The ongoing MythTV saga continues

I have good news, bad news, and worse news. The good news is that I managed to get MythTV working well enough that it now plays standard definition channels better than the cable box alone, even though it's getting its signal from the cable output of the cable box. I get this benefit because MythTV allows me to tweak various parameters that you can't change on the cable box.

The bad news is that high definition channels still look worse through MythTV than they do if I watch then directly from the cable box. I don't expect to solve this problem. The cable box may be able to handle HDTV itself, but it outputs a digital signal in 480p, which is basically standard definition. The fact that I have two HDTV-capable tuner cards does me little good.

Here's the worse news. I had to learn way too much to get this far.

I now know the difference between ATSC and NTSC, what vertical blanking is, how to use things like overscan percentages to adjust a picture, and much more. I still haven't tried to set up a remote and IR blaster, so there's a lot of research left to be done. Aside from a little more tweaking, this will be my final step -- to add a remote control that sends a signal to an IR blaster in order to change channels on the cable box.

I admit that I find everything I have learned interesting, and I will enjoy writing it up as a Linux Journal article when I'm done taking this project to a point where I'm satisfied with the results. But I don't think I should have had to become so familiar with everything from driver firmware to the way television signals are formatted in order to get satisfactory results. It was never my goal to learn any of this.

Bad simile

It's unrealistic to make a one-for-one comparison to buying a car. This is, after all, a PC, and it requires additional hardware like a tuner card just to get started. Even a Windows installation of similar software would require you to install a driver, reboot, and then step through a wizard setup program to get everything working. Of course, there is Windows Media Center Edition. I've heard that it is relatively trivial to install a tuner card and get Windows MCE to behave as a PVR, but I can't confirm or deny it from personal experience.

Regardless, I am tempted to compare it to buying and driving a car if only because I have absolutely no interest in learning how a piston engine works. I'd rather walk than learn about piston engine internals. It is pure coincidence that I found the technology interesting in the case of MythTV. There's no reason why anyone who isn't interested should have to know these things just to turn a Linux box into a decent PVR.

No way out

One cannot solve this problem by writing a good How-To, either. You need to know too many details about your own equipment in order to get optimal results. The MythTV software doesn't make any attempt to detect hardware, television signals, configuration details. It doesn't walk you through the process of discovering these details and it doesn't give you any advice on what to do with the information you glean on your own. It even puts some configuration options in unusually awkward places.

For example, you can't adjust the contrast or brightness from the MythTV front end software. You have to run the MythTV setup program to do that, and you have to do it channel-by-channel. Not only is this inconvenient, you can't view how your settings will affect the quality of the picture until you exit the setup program and start the front end again. Maybe you can run the two programs simultaneously, but it was more trouble than it was worth to find out. I only want MythTV to receive channel 3. That's the output of my cable box. But I pity the poor fool who needs to adjust things like contrast, brightness, color and hue for multiple channels.

MythTV is still excellent

Some of MythTV is simply brilliant. I love the fact that MythTV is a client/server application. You can connect a back-end server to the cable box and watch TV with the front-end software on any other computer on your network. There's a lot more to like, too, such as the variety of add-ons that make MythTV much more than a PVR. I'm not ready to talk about these plug-ins because I haven't tried them yet. But there's a music player, phone plug-in, browser, picture gallery, speech synthesis (via festival), and more.

I guess I'm simply disappointed that MythTV is like so much other free software. It is built under the assumption that people who use it know (and care) about the technical details that the authors know (and care) about. In short, it's by geeks, for geeks. I confess, I'm a geek, and many of you are geeks, too, so I hope you enjoy the How-To article when I get to it. But I still have compassion for the non-geek population, and I wish more developers had the same.

To be continued...


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New LinuxMCE release adds a 3d gyro ui for Myth and fully pnp se

Paul Webber's picture

The new release is now integrated with MythTV and gives it a gyro-controlled UI that lets you navigate long lists of media and the TV's EPG by waving, like a Wii, for fast, smooth control. Also wave to scan through your media and adjust volume and lights.
There's a new demo walkthrough video on Google Video, and also available in high-def at Installation is 25 minutes and every step is shown starting with a clean PC.

Recorders versus the Surfers

Anonymous's picture

I have successfully built a fully functioning MythTV box only to find out that channel changes on a set-top box take forever. This small detail was buried deep in the documentation with an assurance that after using MythTV for awile, ones viewing habits would change to one who records then watches.

It soon became aparent to me that the MythTV community was made up mostly of recorders as opposed to channel surfers. I have nothing against one group or another however I am a channel surfer. So, I would like to offer up a piece of advice for any other channel surfers with set-top boxes out there thinking of building a MythTV box.

This advise only applies to channel surfers with set-top boxes since I believe that using MythTV with cable and the tuner on the PVR card, channel surfing would be nominal.

Advise on MythTV for channel surfers with set-top boxes -> "Get a set-top box with a built in PVR."

With this being said, MythTV is the best thing out there at what it does...record scheduled TV. However, the MythTV community would serve itself and the rest of the world better if it advertised it's system capablities in a clearer manner.


MythTv difficulties

Keith A's picture

I agree with what you say about the user friendliness of MythTV config, and I too also know far too much about TV signals now than I ever thought I would !

Before the switch to Linux I tried to install my Hauppauge tuner card in Windows XP, and it refused point blank to understand what the card was. After fighting with the drivers for a while and numerous reboots, the card was ready but the Hauppauge software would not detect the card, or on a random occasion when it did, would fail to tune to anything.

Compared to this installation of MythTV and hardware detection in Linux was very simple, all I had to do was work out signal frequencies from scratch ;-)

You are incorrect about the contrast/brightness however .. so long as you have XVideo set up correctly in xorg.conf you can use the F key to set contrast/brightness like you would on your TV!

some mythtv help... just a bit...

pepsi_max2k's picture

hey mr nicholas, i feel your pain. why i have to learn to write computer code, directory structures, how to compile a million programs from source, where to get there, what "svn" is, inividual paramaters of command line programs, where these are getting info passed from in the first place and what a sample rate, bitrate and channel is just to get a program to stop telling me that "-e rate is invalid" i dunno, but i did.

and then i wrote a guide for the program because i was too pissed off having to learn everything from scratch in linux.

took me two months to get mythtv working, and half of that was the remote.

I hope you got an mce type remote, in which case this might help:

and when you get to trying to compress and move your recordings from one place to another, i recommend a program called nuvexport. and that's what i've just spent the last few days writing a manual for, made simple so you don't have to learn what a flag is (though if you wish that's all explained there too). it's at

wish someone else had bothered before i had to learn what overscan and vbr and interlacing and multipass was.

stupid fools

Anonymous's picture

ur a dumb stupid stupid idiot
if you cant get it working then f*off you shouldnt be using it

'Feeding' the tuner card

Nigel B's picture

It would seem that up to now you have only fed the RF input to your tuner card with the cable outut from your cable box.

If I understand you correctly, this means that the tuner card remains tuned to the same channel and you have to change channel on the cable box if you want to watch or record programmes broadcast on different channels on your MythTV system.

Have you tried feeding the RF input of the tuner card with the signal that normally feeds the cable box? Either unpug the cable form the input of the cable box and plug that cable into the tuner card or use a splitter so that you plug the cable into the splitter and then connect one output of the splitter to the cable box and the other to the tuner card.

This way your tuner card will be able to tune any unscrambled signals off the cable. I have had very good results using this method with PC tuner cards here in the UK. If you don't have immediate success with MythTV this way, you may want to try popping your tuner card in a Windows PC and see what you can receive using the Windows software using this method.

I'd be interested to know how you get on with these suggestions.

Thanks for taking the time and effort with all of this. I certainly appreciate it! Very interesting.

Direct from the cable

Nicholas Petreley's picture

Yes, I've tried using the cable without the cable box. The problem is that there are so few unscrambled channels it really isn't very useful to do it that way.

I think the bottom line is this:

  • If I want a high-definition PVR, I might as well just use the built-in PVR in my cable box and put up with the rotten interface. I can use the MythTV box for other purposes, including recording some shows at standard definition.
  • If I want a better PVR experience more than I want high definition, I can stop using the PVR in the cable box and use MythTV. But I'll have to accept the trade-off of the low definition ATSC output of the cable box for all channels.
  • Best option: Wait for the new cable cards to come out, and then wait for Linux drivers to be able to use them. These cable cards will be able to take the cable signal from the wall, capture HDTV, and unscramble channels just like a cable box. Assuming they live up to expectations, if I combine one of these with something like MythTV, I'll have exactly what I want.

Good article and discussion!

Randy Kramer's picture

As I read the article and (most (??) of) the comments, at various times I felt that I wanted to reply to add something. When I was all done, I realized most of what I might have wanted to say had been said.

Some of my feelings are expressed well by Conrad in his "This is how it works" comment.

I guess (from other comments) I'm surprised at, for example, the fact that MythTV is not yet at 1.0--it seems I've been hearing about it for several years (has it been as long as 3, 4, or 5 years?) and I thought I was way behind the curve because I haven't yet attempted to install it.

What's my point? I'm not sure I have one--I'd hate to say that release information should be managed more, but I would have liked to be aware that MythTV is not quite ready for the likes of me (or my parents/grandparents) rather than finding that out after extensive research or trial and error.

(I'm tempted to start a list on WikiLearn (everything looks like a hammer ;-) noting some applications that are ready for prime time, and others that are not (or maybe more fine grained categories--"ready for experimenters at the bleeding edge", ...).)

Also, I thank Nick (Petreley) for this blog on the subject and the discussion it has provoked. Very helpful for me.

If it was not your goal to

Anonymous's picture

If it was not your goal to learn something, then why didn't you just buy a Tivo? So you could complain about it?

Now that you have learned something, are you planning to participate in open source and fix the problems you encountered? That would be more productive and a better example for an editor of a leading Linux publication to set.


Nicholas Petreley's picture

Most editors of any publications, computer-related or not, are not programmers. And if they are, they're generally not good programmers or not good editors. So what would give you the idea that it would be more productive for me to contribute to the project?

I happen to have a long background in programming. I'm rusty, so I'm not a great programmer anymore. But having had the background, I consider myself a rare exception. Did you somehow know that, and that's why you made the suggestion?

However, I have a job as editor in chief, I am a full-time single dad, I happen to have a very serious spinal injury. That doesn't leave much left for becoming a contributor to the MythTV project. Take away the single dad factor AND the spinal injury, and I probably still wouldn't have time.

What I CAN do is use my position as EIC to make a case to try to motivate those who do have time and are involved in the project to consider that non-geeks would like to set up and use MythTV without becoming programmers or knowledgable about TV signals, etc. That was my point in this blog entry.

My goal for the upcoming article is to help others set it up and use MythTV, since it isn't easy, and the details beyond getting it just plain working aren't well-documented (except perhaps in independent books and articles).

You know, I've been hearing this same basic response to any complaints about open source since 1995. "If you don't like it, submit a patch (contribute, whatever)." Here's a much more appropriate response to non-programmers and even people like me: If you don't like it, get Windows XP MCE or Windows and Beyond TV, or some other commercial solution that is easy to set up and easy to use. It'll cost you money, but no more than the equivalent of money you'd be spending in time and effort "submitting a patch" or contributing to the project, especially if you're gainfully employed and your time would be better spent doing your job.

In other words, unless you happen to chance upon a student or someone with lots of time on their hands, and a desire to spend that time coding for free, you're more likely to drive people to Windows or MacOS with your attitude than get them to contribute to anything.

Do you have a job? Do you have a life? Or do you have lots of time to spare and a desire to spend your spare time coding on projects like this? If so, go for it. I wish I had that kind of spare time.

But don't assume everyone is in your position. To those who have lives, jobs, and other issues, "contribute" or "submit a patch" sounds arrogant and detached from reality, and is more likely to drive them to polished commercial alternatives. And I won't blame them if that's what they choose after they hear "if you don't like it, submit a patch" enough times. My knee-jerk reaction is simply say, "learn to deal with the fact that a lot of open source software is too geek-oriented, and that's a well-deserved criticism that the designers need to take to heart."

freevo?'s picture

isnt there a "competitor to mythtv called freevo?
how simple is that to config compared to mythtv?

Love my MythTV

DCole's picture

While I still have a lot to configure and have issues after the very occasional reboot, I love my MythTV.

My wife use it to record her favorite shows, and with enough hard drive space on the box, that can be a whole seasons worth. I can manage my rather large mp3 collection, and family photos can easily be viewed on our TV screen. It's wonderful!

On the other hand I have had long hours playing with the OS and configuration. It took me a long time to discover that my Haupauge 500 needed the Samsung drivers, that it was easier to use a wireless keyboard and mouse than lirc, and that upgrades would require a lot of work. That's the best part! I learn something new everytime I have a twinge to improve my TV viewing. I look forward to Nicholas's article! I jsut hope he learns that whining is not the way to talk to the geek world. The Challange is most of the fun!!


Nicholas Petreley's picture

Do I hafta learn that whining is not good? Waaaaah!!!! ;)

ATI AIW, flamers

Anonymous's picture

I wish MythTV worked with the ATI All In Wonder cards. Unfortunately, trying to get those cards to work under linux leaves one, well, All In Wonder.

[Off topic]
Why does just about every post on a linux forum have to end up in a windows vs linux flame war? For you people out there that manage to get everything to work on your linux box, how long did it take? How much typing did you have to do? How much sifting through forums and posting and getting flamed (for not already knowing the answer) did you have to go through? How many times did you recompile the kernel (for fun and out of necessity)? How many things did you break on your system while trying to get something else to work?

The reason I don't like to google an answer before making a post on a forum is because I hate wasting hours reading through stupid flame posts that have no relevant information. I hate the fact that I have to write this post because it just adds fuel to the fire, but I think it's one of those things that needs to be done in order to get on to the next step. If you're so knowledgable, instead of posting flames, go write some code to fix the problem. Do something productive with your time.

As for linux, let's face it, it's still in it's early stages. The Xserver on my SUSE box broke after some online updates (due to a conflict with a perl or python library). Yast didn't work either. All I did was an upate, something that's supposed to be safe and improve the system. OSX seems to be the best of both worlds right now if you ask me. When linux is easy to use (for most people, not us nerds), that's when it'll be ready. For those of you thinking about writing a flame reply right now, instead, go write some code that will eliminate dependency issues, or automagically fix the xserver when it stops working, or get the ATI AIW to work with MythTV and write up a hot-to, or write an installer script for your favorite app, or do something else productive.

Nicholas, thanks for taking the time to document your efforts in trying to get MythTV to work.

linux isnt that hard... its

Anonymous's picture

linux isnt that hard... its like learning windows for the first time. dont tell me you didnt "break stuff" only unlike windows linux doesnt break its self. ware if you took some one with no exprience in ether i bet real quick the linux guy would go over the head of the windows guy simple because the windows guy has to deal with not only his lack of understanding but the simplist of things breaking for no reason. i wounder why is it that windows users coming over to linux expect people to hold there hand for ever. yes i see some one getting stuck and needing help once in a while but if you always go strait for help at the soonist sign of trouble then whats the point. what welcome to a new windows thats free. linux isnt about a new free windows its about freedom in its entirly its about learning and growing. if you want windows stay with windows. if you want freedom then quite holding on to the gate in the opening of the windows fence saying help help me i dont have the ability to walk all the way out. what im tired of is this comment im posting being not liked and then being called a flame if you didint want imput dont ask for it. if you wanted "yes men" ask for it. if you want some generale help because you got caught on somehting simple then ask. most linux probelems are the simplist things you ever say you just missed it. its getting free fromt he microsoft prision persiona that is difficult. if you want freedom your going to have to earn it. if you want some one to provide for you and tell you how to be go with windows. on a note by earning it i mean open your mind thats it and you will see how things start making sense and relize that infact linux is way easier then windows.

Dependancy issue ?

pbardet's picture

I solved most of the dependancy issues when I switched to gentoo. Of course, in the process, I increased my dependancy to command lines to avoid issues of fancy gui that don't always work right. As you said, Linux is too early in the user-proof area but it's been moving so fast to change that in the last two years that I don't see how flaming or making assumption about developpers will help speed up the process. I have no problems with people who speak their mind when problems are found. Drawing conclusions about developpers is going too far though.

Yes, I wished I had time to contribute some code. Unfortunately, or fortunately, depending on which way you see it, I also have a life outside the computer world. In the meantime, I'm glad to see all the work contributed (for most of them freely) by all the developpers around the globe, and if something doesn't work right away, I can wait a little bit to get it fixed until I find some time to do it myself if it's within my competences. It's not enough to know how to write code, a global knowledge of what you want to fix/improve is also needed.


Nicholas Petreley's picture

I thought I had discovered that setting the input to ATSC made the difference. The picture was terrible again today, and I discovered through experimentation that running tvtime before MythTV is what causes the picture quality to improve. That's because tvtime sets the contrast and brightness levels, and those settings persist when I run MythTV.

MythTV should be renamed MythteryTV.

picture adjustments...

Anonymous's picture

Which card is this? This was fixed for the HD-3000 card in the 0.20 release. Also, you can adjust the recording picture params in the frontend. You can find out how to do this, and find some other useful info in the keys.txt file. In 0.19, the recording picture adjustments in the frontend were only per channel, but as of the latest release you can adjust it for the whole card as well (to deal with broken drivers).

Good resources on Slashdot comment

Anonymous's picture


This comment on slashdot has some links to resources and howtos to set up MythTV to work. According to this guy it was pretty easy and he used an off the shelf computer from a computer store:

WHy it was easy

Nicholas Petreley's picture

Here's the key to why it was easy for him...

My cable provider is one of the few that permits access to all subscribed channels, unencrypted or not, through FireWire (and, thus, why it's won my busines);

My cable box does not have a firewire output, and even if it did, there's no guarantee that my cable provider would pump all channels (encrypted or not) through it. So I have to deal with all kinds of issues he easily avoided.

I'm the author of the Slashdot post

Yeechang Lee's picture

You wrote:
My cable box does not have a firewire output,

Nick, assuming you're in the US, the FCC requires your cable provider to provide you with a FireWire-capable box. If you have to, wave it in front of them and/or file a complaint with the franchise board of your local municipality. That'll do wonders to restore the cable company employees' memories.

and even if it did, there's no guarantee that my cable provider would pump all channels (encrypted or not) through it.
Now, here's the rub. I don't recall seeing you mention the name of your cable provider. Mine--RCN--is, as you quoted, great about permitting full, untrammeled access over FireWire to all channels I'm subscribed to. Many other companies aren't; Comcast is an example of this, and that is why I am not a Comcast customer. However, there are indeed some others that are also as enlightened as RCN is. At the very least, you ought to be able to get over FireWire the over-the-air channels, which the aforementioned FCC mandate *does* require unencrypted access to.

How to dump sh**t on beta software....

pbardet's picture

I will never get why you can spend so much time crapping all over software that is still in test mode. It's not a 1.0 release... To me, MythTV is a software that is evolving at every new beta-release, toward a worry-free setup. I've seen so much improvement between the last versions that I can't even think that developpers are not looking toward making it simple.

I'm so sad to read that kind of crap from somebody who writes into a magazine that I've always found informative. Sure it's hard to setup (actually, it took me less than a week to do it, and most of the time I spent was on MySQL setup). When it's a end-user release (1.0 and up) we can talk about that again, but assuming programmers are doing their job without thinking about the end-user is rubbish.

I'm pretty sure the developper behing MythTV would love to have all the spare time you seem to have to code the software. And the money you get for writing crap to buy new hardware and test the setups...

Why build your own MythTV now?

Anonymous's picture

I have not ordered one yet, but there is a company now shipping pre-built supported MythTV computers. Here's the story on it...looks to me like the way to go.


Anonymous's picture

For the people that are wary of the headaches associated with getting a myth install working, there is a distro based off knoppix designed to be as painless as possible. I've never used it myself, but have heard good things. Available at

I agree that getting myth installed is a bit of an ordeal, but I found in my travels that 90% of the problems are with getting the os configured properly. It might be a bit unfair to blame it all on myth. If you have the proper versions of the dependencies installed and your tuner working properly, your chances of success with mythtv are pretty high.

i can relate...

Anonymous's picture

This subject really strikes home with me - I just spent the last couple of weekends trying to get a MythTV box to work. I've been using Linux for five-plus years, so I know my way around the OS pretty well. In my case, I never got to the MythTV finish line.

I've been using Ubuntu for the last year, so decided to base my install on that. After many hours, I got all the drivers installed, and the tuner working, but the MythTV frontend couldn't connect to the backend database because Ubuntu comes with MySQL5, but the version of MythTV in the repositories is 0.18.1, which only works with MySQL4 - so I tried to uninstall 5 and install 4, but couldn't quite get that to work, so decided to keep 5 and compile 0.19 from source. Trouble was, I couldn't administer Apache because every time I opened my browser and went to "localhost", and then clicked on the appropriate link, it would try to save the link as a file instead of going to the appropriate administration page... well I spent several more hours on the Ubuntu forums (where all those issues are described by others... with ambiguous solutions and results). I then downloaded Fedora Core 5, planning on using Wilson's guide, but after installing Fedora on a spare partition, I needed to get samba going first (since my MythTV box also serves as a file server to the rest of my home network) and realized I'd need to learn all the Fedora jargon on installing apps and configuring files... well, there was a time in my life when getting Linux to “work

mysql issue in ubuntu

Anonymous's picture

It took me an hour or two, but I figured out the issue with ubuntu and mysql and apache. It sounds like what you are describing. The locahost webpage, I was supposed to click on the 'phpmyadmin' link, but the server was offering the link to download as a phtml file instead of opening the admin console in the browser. It turns out the apache server was trying to open a php page, but ubuntu didnt come with a required library for php5 to work.
The fix was to run "apt-get install libapache2-mod-php5", which installed and then it forced a restart of apache2, after which it all worked.

you should have used KnoppMyth

Anonymous's picture

Instead of spending money on Windows MCE, you should have downloaded KnoppMyth for free. It sets everything up for you pretty much automatically, only asking a few questions such as "what model remote control do you have". I would never have had the patience to install MythTV from scratch, but I managed pretty easily with KnoppMyth.

you just sound like an astroturfer

Ookaze's picture

I've been using Linux for five-plus years, so I know my way around the OS pretty well. In my case, I never got to the MythTV finish line

That's just proof that using Linux for 5 years does not mean you're an expert, which you tried to be.

I've been using Ubuntu for the last year, so decided to base my install on that. After many hours, I got all the drivers installed, and the tuner working, but the MythTV frontend couldn't connect to the backend database because Ubuntu comes with MySQL5, but the version of MythTV in the repositories is 0.18.1, which only works with MySQL4

See ? You tried to install things that where not in the repositories (only that can explain you spent many hours installing drivers and making the tuner work) but you don't know your way around Linux like you said. You just know your way around some distro. You didn't even understand solutions people gave in forums.
Which is not a sin, but you tried to install the latest MythTV by source on a distro, which is the most difficult thing to do. Even I don't try that, and I know my way around Linux : I have my own OS made from scratch, and a PVR with MythTV based on this OS.

well, there was a time in my life when getting Linux to “work

Don't fear the source.

JEDIDIAH's picture

Actually, building MythTV from source is not that big of a chore. A distro like Debian or Ubuntu will actually take most of the bite out of it. You just need to exploit apt-get to deal with all the broken dependencies that crop up. It's actually pretty straightforward to build the MythTV source under Ubunutu.

Things that are bit trickier are building kernel drivers and such. This is especially true when you have to track down and install firmware. LIRC also could be better about multiple devices. Some things can be quite subtle like the "wait time" between ir blaster commands or just where the IR emitter sits.

Some of it could be a lot easier to deal with with minimal effort.

As far as mythweb goes... php has always seemed problematic to me. That packages has been confounding people for years.

The basic issues (like ATSC, vs QAM, vs HDMI) are just a matter of basic due diligence and reading up on things online before diving in. HD TV tech in general seems to be getting more and more byzantine (it's not just a MythTV thing).

"I have my own OS because I

Anonymous's picture

"I have my own OS because I know it works with anything from source, but I also knew it would take me at least 5 complete days (including compilation) to make MythTV working."

This just makes you an idiot. Who the hell want's to spend 5 *days* mucking around with entertainment software ?

For all your derogatory comments, you actually managed to miss the entire point of the post by both authors - the software requires waay too much time to set up. It's supposed to be 'fun', remember ?

"You didn't even understand solutions people gave in forums."

Well that'll make two of us, as I don't understand the solution you gave in this forum. In fact, I don't think you have one.
It just seemed to be lines and lines of irrelevant and useless drivel. You don't happen to code for Microsoft, per chance ?

For the rest of you who read this this, my apologies for being off topic.
Linux needs a cohesive and cooperative effort, which I'm happy to see still pervades, but this (all too common)elitist, self righteous attitude shown by Ookraze has no value, and simply puts people off.

A good PVR is worth the effort.

JEDIDIAH's picture

MythTV represents the level of functionality that Tivo Corp could have achieved but has chosen not to. It is the mythical media convergence device that the market is supposed to not be ready for (but will be in 5 or 10 years). It is not encumbered by being beholden to media moguls (like Apple or Microsoft) and is infinitely flexible.

Try to add a 3rd HD to a Tivo.
Try to "hack" a Tivo to get mythweb functionality.
Try to "hack" a Tivo to get the accessability you get from your media server being an actual PC (and not just built like one).

If you want to spend money on something similar, you would be pretty much limited to that $1800 Vaio with the DVD Jukebox.

I dunno, getting MySQL4

aSubscriber's picture

In my experience, getting MySQL4 working on any platform is pretty much unzipping some binaries to a tree and running the approriate batch/sh script in bin. On an apt system like Ubuntu packages are available for this, anyway. Also, it wasn't clear if you actually installed Myth on Fedora or never started. Samba is installed by default, so you could have just copied your old smb.conf file and all your old shares should have 'just worked' with a samba restart. You may want to try those out before you open the EULA on the new software.

On the other hand, given these two facts, plus the Microsoft plug and little diatribe at the end, there are good odds that the Astroturfers have gotten a little better in the last couple of years. I wasn't even able to google this posting elsewhere. Nice!

I had to google

Anonymous's picture

I had to google "astroturfers" - that's quite a dig you threw out there... ouch! I was just making a sincere comment elicited from having *just* gone through a similar experience of the author. In retrospect, I guess it wasn't necessary that I mention the "plug" for MCE - it just happened to be true and drives home the point of why 90% of the world uses a Microsoft/Apple OS on the desktop (which, by the way, I don't think is a good thing) and why that's not going to change anytime soon... especially as long as cynical linux zealots continue to bury their heads in the sand.

Yes, I have enough technical experience to have eventually worked my way through unzipping binaries, running scripts, [insert linux jargon here]... however, if you're suggesting that's normal, or to be expected, you've both missed my point and reinforced my point at the same time. That I even have to know how to manually edit a samba config file in the first place is a testament to how much work still needs to be done before linux is ready for the desktop.

I had to google

aSubscriber's picture

I had to google "astroturfers" - that's quite a dig you threw out there... ouch! I was just making a sincere comment elicited from having *just* gone through a similar experience of the author.

It wasn't a dig, and I apologize if the posting was legitimate. That particular company has been caught on multiple occasions with employees posting almost canned responses. They are never fawning, but they always have a positive spin with a bit of familiarity to the listener. "I went out on a limb and tried product X this weekend. I've got to admit, it really had me impressed, and I've been an avid product Y user for years." The "I've got to admit" phrase is usually essential to establish familiarity. I get tired of seeing it on Slashdot, and I guess my turf meter over-reacted on your post, which had a similar structure. My mistake.

I am neither cynical nor a zealot. Building a MythTV installation from scratch (as opposed to knoppMyth, etc) is an advanced exercise that requires some knowledge of its component parts. The hardware is still a bit outside of the mainstream, which only complicates things. This has little or nothing to do with Linux on the (business) desktop, however, where IR remote and PVR capabilities are not often needed. Even less so for most media PCs which are prebuilt with the correct hardware and software configured.

That I even have to know how to manually edit a samba config file in the first place is a testament to how much work still needs to be done before linux is ready for the desktop.

That is a manner of opinion on what is easier. I didn't say edit any file. I said you could copy it over to the new install and it would just work. There are inefficient GUI steps to re-share everything as one would need to do with Windows, but copying a file works much better. The steps to re-share these folders in Windows (or KDE) would take the better part of a page. I have no idea how else to do this in Windows. Are the shares recorded in the registry? I don't know, a text file is easy to me. As far as the continued statements about desktop readiness, most users don't even know what a share is, much less how to make one. By the time you explained "right-click the folder, then click Properties. Go the share tab. Click the 'Share' radio button. Now click security. Then click 'Everyone'. Then check 'Write'. No, not the checkboxes on the right side, the checkboxes on the left..." they would probably cut you off and say that's what the IT guys are for.

I'm sorry you had a tough time setting this up. I think setting it down for a while and coming back to it in a week or so would be helpful, and try it again with one of the ready-built distros. If your hardware is not supported, however, it will probably not be worth the frustration (that applies to MCE, as well).

it just happened to be true

Anonymous's picture

it just happened to be true and drives home the point of why 90% of the world uses a Microsoft/Apple OS on the desktop

No it doesn't. 90 % of people don't know how to install all the hardware you need in order to have the Windows MCE be of any use.
That's why far more appliances are sold, that's why even MS sell its MCE in appliances.
What you say is just plain BS.

Yes, I have enough technical experience to have eventually worked my way through unzipping binaries, running scripts, [insert linux jargon here]... however, if you're suggesting that's normal, or to be expected, you've both missed my point and reinforced my point at the same time. That I even have to know how to manually edit a samba config file in the first place is a testament to how much work still needs to be done before linux is ready for the desktop

No, it's a testament to you being someone that try to be an expert without even knowing the basics. You're really clueless as to the state of Linux actually.
For example, you don't have to edit samba config file by hand, there is a Web interface, and lots of home oriented distro (like Mandriva) have their own wizard to set it up for you.
And in case you don't know, it's not everyone that can build a Media Center. But you're suggesting that's a normal thing everyone can do. No it's not, even setting up a Web server is not. So stop mixing the desktop with things that have nothing to do with it.
Your problem comes from the fact that, like a lot of people, you want to have the bleeding edge, but are not knowledgeable enough to make it.
It's not because it's available on the web that it is a finished product ready to install on your OS.


Anonymous's picture

The angry and cynical responses to my original post that take my comments out of context and distort them, along with personal attacks and accusations that are completely unwarranted, really shows the worst in Linux advocation.

I watched that movie "Good Night, and Good Luck" last weekend (oh, there I go again, I suppose I'm an "astroturfer" for some movie studio as well) - everyone should check it out. Its subject is McCarthyism, and I have to say, the parallels here (along with a million other flame posts I've read over the years) are uncanny. I'm done here. Peace.

go away non linux plebs

Anonymous's picture

why isnt this board moderated to get rid of the stupid scum brainless retards that write stuff. we dont want dumb cnts using this board. f off and go use your microsoft shit it was written for stupid people by stupid people. microsoft is fuked so you should really like it.

Define irony.

Anonymous's picture

Define irony.

How true that is.

dorthin's picture

I played with mythtv this time last year, built it from CVS on a slackware box, though I found it complex to do it wasn't all that difficult.

The thing I found which drove me away from mythtv to Freevo was while going through the mailing lists for information. The number of flames and outright personal attacks on people who asked reasonable questions was quite scary.

Life is hard enough without being attacked for asking a question reasonable or not.

mythtv is a wonderful product but will need a couple more years to mature and thus in my opinion should not be released to the general untrained public until then otherwise it will end in tears. As it already has many times over.

Honestly if you want a media center you can use now and not have to bugger about with compiling x configs etc....

My advice to the untrained is use microsoft media center. (who cares if it dosen't have all the features that myth has. and least it's a set and forget solution) and revisit myth in another year or so.

Maybe it will have improved, maybe it wont have who knows what the future will bring.

Freevo is also a difficult little bugger to get running, least the mailing list is safer to use *smirk*

just to cover my butt I don't work for micosoft, freevo, or mythtv
I'm just a by stander watching the world go past and thought I'd just offer my 10 cents worth.

as the other dude said


Why bother with the MCE compromise?

JEDIDIAH's picture

If you really view WinMCE as a compromise in features relative to MythTV then why suggest anyone to bother with it? For those that wish their PVR to be an appliance they can buy one from Tivo or get one from their cable operator.


Cecil Watson's picture


Have you tried KnoppMyth? KnoppMyth is a Linux distribution I started a little over three years ago. The project goal has always been to make setting up a Linux powered set-top box as easy as possible. KnoppMyth includes everything you need to accomplish this goal. Given known good hardware that is supported with Linux, an install can be done is as little as 10 minutes (varies w/ hardware). One can have a complete MythTV power PVR up, running and watching TV in less than an hour (ATSC and NTSC).

KnoppMyth started as a remaster of Knoppix. It is now built from scratch with the great Knoppix scripts and Debian. Future releases maybe built on Ubuntu. KnoppMyth includes all the official MythTV plugins and some of the unofficial ones. KnoppMyth also included a UPnP server to serve up one's videos to UPnP cabable devices.

While it isn't perfect (an improved release is just around the corner), it is easy to install (improved documentation is also around the corner), easy to use and supports a great deal of hardware. KnoppMyth was the first MythTV solution to offer out the box support for the Hauppaude PVR line of hardware MPEG tuners. KnoppMyth offers out the box support for various remotes. One simply needs to pick it from a list. If one's remote isn't displayed, provide details and if will be incorporated into future releases.

Yes, MythTV is excellent! With KnoppMyth, my goal is to bring this excellence into the hands of many.




Nicholas Petreley's picture

It wouldn't even boot on this particular machine. I think that's because I'm using an SATA DVD drive. There's a boot command work-around for this but I haven't tried it yet. I've had this problem before with other distros, and the boot command work-around doesn't always work. I think its libata.atapi_enabled=1 or something like that.


Thierry Ferron's picture

There is another distro alike knoppmyth : MythDora.You can find it at I tried Knoppmyth then Mythdora. The install is as simple as KnoppMyth and they use Mythtv 0.20. Here is the home page welcome text from their web site :

Welcome to G-Ding.TV, home of MythDora. MythDora is a Fedora Core and MythTV "All-In-One" DVD. The DVD will load a preconfigured Fedora Core 5 installation on your computer as well as install and configure MythTV-0.20. There are extras included with MythDora such as MythArchive, MediaMVP and MythStreamTV for some extra fun. Enjoy!

Give it a try !

Auto analogy

Steve C's picture

The auto analogy isn't that bad. There are people who like to play with cars. They change their own oil and do their own tuneups. They add custom rims, air-scoops, spoilers, etc. all in an attempt to create something they can't get off the shelf. I'm sure that none of them says "you shouldn't have to do this just to drive a car" because that's not the point.

Just like the majority of drivers don't delve into tweaking and modifying their cars, the vast majority of couch-potatoes aren't going to go to the equivalent of building their own TV/VCR. Instead, they will get the neighbor's kid to help them plug in their Tivo and be blissfully unaware that they are now a Linux user.

This is how it works

Conrad's picture

I think you are on the cutting edge, Nick. The MythTV developers have developed a tech solution. They have done the part they want to do and can do. The next people who need to chip in are the "soft" developers -- people who care about packaging the product in a way that is useful to more people. If MythTV is cool enough, it will get better. You yourself have done a great deal to help push it along. Others who care will chip in where they can. This is how merit-based free software development works. Keep it up!

Summer of Code

Anonymous's picture

Some of the issues you had with the install process are being addressed as part of Google Summer of Code projects. Mainly, there is an auto-configuration project. It looks like you will still have to get your drivers for your particular card working, this is an os thing more than a mythtv thing, but then myth should do a better job of detecting it. Also, it will use upnp to do some network detection, so that you won't have to manually put in the address of the backend.

There is also a settings rework to make help streamline the various setting screens since myth needs to find the right mix between customization and ease of use.

So maybe it would be worth revisiting again once these projects are completed and show up in a stable version.


Michael Haas's picture

"have absolutely no interest in learning how a piston engine works"

Are you really sure that you are a geek? As you said: "bad simile"...

"For example, you can't adjust the contrast or brightness from the MythTV front end software."

If i remember correctly, you can do that. It's called "Xv picture controls". Maybe you have to enable it first. That'll only work for playback, though. If you indeed want to record with your favourite contrast/brightness settings it'll have to be set in mythtv-setup. Or MythWeb.

But yes, I agree. MythTV tends to be hard to get up and running. It also depends on your choice of hardware and your needs. If you just want SDTV, get a PVR 150 and some cheap-ish Nvidia card (*). That should give you an usable setup without too many problems. Of course, you still can (and should) tweak things. And regarding HDTV... MythTV can't really be blamed because your cable company/Hollywood doesn't give you full resolution output over firewire.

Anyways. Good luck with MythTV! I'm looking forward to reading your Howto :)

No offence intended,


(*) Except if you run into the annoying Samsung tuner bug or use a broken version of the Nvidia driver. There's always a caveat.. :)

I had MythTV working as a

cowbutt's picture

I had MythTV working as a PVR in a few hours using Jarod C. Wilson's excellent 'Fedora Mythology' guide. I used an old Celeron 1.7 machine with an i845PE motherboard, a 64MB nVidia 440MX VGA card and a couple of Hauppauge Nova-T DVB-T cards. The hardest things were working around nVidia driver bugs, building a VGA-to-RGB SCART adaptor, getting the IR working consistently (mainly due to udev juggling the device nodes on reboot), and getting the jukebox and emulator parts of MythTV working as I wanted them to work.

I'd encourage anyone who lives in a region where DVB is available to use DVB rather than analogue tuners as this lowers CPU usage tremendously (the input is an MPEG stream which doesn't need to be encoded before being recorded).

Good comments, Nick. The

aSubscriber's picture

Good comments, Nick. However, hardware is too non-standard to make these machines plug-and-play. At one time (I don't know about now), even Windows Media Center was only available to hardware resellers that used specific hardware.

I don't think the Myth project should spend too much time trying to make their software a Mac-like installation experience; they would just waste time that would be better served making better software, because there would always be incurable problems on obscure/cheap hardware. Instead, a pre-packaged hardware/software combo could be sold, or at least an authorized parts list could be created to ensure everything would work. Then they would have more time to do things like have contrast controls with previews.

The appliance approach

Nicholas Petreley's picture

I don't think it would be possible to create a MythTV appliance (with all due respect to the Knoppix MythTV thingie). The problem is that you still have to know what you're doing to set up MythTV to work with your combination of capture card and whatever you're using as a source (in my case the cable output of the cable box). This means you need to know what's coming out of the cable box, and in what format. I'll got into more detail when I'm not in so much pain (spinal injury) but I found that I solved all my picture quality problems when I discovered that I could change the card settings to ATSC in stead of NTSC. I spent way too much time trying to fix the picture other ways simply because I didn't know that the cable box was putting out ATSC.

In response to another comment, I know about XV contrast controls (you do have to check a box to use them) but:

1. I don't have a clue as to how to use XV after I've checked the box.
2. It turns out that the problem, as I noted above, wasn't even related to contrast.
3. MythTV says that XV is unstable and doesn't work on all systems.

As for the difference between MythTV and a TiVo box? Once you get MythTV working, you can keep adding plug-ins and customizing it to do much more than just MythTV PVR. You can add other applications, too, and even use the box for your kids to play games with the TV as the monitor. And so on... you get many advantages by building it yourself, but it takes more work than plugging in a TiVo. Sure, I could have bought a TiVo and hooked up the computer for all the other things, but I wasn't aware at the time that MythTV would be such a challenge. I'm sort of glad it was, because I'm learning a lot, but I didn't expect it. I envy those who had just the right combo of source and tuner that it was easy for them.

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