User Manual:Finishing Touches

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Now this may be a stereotype, but I'm going to guess that around 90% of the people that read this wiki are guys who like to hack aroiund with their linux box as much as watch TV. Their wives and girlfriends probably think it's quaint at best and annoying at worst. This is certainly the case in my house. However there are ways to make your wife love your MythTV box almost as much as you do. I've replaced our digibox/hard drive recorder/dvd player with a mythtv box and have been tweeking a lot of things recently, plus I've just run out of steam with the work I'm doing so I thought I'd share my experiences.

Make it work - right

Make sure the box actually does what you need it to. If the tuner stops working every two days and it can't play half your dvd collection then don't claim it can (to be honest if the tuner doesn't work then fix it or give up). Your wife will not thank you when she sits down to watch the episode of eastenders she recorded only to find that something went awry and it's not there. It also needs to do everything your old system did. It needs to have a remote, it needs to connect to the TV and show pictures at the correct resolution and not make everyone look short and fat or tall and thin. I found that the only way to acheive this was to dump my old CRT telly with its scart input connected to my s-video cable and get a flat screen with a PC connector. This way the MythTV box knows what resolution it's dealing with.

Use parts that you know work on Linux (or whatever operating system you use)

I found this out the hard way. When you have to sit for two weekends in a row and most of the evenings in between learning how to recompile your kernel to get your new remote to work you can guarentee she'll be thinking that this is play time for you. It doesn't get you out of the washing up and it doesn't mean that you're allowed to get away with leaving the leaking guttering.

Make it look good

As nifty as MythTV might be if it looks like it's been botched together, both in hardware and software terms, then noone will be impressed. If the box itseldf looks good then that helps, if not then make sure it's hidden in a cabinet or something. Make sure the user interface looks slick. If I'm honest none of the Myth TV themes quite appealed to me - but with just a little effort you can customise one. I took the blue-abstract theme, went into it's images directory, replaced background.png with a background I downloaded from the web and used gimp to adjust the colour of the widgets ato match and hey-presto a new superslick theme.

But look - it's also a computer

Add a button to your remote that allows you to switch from MythTV to your normal computer functionality. On Linux this is a case of getting LIRC to run a script that swaps between your desktops. If you set ypur desktop background the same as the MythTV theme background then it makes the transition between the two look very professional. Now you need to think about this one a bit. Your wife doesn't want to be doing her online shopping laying on the floor in the middle of the living room. To use your telly as a computer you will need a wireless keyboard and mouse - you don't want the kids tripping over wires trailed along the floor. You also need to make sure the everything is big enough to see. In Ubuntu you can change the default font size so it's something a bit larger and you can add a plugin to firefox to alter the default zoom level. Also make sure it's connected to your network printer or NAS if you have them. How annoying will it be when she needs a computer quick to get directions before she rushes out of the door she quicky switches the TV to computer mode using your special rmote button, whips your wireless keyboard and mouse out and gets hep map up on Google. You have just earnt yourself a massive Brownie point, until she realises she can't print the map off and she has just wasted 3 minutes that she could have spent booting up her laptop - now you're in her bad books.

Get MythWeb up and running

You know she'll like this. Get MythWeb up and running and if you haven't got a static IP then install dynDNS or something similar so that you can access you home system from anyware in the word via the net. Once she has the web address in her i-phone and she can record anything she wants on the go - no more worrying she forgot to record Eastenders before she left. That's got to get you in the good books.

It's not just a TV, it's a media centre

My wife would claim she's not interested in a media centre, but she does boot up her laptop just to put itunes on to have some music on in the background. I think she would want a media centre if she could only be bothered. Copy here mp3 collection onto your MythTV box and stick some music on for her - all with the power of your remote control. You might find she really did want a

Finally - the all important wife button

It happens to every bit of software, it even used to happen to the firmware in our old hard drive recorder, that's why I went down the Myth route. The inevitable crash. Every now and then we'll press a button on the remote and MythTV will just hang. If you are out in the pub and this happens to your wife then there is an issue; you won't be popular when you get ins melling of drink after your wife has been fighting with your pet project, that stupid PC TV thing. All this can be avoided by what has been dubbed the wife/girlfriend button. This is the button that kills MythTV when it's hung and restarts it. This is pretty straightforward using LIRC on Linux. You may even get bonus points if the restart happens in a few seconds compared to the two minute it took our old recorder to reboot when it crashed.

Summary

Well I hope that this little guide has been helpfull to you. Although I've jokingly referred to this as the way to get your wife to love MythTV I think in reality it is the way to get yourself a system thateveryone in your house can be pleased with and everyone who visits can be jealous of.