installing ubuntu karmic, but it gave me grief, sporadic boot issues and I've not really been impressed with karmic, so I switched back to jaunty instead. And I went with the 64bit version as I read it handles hd video playback with less cpu impact. I followed this guide
And soon had a system up and running. I had to mess around a little installing mythtv itself, for somereason the mysql setup wasn't smooth, and required me to do some messing around creating and granting user access. I spent a while figuring out how to get proper surround sound passing through the optical spdif out to my surround sound system. Eventually I found I could get mplayer to work by using: Mplayer -ac hwac3,hwdts, -fs dvd:// And i got vlc to work by setting up audio to use spdif when availiable and output over alsa. Then using this command: vlc -f --extraintf lirc dvd:// I chose to use vlc as the default dvd player from mythtv as it supports dvd menus and mplayer does not.
For tv decoding I bought a Hauppauge Nova-T stick. A little grey usb stick, just plugged it in, attatched my ariel lead and away it went. No problems at all. I even set up the remote control for mythtv and vlc. My only problem there was having some key buttons just not detected at all. Very weirdly the OK button does not register anything in irw or mode2. I checked with a video camera that the led is lighting up when the button is pressed, just not being registered for some reason. Undaunted I just mapped the missing buttons to others that I have no use for.
So I now have a mythtv box which is better in every way than the last. Tiny, lower power consumption, quieter, faster, more storage, more memory and it supports hdmi out and HD playback ready for me to one day upgrade the tv to HD.