My Home Media System

Last Spring, I wrote a blog article describing my plans to create a “connected home media system.” (It’s the first entry in this category.) It’s been a while, but I thought it was about time to share what I’ve actually done to create the system so far. If you’re interested to read some of my computer ramblings, then read on!

The Server

The core to this system is a PC that I built back in 2000 while Jen and I were still at Denver Seminary. I originally built it to run Windows 98, but of course, it has matured a lot since then. Here are the specs:

Hardware

  • Pentium III 600 MHz, 384 MB RAM, Drive 1: 120GB, Drive 2: 30GB
  • 3Dfx Interactive, Inc. Voodoo 3 (rev 01) — but there’s no monitor attached
  • C-Media Electronics Inc CM8738 (rev 10) — but no speakers attached
  • Cheap Ethernet PCI card (National Semiconductor Corporation DP83815 [MacPhyter] Ethernet Controller)
  • Motorola Brand WLAN controller (Broadcom Corporation BCM4306 802.11b/g Wireless LAN Controller (rev 03)) — usable with ndiswrapper but not currently in use.
  • Hauppauge PVR-150 MCE (purchased OEM version from NewEgg)

Software

(I’m not going to put version numbers here, because I’ll update them before I update this!)

  • Arch Linux (Linux adam 2.6.17-ARCH #1 SMP PREEMPT Sun Jul 16 09:29:38 CEST 2006 i686 Pentium III (Coppermine) GenuineIntel GNU/Linux)
  • MythTV
  • SlimServer

Set Top Box

How It Works

I have the computer underneath our stairs connected by Ethernet wire to my office, our living room, and the game room upstairs. I have a wireless router in the mix that provides connectivity to our laptop.

I’m thinking that I’ll put up a HOWTO for those who are interested, but who knows if I’ll ever get the time for that.

  • MythTV on the server records TV programs to mpeg2 files according to a schedule I’ve set up. Then, it processes the file and removes commercials. I also have the option to convert it to a format that’s playable on my Palm Pilot PDA (Tungsten T2).
  • SlimServer on the server uses an iTunes database to stream our music library to any Internet Connected PC (currently, though, it’s only enabled for our home computers).
  • MediaMVP (a little box that sits on top of our DVD player) runs a program called mvpmc that automatically connects to MythTV and SlimServer and plays music, videos, and recorded shows on our TV.

The whole system really works well, and I can’t tell you how cool it is to watch an hour long show in 40 minutes because all the commercials are magically missing! The only problem is that I miss a lot of “culture news” like upcoming movies and whatnot because I don’t see commercials anymore!

If you are interested in doing something like this yourself, I’ll try to put up a HOWTO sometime soon.