My housemates and I have run a MythTV (specifically, Mythbuntu) box in our house for quite a while now, and it’s been great. As until-relatively-recently-computer-science-students, we’d all format-shifted our DVD collections to avi/similar for convenience and space efficiency (having to move about six times a year gets tedious) – never mind the fact that in most cases, the “special extra DVD features” largely went unused. So, having the mythbox stream films from our rooms to the nice big TV downstairs has been great. When I was home recently, I set MythTV up for my parents, and now my dad loves it for format-shifting his DVDs to be able to move them up to the loft and out of the way, and for displaying photos taken by my parents to unsuspecting relatives and other visitors.
In both cases, the installs were on “spare” laptops – for our house, it was the laptop of the housemate spending a month in New Zealand, which worked well except that it would only play half a DVD before overheating, and when he got back, he unsurprisingly wanted to use his laptop for other things – for my parents, it was on a semi-broken laptop that dad had rescued from the bin. So, I was interested in acquiring a machine with which to “do it properly”. Asking around lead some friends to recommend the Aleutia H1, and wow, shiny. Small, fanless (unless you get the dual core deluxe edition), able to play 1080p HD videos, low power usage, and rather cheap for what it is! I went for a slightly meaty version – the deluxe dual core edition with wifi, plus 4GB of RAM (base is 2GB, but it was a cheap upgrade and more RAM is always nice). No drive, since the original plan was to boot via PXE from my server running under the stairs. This little lot cost a grand total of £338.10, including delivery and VAT. Possibly could have got it cheaper if I had built my own and been quite selective about what went into it, but frankly, I doubt I’d have saved much money, it probably would have taken much more time and effort, and at heart I’m a software guy – to me hardware is “the black box that runs my software”. I can appreciate it when it does it well, but it’s not a field that particularly excites me – buying an “off the shelf” unit that works out of the box is the path for me.
Having ordered it on Wednesday and read the “Hand Built to Order. Ships 4 Days from Order Placed.” section, I then settled down to wait out the curse of online shopping – you can probably find exactly what you want but must endure delayed gratification. So I was incredibly pleasantly surprised to receive an email from the Founder of Aleutia on Thursday thanking us for the order, saying that it would be with us on Friday, and asking what our plans were for it! What’s more, he’d noticed that I’d put my employer as the delivery address (so I would actually be around to receive it), and mentioned that he’d downloaded and installed our main iPhone app onto his iPhone! Actually dealing with, and hearing from, Real Human Beings in the course of an online purchase (having become so used to the facelessness of Amazon and friends) was really nice – receiving the goods about 5+ calendar days sooner than expected wasn’t too bad either! So, that’s now sat downstairs waiting for me to set it up – the PXE plans fell through due to some issues of cable logistics (laminated floors + tight fitting doors…), so just need to throw together a Mythbuntu USB stick and it should be good to go. Fingers crossed that the WiFi will be good enough – failing that, it may end up requiring liberal use of USB HDD and rsync, but that won’t be too much of a problem.