This page is up-to-date as of MythTV version 0.27, the current release is 0.27.5
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 normal 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.
As of March 2014, MythTV is in release version. The current release is 0.27.5. 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.
Jay built a Myth Box for his sister and since she is the ultimate couch potato (the machine's name is, actually, 'potato' :-) and a hardcore taper (want a copy of a TV episode from 1989? She might have the entire series), the machine has to be a production-quality unit.
For us, this indicated "buy all the parts new" and, since she was planning to have more than one tuner card (between 3 and 5, actually), it indicated "use hardware-MPEG tuners" as well. The Category:Hardware Setup chapter will go into how this is done.
If you are unsure about committing to MythTV (and who would not be?) you can start off slowly with left-over hardware and build up from there. Peter started off with an 32 bit desktop from 2004 that was replaced long ago and was sitting in the basement. I already had a tuner card with Windows software that did not work well at all. Even with low end equipment like that, with most broadcasts being digital these days, MythTV is very feasible, and I used that low end machine as my backend for a couple of years.
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 backends 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 in case 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.
As you can see, a combined backend/frontend system will need a fairly high-end machine if you want to get good performance, but fear not, Intel Core2 CPUs or equivalent AMDs can provide a decent system that runs silent at under 40W!
(This manual will often refer to a Basic Configuration--mostly to point out something that can't be done unless you have more than that! :-)
A Basic Configuration for a Myth Box is this:
- A Linux Distribution
- A VGA card supported by linux, optionally with TV-out via composite or s-video (or integrated video on the motherboard)
- 256MB (preferably 512) or more of RAM
- A CPU that meets your needs:
- At least a 800MHz CPU (for hardware-MPEG Tuner Cards, including Digital TV cards)
- At least a 1500MHz CPU (if not using hardware-MPEG Tuner Cards)
- At least a 2800MHz CPU (for HDTV recording playback)
- One tuner card (also known as a "video capture card") of some flavor appropriate to the TV services you have available at your location, (ATI cards are not fully supported)
- At least 60GB of hard disk space, most of which can be used for storing recordings.
With money and motivation, you can expand your system:
- Add more video capture card inputs.
- Add more storage. Many users on the mailinglist have multiple terabytes of storage(via Storage Groups as of 0.21 and/or RAID, which comes in handy with an HDTV capable system.
- 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.