Wednesday, March 14, 2007

My MythTV Journey, Part 11

Ok, I now have the beginnings of a working MythTV system. I can pause live TV and start it back. There are, however, still several things to be worked out:
  • Sound - Something's wrong with the sound output from the system. It sounds attenuated. I don't know if it's my sound cable or a setting in the system.
  • Cables - Some of my cables don't quite reach :-) I need to get some longer ones.
  • Can't change channels - I'm using a DirecTv satellite box so I can't change channels yet. I have to either configure the IR Blaster that came with the PVR150 or aquire a serial blaster cable. I hope to be able to just build the serial blaster cable.
  • Overscan - the picture on the TV is square but my TV isn't. It has sides that are curved out. I believe there is a setting in MythTv to adjust this.
  • Colors - the colors don't seem quite as bright when I run the signal thru the computer. I'll have to see if I can adjust them.
  • Program Guide - I'm using DirecTv which provides it's own guide. I'll have to see what others have done to get a guide that I can use with DirecTv.
  • Internet - The computer isn't hooked to the internet. I've got to figure out how to do that as well. (Would be nice if I had a cable modem or something, but the only thing available out here is dial-up.)

It's alive!

My MythTV Journey, Part 10

I installed the PVR150 and put in the KnoppMyth CD. After installation, I put the batteries in the Haupauge remote, said a quick prayer and pointed it at the IR receiver. I pressed a button and the MythTv menu changed! It worked! Or at least the remote did. Then I selected "Watch Television". After a several second delay I saw The Disney Channel on my screen. Now for the moment of truth. I pressed pause. The image onscreen froze. I bar popped up showing how much time was being recorded. I hit pause again. The characters jumped back to life. It worked! I cheered! There were still some things to do to make it fully functional, but making it this far was a great event. (For me anyway.)

Circuit City to the Rescue!

My MythTV Journey, Part 9

I had read on the MythTV wiki and the forums that ATI All-in-Wonder cards would not work with MythTV. So, I tried it anyway. Didn't work. :-)

Reading the forums I discovered that one of the most popular and not too expensive capture cards for MythTV is the Haupauge PVR150. However, it was also at the forums that I found a warning. It seems that around Christmas, Haupauge experienced a shortage of these cards. So, they began to put PVR1600 cards into the PVR150 boxes. Now, the PVR1600 is a better, more expensive card. I'm sure several people where happy to receive it, but it doesn't work with MythTV. I emailed Haupague and asked if there was any way to tell from looking at the box if it contained a PVR150 or a PVR1600. They should no, but that if I ended up with a PVR1600 they would glady swap it out for a PVR150.

I had been to my local Best Buy and noticed that they didn't carry the PVR150. I checked Circuit City's website. Not only did they carry it, but my "local" store had them in stock. After discussing it with my wife and getting the okay to spend the money, I took a chance and purchased one. Fortunately it was a real PVR150!

local=An hour's drive

Some Research

My MythTV Journey, Part 8

Searching the previously mentioned forums, I discovered several things:
  • My processor and memory should be adequate
  • The GForce 5200 generally works well with MythTV
  • The old ATI All-in-Wonder card I had lying around wouldn't work in MythTV
  • My ATI Remote would work with MythTV.

A hard drive! A hard drive! My kingdom for a hard drive!

My MythTV Journey, Part 7

Well, I had a machine, now I needed a hard drive. I don't want to use the one currently installed. The plan was to unhook the Ubuntu drive and use an older drive that I could format. I searched the house for a hard drive. I found a few, but either they already had data on them that I didn't want to lose, or they were too small. (I even found an 80 MB. That's right MB, not GB). Eventually, I noticed that their was on old, unconnected drive in the computer I wanted to put a drive into! It was 13 GB. Of course, that wouldn't be enough to record a lot of TV shows on, but it would be big enough to install MythTV and see if I could get it working.

By the way, here's a tip for ya:
If you want to play with alternate operating system, but don't want to mess up your Windows install (and aren't afraid of messing around inside your computer) get another hard drive. You can install Linux on the new drive. When you want to run Windows just hook the Windows drive up and unhook the Linux one. (Of course there are more elegant solutions, like using Grub, but this way is simpler if you're just getting your feet wet.)

KnoppMyth Forums

My MythTV Journey, Part 6

I've found a forum where people discuss KnoppMyth here:

KnoppMyth or MythDora?

My MythTV Journey, Part 5

In my research I discovered that there are basically three ways to install MythTV:
  • Install it yourself into your already working Linux distro
  • Use the KnoppMyth Live CD
  • Use the MythDora Live DVD
The last two options sound easier. (I'm not afraid of installing Linux; it's just that these Live CDs will install everything you need and help you get set up.)

MythDora apparently installs a complete installation of Fedora Core plus MythTV. KnoppMyth, however, seems to install a more minimal system focused on running MythTV. This was more what I was looking for, so I chose KnoppMyth.

The Search for Forums

My MythTV Journey, Part 4

Anytime I start to play with something new, I try to find active forums were people are discusing the thing. For MythTV, I discovered

Forums can be a great place to talk with and get help from people who share your interest. But please remember a couple of things: 1) Be nice 2) The people in the forums are generally nice but they are probably tired of answering the same questions over and over. So before you ask something, use the forum's search feature to see anyone has already answered your question in the past.


My MythTV Journey, Part 3

Now that I knew what software I was going to use, I needed some hardware. I had recently been playing with Ubuntu on an older system and decided to see if it would work.

It has these specs:

AMD 950 MHz Duron
256 MB memory
GForce FX 5200
80 HD with Ubuntu and other Linux distros installed.

The plan was to reuse as much as I could and try to buy as few new parts as possible. I had an old ATI All-in-Wonder and an ATI Remote control lying around. I planned on working them in if I could.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

And the winner is...

My MythTV Journey, Part 2

I decided to research the available Media Center programs. On the Window's side, there is Media Portal which I had already played with. On the Linux side there is MythTV, GeeXboX , Freevo and some others.

I had planned to research each one, but the more I looked into MythTV, the more I liked it. I originally wasn't interested in its TiVo like features. Don’t get me wrong, I have a TiVo and absolutely love it. But I was just trying to view videos on my computer. I figured I could install MythTV and then add the TiVo features later. But the more I thought about it, they more I wanted those features too.

Plus, just glancing around MythTV seemed to have a lot of support in terms of websites and forums.

So, MythTV won without much of a fight.

And so it begins..

My MythTV Journey, Part 1

It all started a while back when I decided that it would be nice if I could view some of the videos I had on my computer on my TV screen. My first attempt at this involved hooking up some wireless A/V sender/recievers I had lying around. This worked, but had a few problems. For one, my 2.4GHz phone interfered with the 2.4GHz A/V sender (even on different channels.) Another problem was that I would have to run back to the other room to start the video, which, of course, was a pain.

My next attempt was a little more successful. I placed my laptop next to the TV and hooked them together. Using Media Portal and my ATI Remote Control, I was able to watch computer videos on my TV. This worked, but it had quite a few problems:
  • It was a hassle to hookup all the wires (power cable, video cable, audio cable, usb adatper for remote, etc.) everytime I wanted to do it.
  • If I wanted to use my laptop, I had to unhook it.
  • Media Portal would sometimes slow down or lockup.
  • Couldn't play all the formats I wanted to.
  • Needed access to videos on desktop computer (w/ large hard drive). I could have fixed this by setting up a wireless network, but I never made it that far.
  • Took up space in entertainment center. (Space had to stay empty so I could ad and remove laptop.)
  • Pain to run Media Portal and them change settings on laptop to output to TV only.

My MythTV Journey

I’m currently in the process of constructing a MythTV for my living room. I thought this would be a good topic to write about so I’ve created a series of posts to bring you up to date on my progress. These are based partly on notes, but mostly on my memory so the timeline may appear wrong at certain times.

Hello, world!

Hi everyone. This blog is my outlet to express my thoughts and opinions on computers and technology.

I’m not really doing this to try to gain readership—it is more to fulfill a need to express myself. I’m a 30-something year old computer programmer. And while I don’t claim to be the best coder in the world, I would like to think that I have enough experience to share some useful information.