MythTV vs. Vista MCE: First Impressions (Looong!) - AVS Forum
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post #1 of 48 Old 06-01-2007, 03:36 PM - Thread Starter
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Alright Guys:

First, I suppose I need to start with a disclaimer before discussing the relative merits of MythTV and Vista MCE as I've experienced them over the past month.

I'll be honest about my bias, I've been involved with Linux for about 14 years and love it! I held an officer position at a US LUG and have made my Linux machine my main home system (with a little OS X on my G5 for diversity). In addition, as are some Linux users, I'm usually a Microsoft-hater but am forced to use Windows and associated bloatware at work so I try to see the best in it- sigh.

Well, down to the meat. I FINALLY fixed the bad motherboard on the HTPC I've been building. It's a dual proc AMD 4600+ (Asus NForce4 board) with 2G of RAM, a nice full aluminum MStation HT-1100 case (including aluminum DVD ROM cover), iMon VFD LCD / IR receiver, DVD+/-RW, Hauppauge 500 dual tuner, and a HUMUNGOUS 160GB hard drive... which I fully intend to "enhance" with a nice 2.3 terabyte Infrant storage server soon.

I've temporarily held off on HDTV tuners as I'm on special assignment in Europe, with no access to signal.

My TV is a 40" LCD Sony blah blah blah HDTV with top of the line blah blah blah, 2 tinny little speakers, and only one stupid HDMI port and no VGA ports, a sin that I've learned the true gravity of after making my purchase.

FIRST UP: MYTHTV

Well, I went with the standard Ubuntu because it's Debian and I know my way around a Debian system. Plus, Ubuntu is shweet to install and get running (very easy), has nice package management, and a mostly-configured set of MythTV packages.

I had NEVER seen MythTV in action before and was really anxious to get it running. With media center software and games, you can look at all the screenshots you want and still never truly understand the software.

So I followed my own notes, cobbled from various websites, on how to get the various elements of my system online. From the MySQL database setup, to the interactive backend setup (no manual config file editing), to the configuration of the front end, everything went pretty smoothly. Well, there was ONE exception: channel setup. Since my local guide data did not have frequencies attached, I had to manually enter the frequencies for each of the stations I desired to watch and attach each to one of my xmltv guide sources. More to come about this later...

I now had a working system I could check out, with the exception of the VFD and infrared receiver, which I decided to put off until later. I can tell you that my first impression wasn't so great. The default theme (which I had seen in the interactive installer) was mostly composed of light and lighter gray, which to me was way too bright for a PVR interface. The first thing I did was focus on themes to save my eyeballs, finally finding one that I considered acceptable. The menu system was well organized and intuitive, with a nice comprehensive setup menu (which I quickly learned to lock due to the awesome powers over system hardware contained within ).

Watching TV on Myth was mostly-fun on my system.

MYTHTV POSITIVES WITH A FEW NEGATIVES THROWN IN:

Buffering on channel changes took a bit too long for my tastes, reminding me that I was using a computer. Picture was very nice on widescreen content, but when I tried the aspect adjustments on 4:3, was disappointed with the results. The basic choice were there: stretch, zoom, etc., but I soon remembered that I always feel slightly ashamed after using them so stopped.

Program guide and scheduling were nice, but maybe a few to many options were available under the recording menus. Yeah, I can see using any of them under special circumstances but they are a bit distracting for what I hope to use as a mindless consumer appliance (my mindlessness, not the machine's).

Finally, the extras were quite nice. DVD importer looks like it could work well, but it's illegal I think to backup DVDs even for personal use, right? The OTHER MythTV app with possible illegal applications, "Torrentocracy", is now no longer working with later versions of MythTV. Music, DVD, etc., were all as you would expect in a high quality app. Web browser was functional if not a little un-navigable, and the optional weather applet was also not working apparently due to recent changes in the source website's structure.

I enjoyed MythTV nicely for a couple of weeks until I decided that I wanted to fix my hastily setup and slightly crippled tuner / channel configuration. As a temporary hack, I had assigned all of my channels but one to 1 tuner, and CNBC to the other. This was because I couldn't find an XMLTV source that had my local lineup including CNBC, so I had to grab this one channel from the Norway guides (where American TV is apparently very popular).

The solution would have required me to learn the tv_cat tool well enough to concatenate the two sets of listings and set up a cron script to do this every night. A very simple technical challenge, by my standards but I gave up after my very first try. Despite the straightforward nature of any program with "cat" in it's name, I hit an error on my first try, put the keyboard down, and thought to myself... "Wow, I've done lots of configuration on this system and it's now feeling a bit like work. Maybe I should try MCE for a while- the pictures look nice!"

And I did...

SECOND TRY: VISTA HOME PREMIUM (WITH MEDIA CENTER)

Well, I truly knew nothing of guilt until I bought that Vista CD at Media Markt. "But I'm a technophile," I told myself, "...and NEED to see what Microsoft's doing in this space. After all, they do hire some smart and talented people, right?" So I paid them my 198 hard earned Euros (a ripoff I know, but where else could I go on a Friday night to buy some Windows?) and walked out.

I... hesitated for just a moment and... wiped my drive (backed up, of course!) and... installed Windows...

Vista install was pretty painless with some nice eyecandy and a generally more "serious" look than XP- that said, it did take a bit longer than I would have expected (mostly due to my having bought the upgrade addition, which means I had to install XP first!). My first problem came after the requisite "Windows Update" as one of the updates had crashed my system. I finally narrowed it down to the SATA drivers for the NForce4 (I think), disabled them, moved to a basemented IDE drive out of laziness, re-installed and was OK. As a Bonus, the IDE drive ran much quieter than the previous SATA!

Down to business finally. Media Center setup was a breeze (yes, better than MythTV for me). Program guide was flawless with more and more complete descriptions. I have no idea where the program data is coming from, but don't care because it's good data. Frequencies were of course there as well, as you should expect from any consumer-grade application sold in good conscience. Even remote setup was very simple, at least for my fairly popular iMon unit.

VISTA PLUSES AND MINUSES:

Menu system is what I would call "polarizing"- some will like it and others won't. It's nicely animated with satisfying sounds, subtlely thrown in throughout. The downsides are: (1) the unique horizontal setup of key menu items which wastes lots of screen real estate causing the interface to provide too little information at some key points and (2) the overabundance of intrusive (and difficult to turn off) 3rd party applets and information.

Despite concerns above, there is a feeling of "connectedness" in the software driven by some of these applets and connections to online content. This even includes a nice "Sports" area with special TV listings, upcoming game info, game in progress info, player info, etc., all courtesy of our friends at Fox News. Yes, MTV, VH1, and even XM Radio all make appearances throughout the big menu system. Some options, of course, will require a credit card number to use.

Watching TV is rock solid, as is the simple but very nice program guide. An additional "neato" is the transparent overlay (with "vignette" effect) of menus over live TV, which must be using at least 50 Commodore 64s worth of processing power and memory (and maybe much, much more)! Channel changing is quick and the OSD, while simple, is clear and nicely designed.

Overall, Vista Media Center has a big win in terms of look and "experience factor" of interface, but then that's unfortunately still to be expected when comparing Linux to Microsoft. Despite this, however, there are some weird counterintuitive behaviors in the Windows interface which I still haven't figured out. MythTV default menus were much simpler and took less getting used to.

Now, here's MY killer issue with this install... ready? Drivers. Yep, I said drivers as in: problem in Windows despite being rock solid in Linux. Surpirised? Well me too but I shouldn't be because it's conventional wisdom that Windows stays in beta until at least 2 years after major version launch. So anyway, my video cap card doesn't fully work! Only one of two tuners is recognized. I've tried all the standard tricks and latest driver releases, with no success yet. Even my long distance call to Hauppauge was fruitless and I suspect that I'll be waiting for some system update or new driver release before I can watch one show while recording another. Or maybe I will fix it before then, but certainly not without a little googling, FAQ searching, or phone queueing.

One more- I get good video with stock Microsoft GPU drivers, but when I try to use the latest from Nvidia, TV gets very stuttery so I'm sticking with what's likely a very sub-optimized video driver for now.

So I'm left with a pretty, working, but crippled setup on a system who's stability I have reason to question. Interface hasn't crashed yet, but uptimes have been relatively low due to recent purchase of Command & Conquer 3.

IN SUMMARY:

I realize that this first review of mine seems a bit wishy washy so far. I've identified strengths and weaknesses in my experience with MythTV and Vista MC but made no choices so here it is. In the end, though impressed with MythTV, I'm going to stick with Vista for a while. Like a magical Disney adventure, it's managed to capture my imagination with promises of easy, 24 hour connection to live sports information and internet radio. Yeah, it doesn't fully work and I still don't like Windows, but I do have Command and Conquer so the system should hold me over until... Well, until...

Steve Jobs gets his head out of his ostrich-hole and decides to reshape the marketplace with a truly good PVR/Media Center/Super-Evolved Life Device (tm).

Ok. I said it. The end.

Sincerely,
Me
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post #2 of 48 Old 06-01-2007, 04:09 PM
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Really nice even writeup that is oh-so-hard to come by these days.

From my point of view, the Myth backend is great (with a caveat).

The frontend on the otherhand is far from perfect.

FIRST RULE: NO FRONTEND SHOULD BE ABLE TO CRASH THE BACKEND

Well the frontends CAN and DO. OFTEN in my system.


When things are running, Myth is great on the backend. It's almost as if the frontend is an afterthought. Should I be able to watch a (local frontend mounted) DVD if the backend has crashed or network connectivity has gone down? YES. But with Myth I can't. I gotta fall back to Xine because I don't want to take the time to issue a /etc/init.d/mythtv-backend restart.

Also, it seems that none of the amazing deinterlacing features that the DScaler team implemented (in open source no less!) are available by default. Yeah I guess I could figure out how to make TVTime my default viewer and hang there with those filters, but should I have to??

The MCE option doesn't exist to me because of the DRM it imposes and the MS tax for an OS. Now I do understand that I can get around that but I shouldn't have to.

Again, thanks for the realistic input and I'm happy to be flamed along with you for 'putting down' something that's 'free'.

-Trouble
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post #3 of 48 Old 06-01-2007, 04:47 PM
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Great write-up indeed. The computer I am now running Ubuntu/MythTV on came with Vista Home Premium (and Vista Media Center), and I didn't really play with it before I installed Ubuntu. I must admit, the Vista MC interface (from what I have seen) is PRETTY.

My initial problem was Vista MC doesn't do QAM for HD, but after deciding on Ubuntu, I ended up buying a tuner that would allow QAM in Vista (the HDHR), so that point ended up being moot . . . although it sounds like (from their forums) people are not having the easiest time working with the HDHR in Vista . . . it is rock-solid in Myth!

I would like it it if the locking onto channels (for the HDHR, the Hauppauge is plenty fast) was quicker, but that might be a limitation of the HDHR, not Myth.
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post #4 of 48 Old 06-02-2007, 12:06 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Troubleshooter View Post

Really nice even writeup that is oh-so-hard to come by these days.

From my point of view, the Myth backend is great (with a caveat).

The frontend on the otherhand is far from perfect.

FIRST RULE: NO FRONTEND SHOULD BE ABLE TO CRASH THE BACKEND

Well the frontends CAN and DO. OFTEN in my system.


When things are running, Myth is great on the backend. It's almost as if the frontend is an afterthought. Should I be able to watch a (local frontend mounted) DVD if the backend has crashed or network connectivity has gone down? YES. But with Myth I can't. I gotta fall back to Xine because I don't want to take the time to issue a /etc/init.d/mythtv-backend restart.

Also, it seems that none of the amazing deinterlacing features that the DScaler team implemented (in open source no less!) are available by default. Yeah I guess I could figure out how to make TVTime my default viewer and hang there with those filters, but should I have to??

The MCE option doesn't exist to me because of the DRM it imposes and the MS tax for an OS. Now I do understand that I can get around that but I shouldn't have to.

Again, thanks for the realistic input and I'm happy to be flamed along with you for 'putting down' something that's 'free'.

-Trouble

i agree, when i used myth back in the SD days for recording the backend was flawless. i eventually gave up on the frontend and just used the xbmc plugin to get at the recordings.
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post #5 of 48 Old 06-03-2007, 07:10 AM
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I have to be honest, I have a htpc and I have media center, but I really prefer using the standard desktop with the belkin rf keyboard, I tried Ms MCE and found it to be too limiting, I guess I am just a computer guy, I just feel comfortable at the desktop, it is the easiest interface for me. I am waiting for KDE 4.o to come out because of a (kinda' cryptic)post by Aron Seigo mentioning the possibility of integrating LinuxMCE into KDE 4.x
check out the videos: http://linuxmce.com/

now that is what I want to build, I will definately be watching what the devcelopers have in store for the users in the future.

From Hells heart I stab at thee!!
With My dying breath I spit at
thee!!
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post #6 of 48 Old 06-03-2007, 07:57 AM
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Well Sprak, yer famous now...Your post made Slashdot!
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post #7 of 48 Old 06-03-2007, 08:47 AM - Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by Troubleshooter View Post

Well Sprak, yer famous now...Your post made Slashdot!

Well, that makes things fun. I have no doubt that I'll be labeled a zealout by both Microsoft and Linux fans alike (and maybe an Apple fan or two).
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post #8 of 48 Old 06-03-2007, 08:55 AM
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eh you never know, maybe there's a linux geek or two on Slashdot that might help you with some of your dislikes. Or a windows geek or two for that matter.
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post #9 of 48 Old 06-03-2007, 08:58 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by madpuppy View Post

I have to be honest, I have a htpc and I have media center, but I really prefer using the standard desktop with the belkin rf keyboard, I tried Ms MCE and found it to be too limiting, I guess I am just a computer guy, I just feel comfortable at the desktop, it is the easiest interface for me. I am waiting for KDE 4.o to come out because of a (kinda' cryptic)post by Aron Seigo mentioning the possibility of integrating LinuxMCE into KDE 4.x
check out the videos: URL removed

now that is what I want to build, I will definately be watching what the devcelopers have in store for the users in the future.

I made this mistake - LinuxMCE is *awful* and an incredibly long and tedious process to setup. Getting the smallest of things working in it is a guaranteed lengthy and laborious task, and when you do have things working to any level of satisfaction, it's still not even near as good as the next best thing :/ It clearly has a long way to go, and the demo is extremely misleading...

For a pure media centre (not a PVR), I've been using Elisa (by Fluendo, google it..) recently, and found it very nice - it's lacking a lot of functionality, but what's there is nice and works. I'm definitely putting my money on this to be the future of Linux media centre/PVR (apparently PVR work is being done for it).
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post #10 of 48 Old 06-03-2007, 09:09 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Sprak View Post

Alright Guys:

Now, here's MY killer issue with this install... ready? Drivers. Yep, I said drivers as in: problem in Windows despite being rock solid in Linux. Surpirised? Well me too but I shouldn't be because it's conventional wisdom that Windows stays in beta until at least 2 years after major version launch. So anyway, my video cap card doesn't fully work! Only one of two tuners is recognized. I've tried all the standard tricks and latest driver releases, with no success yet. Even my long distance call to Hauppauge was fruitless and I suspect that I'll be waiting for some system update or new driver release before I can watch one show while recording another. Or maybe I will fix it before then, but certainly not without a little googling, FAQ searching, or phone queueing.

Try using the XP drivers for your capture card. No issues.
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post #11 of 48 Old 06-03-2007, 09:31 AM
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There is a bug in the nVidia driver, but there is a workaround. In the nVidia control panel, go to Video Settings, and uncheck "Inverse Telecine".

You'll find the stuttering goes away.

(And boo! to nVidia for having such an obvious bug).
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post #12 of 48 Old 06-03-2007, 09:42 AM
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Not a /bad/ writeup but I wouldn't give it two thumbs up.

The problem I have is that you built a Vista machine without buying hardware to go with it... hardware you know is supported. That should have been a requirement for a fair review. I know in the end you chose Vista but you obviously didn't want to.

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post #13 of 48 Old 06-03-2007, 09:50 AM
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I've been using Vista (not MCE) for a couple of months now. Even the basic NVidia drivers, both SATA controller and graphics, are still not up to speed.

For example, the Vista NVidia SATA controller drivers are missing S.M.A.R.T. information hooks (feature magically appears when you install the XP drivers) and the recent video drivers just add HD capability for HD TVs.

I've had to resort to XP drivers for a number of my devices just to get them to work properly. Of course, NVidia isn't the only hardware manufacturer that is behind the curve on drivers.

So, try the XP drivers for anything that you cannot get working, more than likely they will not only work, but also support all of the features of the device.

David
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post #14 of 48 Old 06-03-2007, 10:51 AM
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Regarding setup; I've been using Linux for a long time (since slackware pre-1.0) but I've tried to get Myth set up several times over the last year. Always it very nearly worked but some dumb little thing stopped me.

I tried MythDora a few days ago, and it was really nice and very nearly there, but I had a few setup glitches and never did get my PVR150 IR blaster working.

Two days ago, I tried KnoppMyth, and it was as close as can be expected to working straight out of the box. All I had to do was to write a channel changing script to call irsend with the right commands for my satellite box.

I did (and have yet to do) a lot of customization of Myth, and I'm getting the freeze-up on skip backwards that many others have reported but doesn't seem to have been fixed yet, but it was ready to go and nearly usable right out of the box (the channel changing IR blaster is absolutely necessary for the increasing number of people who get all their programming over a satellite or cable box).

I think if I put the time into the setup I'd be happier with Ubuntu+Myth, but honestly this machine is a dedicated Myth box so it doesn't much matter what else is on it, as long as Myth is happy.

Eventually I'm going to move to using a Hauppauge 1000 for the frontends in the house.
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post #15 of 48 Old 06-03-2007, 10:53 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Retalin View Post

Not a /bad/ writeup but I wouldn't give it two thumbs up.

The problem I have is that you built a Vista machine without buying hardware to go with it... hardware you know is supported. That should have been a requirement for a fair review. I know in the end you chose Vista but you obviously didn't want to.


That's an interesting comment, since I see exactly the same thing regarding Linux from Linux supporters ("you should have gone out and bought a machine that had all Linux-supported hardware to be fair"). I also see the opposite comment from both camps; why should I have to buy a new machine to switch (from either one to the other).
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post #16 of 48 Old 06-03-2007, 10:54 AM
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For those wanting to try MythTV, you may want to consider Mythdora, which is a linux distribution that has MythTV already installed and configured.

It can be a MAJOR pain in the ass to install MythTV from scratch, and this is coming from someone who's been working with Linux since 1995. Mythdora has everything mostly set up already, and all you really need to do is configure it to recognize your hardware, which isn't all that difficult.

http://swik.net/MythDora

Give it a try if you want to try Myth. For an appliance-type box like that, no one should have to waste time manually configuring all the components.
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post #17 of 48 Old 06-03-2007, 11:08 AM - Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Retalin View Post

Not a /bad/ writeup but I wouldn't give it two thumbs up.

The problem I have is that you built a Vista machine without buying hardware to go with it... hardware you know is supported. That should have been a requirement for a fair review. I know in the end you chose Vista but you obviously didn't want to.


Retalin:

Thanks. I really shouldn't have called this a "review"- "impressions", as in the title, is more appropriate. By no means do I claim use of scientific approach or lab conditions.

That said, I *had* to write this. Getting my HTPC running has occupied my idle brain power 24x7 for the past month- a delicious distraction, honestly and I can now call myself a proud new member of the HTPC hobby. It's been fun and a great learning experience!

Now if I may, I would like to make one more philosophical observation as someone who's been a PC hobbyist since my first VIC-20. Conceptually, I love HTPC model for the control that it offers but honestly feel that it could be doomed to niche status if someone doesn't make it easier & better for the average Joe. The two products I've used are getting there, but few of the people I know would have spent the time and effort to get them working (especially those of us with families). Unless both software and "out of the box" hardware compatibility improve, I think the "tipping point" could be a ways off, and cable or IP based client / server approaches will be the way that people timeshift in the future.

The next 5 years should be very interesting- and hopefully surprising!

Once again, glad to finally be here.
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post #18 of 48 Old 06-03-2007, 11:20 AM
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My review of the the situation.

For the amount Vista software alone costcost, I can build a complete dual HDTV tuner system using Linux that works. I don't care about fancy interfaces. I want something that works, and works virus free, as cheap as possible. MythTV does that. I use cheap (under $20) HDTV cards and I've got 6 of them in 3 machines networked together and I'm pretty sure I'll never have to spend another dime on software. So if you like Vista, use it. i couldn't care less how anyone thinks it compares to a Linux solution. If you, want to debate which is best, take it to a different forum.
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post #19 of 48 Old 06-03-2007, 12:16 PM
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So if you like Vista, use it. i couldn't care less how anyone thinks it compares to a Linux solution. If you, want to debate which is best, take it to a different forum.

how about if you would like to continue debate and have an open dialog, by all means continue.

if however you would like to be a fanboy to either cause or slam down open debate then go elsewhere. without the open debate how is someone who is equally comfortable in either linux or windows but a master of neither going to know what the strengths and weaknesses are on each side?
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post #20 of 48 Old 06-03-2007, 01:04 PM
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Originally Posted by Traalfaz View Post

Two days ago, I tried KnoppMyth, and it was as close as can be expected to working straight out of the box. All I had to do was to write a channel changing script to call irsend with the right commands for my satellite box.

Have you posted details on the KnoppMyth forum? You can help other by posting your script and who knows, perhaps it will be included in a future release.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Traalfaz View Post

I did (and have yet to do) a lot of customization of Myth, and I'm getting the freeze-up on skip backwards that many others have reported but doesn't seem to have been fixed yet, but it was ready to go and nearly usable right out of the box (the channel changing IR blaster is absolutely necessary for the increasing number of people who get all their programming over a satellite or cable box).

I've not had issue with it freezing on "skip backwards". Out the box, KnoppMyth supports several cable/satellite boxes. If users contribute, we can include more.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Traalfaz View Post

I think if I put the time into the setup I'd be happier with Ubuntu+Myth, but honestly this machine is a dedicated Myth box so it doesn't much matter what else is on it, as long as Myth is happy.

Might I ask why you think you'd be happier w/ Ubuntu+Myth over KnoppMyth?

Regards,

Cecil

When the source is open, the possibilites are endless.
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post #21 of 48 Old 06-03-2007, 06:44 PM
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Originally Posted by wnewell View Post

My review of the the situation.

For the amount Vista software alone costcost, I can build a complete dual HDTV tuner system using Linux that works. I don't care about fancy interfaces. I want something that works, and works virus free, as cheap as possible. MythTV does that. I use cheap (under $20) HDTV cards and I've got 6 of them in 3 machines networked together and I'm pretty sure I'll never have to spend another dime on software. So if you like Vista, use it. i couldn't care less how anyone thinks it compares to a Linux solution. If you, want to debate which is best, take it to a different forum.

What HDTV tuner card are you using that only costs $20?
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post #22 of 48 Old 06-03-2007, 07:37 PM
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^^^ I'm guessing the air2pc cards that are used for broadcast hdtv only
they usually go for $10 to $20 on ebay

As to the original post:

Myth isn't really a good live tv interface. The development team has designed it to be a PVR from the ground up. Yes you can watch live-tv, but there will be a 2 second delay to get the channel to tune. Channel flipping people will never be happy with it. I agree with the default myth theme. It is ugly. Once you set it to another theme of your choice the system looks as good as anything else out there.

Personally, I like the flexibility of having all the options in the frontend. You can always go in and edit the frontend files to not show certain sections if you are so inclined.

As to drivers, linux/myth is far superior currently to what it can do with tuner cards/hd tuner cards. QAM is a massive PITA on windows boxes. One thing the Windows MCE systems have going for it is the ATI cablecard tuner external box that is available for it. If/when it's available as a stand alone product to purchase it would definately be a feature that linux can't offer (yet)
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post #23 of 48 Old 06-03-2007, 08:38 PM
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Here's my two cents on MythTV (I originally posted this on the slashdot thread that linked to this discussion). FWIW, my background is that I'm an embedded systems developer, I use Linux professionally both for embedded systems and servers, and I've used Linux at home since I first downloaded SLS in 1993.

I used a MythTV machine for a while, before I had HDTV. I set up whatever release of KnoppMyth was the latest in the spring of 2005 on an Asus Pundit with a Hauppauge PVR350 board. Setting up KnoppMyth was far from a plug and play experience; I had to update almost everything to make it work, and had to go hunt down patches to things like LIRC to get it working with the rest of the system. The reason I had to do so much manual tweaking was that the chipsets in the basic Pundit box had much better support in the 2.6 kernel than in 2.4, but the kernel 2.6 versions of most of the stuff MythTV needed to run well (PVR card and LIRC drivers in particular) were pretty far from stable at that time.

The choice of which video-out to use was a study in compromises: I could either use the Asus' built-in ATI S-Video out, which had no video acceleration and thus suffered from visible speed issues during playback; or I could use the PVR350 output, which had excellent TV playback, but had a terrible navigation and recording interface since the framebuffer X server could only render video fullscreen. I wound up choosing the PVR350 out, since I preferred to schedule recordings using the web server interface.

Once I got it fully running, the system was pretty nice. The basic menu interface looked good and was intuitive, and the picture quality from the PVR350 over S-Video was outstanding. As I mentioned, the downside was navigating the recording screen. The normal scheduler looks like most DVRs, in that it puts the program list over most of the screen and the live TV in a window. The PVR350 framebuffer version of the interface had the live TV full screen, with the scheduler semi transparently displayed over it. This was slow, hard to read, and just plain awkward. Fortunately, the web server's program scheduler was excellent, so I rarely needed the TV-out version.

On the whole, when it worked, it was brilliant, but it definitely had its fair share of bugs -- the two worst being that it would occasionally just produce a black screen when you rewound a show to the beginning, which you could usually revover from, and the wifi (a usb dongle) would sometimes just up and stop working due to a buggy driver, requiring a reboot to get connectivity again. But on the whole it was pretty nice, the TV interface was OK but the selling point for me was the excellent web interface.

Once I got HDTV in December of 05, the MythTV box really wasn't an option any more. Since then I've had HD digital cable from two different providers (Comcast and Optimum) both with the Scientific Atlanta SA8300HD DVR (though Comcast and Optimum load different firmware onto the DVR). Frankly, there's no comparison between the commercial DVR and MythTV. The commercial system does everything faster (powering up, changing channels) and never, ever crashes. Sure, I can't transfer movies to my laptop or whatever, but I guess that just isn't something I feel the need to do.

The other advantage the cable co. DVRs have is the simple quantity of hardware they ship with, that would cost a fortune to replicate in a FOSS system: the SA 8300HD, for example, has 4 tuners (2 NTSC, 2 QAM) 2 of which can be used simultaneously (to record one program while watching another live one, or record two programs while watching a third prerecorded one) and four outputs (composite, S-video, HDMI, and component), two of which may be used simultaneously to output different programs.

Bottom line, if you have a 4:3 CRT TV and basic cable, MythTV is probably a cost-effective solution, and certainly more flexible than any commercial solution out there. If you have a nice widescreen TV and digital cable with HD channels, MythTV just can't compete with the stuff the cable company offers, and even if you have the time and money to build an equivalent system the result won't be as good.
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post #24 of 48 Old 06-04-2007, 12:32 AM
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Originally Posted by Cwiiis View Post

For a pure media centre (not a PVR), I've been using Elisa (by Fluendo, google it..) recently, and found it very nice - it's lacking a lot of functionality, but what's there is nice and works. I'm definitely putting my money on this to be the future of Linux media centre/PVR (apparently PVR work is being done for it).

i'll second this - elisa is my "most anticipated" of the next round of media centre software. I've been following their development for the last few months and it really seems like they're heading in the right direction
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post #25 of 48 Old 06-04-2007, 06:18 AM
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I just wanted to say, about the discussions based on hardware. In claiming that you didn't choose hardware that is supported in Vista, and that was your problem: this statement is horribly inaccurate.

The hardware you chose, is very common hardware, and is some of the most supported out there. The hardware you chose is supported by Vista, (theorectically). Before you blast me for saying that, remember this: Vista is extremely new, and MS has a horrible record with support for hardware out of the box on a new O/S. Windows XP is the only exception to this. XP had the most support for hardware of any MS O/S, but that was because it uses Win2k drivers. Vista can use some XP drivers, but in general, Vista took all new drivers, and MS was slow to get the specs to the hardware vendors.

No matter what hardware you ran, you would have had problems on the Vista side, especially with video drivers. (check any support forum out there).

Basically, the problem is Vista, until service pack 1 for Vista comes out, you're pretty much better off with XP.

I run XP and Ubuntu.
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post #26 of 48 Old 06-04-2007, 07:03 AM
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You said...

It's a dual proc AMD 4600+ (Asus NForce4 board) with 2G of RAM, a nice full aluminum MStation HT-1100 case (including aluminum DVD ROM cover), iMon VFD LCD / IR receiver, DVD+/-RW, Hauppauge 500 dual tuner, and a HUMUNGOUS 160GB hard drive

But I'm running a single-tuner (dedicated) MythTV system on an ancient P-II/600 from my closet with 256MB RAM and a 250GB hard drive. Try running Vista on that...
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post #27 of 48 Old 06-04-2007, 09:41 AM
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Having spent too much of my weekend recovering from a failed hard drive in an expanded DirecTV Tivo (with the loss of recorded programming) I got to thinking about MythTV and other alternatives. Great to read the writeup, but I'm stymied as I do not get my signal over the air or through cable. (The decision is pretty much driven by the NFL package)

Anything on the horizon with regard to DirecTV tuner cards that could be leveraged by Myth or other software? Failing that, I seem to be stuck in a world of patching old DirecTV Tivo's until I lose programming support for them.
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post #28 of 48 Old 06-04-2007, 09:55 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by DireWolf08 View Post

Great write-up indeed. The computer I am now running Ubuntu/MythTV on came with Vista Home Premium (and Vista Media Center), and I didn't really play with it before I installed Ubuntu. I must admit, the Vista MC interface (from what I have seen) is PRETTY.

My initial problem was Vista MC doesn't do QAM for HD, but after deciding on Ubuntu, I ended up buying a tuner that would allow QAM in Vista (the HDHR), so that point ended up being moot . . . although it sounds like (from their forums) people are not having the easiest time working with the HDHR in Vista . . . it is rock-solid in Myth!

I would like it it if the locking onto channels (for the HDHR, the Hauppauge is plenty fast) was quicker, but that might be a limitation of the HDHR, not Myth.

i have the hdhr running under windows pretty easily. i reinstalled my entire system over the weekend and from downloading hdhr and the firmware to double clicking the exe, the whole process took under 5 minutes. it even updated my firmware for me. the biggest prob with the hdhr was the remap file, but once thats good, you don't have to worry about it ever again. ive been meaning to setup mythtv on my ps3 and use my hdhr, but i never got around to it.
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post #29 of 48 Old 06-04-2007, 12:07 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jamy View Post

What HDTV tuner card are you using that only costs $20?

Air2PC. Bid for them on ebay. last one I got for $17.50. ATSC ONLY. That's all I use.
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post #30 of 48 Old 06-04-2007, 12:28 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Phaid View Post

Bottom line, if you have a 4:3 CRT TV and basic cable, MythTV is probably a cost-effective solution, and certainly more flexible than any commercial solution out there. If you have a nice widescreen TV and digital cable with HD channels, MythTV just can't compete with the stuff the cable company offers, and even if you have the time and money to build an equivalent system the result won't be as good.

But, if you don't have cable and use free OTA ATSC HDTV, there's no better option than building your own system. I've never liked the idea of pay TV, and I've never had it in ny 60+ years. I know a lot of people that get get cable/sat just because they are too lazy or too stupid to mount a decent antenna. NTSC has always had interference problems of some sort and limits you to SDTV (here in US), But ATSC is cyrstal clear and provides the best HDTV signal you will get. I've never recommended MythTV for someone with cable or sat. There's just cheaper easier options from the providers, especially with HD. But if you find paying $100 a month for HDTV from those providers rediculous as I do, and you want multiple recordings as I do (3 or more), then a home built is the only way to go. And if you want to do it as cheap as possible, then Linux is the only way to go. And I've got both HDTV's and regualr TV's and ATSC MythTV works great with all of them.
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