MythTV on an Acer Aspire Revo
I've always run a combined frontend/backend as my main MythTV box. I guess the reason for this is that standalone frontends have tended to be compromised in some way. If they didn't run on standard PC hardware then there was missing functionality (Media MVP, XBox, PS3). To get a fully functional frontend really requires a proper PC, and building a small one which was quiet and powerful to be usable was just too expensive.
Luckily, in recent years, the focus of hardware vendors in has been moving away from big and powerful to small and efficient. This is the perfect direction for media centre enthusiasts and it looks like we're finally able to buy the products we've always wanted.
The Acer Revo is the box I've been waiting for since I started using MythTV. The specification is just perfect:
- Small: only 18x18x3cm. Small enough to be hidden behind a monitor or TV. In fact, it comes with a mount to fix it to the back of your monitor.
- Silent: easily quiet enough for the living room.
- Low power: under 20W when idle to about 25W under load.
- HD capability: this is the big one - it has nVidia Ion graphics which incorporates a 9400 GPU with support for VDPAU, allowing HD playback to be offloaded.
- Cheap: I picked up the dual core 3610 version for £189, which in my view is a bargain. That includes 2GB of RAM and a 250GB hard drive. The single core 3600 can be bought for as little as £130.
- New: There is now an updated 3700 version which has 2GB of RAM and a 500GB hard drive.
It also has gigabit ethernet and built in wireless. It is available with Linux pre-installed, so there are no unecessary licenses to pay. Just install Ubuntu or Mythbuntu and you have the perfect frontend.
The version of Linpus Linux which was shipped with my 3610 lasted precisely one boot. After that I rebooted and installed Ubuntu from a USB stick. The stick was created from another Ubuntu karmic machine using the built-in USB creator:System->Administration->USB Startup Disk Creator
Ubuntu installed to the Revo's internal hard drive with no problems at all.
In then installed the mythfrontend package and pointed it at my backend box. I configured it to use a VDPAU playback profile (see here) and within minutes I was watching live BBC HD TV.