Over the last year or so, I’ve played with a home-built PVR system using the Ubuntu-based implementation of MythTV, Mythbuntu.  Mythbuntu is really just a convenient way to set up a Linux-based computer with MythTV easily installed.  Anyway, previous installments are: Easter projects – Drupal vs Joomla! and tangling with Mythbuntu, Mythbuntu, part 2 and Mythbuntu, part 3.  Most recently, I had been forced to relocate the main server box upstairs, away from the main living room.  This was due to the generally annoying and ugly computer case with its flashing lights and persistent fan and hard drive noise.  

I had attempted to use an old Acer laptop as a Mythbuntu frontend connected to the TV and relaying the output to the TV.  This proved rather less than ideal.  I had difficulty getting a decent picture to the TV, though this was mostly due to my ignorance of TV and video settings compounded by issues around output formats from the laptop.  Subsequently,  I’ve played with a few apps on my iPad (of which more in an upcoming post) which enable the replay of uPnP recordings from the mythbuntu box via my domestic WiFi network.  This got me thinking about whether it might be easiest to pick up a relatively cheap uPnP enabled media player with which to play my recordings.

I did a little browsing and came across the Patriot Box Office media player.  This little device is capable of playing just about any media format, and crucially is uPnP compatible, even without installing a hard drive.  While a hard drive would clearly be essential to use all of the player’s  facilities, I didn’t plan to install one.  Firstly I figured it would detract from the device’s silence, and secondly, I wanted to keep this as cheap as possible (the Patriot player was at the time less than £50 from Amazon).  In keeping with my efforts to keep this shoestring cheap, I decided to try and set this up with a spare Netgear USB WiFi stick rather than splash out on the recommended Patriot 802.11n USB stick.  After all, I thought, they are probably just trying to sell stuff.

The device itself is small, light and seemingly of good build quality.  I haven’t opened it up, as I didn’t install a hard drive.  I connected it to the power supply, to the TV and inserted the Netgear WiFi stick.  Eagerly, I switched it on…nope, the Netgear WiFi stick just would not work.  Upon browsing the Patriot support forums, it seems that only certain WiFi chipsets are supported.  So it was back to the drawing board while I ordered the recommended Patriot WiFi device.  In the meantime, I’ve got a long ethernet cable stretching from the router upstairs, and I can say that the device performs really well as a replacement for a mythbuntu front end, though with restricted functionality due to the absence of any added storage (of course).  I can’t, at the moment at least, watch live TV from the mythbuntu system, or stream video from the internet (not so important to me).  This isn’t a pressing problem at the moment, as we normally use a Humax PVR box for most of our live viewing and recording.  A more immediate issue is that having an ethernet cable trailing down the stairs is something of a trip hazard!

I have a second uPnP server in the network: my QNAP NAS box runs Twonkymedia – I can therefore watch some of my home-made videos.  Which isn’t quite as appealing as you might think – these are mostly of me riding my time trial bike.  And what’s probably most alarming is that it includes Silent Movie, the full video of Team Grumpy’s 2009 ride in the Duo Normand time trial.  All 90 minutes or so.

If your are interested in finding out more about the Patriot media player, here are some links to the Patriot Memory page describing the device, and the tech specifications (pdf).