User Manual:Finishing Touches

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Now this may be a stereotype, but you are likely one of the people who like to hack around with their Linux box as much as watch TV. The people living together with you probably think it's quaint at best and annoying at worst. However there are ways to make your co-users love your MythTV box almost as much as you do.

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 co-users will not thank you when they sit down to watch the episode of Eastenders they 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.

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

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 guarantee they'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 no one will be impressed. If the box itself 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 none of the Myth TV themes appeal to you then you can customize one with just a little effort.

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 co-users don't want to be doing their 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 they need a computer quick to get directions before they rush out of the door they quicky switch the TV to computer mode using your special remote button, whips your wireless keyboard and mouse out and gets the map up on Google. You have just earned yourself a massive brownie point, until they realize they can't print the map and they just have wasted 3 minutes that they could have spent booting up their laptop - now you're in their bad books.

Get MythWeb up and running

You know they'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 your home system from anywhere in the world via the Internet. Once they have the web address in their iPhone and they can record anything they want on the go - no more worrying they forgot to record Eastenders before they left. That's got to get you in the good books.

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

If your co-users might claim they're not interested in a media center. But they might boot up their laptop just to put iTunes on to have some music on in the background. Copy their music collection onto your MythTV box and stick some music on for them - all with the power of your remote control. You might find they really did want a media center.

Finally - the all important panic button

It happens to every bit of software, it even happens to the firmware of commodity hard drive recorders, that might be why you went down the MythTV route. The inevitable crash. Every now and then you'll press a button on the remote and MythTV will just hang. If you are out in the pub and this happens to your co-users then there is an issue; you won't be popular when you get in smelling of drink after your co-user has been fighting with your pet project, that stupid PC TV thing. All this can be avoided by what has been dubbed the panic 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 minutes it took your old recorder to reboot when it crashed.


Going these additional steps beyond the basic installation is the way to get yourself a system that everyone in your house can be pleased with and everyone who visits can be jealous of.