I've been watching TV on a 450MHz Sony Vaio (x86) and a 400MHz PowerBook (PowerPC), both are able to decode fluent MPEG2 in software when a well-optimized driver and hardware accelerated graphics is used. We should really start to set up a table with hard numbers for minimum hardware requirements, otherwise we risk another endless thread about Philosophy and holy Wars.
What do you think?
I think this task is really difficult to do, because the systems and software vary extremly. Some people use 2.4 kernels, some 2.6, some people use highly optimized distris, some suse, debain or whatever. Some people prefer a streaming server solution, others simple want to watch tv with a noiseless STB. In my opinion the user itself should decide what is *really* the best for him. So we should simply collect advantages and disadvantages for the different solutions. Not everyone will have a suitable well-optimized driver with hardware acceleration for his graphics or -especially people using epia boards- raw cpu power. I think you're right that software decoding is the future, but for the present a hardware mpeg decoder card with s-video, rgb-out and digital audio link might be sometimes the better solution. The full-featured boards are not as bad as you describe it and might be not as expensive as an additional graphics board with tv-out and an additional sound card.