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  #1  
Old 08-26-2009, 09:11 PM
randyth randyth is offline
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Top Ten Way to Improve Performance

I'm trying SageTV under the free trial period and, while the tuner software that comes with my the OnAirGT USB device tunes and plays TV beautifully on my PC, the SageTV software (which is also recording while playing TV, of course) is a stuttering pixelated mess even with a strong signal.

Assuming it's my set up (and even if it isn't) what are the top ten things anyone should look to do to try to improve SageTV's performance? Dedicated hard drive with 64K blocks? More RAM? Faster CPU? Better video card? Better tuner card (PCI better instead of USB)? XP instead of Vista? More beer?
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  #2  
Old 08-27-2009, 12:57 AM
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GKusnick GKusnick is offline
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Formatting your recording volume with 64K clusters is a must for smooth playback. If you haven't done that, that's probably the first thing to address.

A separate drive for recordings is a good idea, but not mandatory. If you want to stick with a single drive, create separate partitions for your boot volume and your recording volume. (You don't want to format your boot volume in 64K clusters since that will waste a lot of space and degrade performance.)

A better graphics card might help, but it really depends on what you have now and what you're trying to do with it. HD playback is more demanding than SD of CPU and GPU horsepower.

PCI v. USB shouldn't matter for your tuner card. I routinely record simultaneously from three USB HD tuners without issues. But for analog SD reception, a cheap software-encoding tuner puts more load on your CPU than a good hardware-encoding tuner (USB or PCI). I'm not familiar with your particular device so I'm not sure which category it falls into. (For digital tuners the question is moot since digital TV comes already encoded by the broadcaster.)

More RAM depends on how much you have now and whether you're maxing it out. Check Windows Task Manager's Performance tab during recording to see if the Total Commit Charge exceeds your physical memory. If so, more RAM might help.

If you're still having issues, it might help to describe your setup in more detail (system specs, TV provider, whether you're capturing analog SD or digital HD, with or without a set-top box in the loop, etc.) so that people can give more specific recommendations.
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  #3  
Old 08-28-2009, 10:55 AM
cychou cychou is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by randyth View Post
I'm trying SageTV under the free trial period and, while the tuner software that comes with my the OnAirGT USB device tunes and plays TV beautifully on my PC, the SageTV software (which is also recording while playing TV, of course) is a stuttering pixelated mess even with a strong signal.

Assuming it's my set up (and even if it isn't) what are the top ten things anyone should look to do to try to improve SageTV's performance? Dedicated hard drive with 64K blocks? More RAM? Faster CPU? Better video card? Better tuner card (PCI better instead of USB)? XP instead of Vista? More beer?
Assuming you have sufficient hardware, then the next thing is actually display driver, audio/video decoders, and the combination between them. Sage actually does not come with all the necessary DirectShow decoders or splitters. Most users have to source those somewhere else to get the performance/quality they want.
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  #4  
Old 08-28-2009, 11:15 PM
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Electronicbuff Electronicbuff is offline
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When you were in set-up video sources were you able to view a clear picture on any of your choices for video settings?
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  #5  
Old 08-29-2009, 06:10 AM
valnar valnar is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by randyth View Post
Assuming it's my set up (and even if it isn't) what are the top ten things anyone should look to do to try to improve SageTV's performance? Dedicated hard drive with 64K blocks? More RAM? Faster CPU? Better video card? Better tuner card (PCI better instead of USB)? XP instead of Vista? More beer?
I agree with all your initial suggestions, assuming your PC wasn't up to snuff in the first place. XP or Win2003 Server is definitely recommended over Vista if you have the license available, as everything is guaranteed to work OOTB.

Why don't you tell us what you're using now?
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  #6  
Old 08-29-2009, 11:50 AM
randyth randyth is offline
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Here's my setup:

3GHz P4 with 512MB of RAM
Windows XP Media Center Edition, Service Pack 3
OnAir USB HDTV tuner
Radeon X300 SE 125MB video RAM
150GB hard drive dedicated to SageTV recordings formated with 64K blocks

Notes: This is my "home automation" computer that I leave on 24/7, so it is always running HomeSeer and the PlayOn Media Server. This, obviously, steals CPU cycles and RAM from SageTV. However, SageTV still stutters (sort of a spastic slideshow) even when HomeSeer and PlayOn are shut down.

The OnAirGT TV application tunes in and displays my local stations beautifully. SageTV is unwatchable, but I'm not willing to give up yet. I'm tempted to up my RAM first (since a better CPU would require a new box), but I want to be smart about the order in which I try to solve this problem.

What do you all think I should try first? More RAM, better video card, or... ?

Last edited by randyth; 08-29-2009 at 01:05 PM.
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  #7  
Old 08-29-2009, 01:07 PM
SWKerr SWKerr is offline
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I would break this up. Record with Sage and then play it back directly in windows or the program you say works well that way you know if the recording is ok and concentrate on the real problem.

If it works in one program but not the other it is probably a setup issue. I would install a codec pack like k-lite and see if the player that they have works on Sage recordings. If that works then you will be able to get decent playback in sage.

The weak link in your setup is the video card. I assume AGP based on the age. You can get something better but you can laos build a decent AMD 785G rig for your case for less than $200 so buying a new card for $50 may not make sense.
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  #8  
Old 08-29-2009, 01:56 PM
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GKusnick GKusnick is offline
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512MB of RAM isn't much by today's standards. 2GB is what I'd shoot for in building a new machine.

But before spending any money, it never hurts to use the available performance tools (Task Manager, Performance Monitor, etc) to get a better feel for what's actually going on in your system and where the bottlenecks are. Do you see any evidence of CPU or RAM usage maxing out during recording or playback? If not, then upgrading those components might not help.
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  #9  
Old 08-29-2009, 02:31 PM
randyth randyth is offline
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Great ideas, all. Thanks.

It being the weekend, I've now got some time to experiment. I've tried playing back the resulting MPG file on a much more capable system, and it isn't looking great. It starts off with a couple seconds of relatively clean looking video, then the audio smurfs out and the video goes black.

I've got a spare Geforce 6800 25MB video card that I'll try next just because it's sitting here unused (not a great card, I know, but I believe it is a step up from the Radeon). Next I can easily attempt beefing up the codec support by installing the k-lite package just for kicks.

As GKusnick suggests, I'm thinking RAM is likely my main issue because the computer's available physical RAM drops severely when SageTV tries to watch live TV. Paging RAM to/from the hard drive isn't likely to cut it here.
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  #10  
Old 08-31-2009, 06:22 PM
randyth randyth is offline
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Another thing to add to a "top ten" list is: Ensure your drive has DMA enabled (not PIO). This turned out to be my main problem.
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  #11  
Old 09-01-2009, 09:45 AM
MitchSchaft MitchSchaft is offline
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Stay away from the codec packs like klite. They could end up causing more trouble than they're worth. Check out babgvant's "antipack".

And be sure to shut off the windows media center services.
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  #12  
Old 09-11-2009, 09:30 AM
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JetreL JetreL is offline
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I agree with adding more Ram to the system. At a minimum I would suggest 1 Gig but shooting for 2 Gigs at the current cost of memory is a no brainier. As well as shutting down Windows Media Center when running SageTV.

Another think you might want to look at is tweaking windows Startup to get rid of applications starting that offer no use other than taking up memory.

Here is an article on tweaking your startup: Link [arstechnica.com]
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