ETV personal video recorder

Why and how did this all began?

In the beginning: Showshifter

My quest for a decent PVR (Personal Video Recorder) began with ShowShifter (In contrast to anything below: the reason I keep this link is that although they don't make it for me, I still think they are the best on the Windows platform. If you don't feel up to the advantages and disadvantages of Open Source you should give them a try.)

After a promising start some things began to irritate. For instance the lag when switching to time-shifting. And I wanted features not available yet, but ridiculously easy to implement (view music and video in a tree and not 1000 MP3's in a flat list or shows mixed all together). Finally I wanted recorded Teletext subtitles. I am Dutch so I do speak a bit of English, and I love a lot of BBC comedies, but I very often cannot make head nor tails of 'Dinner Ladies' slang without the help of subtitles once a while...

The ShowShifter team will implement trees for video and audio files, but already announced it will be a paid upgrade. Small changes like that I could easily implement myself if I had an open-source PVR.

The time-shifting-starting-lag with ShowShifter is promised to change when the hardware will allow, but it seems under Windows you cannot speedily change the frequency while you are grabbing it. Whatever. That info was given on their discussionboard, I don't even want to know. With Linux there is no such problem I have ever heard about.

Finally Teletext will not be supported by them as there is no DirectX interface for it, every manufacturer invents his own wheel. For a refreshing change the situation for Teletext support is better with Linux than with Windows, most TV-cards just support the flat VBI device and off you go parsing... (Later addendum: In DirectX 8 there is a vendor independant decoder, but it is a closed box solution only showing a single page, not allowing me to grab all subtitle pages for later display. Close, but no cigar :-)

Along the road: MythTV

In search of ideas for a Linux-based PVR I ran into MythTV a couple of months ago. As I liked the ideas behind the program very much (most importantly: fully centered around time-shifting, not added as an afterthought) I decided to use it instead of being stubborn and starting from scratch.

MythTV is not production ready, at least not according to my definition. But it is getting there, and for a lot of people will be their preferred PVR.

Not for me anymore though, I got fed up trying to write a big patch touching code all over the place while all those other high-speed coders were adding patches to CVS. Probably the first project ever I encountered which went too fast to my liking...

Secondly the program is very US-centered. It seems the way television is used differs around the world, I even started up a site collection those differences and how to deal with them in MythTV (this is the site taken over by Hans Kruse).

At the end of the line however I got fed up with trying to have MythTV behave in a way compatible with my intended use of a PVR, while (mostly US-based) coders were adding all sorts of features useless in my country.

(Later addendum: MythTV has dealt with a lot of issues since. It still can do a load of tricks useless or irritating over here, but except for decent support for early starting or late running programs it seems quite usable in Europe now. Give it a shot if you don't like the bare-bones attitude of ETV :-)

The end (?): ETV

So I started a list with all things I liked and didn't like about MythTV, and began coding. ETV is (or will be) my pet-project result. Which of course in my eyes is a lot better than any commercial or non-commercial PVR available :-)

As you can see from its BSD license it is also for the world to use or play around with (within the limits of its license). (By the way: MythTV source was not used, except originally for a handful lines of code related to codec/device-initating. A lot of ideas were used, but naturally only the ones I liked ;-)

And why E-TV? I guess the 'E' stands for Electronic, Easy, European, or maybe just 'Erik'...

Erik Arendse

17 February 2003 / 28 April 2003 / 16 juli 2003 / 7 October 2004