Howdy and welcome to Crystal Ball Sunday #12: Built-In Home Entertainment and Automation . Linux is the perfect medium for set top boxes (aka Set Top Units or Personal Video Recorders (PVR)) because of its customizability, optimization features, and no cost status. Whether you know them as Set Top Boxes, Set Top Units, or PVRs; you may know these generic names better by the brand name: TiVo. These Linux-based PVRs are not TiVo but they do what TiVo does and much more. With a PVR, you can watch, record, pause, and rewind live TV, watch movies, create your own home theater system, and so on.

The two best known projects for creating PVRs on Linux are MythTV and LinuxMCE.
MythTV is the classic PVR with features such as: Live TV Manipulation (Pause, FF, Rewind, Record) and advanced features such as: RSS Feeds, Emulator Front Ends for Classic Game Consoles, a Weather Module, DVD Ripper, Image Browser, and Program Information via xmltv.
LinuxMCE has most MythTV features plus it is a "whole-house" media system where each family member's media follows him, built-in Network Attached Storage (NAS) for centralized storage and backup of media, all device control, home automation, communications, and security features.

The Prediction:

As home builders become more tech savvy, features such as built-in wired and wireless networks, communications, and entertainment will be included in the home design as standard. With packages like LinuxMCE, it's easy to see how this one stop solution could be incorporated into a new home's construction using modular installation for easy upgrade or enhancement, centralized management, and low-cost entry.
Existing home can be converted as well creating a whole new market for young entrepreneurs.

NOTE: Pay close attention to building codes and consult other professionals before embarking on a venture like this as it takes electrical and carpentry skills as well as computer tech knowledge.

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I have tried MythTv, Mythbuntu, and LinuxMCE. Of the three, I like LinuxMCE the best. It is not perfect and not every component works completely (such as Motion detection by cameras).

But it is the best integrated all around home automation, multiple location multimedia, PVR, and VOIP combination (in fact, the only one) anywhere.

The design is a multiple dimension database for each component, which is the only way this type of program can be run.

There are a hnadful of extremely dedicated programmers who do most of the work on the project -- they could use some help!

LinuxMCE is the future of Linux for the home.

If you come to my house, the lights will come on as you walk up the drive, music will greet you at the entry, and the fountains will come on. LinuxMCE (and some home automation controllers) allow this.

Try that with any other OS -- can't be done for less than a $35,000 Crestron system (which, by the way, doesn't do multimedia).

Thanks for the feedback. I think this is truly a new market and some clever people could make a good living installing and servicing these systems. Who doesn't want a Jetson house?