Building a Linux-based Personal Video Recorder (PVR) isn't about taking the easy option. Like most Linux configuration projects it's about the art of the possible. Tivo runs Linux so it is possible to do this on custom hardware – the Apple consumer device approach with Macs for years. Getting something to work perfectly on an arbitrary PC configuration is a much more difficult proposition.

Unfortunately, Tivo isn't an option in Ireland. The Sky PVR is supposed to run Linux but I haven't seen any interesting use of it on the Internet. There is a lot of activity in the free PVR area so I decided to try Mythbuntu, Freevo Live and LinuxMCE to see what would work. Nothing worked out of the box (probably my fault) but I decided to persevere with Mythbuntu (MythTV on a XUbuntu) as I use Ubuntu on my Notebook and it mentioned some success with my Hauppauge PVR 350 card.

Quite unexpectedly, I did get it to work in the end. It doesn't help that my TV signal comes from a deflector in County Mayo so none of the MythTV channel numbers mapped to my stations. I now know about /dev/video, how to manipulate the MythTV MySQL database, and how to check the source of my TV listings is working.

Getting Mythbuntu to work over the Christmas break isn't something I'd recommend - unless, like me, you have a love of moving parts :) It took longer than I anticipated but I was something I could do as an interesting background task. I'm looking forward to the pushing the boundaries of an unencumbered PVR. It would be pretty cool to hack teletext to get news/weather/cinema listings when my broadband is down, for instance. MythTV is a pretty cool system. Next up I'll add a DVB-S to add the 100+ free channels on the Freesat satellite system as a second backend receiver to MythTV.

The great thing about all this is nobody can force me to watch ads again, it is all perfectly legal, and it frees up the bittorrent for others out there.

Politics at its best is about the art of the possible. Working with Linux is sometimes a little bit like that.