[nSLUG] MythTV+PVR250 rave

Ben Armstrong synrg at sanctuary.nslug.ns.ca
Sat Feb 5 10:31:05 AST 2005


It has been over a year since anyone mentioned MythTV (www.mythtv.org)
on the list, and since I just installed it to work with my Hauppauge
PVR-250 I'm really impressed!  For starters, have a look at these
screenshots & the feature list:

http://mythtv.org/modules.php?name=MythFeatures

Now, our family has never really been big on TV, but we do watch tons of
videos because we have more control over what gets shown when.  Thus, we
have never owned a TV.  However, that changed when I had to replace my
dying VHS player, and decided to add rabbit ears to it to bring in CBC
Kids in the morning, and the occasional show that looked interesting.

But that was a bit of a problematic arrangement because to view it, I
had to use a bttv capture card, which was always a bit touch-and-go,
apparently suffering from some sort of IRQ-related issue that never got
fixed with new releases of the driver.  The lockups that ensued got
worse once I added a RAID-1 array using a pair of SATA drives.

I then started looking around for a replacement card.  At first, I
thought I just wanted another capture card.  But after considering my
options, including replacing my main card with an all-in-one deal
(probably something from nVidia, since ATI's current offerings have
driver issues of their own, and don't work with MythTV) I decided I
didn't want to be shackled to an all-in-one solution, especially since
my needs are pretty simple (I need TV in, but not TV out).

Then I tripped on the PVR-250, and its sibling, the PVR-350.  While the
350 is a nice card, offering decoding (for video out) as well as
encoding (for video capture) the PVR-250 fit both my needs and my
budget.  You can pick one of these up for $150 at Futureshop or Staples
(I got mine from Staples, but the price was marked $200 on the shelf,
while it was $150 on the website -- they reduced the price to match the
website for me at the cash.)

MythTV setup is a bit involved, but there's a nice HOWTO for most
popular distributions.  With Debian sid/unstable, it was pretty simple,
since Matt Zimmerman has pre-built packages for it.  The only wrinkles
for me were a small problem in the init script (I can provide a patch
for that) whereby when starting an error would be thrown about not being
able to create /root/.qt (turns out $HOME wasn't set correctly ... it
should be mythtv's $HOME, not root's).  The other wrinkle was that I
accidentally setup the card as a V4L card instead of an MPEG2, simply
because that was the default, and the other options were not immediately
apparent (the user interface for MythTV often hides the options until
you use left & right-arrow to show them -- I'm used to it now, but I
think it would be better if they made their displays a bit less compact
to put these important settings "in your face").  Once I got those
issues sorted out, I was all set to go.

Man, does it ever change how the family watches TV!  You are no longer a
slave to TV programming.  And you have no tapes or clunky on-screen menu
UI to mess with, and in addition to making recording a snap (with our
local TV schedule injected into the database from the Zap2it service,
you just need to click on a show to record it) MythTV features
commercial skip and the ability to pause a TV show while it is being
watched.  This is great for parents who love to annoy their kids by
walking in front of the TV and switch it off to get their attention to
impart to them words of wisdom and instruction (much to the dismay of
the watchers).  This no longer needs to be a stressful event, as with
MythTV you can simply pause the show and then resume it once your
oratory has concluded.

It is rare that I find such an application that I like so much that I
will rave like this about it.  MythTV truly is a "killer app" in this
niche.  My hat's off to the MythTV developer community!

Ben



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