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Discussion Starter #1
It is becoming more and more debated here and on other sites as to if SageTV has become the end-all/be-all in the HTPC world. I am starting this new thread to cover the debate.

For the record, I believe that SageTV IS the ultimate solution and that with its constant march forward with new features and a seemingly constant ear to the customer, anything missing will be covered quickly by the unending stream of upgrades they seem to push out.
 

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Discussion Starter #2
Back from coffee so here is my first comment caused by another thread and a comment in there...

SageTV, HTPCs and the State of HDTV in Canada.

Currently, SageTV is the only "out of the box" solution available for HDTV capture in Canada from a cable or sat provider. By "out of the box" I mean that there are NO hacks, NO 500 step long guides on how to implement a strange and obscure piece of transport software, etc... It is simply an install and plug in your hardware.

SageTV is currently the only software that has full support (And hardware extenders) for the new Hauppauge HDPVR component video capture device. GBPVR is the only other HTPC software that has support that is not in beta. (I believe that BTV is or has just added non-beta support in their latest update)

Not a direct result of Sage (Although there was apparently collaboration/consultation) but no less important is the new HDPVR from Hauppauge. Nearly all of the cable providers in Canada have pooched the firewire port or the firewire port is not very reliable. This leaves us with only a couple other options. You can pay for an R5000 hacked STB for StarChoice or BEV or you can stay with whoever you have and get an HDPVR for each Set top that you want connected to your HTPC. It leaves you with a simple choice: Buy non-invasive hardware that will not void your warranty or make you change TV providers OR you can buy unsupported hacked hardware that may or may not require that you change provider.

So, now that we are assuming that the more mainstream HTPC adopters are more inclined to be a lot less adventurous than say someone who would have hacked an Athlon on ceramic with rear window defrost repair kits we can move on....

SageTV is the only TOTAL Media serving solution that is compatible with Mac, Windows AND Linux that is compatible out of the box with the HDPVR and thus the ONLY homogeneous HTPC solution that allows for the capture, management and playback of HD and SD content from ANY/ALL of the Canadian TV providers. Along side of that, it is also the only one that allows for the purchase of a hardware extender that will play back ANY content.

Extenders: DIY or Prebuilt.

A lot of MythTV jabber also focuses on the small software footprint for building a PC based extender. Well, that is all nice and dandy back in the SDTV days but we are talking about HDTV. There is barely support out of the door for hardware acceleration for HDTV on ATI or NVidia cards under Linux. And to boot, when it comes to HD playback, you need a TON of horsepower no matter what OS you are using. HD is simply a very computationally intensive task given that most of it is compressed and a lot of that is highly compressed (H264 for instance). To increase the compression factor, the HDPVR encodes all of its video in H264 so horsepower in your PC based extender is a MUST.

So, with that out of the way, let us look at costs...

Sage sells a nice, tiny box that has a remote and pretty much every connection type you need to set it up on your TV or in your HT. The price for this is $199 US. The new extender that they sell also allows for the connection of external USB storage devices, so that lets you add a card reader, external hard drive or whatever you want. AND, the new HD extender is portable so you can drag it around like the Popcorn Hour A-110.

Again, all for $199.

If you build an HD capable PC based extender for pretty much any HTPC software (That allows it of course so VMC/MCE is out on this), you are spending a fair snip more. The coup on this comparison is that you need at the least a 690g based motherboard and a FAST X2 or a pretty fast Phenom X4. That alone, no RAM, drive, case, power supply, remote control or compatible video card if the onboard is not supported well enough in Linux, is going to set you back no less than $200. You add the rest and we are WAY past $200. Oh, and if you are recycling any hardware that is fine for you but everyone is not sitting on a treasure trove of leftover PC hardware. Oh and if in the process of that recycling, you have to replace the mobo/CPU/RAM, then you just went past the price of the Sage extender.

An aspect that is frequently forgot is that no matter how close to "plug and play" people claim Linux based solutions are, they really are not. The few things that are not automated/automatic are, IMO, still outside the skill set and patience level of the average HTPC setup builders. Not an HTPC example, but my latest experience playing with a Linux/FreeBSD appliance was the very latest FreeNAS implementation. I have the savvy to deal with all of the stupid things that it still has that are FAR too penguinee/propellery but in the end, it just bugged me too much and it is getting formatted after only 4 days of playing (Its worst failing is its atrocious network performance. Windows HS on the exact same hardware was light speed faster.)

Another factor is power consumption. A dedicated extender draws FAR less power than a PC that is even in Standby. Using PCs as extenders is not a "green" choice. Also, the dedicated extenders are DEAD silent. There are no moving parts so they are perfect for bedrooms.

I have to stop here for now but SageTV offers many other features and I am sure they will come up as this conversation continues.
 

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Because Sage supports the HD-PVR which is the first retail device with component video inputs. This device is currently not supported by Windows Media Center and it is unclear whether this will be supported in Win7. The HD-PVR is truly the "holy grail" for capturing HD as pretty much every HD set top box has component outputs. Unless these are shut off, which is a possibility, albeit slim IMHO, then the HD-PVR is a great alternative that is provider agnostic. And SageTV has the best support for this device and Sage is, arguably, the best PVR/Media Center software. Oh yeah, there is NO DRM on your captures from the HD-PVR, unlike other potential alternatives such as Cablecard or integrated satellite tuners.

I have recently switched from XP MCE to Sage and I find Sage to be excellent.
 

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I don't have the HD PVR but I am pretty sure it worked with BTV very early on with issues but has been resolved with a new release.
 

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BeyondTV is nowhere near as feature complete as SageTV. Have you tried playing a DVD with BTV? Well, you can't. BTV's community addon support is practically non-existent. And don't recommend BeyondMedia to go with BTV. It's discontinued.

So BTV is very far from a good HTPC solution. It doesn't hold against SageTV.
 

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But BTV doesn't have hardware extenders and BTV appears to be moving away from an emphasis on the consumer to enterprise "media monitoring". They have now dropped their BeyondMedia product so, arguably, they don't even offer a full media solution - only TV.
 

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I'll preface my comments with the note that the last Sage version I used was the 4.x series. I dropped Sage at that time because it wasn't very reliable (losing config settings, service crashes or front end failing to connect, etc) and the interface was ugly. Looking at the gallery online it doesn't appear the interface has improved much though presumably the reliability has gotten better.

I'm pretty happy using MythTV and XBMC though Sage has the advantage of being an all-in-one solution, also MythTV is not for the faint of the heart in terms of setup either. I much prefer the interface quality and setup of XBMC over SageTV and hopefully the MythTV support in XBMC will be fully fleshed out in the next six months or so.

I'll agree that for non-technical folks that SageTV is the best option currently available, however XBMC is coming on pretty strong and should provide some stiff competition by the end of 2009.
 

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When I evaluated them a few years ago I went with BTV. I wasn't so interested in having music, photo and movie playback.

I don't recall why but Sage was missing something I liked in BTV.

I am off for a couple weeks so I will download the trial and see if it works with my setup. I have a feeling OTA setup will have some issues with buffalo and canadian stations.
 

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MythTV is quite easy to install and setup if you use Mythbuntu. However, I have a Haupauge MediaMVP in the house feeding from our SageTV server and I don't know how good MythTV supports the MVP. It's one piece of hardware I do not want to lose.
 

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MythTV is easy to setup as long as your hardware is fully supported but if it is not then in your in for some work. I'm using Mythbuntu 8.0.4 and the initial setup was a breeze, however I had a number of issues that made the setup more complex:

a. I'm using firewire to the 3250HD and while it works great it does take some technical know how to get going.
b. I had to upgrade lirc to support the remote that shipped with my computer. This was definitely a non-trivial operation with downloading sources, compiling and replacing existing binaries.
c. Pulseaudio and digital sound output was challenging, I ended up reverting to a pure ALSA setup to get it working.

On the plus side XBMC was a breeze, just add the repository and get the packages and your off to the races.
 

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Sage as a PVR

Could someone compare managing recordings on Sage v. Myth? I probably should download the Sage trial for myself but time is limited and I don't want to take my Myth system offline.

Does Sage:
-use rule-based recording? (Find only new episodes, regardless of channel or time slot.)
-manage conflicts? (How does it prioritize when schedules overlap? Can you set a preference for HD recordings over SD?)
-manage expiry of watched and unwatched recordings? (It auto-deletes, right? Can you prevent certain recordings from being deleted? Can you limit the number of recordings of a certain title--ie max 5 SpongeBob episodes for the kids?)

Also, I like Myth's interface for setting up recordings. Usually, I'll hear about a show and then use Myth's alphabetical list by title to find it and set up a recording rule. Periodically, I browse through the list of upcoming movies (again alphabetical by title) to see if anything catches my eye. I find I almost never use the grid view. (I like the fact that I have little need to know when things air; and on what channels!) Does Sage work in a similar way?

Finally, commercial skip. Myth's auto-detection and skipping works quite well. Can Sage do the same or do you have to grab the remote?
 

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Pretty well, according to the wiki.
Different UI than other MythTV front-ends.

I assume it's using the default Hauppauge UI then? I like the support of SageTV as the UI is exactly the same as the server. The Hauppauge UI is quite bad.

I haven't done a whole lot of reading on it, but do you know if Mythbuntu supports it out of the box or do I have to install an extra server addon? I wish I had an extra PC to test it. I'm quite reluctant to scrap my main HTPC to try it.
 

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do you know if Mythbuntu supports it [MediaMVP] out of the box
Believe they communicate via UPNP which is built into Myth v21+. I believe automatic commercial skip won't work with a UPNP client. Have to use the remote and skip 30 seconds per click (default skip value, anyway). No personal experience, though. I sold my Zensonic Z500 before moving to Myth. Playback (even HD) was good with the Z500 but the server software was unstable. Had already decided to spend the extra money and put a dedicated HTPC in the entertainment stack.
 

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I cant believe how far off topic this thread has become.


Sagetv supports a lot of devices and certainly a few STB, MVP, STX-100 and now the STP-200. It also supports Windows,MAC and user support of most versions of Linux. Which is truly great because they're thinking outside of the box and not sticking to just Windows only.

My family has being using Sagetv for a many years now and have been testing the new STP for a few months. and they almost have all the bugs out of the new STP unit, we should start seeing new features added to the STP-200, MCE remote support or any RC6 remote & switching between different audio tracks mkv.ASF/AVI etc container files work now. The even just release a new firmware for the old STX-100 STBs today to add a few new things it.

The only thing Sage needs is hardware that is stable not cheap junk, A dedicated box is the best route to go. I use Windows 2008 server with a few terabytes of space and its serves my family needs feeding 5 sage STBs in my home.
 

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pvrfan said:
-Does Sage:
-use rule-based recording? (Find only new episodes, regardless of channel or time slot.)
It can - you can set it to handle this however you want it to.

-manage conflicts? (How does it prioritize when schedules overlap? Can you set a preference for HD recordings over SD?)
It prioritizes based on your settings. You can set tuners in a priority as well as HD over SD etc etc.

-manage expiry of watched and unwatched recordings? (It auto-deletes, right? Can you prevent certain recordings from being deleted? Can you limit the number of recordings of a certain title--ie max 5 SpongeBob episodes for the kids?)
Yes to all.
Also, I like Myth's interface for setting up recordings. Usually, I'll hear about a show and then use Myth's alphabetical list by title to find it and set up a recording rule. Periodically, I browse through the list of upcoming movies (again alphabetical by title) to see if anything catches my eye. I find I almost never use the grid view. (I like the fact that I have little need to know when things air; and on what channels!) Does Sage work in a similar way?
Yes.

Finally, commercial skip. Myth's auto-detection and skipping works quite well. Can Sage do the same or do you have to grab the remote?
You can set commercial skip to work with a remote press or automatically - as with most things in SageTV it's up to which setting you choose.
 

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Hello folks
I've spent the last day or so scaning thru the forums here and at sagetv re the HD-PVR vs R5000 questions, I'm just about ready to push the button to buy a HDPVR but have some questions re the Wife Acceptance Factor using Sage and the HDPVR.

The goal here would be for two Sage HD200 extenders, SageTV server, with two HD-PVRs using Starchoice.

- How quickly does it change channels on live-tv? I've heard this can be 20 seconds or more, but I'm not sure if this is an isolated or old concern.
If it does take that long it pretty much dooms this project to PVR only status. Never mind WAF... I couldn't stand 20 second channel changes.
(Heck .. I can't stand more than 5 seconds)

- Are you all now happy with the Sage/HD-PVR? There was a lot of concerns in the Jun-Oct timeframe re overheating/Sound/etc. My present Reciever doesn't have Dolby 5.1 .. just stereo, so I may not have any worries?

- Is liveTV and/or playback skip/stutter free ?

- Are the drivers stable now?

- How is the picture quality vs the real starchoice feeds?

- Any special sagetv tuning required?

- What file sizes are you seeing ...?

- Does commercial skip work on the files from the hdpvr?

- Does it down-convert HD content to SD when played on a SD TV?

- What are you using for a server ? My main machine is an overclocked quad, but I was thinking about runing the server on an older amd2600+ (single core) I have ..

- Any other usability tips/gotcha's etc ?

I'm also in Canada ... Southern Ontario. if your brave and wouldn't mind chatting .. pls PM me so we can exchange phone numbers

Thanks in advance
Wes
 

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well either way you go, the R5000 is the best but slow channels are its fault. Blame the way works for its slow channels changes. The HD-PVR has a few issues, But if you buy a HDPVR, Make sure you get a HDPVR with a E1 firmware or higher, people seem to have better luck without it breaking down and RMA. Also if you go the HDPVR route, you will need a USBUIRT device. its does a better job then the stock HDPVR IR blasters and the crappy software that always fails. Trust me the WAF will drop if ou plan on using the stock blasters.
 
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