MythTV

Alright, so it has taken me a few weeks. But after endless hours of searching the web, trial and error, and Fred‘s help, MythTV is up and running on my media center machine. We first started playing around with Freevo, but after the first few problems we encountered, we found virtually no help on the web. In my search for the perfect media machine, I did stumble across MediaPortal, which is a Windows open-source replacement for XP Media Center Edition. It looked rather promising, and of course like most things in Windows, the setup is a matter of minutes, rather than weeks. I played around with it a little, but after my first BSOD, I promptly remembered why I was searching for a replacement to XP’s Media Center in the first place. That idea didn’t last very long. So I consulted with Fred, and he assured me that MythTV is probably the best way to go. So I’ll outline the process a little, and maybe someone else will spend less time with it than I did.

First off, this is the hardware I’m using:

  • Cheapo AMD XP motherboard and processor, 1.67GHz
  • 512MB RAM
  • Hauppauge WinTV PVR-150 TV-Tuner card
  • NVidia GeForce 440 64MB video card
  • Microsoft Media Center Edition remote control
  • Cheapo DVD-ROM drive

I decided that since Kubuntu is doing so well on my laptop, and I already had the DVD downloaded and burned, I would just go ahead and use it for the media box, as well. So here’s Jabba’s quick guide to getting MythTV working and ditching Microsoft on yet another box:

  1. Install Kubuntu. It’s pretty straightforward. You can use the text-based installer if you have the DVD, or you can use the LiveCD feature, or whatever you like
  2. This box doesn’t have a monitor hooked up to it, but just a TV through the S-Video on the video card, so use this guide to get that part working. It works like a charm, even on Dapper Drake.
  3. Once you have your desktop up and running on the TV, use EasyUbuntu, to get all the video codecs installed. Don’t install anything you don’t need, it might just break stuff. Remember from Stop 2, that the video driver is already working, so just install the codecs, and Java if you want. Check with your local laws before installing the DVD decrypting software, since it is probably illegal where you live.
  4. I wanted my box to just turn on and automatically start into MythTV, so at some point during the setup, make sure to go to KDE’s login manager setting and enable Autologin. After you have MythTV installed, you’ll want to go to your home folder, show hidden files, go to the .KDE folder, and put a link to mythfrontend in the Autostart folder. You can do this last, but you can do it now, also.
  5. Now, the really fun part is getting the TV card to work. But fortunately, it is a popular card, and everybody else already did the grunt work on getting it to work. There are many guides. All say the same thing, but there is a difference between Breezy Badger and Dapper Drake with the firmware folders. I got it to work using this guide. If you can’t get it to work, don’t continue until you do. It is the hump to the whole thing, and the most important and difficult part.
  6. Once that is working, go ahead and install MythTV. I grabbed it from the apt-get repository, but later found that all the errors went away when you install an unofficial 0.19 build, since the repository only has the 0.18 build. But the 0.18 version is enough for now, to get things working. You can upgrade later to solve problems if you have them.
  7. For this part, just follow the instructions in the MythTV wiki for your distro. It’s pretty straightforward. You have to set up a backend and MySQL and stuff, but its rather trivial. Once you go through the setup, you’ll want to get an account with Zap2It, so that you can download the tv-guide. Just follow the instructions on the MythTV wiki. Afterwards, you should be able to run mythfilldatabase and it will populate your tv-guide. If you have the newest version of MySQL, but not the newest version of MythTV, you’ll get a thousand lines of errors when doing that. If this happens, go ahead and upgrade MythTV to the newest version, by following this guide. This fixed every issue I had.
  8. Okay, so now you are ready to run the myth front end. Do this by running mythfrontend as your regular username. You should be able to customize everything you need in the frontend menus. Theoretically, if you followed all the guides up to this point, everything should be working nicely. You should be able to watch TV, watch videos and listen to music. You can set up the MythWeather plugin and look at your weather if you want. I generally just look outside for that info. But some people care about how hot the weather channel thinks it is, so do whatever you need there.
  9. Now, the really fun part is getting the Microsoft remote to work. Well, any remote for that matter. I couldn’t really figure out how to do this by using the LIRC package in the ubuntu repository, so I downloaded and compiled my own from the LiRC website. Specifically, using this guide. And it works as expected. However the really fun part is getting the remote to actually do anything in MythTV.
  10. After getting your computer to recognize button press events on the console, you’ll need to have a .lircrc file in your home directory, and a symlink to it in your ~/.mythtv/ directory. That’s not too hard to accomplish, and the guide outlines that, but what you put into the file is kind of your own problem. Most guides I’ve found on this issue pretty much leave it up to you to map your buttons to your events. I would suggest googling around for a lircrc file for your remote, and then modify it to suit your needs. That is what I did. I found a file somewhere that works in MythTV, but not in MPlayer or Xine, which is what is used for videos. But once you read the documentation on the LiRC website about how the file format is used, you can add your own events to different programs. The trick is setting up irexec to startup at boot time. I did this by putting an application link in the .kde/Autostart directory, right next to my mythfrontend link. Use this guide, for help getting the power button to turn MythTV on and off.
  11. I decided to use MPlayer for watching videos on my hard drive, and Xine for watching DVDs. Xine has support for DVD menus and such, where MPlayer does not, but I like the way MPlayer starts up from MythTV for regular video files. I used the mplayer -input cmdlist command to find out what MPlayer likes as far as commands go, and mapped those events to the corresponding keys on the remote. I was up too late last night getting all that done, so I haven’t finished the Xine mapping yet, but I think it will be pretty trivial. You can also leave MPlayer as the default DVD app if you don’t care about the DVD menus. If you want to change it, you can do so from the MythTV frontend under Player Settings. Just type the command that you want it to use to start up your media program. It details it all on the Myth Wiki as well.

Well, that is about it for now. If this guide helps, let me know. If something is not clear, let me know and I will update it. For now, I wish you good luck with your media box. And let’s all take a moment to grieve the loss of yet another Microsoft customer to Linux. :)

Update: In case you need a working .lircrc file for a Microsoft MCE remote(Second Edition?), you can grab mine, and modify it to suit your needs. It is configured to turn off MythTV, and all MPlayer and Xine processes when the power button is pressed, using the script from this guide.

1 Comment

FredAugust 12th, 2006 at 12:25

To upgrade to MythTV 0.19, we put these new apt sources in the sources.list:

http://www.ubuntuforums.org/showpost.php?p=1253641&postcount=4

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