I posted my last entry meaning it to be the last thing I did yesterday before bed. Of course I couldn’t leave well enough alone, so I continued to tinker with Myth.
It turns out the OS X clients were definitely buggy and needed upgrading, as I posted before. However I never did get a good recording going, especially with the HD channels. There’s just too much data to be moved with a 1080i stereo datastream.
Looks like I’m getting closer to getting my MythTV box working with ATSC/QAM digital television.
MythTV is a two-part system: the backend (the server) and the frontend (the client). Both are needed to carry the TV pictures from the ether to your eyeballs. When I fired up my Ubuntu MythTV frontend (as opposed to the OS X clients I’d previously been using), I was happy to see video! Upgrading the OS X Myth frontends also provided me the desired digital video. Progress!
However, the Myth backend is still not recording the programs. Instead it creates infuriating zero-length files and displays the show as recorded in the UI. Only when you click on the show do you get told the file doesn’t exist. Its handled very, very sloppily.
The other issue coming up is apparently the slow hardware I’m using for my backend server. A 1 GHz Athlon on a 7 year old motherboard just isn’t cutting it. The video is still throwing junk on occasion and freezing up other times. I know it isn’t the networking as I get the same results whether on a 100Mbps wired connection or a 54 Mbps wireless one.
Its obvious I need to put some more horsepower on the server end, including perhaps upgrading the drives, so that I can get this thing working the way I want it working.
A diabolical plan was hatched at MT.Net. A mutiny, really. The rest of the family has been scheming behind my back to force me to fix the broken MythTV server.
Their plan of attack? The daily watching of The Wiggles DVD – and the only one we have – over and over and over. I find no redeeming value whatsoever in The Wiggles. None. Well, they do have some mighty colorful shirts, but that’s it.
I’m happy to report that, other than a fun weekend with the family, I do have one success story to report: I’ve successfully switched all of our televisions to ATSC-only reception. For the analog Sony that of course is the Channel Master CM-7000 converter box. For our den big-screen TV, that is the built-in tuner. For our MythTV box, that is a new Avermedia MCE A180 HDTV tuner card.
The main thing that happened this weekend was wiring up our broadcast antenna in the attic. I’d initially pointed the antenna to the tower cluster in Auburn, NC where most of Raleigh’s TV stations transmit. This left the channel we watch the most, PBS on Chapel Hill’s WUNC, weak and fading. Then I realized that being in downtown Raleigh, we’re already well-covered by the Auburn antennas. Thus, I could point the antenna to WUNC’s tower (31 miles away) and get a good signal from all the stations.
My experimental MythTV server has been deemed a success. In fact, its a necessity! We watch so little live TV anymore that it took until Wednesday to notice the cable connection I put on our main TV a few weeks ago is bad!
Now that my surplus MythTV backend server has proved its mettle, its time to plan the next Myth setup: one for HDTV. So, let me put it out to my readers: how would you build the ultimate MythTV frontend and backend systems?
As for me, the backend’s only requirement is the ability to house multiple tuner cards. It should use PCI-E slots for this. I’m considering AVerMedia AVerTVHD MCE A180 HDTV PCI cards for my tuners.
I’m a little pickier about the frontends. I want both analog and HDMI connections so I can drive both analog and HDTV sets. I also want them to be quiet and unobtrusive. What would you use for these?
Our upcoming vacation has got me thinking it might be nice to be able to take our TV viewing with us. The kids watch their PBS shows daily and might miss them. There are also a few city meetings I’d like to keep up with while we’re gone. This has led me to see what it would take to make our MythTV server act like a Slingbox, so we can watch TV remotely.
As you know, I’ve been tinkering with MythTV. I also have an interest in the Raleigh community television station: the Raleigh Television Network. SchedulesDirect, the program listings part of MythTV, does not carry the schedules for the community television channels.
Fortunately, I found today that RTN makes their schedules available through a Google Calendar (and an ICS link). Now the challenge is to figure out a good way to interface this calendar to MythTV so I can begin scheduling RTN programs just like they were on commercial channels. Since I have a working knowledge of the iCal scheduling format, I don’t think it will be too hard to parse out the elements. Its mainly a matter of seeing how Myth handles its schedules and making the data fit.
I watched some videos with MythTV last night and tested the commercial skip feature. It was flawless! I’d been disabling this feature because the mythcommflag process puts a load on my measly 1 GHz backend server: enough to make the server unsuitable acting both as a backend and a frontend. As long as I’m using a separate frontend, though, things work just fine. The commercial skipping is definitely worth the extra CPU cycles.
I’m still wowed by this tool. What’s really unique about MythTV is the way it slices up what we used to know as television. Tivo, the trailblazing PVR, gave us the ability to treat a television program like a book: you can walk away from the program and “pick it up” the next time you had time to watch.
We certainly made the most of our Memorial Day weekend! Saturday we went on a family sail at Lake Gaston, with even the kids taking turns at the helm. Once it was time to dock, we spent some fun time catching up with the Naylors.
I got the schedules working last night for my new MythTV setup and quickly fell in love with my MythTV. Sure, Tivo’s been doing this stuff for ten years now, but to have it on my home-built machine, with my own hardware, for a yearly subscription fee of $20 rather than a monthly fee? I’m sold!