Considering MythTV

Vicki and I were discussing the possibility of buying a Pioneer DVR-810H, which is a combination TiVo and DVD recorder and player, because they’ve been discontinued and sites all over the net are advertising them for less than half price. However, I soon discovered that any site that claims they have it in stock is lying through their teeth, and will cheerfully tell you that they’ll ship it to you as soon as it comes in – I guess they don’t quite get the concept of “discontinued”.

Once you start thinking of the idea of burning TiVo stuff to DVD, you come up with all sorts of ways you could use this, and you start to think you can’t live without it. And so now it becomes a desparate race to fulfill this vital need. TiVo mentions a new DVD-burning TiVo unit from a company called Humax, but it isn’t shipping yet. So now my thoughts drift back to free TiVo-like software called MythTV.

MythTV does everything that TiVo can do: Pause, fast-forward, rewind live TV. Schedule recordings into the future. Get (free) program guide data through the internet. I’m not 100% sure if it has the “Season Pass” type functionality, because I think TiVo patented that. However, it also does some interesting other stuff.

  • “MythGallery” – a picture viewing application.
  • “MythDVD” – a DVD viewer/ripper.
  • “MythMusic” – a music playing/ripping application.
  • “MythGame” – a MAME-based system for playing arcade games from the 80s and 90s.
  • “MythWeather” – get weather info on your TV screen without having to tune in The Weather Channel and wait for it to come.
  • “MythRSS” – an RSS news/blog grabber.

And so on. Nothing entirely show stopping, but some cool things.

At first, I was thinking of building a MythTV box with one of the computers I have kicking around in the corner, adding a Hauppauge PVR-350 hardware encoder/decoder and a big hard drive. But then I thought about the inconvenience of trying to put a big ass noisy computer case into the entertainment center downstairs, or worse in the bedroom. So I thought about making a cute little Mini-ITX computer, somehow managing to wedge the dvd burner, the encoder/decoder and the hard drive into one of those cute little cases. It would be a bit more expensive that way, especially since I’d have to buy a slim-line DVD burner and a laptop-sized hard drive, but what the hell, this is a PROJECT.

But then I was reading a bit more, and discovered that MythTV can install in two parts – a backend and a frontend – on different computers. The backend does the video capture, and the frontend has the user interface and the video player part. Your backend can have as many capture cards as you want to capture simultaneous programs. And you can have as many frontends as you have TVs. And the frontends can be diskless – you can even use an X-Box as a frontend!

So now I’m thinking. I’ve got a big ass noisy tower computer with dual processors. It runs email, web services, usenet and all that other cool stuff, but it’s still only got a load average of about 0.1 most of the time. On the other hand, there are so many things that depend on this box that any sort of down-time at all rankles. The light dawns – I can still build a very nifty little Mini-ITX box with little or no hard drive, no DVD burner, and no encoder as the front-end, and either use the existing Linux box or one of my spares as the backend. If I use the spare, I could even start out using the software decoder and a cheaper capture card to start out, and change to using the encoder cards if it’s stuttering, or if I need to capture more than one channel at a time.

Time for some more research.

One thought on “Considering MythTV”

  1. Good idea! One thing, don’t you need some sort of drive in the frontend to install the front end onto?

    The other thing is how are you gona connect you boxes? Through wireless or wired.. Tbh I think your better going wired for the speed/bandwidth.

    Gigabit lan would be nice if the switches weren’t so damm expensive!

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