[mythtv-users] My experience with my MythTV high-definition video recorder
ylee at pobox.com
Sun Aug 6 08:03:15 UTC 2006
[Also posted to alt.tv.tech.hdtv,alt.video.ptv.mythtv.]
[Posted on alt.tv.tech.hdtv, alt.video.ptv.mythtv, and mythtv-users to
serve as a comprehensive introduction to the benefits of MythTV for
those who aren't familiar with it.]
There is a certain MythTV user and Usenet poster whose abrasive tone
has not won him many fans. Howver, he has a point when he says that
MythTV works, and works well, for those who are interested in a "HD
TiVo" without any of TiVo's limitations. I must admit to chuckling
whenever I see a question in alt.tv.tech.hdtv or elsewhere asking how
to record from a HD video source with a computer in terms that make it
clear the poster, and the respondents who aren't this aforementioned
poster, view the task as something akin to cavemen discovering fire.
I work long, long hours and, when I get home, often don't have any
more energy left to do more than want to just relax in front of the
tube. When I do so, I want to have as much choice in what to watch as
possible. Let me tell one and all of what I with 100% reliability do
with my MythTV setup every day:
* Push a button on the remote to wake the 47" 1080p LCD panel
from its DPMS slumber.
* Pick from a gigantic library of high-definition programs that
MythTV constantly adds to based on my choices.
* While playing the program, rewind, fast-forward, and jump to
arbitrary points as desired. I can also adjust the playback speed
anywhere from 0.5X to 2X without affecting audio pitch
* I can push a button to instantly and accurately skip over
commercials. If I've gone too far, another button will skip me
back to the previous spot.
* If I exit a recording, the next time I watch it the playback will
continue where I left off.
* If I ever need to restart MythTV, pushing a button on my remote
twice within three seconds will cause it to do so.
* If I want, I can run MythTV on my MacBook and watch the exact same
programs with the exact same elegant and attractive user
* All this time, MythTV is silently recording yet more for me to
If any of this intrigues you, I recommend visiting:
* <URL:http://wiki.mythtv.org/> and
<URL:http://www.gossamer-threads.com/lists/mythtv/users/> (The two
largest repositories of MythTV knowledge.)
* <URL:http://wilsonet.com/mythtv/> (The terrific installation guide I
* <URL:http://mythic.tv/dragon_FAQ.php> (A well-regarded MythTV
reference design for those who want to either buy it off the shelf
from the company or built it themselves. I'm neither a customer nor
an employee; all I did for my own setup was buy a Sony Pentium 4
system on sale at Fry's then add the video card, ATSC capture card,
gigabit Ethernet card, remote, and NAS. However, in retrospect,
there's something to be said for buying at once all the parts except
the NAS. See
for more on this topic.)
 Home Theater Master MX-500 universal remote
(<URL:http://www.remotecentral.com/mx500/index.html>). I programmed it
using a $30 infrared keyboard/mouse combo
 MythTV does an *excellent* job of deinterlacing 1080i recordings
into 1080p for those displays that can handle it.
 Westinghouse LVM-47W1. Under $2500 from Crutchfield for 1080p
 MythTV tells me that I have "242 programs, using 1.7 TB (427 hrs
33 mins) out of 1.8 TB (54 GB free)." For storage I use an Infrant
ReadyNAS 600 NAS with four 500GB drives.
 In addition to an ATSC capture card and an indoor antenna (which I
can't do better than given than I live in a high-rise apartment), my
3.0GHz Pentium 4 MythTV box has two high-definition Motorola cable
boxes connected to it. Unfortunately, my cable provider is one of the
few that permits access to all subscribed channels, unencrypted or
not, through FireWire; most people have to live with only getting the
FCC-mandated over-the-air channels over FireWire and the rest in
lower-quality, downscaled form with the analog outputs.
 Thanks to the good graces of Zap2It, North American MythTV users
have free access to the same high-quality, two-week programming data
from Tribune Media that TiVo subscribers get. All Zap2It asks is
filling out a brief online demographics survey every three
months. Outside North America, there are screen scrapers available for
generating equivalent (or so I'm told) data from online TV Websites
 A very, very neat feature. Great for zipping through late-night
 After MythTV records a program from a channel marked as having
commercials, it goes through and (does a surprisingly-accurate job of)
marking up commercials. Two buttons on my remote are dedicated to
jumping to the next and previous commercial marks.
 Although I don't know why anyone would ever want different
behavior, this can be customized, just as pretty much everything
within MythTV can.
 This is more for safety's sake than anything else; in practice
MythTV has proven itself to be very, very stable during the eight
months I've run it, thanks in no small part to its Linux
 This is possible because MythTV uses a decoupled frontend/backend
architecture; one, or multiple, backends can serve one, or multiple,
frontends. My MythTV box runs both mythbckend and mythfrontend and is
what I normally use, while my MacBook runs mythfrontend. Recently,
while awaiting my new TV (and thus leaving my main MythTV system
headless), I substituted my MacBook with surprisingly-nice results,
even over wireless Ethernet.
 There are many MythTV user-interface themes, but I think most of
them are eye-meltingly revolting or, failing that, merely stupendously
ugly. Two I very much like are available for perusal at
 My MythTV box can record from all three program sources
simultaneously while also running background jobs such as scanning
recordings for commercials, or converting MPEG-2 HD recordings to
MPEG-4 to save space. I can also simultaneously view recordings, but
for best results (avoid skips in the replay) it's best to do so when
only one or two simultaneously recordings are occurring.
<URL:http://www.pobox.com/~ylee/> PERTH ----> *
Homemade 2.8TB RAID 5 storage array:
More information about the mythtv-users