MythTV

Anyone who builds a MythTV box is required by law to give a play-by-play of their installation experience. I don’t make the rules, I just follow ’em.

First, of course, the hardware list.

Component Price
Silverstone LC13 Case 99.99
Asus K8n N3-250 Socket 754 Motherboard 63.00
Gigabyte FX5200 Video Card 37.50
Hauppauge PVR 150 Tuner 64.99
Hauppauge PVR 150 Tuner 64.99
Silverstone SST-ST405 Power supply 50.99
AMD Sempron 64 2600+ 65.00
512 MB Corsair RAM (2 x 256) 45.00
Seagate ATA100 250 GB hard drive 101
A4Tech Wireless Keyboard and Mouse 26.80
Plextor Dual-Layer DVD Burner 82.99
StreamZap Remote 30.00
Total 732.25

I purposely bought more hardware than I need, for future expansion possibilities. For instance, the LC13 case has room for two optical drives, two external 3.5 drives and two internal 3.5 drives. I’m using one optical and one internal. The power supply is a massive 400 watt model, which I could certainly have cut back on with this relatively low-powered machine. Strangely, I couldn’t find a PVR-500 dual-tuner card for less than two separate PVR-150 cards.

The build was pretty simple, hardware-wise. I hadn’t used a retail processor kit before, and it’s a pretty easy way to go – the thermal paste is pre-applied to the heatsink. The only issue with the build was what to do with the spare cables. The PSU came with enough wiring to hook up a machine twice the size of this one, and I slid them into the spare optical drive bay.

Software was a pretty straightforward affair as well. I used Knoppmyth R5A30.1, which autobooted and installed a Debian-based Linux operating system, all the Myth scripts and binaries, and even the Nvidia video drivers. I had it up and running watching TV on my monitor in about 40 minutes. Interestingly for a system meant to be used with a television set, it was not configured to use the TV out of the Nvidia card. That required a small change to the XF86Config-4 file, to add the following lines under the Monitor section:

Option "ConnectedMonitor" "TV"
HorizSync "30 - 50"
VertRefresh "60"

Also, just to be sure, I set the options at the bottom of the XF86Config-4 file to use 800×600 or 640×480 resolutions only.

For some reason, the TV out put a blue line on the top and left sides of the images, so I added the following line to /home/mythtv/.fluxbox/apps before the line which runs Knoppmyth-Run:
[startup] {xvattr -a XV_COLORKEY -v 0}

And, because supermount sometimes locks the optical drive for no darned good reason I can tell, this got added to the /usr/share/mythtv/optical_menu.xml file (take into account that WordPress wants to convert my < to actual HTML, so all the brackets in the following should really be less than and greater than signs):

[button]
[type]DVD[/type]
[text]Eject DVD[/text]
[action]EXEC umount /dev/dvd;eject[/action]
[/button]

Now that all that is done, the system works wonderfully. I can record two shows at once, and store at least a hundred hours of video for instant recall. It’s coolio.

Next, we have the required screen shots:

Program guide
The program guide.

Weather Map
Nice animated weather map.

Live Pause
Pausing live television

The full set of photos, including higher resolution copies, are at the gallery.

I’ve updated my LIRCRC (remote control configuration file) to include some reasonable (to me) keymappings for xine, as well as the defaults for mplayer that ship with Knoppmyth. I hope someone might find this useful. I use xine to play DVDs and mplayer for videos, currently. Unfortunately, until you create a .lircrc file that maps the xine commands to the StreamZap remote, the remote does exactly nothing in xine.

Update: Since I built my MythBox in January 2006, I’ve added an IDE hard drive (+160 gigs) and a SATA hard drive (+400 gigs), converted to an LVM setup for ease of adding those drives, and put in a drive cooler for that SATA drive. I’m up to 810 gigabytes of storage space, which is about 55% full as of August 2007, with many video files and archived DVDs added to the television show archives. I’ve also updated my Knoppmyth to R5F1.

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