August 5, 2008

Who needs a video recorder, anyway!?!

Posted in Uncategorized at 3:48 pm by dgcombs

Yeah, over the weekend I decided to put my technical prowess to work and build a video recorder. It being Georgia’s Sales Tax Free Weekend, I figured it would be a snap to find what I needed and knock that six percent sales tax off as well! I headed over to Microcenter after work to pick out a nice shiny and potentially less expensive USB based TV tuner.

I found the shelves with TV Tuners right away. There must have been a hundred variations on the theme “TV-PVR/HVR/USB/2.” I’d read carefully on the MythTV website that some were simply not supported. So I tried to use my newly upgraded mobile phone‘s browser to avoid those. When it came down to it, I took a box labeled Hauppauge 850 over to the sales counter. The young lady was ever so nice as she politely informed me that since this was an entertainment device… I’d still be charged tax. RATS!

I took the little goody home. I plugged it into a Dell Optiplex I just happened to have laying around. I anticipated all the cool features that a video recorder would provide:

  • Live TV with pause/fast forward and rewind!
  • TV Recording for later viewing
  • Commercial identification
  • Weather on demand (yes! On Demand!)
  • Internet connectivity with my TV Remote
  • Picture, Video and FM radio

Ah – it was going to be so cool. And then the fun started.

I spent the next several hours tweaking and tuning a MythTV implementation built on top of Ubuntu call MythBuntu. For some reason, nothing worked. I finally took the little device to my home brew dual core AMD box and loaded up the drivers. That’s when I noticed something odd. The driver listed the device as HVR-950 not HVR-850. I checked inside the box I’d discarded in a big hurry when I got home. There was a little slip of paper inside that said, “thanks for buying this HVR-850. We’re a little short of these right now so we’ve substituted a HVR-950 enstead.”

I thought this was the fix. I used Google to search for the driver for the 950 when a closer look revealed it wasn’t a HVR-950 at all, but a HVR-950q! In the words of one of the websites I visited, there ain’t no driver. It’s too new!

So, after wasting much of Friday evening, some of Saturday, and most of Saturday evening. I had to reluctantly conclude that the Linux version wasn’t going to come to fruition.  In installed Windows on the little Dell Optiplex to try the provided application. When I plugged the HVR-950q in, I got an error message. It said, “this device can perform faster…” ARGHHH! The Optiplex only had USB 1.1 ports and the now well-read manual clearly states that the HVR-950q only works with USB 2.0. It was 8:50pm. So I dashed quickly down to the local BestBuy just before closing and bought a PCI card with two USB 2.0 ports on it. Surely this would do the trick! No such luck. While WinTV worked, I just couldn’t figure a way to make the device work on its own.

In the meantime, I came across a couple of other options. These looked like Windows versions of MythTV and they might be able to play a role.

The first one was GB-PVR. One of things you should learn when playing with computers is to read the fine print *before* you press the install button. I didn’t. After struggling for at least an hour with GB-PVR I noticed that it requires an onboard hardware MPEG2 encoder. *sigh* The HVR-950q doesn’t have one.

The second one was more promising. It is MediaPortal. It was happy to run without the hardware MPEG2 encoder. However, I couldn’t get the little HVR-950q to initialize without running the included WinTV application provided by Hauppauge. No matter what I tried, it wasn’t going to light up without it. But once I got the server installed (leaving WinTV up and running), it looked like it was going to work.

I hurried upstairs to connect up a laptop and install the Viewer MediaPortal system. It worked! Sort of. Watching an episode of Saving Grace on the actual TV and on the MediaPortal at the same time, I noticed the lips on Grace moved ten minutes sooner on the TV than the computer. The sound was somewhere in between. No matter what kind of tuning and prompting I did, it didn’t change the delays.

I picked up the HVR-950q. I gently put it back in the box. I unplugged all the cables and wrapped them neatly. I replaced all the systems, keyboards, monitors and mice I had laying around the living room. It looks much cleaner there now. I’m going to take back the HVR-950q today. It just doesn’t work. And tonight, when I get home, I’ll just watch TV on the TV. Hmmmmm. Or maybe I’ll buy a TiVo. But what fun is there in that?



  1. ez said,

    I looooooooove the TiVo. 🙂

    Then again, I only watch it on the TV. I dabbled with the software for watching it on my desktop in the office, but I had issues getting it to talk with the TiVo.

  2. Mom said,

    Anna loves those and will watch a season at a time that has been recorded. We still can’t find our gizmo to go between DVD and VCR to watch, much less record. We are way behind!!!!



    The stupid 950q is a POS. I haven’t got it to work with any modern software. It’s good you took it back, I was too stupid to do that so I’m stuck with it.

    Good luck on your system.

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