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Best HTPC Software for Ubuntu 10.04 / Fedora 13 (MythTv vs Freevo vs XBMC)?

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Contrary to popular (Windows users) belief, Linux is not the greatest when it comes to handling multimedia. Some Windows users are even under the delusion that the Linux is not geared for HTPC purposes. With Windows 7, Windows OS has boldly gone where no Windows has gone before. But you would be surprised to know that Windows still has a bit of catching up to do if it wants to beat Linux at the HTPC game. Linux offers  some of the most amazing HTPC solutions which would leave any Windows user drooling, and as usual you get it all for free. These packages are available pre-compiled for almost all major Linux distros, Ubuntu, Fedora, OpenSuSE, you name it! Remember HTPC has two aspects to it: PVR (Personal Video Recorder) or DVR (Digital Video Recorder) and then Media Player capability, so I am going to cover both bases here.

1. MythTV [2] (Available pre-compiled for *nix as well as Mac, Windows support is shaky)

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My foray into HTPC world obviously started with Windows 7 Media Center software, which was very easy to setup with all typical features like PVR, Media library for movies, music etc. You could spice it up a bit with some third party plugins. But it didn’t have what I was looking for.

I have only one TV Tuner card but I have multiple computers in my house, two desktops and 4 laptops. I wanted live TV to be available on each one of them on demand. Solution was MythTV. It really made the myth of live TV over LAN a reality. So MythTV offers this premium feature which now all the cable and satellite providers are offering for a premium price. Now, I have been using MythTV for last 5-6 months and I am more than satisfied with it.

Lets list out the key features of MythTV (taken from their website), I am including my comment against each point in italics:

Other Advantages:

Other Disadvantages:

Need help with installation or configuration of MythTV? See these [4].

2. XBMC [5](Windows, Linux, Mac)

XBMC is truely platform independent HTPC software. Remember it is not a PVR software. If all you need is a media player to manage your media collection. XBMC is all you need. XBMC fills the gap left over by MythTV. It fits the universal media player bill perfectly. It supports possibly all media formats out there. It was originally developed for XBOX, but now it spawns all available platforms. It is available with some awesome HD themes, great set of plugins and scripts. Checkout some screenshots below for shear awesomeness. If you have MythTV installed, consider installing XBMC as well.

Advantages:

Disadvantages:

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Need help with installation or configuration of XBMC? See these [7].

3. Freevo [8]

The name is certainly inspired by TiVo, the paid DVR. Freevo is regarded as the closest MythTV rival or alternative, with similar server-client like setup. I haven’t used it yet, but I hear that it is equally good. I want to test it myself, but haven’t got a chance to do so yet. But it is on cards. So if you have experienced it, share your views with us. For the time being I would have to leave you with what the Freevo website has to say about itself

Freevo is an open source HTPC media centre software integrating PVR / DVR funtionality along with music, video, gaming, home automation and more. It is written in python and uses existing popular software such as mplayer, xine and vlc. Primarily aimed at the Linux platform it is also possible to run on OSX and for the determined on Windows. It is the main mythtv alternative.

OK! My attempts of testing Freevo on an Ubuntu Lucid Lynx hit major road blocks and I learnt that installing Freevo on Ubuntu is far more intensive than setting up MythTV. Here are my observations in this regard:

I would give these live distros a try, but if Ubuntu or Fedora (possibly) are your favored distros for general usage. I would suggest you to stick to MythTV which is super easy to setup via nice GUI.

Conclusion: MythTV + XBMC or MythTV + Freevo? I have been using MythTV + XBMC and have been more than satisfied.  If you are a Ubuntu user  stick with MythTV + XBMC, its a dream combination!

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