What is the cheapest way to set up a Home Theatre PC with an old Dell OptiPlex running Puppy Linux and EasyCAP?

iStoopKid May 22, 2012
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I have an old Dell OptiPlex GX110 collecting dust. The specs are pretty low, but I wanted to turn it into a home theater PC. I don’t wanna record massive amounts of stuff, I just want to record a cartoon here or there, convert it, then put the videos on my PC3 HDD or PSP. Thing is, all I have is an EasyCAP and was wondering if I should just use that or buy a TV Tuner card likea Diamond or or a Sabrent.

I really don’t have a strong internet connection, it’s slow as dialup and not wireless. What will be my best route?

The computer already has Puppy Linux installed on it. I was wondering if I just used the EasyCAP, would I be able to set programming recording from my computer, or is that only a feature of the TV tuner card. I want it to sort of be like my DirecTV receiver where I can set it to auto-tune at a certain channel and record.

I’m on a strict budget so the most I can really shelve out for a capture card is ~$40.

If you need more info just let me know. Everything on the Dell OptiPlex GX110 [Broken Link Removed] is stock, but the RAM is maxed at 512MB I believe.

If this is out of the question and too memory intensive, would it be some way to just set up the auto-tune list on my receiver before I go, leave the EasyCAP plugged in, and then make some sort of script that will run and record the video playback at specific times during the day to save memory perhaps? Or should I just scrap this project altogether and just buy parts for my bike and exercise?

  1. Kyem Ghosh
    May 23, 2012 at 2:10 am

    as easycap enables you to connect to any video devices, you can go for it to connect your tv or any other video devices. I assume that you have got a single digital tv connection (with set top box) to your home, so you need to connect it to your home tv cz you'll not be able to watch two different channels independently to your home tv and your dell with one set top box... But if you like to have a separate tv connection, you'll need a set top box and a tv tuner card too. And if you have an analogue tv connection, then you just need to buy a tv tuner card. With tv tuner cards, do whatever you like, record programs etc. It will be easy for your old dell. I have seen the specs of your dell. Well you cannot play HD videos smoothly but as you said, you can store them and burn it to dvds .. My suggestion for your old dell is that use it to your music system, connect it to some woofer etc instead of using a dvd player, it will save a bit of energy too, also altogether you can connect your easycap to store your hanycam videos etc... And if you are willing to have a separate tv connection to your dell, go for it.. Use it as a back up device or mini storage. so you get 4 in one... Why to sell it when you get no good price for it?

  2. Kevin
    May 23, 2012 at 1:03 am

    Your best bet would be to install Linux MCE http://linuxmce.com/

    As you're on narrowband you'll probably need to get the distro on CD posted to your address so this service might be worth considering [Broken Link Removed]

    Failing that you could always ask a friend to download and burn it for you.

    As for the capture card Linux MCE supports a variety of cards but be sure to check out their compatibility list http://wiki.linuxmce.org/index.php/Category:TV_Cards

  3. Kannon Y
    May 22, 2012 at 11:32 pm

    That's a pretty good setup. It's a coincidence that I also ordered the
    EasyCAP capture device ($7 on Amazon, thanks to a MUO article). From
    what people have said about EasyCAP, its main limitation is that it
    doesn't do HD. When it arrives in the next couple days, I'll check to
    see if it can be setup to function like a PVR with my current HTPC setup (XBMC without PVR). The quality of the capture may not matter so much, since you're doing cartoons.

    Have you considered using MythTV?

    I suggest Myth because of its extremely low overhead. It's also
    designed specifically for PVR. Of course PuppyLinux isn't exactly
    bloated either, but it's not as specialized as Myth. Keep in mind,
    despite my best efforts, I was never able to get MythTV working with my
    All-In-Wonder capture card back in 2004 or so.

    MythTV is regarded as the standard in low/no rent PVR technology. It
    runs on some pretty scant hardware, so your Dell shouldn't have any
    problems. Myth manages to keep its overhead low by allowing users to
    split up PVR tasks into backends and frontends. Users who elect to
    install a backend (the recording portion) on a separate machine. There
    are actually plug-ins for
    that allow another computer to function as a frontend (viewer)
    for a MythTV backend (recorder). This separation of duties lowers the
    hardware requirements substantially for any individual computer used in
    the capture process. And, of course, you can have both a front and
    backend on the same system.

    The main problem is that EasyCAP may not work with Myth - so you may
    end up buying a cheap capture device from Hauppauge or Sabrent.