On using a HTPC in NZ

The current setup - Mediaportal

, posted: 10-Aug-2008 10:18

I think I have gone on about MythTV enough, what about the other major open source media center application, which has many of the features of myth and the added bonus of being Windows-based and hence a lot more familiar territory for most people?

I have run Mediaportal 1.0 for a couple of months now, it's currently at RC2 and has been pretty good. You may have noticed my HTPC system isn't exactly top of the line, a single core and 1GB of RAM means Vista doesn't run very smoothly. MP can be sluggish, I think the remote lag has been fixed, but often loading a channel and setting up a recording can be slow. The worst problems come when recording 2+ shows, especially if some are HD, and watching another at the same time. The show I'm watching will skip or pause, I don't think the hard drive is fully up to the task.

Now plenty of people of these forums already run Mediaportal but there also seem to be plenty running GB-PVR and MCE and to be honest I'm often not sure why. One obvious point is the use of Popcorn hours as a frontend for a GB-PVR server; they look like a sweet quiet, reliable client, but what you are missing out on is full support for all of Freeview HD's audio formats (and hence can watch all the channels), and support for recording multiple channels of a single digital frequency. This is something I do all the time, and to test out my system I once got it recording 5 shows at once, including the HD channels, and it worked fine. I'm sure it could do more, even an HD stream is only around 1.2MB/s, but I got bored. On top of that of course you have support for multiple sources (digital and analogue) and can hence have Prime and FreeviewHD on one system. Again, can't see why you would want to go for Vista MCE instead. Yes it is more stable but I fail to see why so many people have posted at The Green Button complaining about the delays, and possible cancellation, of H.264 support when there is a viable alternative avaliable right now.

This brings me to my point about Mediaportal, its flexibility and feature support, which come from its ability to lean on other software for support. MP doesn't have built-in H.264 decoding, it uses an external codec such as PowerCinema. MP doesn't need drivers for all the TV cards it supports, it uses the provided Windows drivers. And I don't know the technical details but MP also leans on various other parts of the operating system, such as Aero for video performance. This of course gives it a huge advantage over MythTV, which requires all these critical supporting components to be written by volunteers and included in the operating system. Hence, I use it :)

Finally I thought I might add to this blog with what I have been watching. I recently managed to add to my standard fare of The Daily Show and CSI/SVU etc with Friday Night Lights, 8.30pm Friday C4. Set in the heart of Texas; it is about football, God, cheerleaders and football. Very interesting insight into what these small towns revolve around, namely Friday night college football. You thought we take rugby seriously here, we have nothing on the Americans!    

Other related posts:
New wiki for setting up guide data in NZ
Final MythTV report
It works - 1080i with a 5200X2 in mythtv

Comment by sbiddle, on 10-Aug-2008 14:34

" but there also seem to be plenty running GB-PVR and MCE and to be honest I'm often not sure why"

Why do you think this?

Author's note by amphibem, on 10-Aug-2008 14:57

Well as I said I take it Popcorn Hour is often the attraction for GB-PVR, other than that maybe the familiarity of the Media Center interface. I used Vista Media Center on my desktop with an analogue TV tuner for most of last year and it was good, the eye candy is much better than MP and especially MythTV. However that was a limited use, when digital TV and multi-recording is bought into the picture it starts to seriously lag feature-wise.

So i would go with familiarity, and a desire to not fiddle with a currently stable system!

Comment by sbiddle, on 10-Aug-2008 19:42

I use GB-PVR as my main box for all TV. There are features it doesn't have but it is absolutely rock solid, never misses recordings and does everything I want.

Comment by nzsouthernman, on 10-Aug-2008 20:27

Where you say eye-candy - how does MP compare to the glass-widescreen theme of Mythbuntu 8.01?  It's received a very high WAF here in my setup... and I think it's pretty nice too.

Author's note by amphibem, on 10-Aug-2008 20:34

Oh myth looks much better than MP in my option, the default MP theme looks much like MCE 2005 and just looks old. Also, I found myth easier to change themes with mulitple ones built in. I can't be bothered, given what i have seen in avaliable MP themes, plugging in a keyboard and mouse to the HTPC to get a different theme going.

I eye candy to which I refer in Vista MC is the video blending, with background video, rather than the specefic theme.

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Andrew Richards
New Zealand

My Current Setup

CPU: A64 5200 X2 (2.6GHz) Memory: 2GB Graphics: Onboard 6100 Hard drive: WD 640GB Optical: DVD-ROM Remote: Microsoft MCE USB2 Tuners: Hauppauge Nova T 500 & PVR150 Display: Toshiba 20" LCD Audio: Genius 5.1 bookshelf speakers

OS: Windows Vista Premium SP1 PVR: MediaPortal RC3 Codecs: Built in MPEG1&2 codecs, PowerDVD8 for H.264 EPG: nice.net.nz feed (from satellite feed)

Useful Links

MediaPortal Homepage
NZ Thread in MP Forumns
NZ MediaPortal Wiki page
MythTV Homepage
NZ Mythtv page
Mythbuntu Forumns
EPG Setup Guide