This page is up-to-date as of MythTV version 0.27.6, the current release is 31.0
History of MythTV
Early in 2002 Isaac Richards wanted more from his television and thought it might be fun to try to build a replacement for his AT&T broadband cable box.
- I could have just bought a TiVo, but I wanted to have more than just a PVR -- I want a webbrowser built in, a mail client, maybe some games. Basically, I want the mythical convergence box that's been talked about for a few years now.
In late April 2002, he started tinkering, installing a cheap Best Buy TV tuner card in his (P3-550) desktop box. He settled on the NuppelVideo video encoder on a quality/CPU load basis. It's based on a modified RTjpeg codec.
Because the P3-550 couldn't encode and decode simultaneously, he bought an Athlon XP 1800+ and an Abit NV7-133R motherboard, and put it into a nice black case. And the rest is history!
- See the news MythTV News Archive for what's happened since.
What is MythTV?
MythTV is a collection of software that provides digital video recording functions (PVR or DVR--personal, or digital, video recorder) — a computerized VCR, similar to a TiVo or a Replay. It runs under the Linux operating system. Since it's open source software, if you don't like the way it does something, you can always change it — that's how much of its current functionality came about in the first place.
With MythTV, recordings can be scheduled from a listing service to record all episodes of a program, or they can be manually scheduled based on day and time. MythTV keeps track of previously recorded episodes, so that it can catch up on missed episodes without re-recoding ones already seen.
MythTV allows watching of live TV together with the ability to pause, rewind, fast forward.
MythTV also has built in the ability to play videos from the file system, from a server, or DVDs. It can also play video DVDs. Most types of video are supported, but not DRM protected content. Encrypted DVDs can be played if you install libdvdread4 (available separately).
In addition to the basic PVR functions of recording and playing back scheduled programs and allowing you to schedule recordings automatically in advance, MythTV has a plugin system that permits it to be extended by other programmers. Plugins currently exist for viewing photos, listening to music files, using your TV and a web camera as a video-telephone over the Internet, browsing the web, retrieving current local weather, and many other functions.
The current release is 31.0. Features planned for an upcoming release, or are currently available in the unstable/development version are listed at Under Development. New features in the current release can be found at Release Notes
I Want My MythTV!
MythTV isn't (yet) for everyone; it's still somewhat high-maintenance. While some companies sell pre-configured MythTV boxes that are probably stable enough to toss on the living room shelf and hand the remote to your kids, if you're building one yourself (or having someone build one for you), the process may be more complicated — this is the price you pay for power and flexibility.
If you want to build yourself a MythTV box (there isn't really a great way to use MythTV unambiguously as a noun; that's my compromise), you can build it from your scrap box, or buy new components.
Which of those two choices you'll make depends a lot on how much money (and what parts) you've got lying around and on how much work you want to do. If you choose each part specifically for the task you will likely spend a little more money and have a lot less hassle.
If you are unsure about committing to MythTV you can start off slowly and build up from there. Even with outdated or low end equipment, with most broadcasts being digital these days, MythTV is feasible.
A MythTV system can be configured in many ways--limited only by your imagination and your credit rating.
There are two main logical elements in a MythTV system:
- The backend contains the TV capture cards, and stores the recorded video. A typical system will contain at least one backend
- The frontend is connected to your TV screen and lets you watch LiveTV and recorded shows. It gets its data from the backend. Of course you can just as easily watch on a computer monitor and speakers, or a laptop computer.
The simplest configuration, puts both frontend and backend in the same physical box.
An advanced setup might separate backend and frontend hardware. For example, a high power backend system might employ multiple TV capture cards, detect commercials, run transcode jobs, etc., and hide in a closet, while one or several frontends can run on low power diskless and silent systems in each room where you want to watch TV. Nice, eh? You can deploy as many backends and frontends as you need, so let your imagination run free and tell us about your setups in this Wiki.
Some people take the opposite approach and actually install MythTV backends on very low power systems such as Linksys NSLU2 units, which are appropriate to record IPTV, for example, as long as they are connected to large disks for video storage.
In any case, the key points for each element are:
- Backend: large disk capacity, big horsepower if you want to run transcode jobs or commercial detection
- Frontend: good graphics card, compatible with the screen you want to use, and just fast enough to display the most demanding type of video you're planning to use.
A combined backend/frontend system can run with good performance on low end equipment.
A Basic Configuration for a Myth Box is this:
- A Linux Distribution
- A VGA card supported by Linux.
- 512MB (preferably 1GB) or more of RAM
- A CPU that meets your needs:
- Almost any CPU made since 2005 will suffice if you are recording digital TV or using hardware assisted encoding.
- One tuner card (also known as a "video capture card") of some flavor appropriate to the TV services you have available at your location, supported by Linux or MythTV
- At least 60GB of hard disk space, most of which can be used for storing recordings.
With one tuner you can record and watch recordings at the same time, or watch live TV with that ability to pause live TV
With money and motivation, you can expand your system:
- Add more video capture card inputs.
- Add more storage. Hard disk prices are coming down all the time.
- Add additional Front End machines to serve more TVs.
- Add additional Back End machines to add even more video capture cards or storage and to offload the processes of Commercial Detection and Transcoding from the machines doing the recording.
- There is growing list of Unofficial Plugins to expand the capability of your MythBox.
For more information on hardware configurations refer to Hardware Setup.