User Manual:Setting Up

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Software-update-available.png This page is up-to-date as of MythTV version 0.27, the current release is 0.27.5

Machine Configuration

Backend

The MythTV backend is a computer that records programs, hosts videos, and serves up the recordings and videos to frontend computers that play them. The backend needs substantial disk space. The backend requires a CPU capable of running Linux and sufficient disk space for the installation, database and recording files. Normally this will be a traditional desktop machine, with PCI or PCI Express slots available for adding tuners if you choose that type of tuner, or USB ports for USB tuners.

Slave Backend

This is an advanced setup that few people will need. This is for one of the following purposes:

  1. You have so many recordings at the same time that you need another backend to handle the load, or you have so many tuners that you need an additional computer to connect more tuners.
  2. To perform transcoding or commercial flagging if your primary backend is fully loaded. These are CPU intensive tasks so you may need a slave backend if you have a large number of recordings.

If you have more than one backend then one of your backends must be designated as the Master Backend. Others are designated as Slave Backends. The design requires that all backends be powered on whenever any task is running. You cannot save power by having some backends powered off even if they are idle. Once all backends are idle they can all be powered off.

Frontend

The MythTV frontend is a computer that plays the recorded shows, videos, music, etc. It only needs to be powered on when you are actually watching. It needs an attached monitor or TV screen and sound capabilities, as well as a network connection to the backend. You can control it with the keyboard. Most users will prefer an infra red remote control. This can be a desktop machine or a small system such as ECS Liva and Intel NUC that can be used so that you do not clutter the living room.

A laptop computer can serve as a frontend to a traditional backend, if you find watching on the small screen comfortable. This is a personal preference. This will work best with a wired network. Wireless may be too slow or unreliable for watching recordings.

General Considerations

The simplest and normal starter configuration for MythTV will use a combined frontend and backend in one box. More advanced users will add extra frontends that support additional TV sets in other rooms.

The backend or frontend do not need to be exclusively dedicated to MythTV. However that is a good approach for the backend. If you use it for other purposes there is a chance that you accidentally do something that upsets a recording in progress.

Do not use a virtual machine as a backend or frontend. As a backend it could result in interrupted recordings. A frontend works best with an accelerated video adapter and a virtual machine is unlikely to be able to take advantage of that.

CPU

If you already have a machine that you plan to use, or are planning on purchasing one, check the CPU model. To determine the CPU speed, the Passmark benchmarks provide a reasonable comparison. Look up your CPU on the passmark website https://www.cpubenchmark.net/cpu_list.php . To find your cpu model on an existing system use this command

cat /proc/cpuinfo

If the existing system has Windows installed, right click on "Computer" and select "Properties".

Backend

If you have a Passmark CPU Mark of 500 or more you will be able to record 6 HD channels at once while watching one, if you are recording digital TV or have hardware encoding in your capture card. This is a very low end system.

A Passmark CPU Mark of 3000 or more will be sufficient for a backend to run transcoding or commercial flagging, or for non hardware encoding capture cards. This is still a fairly low end system. A more powerful CPU will be preferred if you do a lot of recording and transcoding.

Frontend

A Passmark CPU Mark of 500 can play back 1080i HD without video hardware decoding. It is entirely watchable but not perfect. Adding an Nvidia display card that supports VDPAU will make it perfect.

Connections

Here we discuss connecting your box to the outside world.

Some things are explained in-depth for the benefit of less-technical users.

Connections:

  • AC power
  • Video out
  • Audio out
  • Video source(s)
  • Networking
  • Remote Control

Let's talk about each of these connections and what you do with it.

For information on High Definition systems go to Configuring HDTV.

AC power

It doesn't hurt to check whether your AC "IEC connector" is set to 120 or 240 VAC already.

Since your Backend needs to be running most of the time to record scheduled programs at inconvenient hours, it's well to use a UPS — an Uninterruptible Power Supply, or 'battery backup'. Surge suppression is a good idea, not only for the power, but for the TV cable, too, if you're using cable TV to feed your box.

You do not need to leave a computer running 24-hours a day. MythTV's has built-in capabilities to powerdown and automatically wake up in time for the next schedule recording -- documented here: ACPI_Wakeup.

At the least, a good surge protector is cheap insurance.

Graphics cards

To connect our MythBox to a display we need a graphics card.

Manufacturers

nVidia

For the past several years, nVidia cards have been the recommended video hardware for use under Linux. While their closed source binary drivers must be used for proper accelerated support, they are generally easy to install and reliable. Preferred hardware is anything 8000-series or newer. Please check the VDPAU page for supported cards. If you get one that is not supported by VDPAU that will adversely affect your video performance.

Information.png Tip: There are many manufacturers of generic NVidia GeForce 210 display adaptors. Almost any time you can find one on sale at Newegg or Micro center for $20 after rebate. I have four of these and they play 1080 HD content perfectly even on the slowest frontend.

ATI

ATI has historically had a poor track record with respect to Linux, however they have significantly improved over the past several generations, and are fine for MythTV's uses. Preferred hardware is anything 3000-series or newer.

Intel

Intel provides onboard video chipsets with their motherboards, and more recently on their processors. Open source drivers are available, and performance is adequate for MythTV.

Via

Via provides onboard video chips for their low power Mini-ITX systems. These systems are not recommended for use with MythTV, and will be incapable of playback of HD content.

Output Methods

OpenGL

This output method will be the preferred output method in future versions of MythTV. With this method, multiple video and UI elements can be converted, scaled, and composited simultaneously on screen using the 3D hardware in your video card.

Xv (XVideo)

Xv is an extension to X (the X window system) that provides offloading of scaling and colorspace conversion. Support for this is the recommended minimum for use with MythTV. This method requires that any UI elements must be composited into the video in software, so is not recommended when OpenGL is available.

VDPAU (Video Decode and Presentation API for UNIX)

VDPAU is nVidia's proprietary decode extension, providing full offload of MPEG-1, MPEG-2, H.264, and VC-1. Some models additionally support MPEG-4 ASP (divx, xvid).

VAAPI (Video Acceleration API)

VAAPI is the decode extension used for Intel and AMD hardware, providing similar capabilities as VDPAU. This is recommended if your adapter supports it.

Connecting your display

You can connect your Frontend to your display, whatever it may be (e.g. monitor, TV, etc.) by several means:

Composite TV out

Composite.png

This provides an NTSC (or PAL) standard video output signal, which can be sent to a normal TV set using a normal RCA cable.

If your box has NTSC/PAL video out, you'll find an RCA video connector (usually yellow), or a 4-pin Mini-DIN S-Video connector on the back somewhere, which you can connect your monitor to, with the appropriate cable.

VGA output

Vga.png

This can be sent either to a CRT monitor, an LCD or plasma flat-panel, or a projector. Most large monitors and projectors will accept the higher scan-rate signal of a composite output.

For VGA, use an HD-15 cable up to the VGA connector which you will find on the back panel.

Component video

Component.png

This will require a VGA-to-component adapter and a video card that supports component out. Component video is the best-quality analog signal.

You can also use the Component-Out feature on some nVidia Cards. (I use the 6600GT and it works great) Read my how-to Here

DVI digital connection

Dvi.png

For the best quality, especially to modern digital displays such as big-screen LCD, plasma or micro projection solutions, this is preferred. Note that DVI has both digital and analog or combined versions on the same connector. The analog version is compatible with VGA (using an adapter). The digital section is compatible with the latest HDMI connector found on some Hi-Def displays.

Be aware that some of the latest digital displays have hardware content protection built in. This is not relevant to MythTV, which cannot use HDCP. All monitors and TVs will allow HDCP to be bypassed by MythTV.

HDMI

Hdmi.png

This is the modern DVI, technically backwards compatible. It uses a smaller more manageable connector. You can get an HDMI to DVI adaptor if you need to connect your PC graphics card DVI connector to the latest HDMI displays. The latest HDMI connections will also be able to carry digital multi-channel audio down the same cable.

S-Video

Svideo.png

Some televisions and many video cards provide S-Video connectors, although it is likely less popular than component or composite connections. Many video card manufacturers are known to use plugs of similar design to output various signal types in (for example) 7-pin and 9-pin variants as described below. If the plug has only 4 pins, it is safe to assume it is a standard S-Video connection and signal.

7-Pin Squid Connector

7pin.png

These connectors are typically used to provide multiple signal types from a single source. A video card with this output will generally come with a squid adapter to fit it with, for example, s-video, component, or composite video output plugs, or any combination of them.

9-Pin Squid Connector

9pin.png

This connector, like the 7-pin, requires a squid adapter to access the resulting video and possibly audio.

Other Connectors

It is important to note that the above connector types are by no means the only connections that you might find on the rear of your video adapter. I have, for example, a miniature B-type USB connector on my MythTV frontend video card which is intended for the included squid adapter which outputs Composite, R-audio, L-audio, and S-Video. This is an obscure combination (particularly having audio output on a video output plug) which in my case makes sense, since the plug on the rear of the PC is simply a header connection to the motherboard which has integrated video and audio.

Suffice it to say that provided you connect the appropriate adapter to your output no (or few) provisions should be necessary during your MythTV setup.

Audio out

You may find it helpful to read the section on Sound card.

You can connect your Frontend audio out to your amplifier, TV, or powered speakers.

Analog

This is almost always the standard 3.5mm stereo audio jack that most sound cards have, and indeed, the sound card (or onboard audio) of your box is where the audio comes out.

Most modern configurations support multi-channel (surround) sound making use of the surround sound decoder on your sound card. Typically this will be 5.1 or 7.1 channels of surround sound, the first number denoting the number of speakers/channels and ".1" denoting the sub-woofer channel.

Digital

This is the best option for absolute sound quality. This will be via an SPDIF optical or coaxial connector from your sound card, or HDMI from your video card, direct to your home theatre surround sound amplifier or receiver. Decoding of the surround sound is external to your MythBox.

Most modern sound cards have either an Optical or Coaxial Digital out connector. If your sound card allows it, you can set the system to output bit perfect audio to your surround amplifier. This means that ripped CDs output using PCM at 44.1Khz, TV audio is output PCM at 48Khz, and Dolby Digital and DTS surround audio is output correctly to your home theater system. Digital TV normally includes Dolby Digital audio which is supported.

See the pages on setting up Digital Sound

Configuring Digital Sound

Configuring Digital Sound with AC3 and SPDIF

Video sources

For details on types of tuners and other video sources, refer to Setup Capture Cards, which describes the detailed setup for each specific type of capture device and has links to pages where you can determine which devices are supported.

RF tuner

This is done via the threaded "F-connector" or coaxial connector on your tuner card(s), into which you connect the cable from your cable TV feed or outside antenna. If you have more than one tuner card, you'll need a splitter and some jumpers to hook everything up. (Note: in Europe (and maybe other places), you may not have an "F-connector," and it may or may not be threaded.)

If you're recording HDTV or satellite TV signals, there may be special considerations about cabling and tuner cards.

Specific setups for these devices is in these sections:

Network tuner

Some companies sell dedicated tuning devices with an RF input. These devices take tuning commands over the network, and convert the digital stream from their antenna input into network packets.

Specific setups for these devices is in these sections:

Other capture card inputs

Most tuner or capture cards will allow you to capture not only RF signals from your antenna or cable TV provider, but also locally generated video signals, be they from a VCR, a DVD player (though there are better ways to accomplish this), or a cable box or satellite receiver, for channels you can't get a tuner card to tune directly. More later on this, too.

The input jacks for this, both video and audio, will usually (always?) be on the tuner card itself, in the card cage, as opposed to the video, VGA, and audio-out connectors, which are usually on the motherboard these days (in a section called the "ATX backplane").

You can find a list of capture cards that work with MythTV in the Setup Capture Cards section.

Physical Installation

Tuners and capture cards are connected to your Backend via USB, Network cable, or physically installed in a desktop computer as PCI or PCI Express cards. Each has its advantages and disadvantages. USB connections are liable to get accidentally pulled out. PCI or PCI Express cards required a suitable available slot in your backend. Network attachment will required that you have a switch of appropriate speed. For network attachment it is recommended to use Gigabit ethernet. Network attached devices have the advantage of not needing drivers to be installed.

Storage

As this is a significant topic you might find it helpful to read the section on file storage.

In the event that you want to add fault tolerance and redundancy to your storage then you should read the section on RAID.

Networking

If you have a standalone MythBox, then you might not ever connect to a network, though this is highly unlikely.

Myth supports multiple front-end machines (for controlling TVs in different rooms) and multiple back-end machines (for splitting up storage, transcode/commercial marking and tuner support), and you connect all of these through a network, preferably using Gigabit Ethernet.

In addition, extension modules like MythWeb, MythWeather, and MythBrowser require Internet access. (Actually, MythWeb doesn't need the Internet, just a network connection.)

The biggest reason you will connect to the network is because (most of the time) MythTV gets its program guide data over the Internet. Program guide data is the information in the program guide grids, that allows MythTV most of its PVR functions, like scheduled recordings, etc.

If you are making your MythBox accessible from the outside world, you should almost certainly put it behind a router, and possibly investigate the firewall features of your Linux operating system.

If that's too complicated for you to understand at the moment, then ask a geek for help, or don't open outside-world connections to your box yet.

Ethernet

Most of the time, you'll network your MythBox via Ethernet. The standard jack and plug for this is known as RJ-45, and it looks slightly wider than a telephone jack and has 8 pins (telephone/RJ-15 has 2 or 4 pins). If you have broadband, you most likely use an Ethernet cable to connect to the Internet.

Wireless

If don't have Ethernet strung around your house, you could use Wi-Fi, or 802.11b/g. 802.11b provides speeds up to 11 Mbits/s and 802.11g provides up to 54 Mbits/sec. Wi-Fi is slightly more difficult to set up than regular Ethernet, just because Linux drivers are usually less mature, so you must check and ensure that the 802.11b/g card that you buy supports Linux before buying it. Oh, and you'll need a wireless router too. Those are cheap these days. Once you have that up, you don't need Ethernet run to the box(es) anymore, which is great!

If you're planning multiple frontend/backend boxes, 802.11b will probably be too slow for acceptable playback. The faster 802.11g should work much better, but may not be enough for HD playback without stuttering.

Powerline

Powerline network adaptors are available these days and provide sufficient performance to run a remote backend with HD. Although they advertise speeds of around 500 Mbps they actually deliver only around 50 Mbps, but that is sufficient for HD playback and is more reliable than wireless.

Remote controls

There are three options for getting remote controls working under Linux

Linux Infrared Control (LIRC)

LIRC provides the software interface between an Infrared Receiver and MythTV. Most modern distributions will have this as standard. It provides great flexibility in mapping infrared remote control keys to MythTV functions. The downside of using LIRC is that you need to get an Infrared Receiver. The easiest way to do this is to buy the Microsoft MCE remote and receiver bundle which is quite low cost. Several popular tuner cards, for example the Hauppauge PVR-150, also come with a built-in IR receiver.

See the Remote Controls category for information on different remote models.

Infrared Keyboard emulation

This is probably the easiest way of getting a remote control to work with MythTV. You simply teach a learning remote such as any of the popular One 4 All or Logitech remotes the keys from your keyboard and hey presto your remote now does exactly what your keyboard does.

Many IR Remotes that are available today will emulate a keyboard. Linux sees them as a keyboard and no special software needs to be installed to support them.

Wi-Fi Remote

You can enable network remote control in your front end and use a phone or tablet to control MythTV. There are apps for smart phones and tablets that you can install. Mythmote is a good one, available on google play for Android.

RF Remotes

Logitech also provides a RF remote called the "UltraX Media Remote". This is a remote that behaves somewhat similar to a keyboard. To get also the special keys working see Logitech UltraX Media Remote

Cable/Satellite Box Control

IR

For infrared (ir) output to your cable or satellite box use an IR Blaster.

Serial

Some cable and satellite boxes have serial ports that can be used to control them. See Motorola DCT-25xx and Controlling DirecTV Set Top Box (STB) via USB or Serial

Firewire

If you cable or satellite box has firewire then you can use firewire to change channels and even capture video (if it is enabled). See FireWire.

Wireless keyboards

Once your Myth box has been setup you won't need to use your keyboard that much. Many users will often just SSH into their machine or use a remote desktop such as VNC to get access. Of course it's also nice to have a keyboard directly connected, in which case a wireless keyboard is preferred. Have a look at the section on Wireless Keyboards to see which ones work.

Making Sure Your Hardware is Supported by MythTV

Firstly, make sure your hardware is supported by Myth. You can find more information in this wiki at:

If you are having trouble, try:

When you've found a solution that worked it would be nice if you added it somewhere on this site to contribute back to the community. Even just linking to the mailing list archives with a little description would help; search engines will index it and will bring up the correct results earlier in their listings.