Thursday, June 7, 2007

No longer a myth

MythTV, for me anyway, is no longer just a myth. After a good bit of playing around, I finally have a MythTV box up and running. And I have to say, it's pretty nice. It takes a bit of getting used to, but I'm learning it's evil ways.

First, I didn't end up doing the Ubuntu -> MythTV way. The instructions I found here and here were great. Very detailed and helpful. The problem is that I kept having trouble with my graphics card, or the IR receiver, or something (but it usally had something to do with graphics card or IR receiver). So, I started looking around for more help and found MythDora and KnoppMyth. MythDora was really pretty cool looking. It uses Fedora for the OS, the open source version of Red Hat Linux. But it didn't have the IR receiver working correctly, so I moved on to KnoppMyth. Both MythDora and KnoppMyth were extremely easy to install, but everything just worked in KnoppMyth. I didn't have to touch any config files, or do anything special to get it up and running. Just followed the instructions, and presto, it was up and running.

I did, however, have a couple of issues. First, you have to make sure you select the correct frequency table. For me, it's "us-cable". I accidently left it as "default" and nothing worked. AND, there are two different places in the setup where you have to make sure it's set to us-cable (or whatever is needed for your situation). The last issue I had took the longest time to figure out. I could see the video on all the channels, but on the higher channels the video was choppy, jittery, fuzzy, and whatever other word you can think of for BAD. The lower the channel the better the video became. So, channel 2 was fine while 99 was completely unwatchable. I searched high and low trying to find an answer for that. I tried changing the bitrate. I tried completely reinstalling the whole thing. I figured I had screwed something up, and since the system had installed on the 40gig drive instead of the 200gig drive, I figured I could kill two birds with one stone. But, that didn't fix it either. During my research I saw something about the resolution, that MythTV defaults to 480x480, but that 4:3 tv is 640x480 and DVD is 720x480, etc. Since I was in the setup trying to figure out the bad video problem I thought I'd up the resolution to something higher. Changed it to 640x480 and noticed that the picture was better but still bad. I thought, "hmmm, maybe it needs to be 720x480? But that doesn't make sense, the table clearly says that 4:3 TV is 640x480. Well, it can't hurt to try..." And whamo! The picture was crystal clear! Oh happy days!

Since then (2 days ago), I have been playing with it, and figuring it all out. I need a new remote, one that has page up and page down buttons on it. When you go into the program guide, you have to scroll up or down one channel at a time. Page up and page down would make going through the guide much easier and quicker.

I have also discovered that live tv is recording all the time. So, you may not be home, but if you left it with the tv playing, it will record every program on that channel. Which then screws up the recorded program listing. So, I now make sure it's left on a menu when I'm not watching anything. I also think it would be wise to not ever watch live tv. Just watch the recorded programs and you never have to worry about extra programs in the recorded programs list. It would, however, be nice if the system would immediately remove those programs when you change a channel, or go back to the menu.

Setting up scheduled programs is a bit tricky. It's not bad, it's just that there are a ton of settings to choose from. I like Tivo's season pass option. Just tell it that you want a season pass, that you want new episodes only, and how many you want kept, and that's pretty much it. But in MythTv, there are options for everything. It's crazy (in a good way). And at first, I thought there was no way to tell it to record new episodes only, but I accidently found it under "Check duplicates for" option.

Other than that, it wasn't too bad setting up. The only bad thing now is that I want another tuner. I have the Hauppauge PVR-150, and I would love a PVR-500. That is the one that is a dual tuner card. And my long term goal is to set up another box, put a PVR-350 in it (that has hardware mpeg decoding built in) and make it a frontend box and make the current box a backend server. And eventually, I'll get a couple of HDTV tuners for off the air programming. But since I don't, yet, have an HDTV TV, it won't much matter. But father's day is around the corner?!?!