BeyondTV and SageTV on a 2.4 Ghz P4!

October 19, 2007 at 12:29 am Leave a comment

Uncle!

That’s what that P4 has been yelling for the last couple of days.  Yea – SageTV and BeyondTV each have their own dedicated tuners, so that’s not a problem, and they almost always record at different times of the day, so there would rarely be any situation where both SageTV and BeyondTV were recording at the same time.

While my first tests with both SageTV and BeyondTV running on the same machine seemed fine, I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s not a good idea in the real world.  This may be a premature conclusion, but here’s the deal:

You see, my kids like watching the various shows we record for them as well as the DVD’s we rip and store on a ReadyNAS for their viewing pleasure.  I’ll often have one or two children watching one show on the Sage server itself, while another child is watching a different show via a Sage Client in another room.  It also happens that this situation peaks around 8PM, just when a few shows that the wife and I like to record (via BeyondTV).  If, while the above is going on, the wife is watching her soap opera via BeyondTV Link while two shows are recording via the SiliconDust network tuner, those shows end up looking… bad.

Let’s talk about the numbers.

If the SiliconDust software is right, each HD stream is about 19 Mbits per second.  Two of those coming in from the network at once is no sweat.  Add to that two or three similar streams exiting the machine at once and things get more interesting.  You end up with about 40 Mbits per second of incoming traffic and about 60 Mbits per second of outgoing traffic.  Since FastEthernet is full duplex (meaning you have theoretically 100 Mbits per second in both directions simultaneously), that shouldn’t be an issue, should it?  Alas, I fear this is a situation not even Gigabit ethernet would resolve.

It is my theory that the real issue lies in the disks.  Perhaps this poor machine can’t handle writing two 19 Mbit streams at the same time as it is streaming two or three files out at the rate of 19Mbit.  Sure, I have three drives in this machine for recording (not including the OS drive), but there is no telling where the files that are being read are stored.  Since these drives have been used for a while in “DVR” service, they are very fragmented as well, which is probably not helping things.

Anyhow, all this talk of Mbits and disks aside, I have a potential solution.  I’ve installed BeyondTV on another machine in the house.  Since it is no where near the incoming cable, it will only have the two network tuners to use.  This will allow the SageTV machine to serve several streams at once while (hopefully) not interfering with the recordings of BeyondTV.  Whether the issue is one of networking or disk access, this will probably take care of the problem.

A small kink in this plan is that the box in question only has a single 60GB drive.  About 35 GB are free, so I’m looking at a tad under 4 hours of actual capacity on it.  So, I’m moving files around on the Sage machine to free up a drive.  If all goes well, I can move that drive over tonight and BeyondTV will be left with about 450+ GB for shows.

BeyondTV Backup

On the plus side – BeyondTV has a great feature for migrating from one machine to another, or just backing up in general.  Right click on BeyondTV’s icon on your task bar and select About.  There, on the About screen (kinda odd spot for it) is a backup button and a restore button.  This saved me tons of time moving my favorites over from one install to another.

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Entry filed under: General, Networking.

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