Personal video recorders (PVR), also known as digital video recorders (DVR) are devices that digitally record live broadcast television programs and store the files on the device's hard drive. Ubuntu is a Linux-based operating system that can be downloaded and installed on any computer for free. With PVR software and an Internet connection, a compatible desktop with a large enough hard drive and a TV tuner card can be repurposed as a viable alternative to commercial PVR devices.
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Things you need
- Desktop computer
- TV tuner device
- PVR software
Install Ubuntu on your desktop computer. The latest version of the operating system can be downloaded for free from Ubuntu's website. As of 2010, Ubuntu's minimum hardware specifications are a 1 GHz processor, 1 GB RAM, 15 GB hard drive and a monitor and video card capable of 1024 x 768 pixel resolution.
Install your TV tuner card according to your manufacturer's directions. A TV card is a special computer card that allows a computer to receive television signals. Some TV tuner devices are cards that must be installed into a desktop computer while others are USB 2.0 devices that can plug into a free USB 2.0 port. The TV tuner card that you choose must be compatible with the PVR application of your choosing.
Download and install your PVR application. All PVR applications include converting live television into digital format to be stored onto your computer. Installation methods will vary between the different PVR applications and may require enabling different application repositories than the Ubuntu default.
The most popular PVR application for Ubuntu is MythTV, which includes parental controls and commercial detection in addition to basic PVR capabilities. Alternatives to MythTV include Boxee, Moovida and Xbox Media Center (XBMC), which all have different features.
Configure your PVR application. Configuration varies greatly between applications. Consult your PVR's documentation.
Tips and warnings
- While Ubuntu will install on any machine that meets minimum specifications, for optimal performance as a PVR, choose a desktop computer that exceeds minimum specs.
- Digitised video can take a up a lot of space on your hard drive. For example, a half hour show can take up to 4 GB of space, depending on encoding quality. The more storage capacity you have, the more shows you can store on your hard drive before needing to archive.
- A majority of the various PVR applications listed are all free, open source applications that are supported by a community of developers and enthusiasts rather than a commercial support team. When choosing a PVR application, choose one that has an active support community that can help if you have questions regarding your PVR application. Support documents and related information can be found on the PVR application's home page.
- The TV tuner card must be compatible with the Ubuntu Linux distribution as well as your chosen PVR application. Consult your PVR application's documentation for a list of which TV tuner cards are supported as this will vary between applications.
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