June 2008 Archives

Fri Jun 20 21:56:57 CDT 2008

MythTV - Technical

I'm running MythBuntu, based on Ubuntu 8.04 and using MythTV 0.21. I get standard definition, analog cable from NewWave (the local cable monopoly). My video tuner is a Hauppauge WinTV-PVR-150, which has a mpeg encoder built-in. (~$70) The encoder takes a lot of strain off of your cpu, freeing it up for other tasks like commercial detection. To get the picture to my TV, I have a EVGA GeForce FX 128MB PCI video card with DVI and S-Video out. (~$40) For my little TV, we'll be using the S-Video connection. Many of you could use the DVI connection for a newer tv, or even settle for an S-Video -> RCA adapter.

It helps to have a large amount of free drive space; default files take up about 2GB/hour. You can transcode the .mpg files to .nuv (NuppelVideo) which cuts file size in half and actually improves quality a bit. My .nuv files seem to be more "in focus" and sharp than the original, but not every player knows how to handle them.

Here are a few of the Gotchas that I ran into. I hope someone else finds them to be helpful.
  1. Don't use as the IP address for the Master Backend server. It prevents you from connecting external MythTV boxes when you add a few to your setup. Type in the LAN IP for the computer. Even when I learned this, I wasn't able to change it in the settings and make it work. I ended up reinstalling. Try to get this one right the first time.
  2. If you want VNC, you don't need to manually install it. You can find it in the MythBuntu settings.
  3. The default option (for me) did not automatically update my schedule info. There's a check box in the setup wizards to "Automatically run mythfilldatabase" and this will fix it.
  4. If you want to stream tv with the built in flash player (like Youtube) make sure ffmpeg has the --enable-libmp3lame option, or your sound won't work. You can check this with the --version flag. I was able to get the right version by adding "deb http://packages.medibuntu.org/ hardy free non-free" to /etc/apt/sources.list and reinstalling ffmpeg (after apt-get update).
  5. Selecting the wrong "channel frequency" during setup caused my tuner to only have access to channels 2-13. Everything higher than 13 was static, as I found out the morning I tried to show the system off to my wife. The correct setting for me was us-cable.
  6. Don't bother enabling all themes: many are available with either wide-screen or 4:3. You don't need both.
  7. The package nuvexport allows MythTV to export to multiple formats. My Gotcha? It took 8 hours to convert 1 hour of video to Xvid with all of the quality settings turned up. I'll test with different options and post the data later.
  8. The Flash player in MythWeb doesn't (yet) know how to stream .nuv files, so don't transcode anything that you want to watch this way. It looks like later versions will fix this.
  9. Although the Flash player seems to be Flash 7, I wasn't able to watch it in Wii Opera browser.

Posted by Nesman | Permanent Link

Thu Jun 12 12:30:21 CDT 2008

MythTV - Introduction

MythTV is Linux's answer to Tivo. For the cave-dwellers among us, these are Personal Video Recorders. A PVR is basically what VCRs and DVD players want to be when they grow up. If you're familiar with Linux you know that Freedom is the central theme. With your Tivo, you can only do with what the service provider says you can do.

"Mother, may I keep a copy of this show on my backup server?"
"Mother, may I watch this show on my laptop, at my neighbor's house with him?"
"Mother, may I automatically remove the commercials from this before I watch it?"
"Hahahahaha... No."
"Mother, may I convert this show and watch it on my iPod or PSP?"
"I'm pretty sure that's piracy. You'd better buy a copy just for your PSP."

I hope you get my drift.

With MythTV, you can do all this and more. I won't even try to list all of the great features, but a few of my favorite are:
  • Commercial detection
  • Web interface for remote management and viewing
  • Distributed server setup, allowing for multiple recorders and viewing stations
  • Multiple network protocols, so you can connect any machine on your network
  • No subscription fees (Well, most of us pay $20/yr for listings, but there are free options)
  • Myth Game allows you to play roms on your TV. Hey, you bought the games when you were a kid; might as well keep playing them.
  • It's Linux! You can install it on your toaster if you can work out the drivers. I hear that heating elements only produce 5x1 pixel resolution, so you might want to try it on an actual computer.
Now, since I think there are enough reviews of MythTV out there, I feel obligated to provide some technical details. I'll try to make these available soon.

Posted by Nesman | Permanent Link