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Uneducated MythTV Frontend Question

post #1 of 52
Thread Starter 
I'm currently exploring setting up a mythtv environment. The backend is taken care of since I have an existing linux server that will handle the backend processing just fine, but I keep going back and forth on what the get for the frontend. What gets me is that I currently have 2 streaming boxes (WD TV Live and Masscool media player) that stream 1080p mkv's from the mentioned server perfectly and I basically want to do exactly the same thing but with a mythtv frontend box. i.e. I don't care about bluray, or anything else, just stream live hd from the hauppauge pvr and mythtv backend.

But I keep going in circles when I start pricing out the parts for a mythtv frontend box and winding up with a $250-350 (amd a4/a6, ddr3, ssd, case, wireless n 5ghz card) bill since I paid <$60 for each of my current media players boxes so I highly doubt the hardware inside these boxes could hold a candle to what I'd spend 5x more on even though the former does the job just fine.

Granted, they're not mythtv but they're spitting out the same video I'd want from a mythtv frontend box--I just want a pretty menu and recording options on top of it to, eventually, replace my fios dvr.

So, now that I'm done rambling, for now, I guess my basic question is, what hardware do I really need to build a small, silent, mythtv box that is just focused on streaming live hd? i.e. no playing from blurays, dvds, etc. strictly stream from the pvr/mythtv backend via hdmi out.
post #2 of 52
The most important thing is the GPU, which if you use Linux needs to be Nvidia (ATI and Intel both have limitations).

Therefore just buy the cheapest case+mobo+cpu and stick a Nvidia GT520 in it and you will be happy.

Or else if you can find/build a cheaper Nvidia ION system then that would do too.

Also, if you know how to set up network booting then you don't need a SSD or hard disk at all, just boot the front-end from your server over the network.
post #3 of 52
Quote:
Originally Posted by tux99 View Post

Also, if you know how to set up network booting then you don't need a SSD or hard disk at all, just boot the front-end from your server over the network.
Or buy a 8-16GB SDHC Class10 card and install OS to that. Costs a lot less then even the cheapest SSD.
post #4 of 52
Quote:
Originally Posted by rene18 View Post

Or buy a 8-16GB SDHC Class10 card and install OS to that. Costs a lot less then even the cheapest SSD.

I wouldn't recommend that, standard MLC based SD cards will wear out quickly when used as OS disk (I know someone who tried it and the SD card died after only 3 months) and SLC based SD cards (they do exist! For example from Integral, Transcend and Agfa) are too expensive to be worthwhile.

I have used CF cards as OS disks (with a CF to SATA adapter), but only SLC CF cards and those work great, I have one running for almost 4 years now on a 24/7 router/gateway PC.
post #5 of 52
I couldn't find any very good tests or cases about using SD card for OS. In the same time I didn't find anyone complaining that the card dies. Perhaps the best test was this.

Here's a nice review about the general topic and how to optimize OS to work on flash.

I hoped to see someone using a good recent card with ext2 and without swap (or swap and /tmp mounted to a second USB stick that can be changes if it should fail). This could work, but it's a risk for sure.

SLC CF cards look more expensive then SSD's.
post #6 of 52
Quote:
Originally Posted by rene18 View Post

SLC CF cards look more expensive then SSD's.

It depends. Last year I still managed to buy two Samsung 8G SLC CF cards for 30$ each, which is less than any SSD (here where I am at least) but of course the cost/GB is higher, but I didn't care as 8GB was more than enough for what I needed them and a SLC CF card will outlive any MLC SSD.

These Samsung SLC CF cards are very hard to locate now, I can't find them anymore at reasonable prices.
This is the one:
350

Here it's still available but the price is ridiculous, like I said I paid $30 for that last year:
http://www.amazon.co.uk/Samsung-Compact-Flash-Speed-memory/dp/B002WGIV5G


This is a cheap 8GB SLC SD card (but IMHO too expensive as OS disk as you can get a proper SSD for not much more these days):
http://www.lupus-shop.de/product_info.php?language=en&products_id=105
Edited by tux99 - 6/28/12 at 6:12pm
post #7 of 52
I don't see why you'd bother with a CF/SD card when a 60-64GB SSD is going to be less than $1/GB on sale now.
post #8 of 52
Quote:
Originally Posted by slowbiscuit View Post

I don't see why you'd bother with a CF/SD card when a 60-64GB SSD is going to be less than $1/GB on sale now.
We are talking about an OS drive not a storage drive. Thus the question is not about getting best $ per GB deal - it's about getting an OS drive (regardless of the size until OS fits to it) as cheap as possible.
post #9 of 52
Thread Starter 
I appreciate all the replies and info. I guess when it comes down to it, it looks like I'll have to spend about the same anyway (retail) but at least now I know that a must is the GT520.

Agree about the SSD/SD comments... I'd rather spend around $50 for an SSD compared to around $30 or so for the SD + adapter. Plus it just simplifies things, for me.

I'm not in any hurry to build a frontend (or 2) so I'll probably just throw some deal alerts out there and wait for some bargains to come up, but if you could give me feedback on this initial list, it'd be appreciated:

http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16811154087
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16813131843
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16814121475
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16820231307

Since this is for a frontend the heatsink only/fanless design is what I'd rather go for, but I'm pretty open.
post #10 of 52
Quote:
Originally Posted by Timothy Whatley View Post

I appreciate all the replies and info. I guess when it comes down to it, it looks like I'll have to spend about the same anyway (retail) but at least now I know that a must is the GT520.
Agree about the SSD/SD comments... I'd rather spend around $50 for an SSD compared to around $30 or so for the SD + adapter. Plus it just simplifies things, for me.
I'm not in any hurry to build a frontend (or 2) so I'll probably just throw some deal alerts out there and wait for some bargains to come up, but if you could give me feedback on this initial list, it'd be appreciated:
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16811154087
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16813131843
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16814121475
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16820231307
Since this is for a frontend the heatsink only/fanless design is what I'd rather go for, but I'm pretty open.

That combo should work, the fan of the PSU looks like it will blow exactly on the CPU heatsink in the direction of the gaps which is perfect as it means the cpu should be kept cool enough by the PSU fan alone (especially since it's a low power cpu). For a pure front-end that cpu is powerful enough too.
Of course I have no idea how quiet or noisy the PSU fan is.
post #11 of 52
Thread Starter 
do you happen to have any recommendations for a small case for my needs?
post #12 of 52
Quote:
Originally Posted by Timothy Whatley View Post

Agree about the SSD/SD comments... I'd rather spend around $50 for an SSD compared to around $30 or so for the SD + adapter. Plus it just simplifies things, for me.

Exactly. Good choice.
post #13 of 52
Quote:
Originally Posted by Timothy Whatley View Post

do you happen to have any recommendations for a small case for my needs?
The case you chose looks like a good choice to me, especially since with the discrete graphics card you can't choose one of those really small mini-ITX cases as they usually don't fit an extra card or at best they fit a single slot one, not one with a large passive heatsink like the GT520 you chose.
post #14 of 52
One option for the case. 1-day deal only today (30.06):
http://www.avsforum.com/t/1418146/antec-nsk2480-htpc-case-40-49-99-20-mir-10-shipping-frys-com-1-day-sale-6-30-12

Costs you only 40$ shipped. At newegg & amazon it's 115$.
post #15 of 52
Thread Starter 
Appreciate the heads up but it appears I missed out... pickup isn't an option since there's no fry's nearby.

I'll make myself feel better by saying it's probably a little bigger case than I was looking for anyway but it is a good looking case, cheap, so I probably would've got it anyway.
post #16 of 52
Here is a deal on a 120GB SSD, $69.99 and $10 rebate. Says you can get a rebate for up to three drives. Only good for today, until midnight Eastern time:

OCZ 120GB Agility 3 SATA III 2.5 Model: AGT3-25SAT3-120G

http://1saleaday.com/

Also, some cooments on the sale and the drives. It seems new firmware fixes problems with these drives:

http://deals.woot.com/deals/details/dfd47080-f979-417f-8894-88bf1cbe8590/ocz-120gb-agility-3-sata-iii-2-5-ssd-w-6gbps-interface-with-10-mir-4-99-sh#27
post #17 of 52
Thread Starter 
I don't know exactly what it is but there's something in my brain that doesn't like OCZ and steers clear of that brand. I ended up picking up a Mushkin 40GB SSD which will be plenty since I won't be using the system for any storage whatsoever. I'm just aiming for speedy and quiet.

On that note, I did come across another thread elsewhere mentioning the GT520:


I'm slightly concerned over this because I did order this GT520 card that's scheduled for delivery Thursday (along with the rest of my htpc build).

Can anyone comment on this?

Either way, I'm still looking forward to getting this all up and running. My silicondust hd prime tuner came in the other day and I'm going to pick up my cablecard from fios tonight. After this bedroom htpc is built I'll build out my main htpc and then hopefully ditch the fios box's altogether shortly after.
post #18 of 52
Quote:
Originally Posted by Timothy Whatley View Post

I don't know exactly what it is but there's something in my brain that doesn't like OCZ and steers clear of that brand.
Same here. I remember reading that the failure rate of OCZ SSDs is allegedly way above average and the amount of firmware bugs I see mentioned on various forums is worrying too. Even if they provide firmware updates, I certainly have better thing to do than worry about firmware updates for a SSD.
Quote:
On that note, I did come across another thread elsewhere mentioning the GT520: I'm slightly concerned over this because I did order this GT520 card that's scheduled for delivery Thursday (along with the rest of my htpc build).
Can anyone comment on this?

Regardless if the GT520 is fast enough or not, that particular statement is nonsense as the GT520 is roughly equivalent to a GT220 with regards to performance so either they are both capable of advanced interlacing modes or not. Since the GT220 has often been quoted as being capable of all adv. deinterlacing modes, therefore the GT520 must be too.
Also as I said in the other thread the GT520 supports VDPAU feature set D while the GT430 only supports the older more limited VDPAU feature set C.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nvidia_PureVideo
I have a GT520 in my desktop PC, if you provide me any video material you would like me to test I will test it for you.
Edited by tux99 - 7/3/12 at 4:06pm
post #19 of 52
Thread Starter 
Thanks... and thanks for the offer but I feel pretty good about this, plus I'll know in a couple days (well, I actually probably won't get around to setting it up this weekend since others have things planned for me to do) for myself. Regardless, it's just for my bedroom htpc that I'm using as an exploratory tool to get my feet wet in this anyway. Of course, I expect this to work as I want anyway but I need to start somewhere.

Plus, the quoted poster comes off as a miserable sob...

I plan an i3-2105 build for my main htpc and from what I've read, it along with it's igp is more than enough--probably even overkill--but I potentially will be using that htpc for more than just streaming from the mythtv backend, so I rather have extra power to handle the unknowns I'll be doing with it down the road.
post #20 of 52
Out of curiosity I just tested the following clip:

ftp://ftp.heise.de/pub/ct/spezial/crawford.mpg (109 MB, MPEG2 1920x1080i, 29.970 fps with AC3 audio)

using mplayer with VDPAU enabled on my desktop PC with a GT520 (and two 1280x1024 monitors attached for a total screen size of 2560x1024) and it played flawlessly.

For reference I ran mplayer like this:
mplayer -vo vdpau:deint=4 crawford.mpg

deint=4 is the most advanced VDPAU deinterlacer available ("motion adaptive temporal deinterlacing with edge-guided spatial interpolation" according to the mplayer man page).

The mplayer terminal output showed no sign of A/V desyncing so the GT520 was coping fine with the deinterlacing.
Edited by tux99 - 7/6/12 at 11:51pm
post #21 of 52
Thread Starter 
Comforting to know.

I did get all of my htpc pieces in last night and I actually did find time to throw it together and get it up and running... live hdtv plays with no problems whatsoever. I had my tv hooked up to the hdmi port on the gt520, so I'm assuming that I was using vdpau, but I really didn't mess around with any of the settings on the frontend (I'm using mythbunutu 12.04) to optimize anything, or at least confirm that it was already optimized... I'm not sure if mythbuntu auto-detected everything correctly as I really just entered in the initial config to get it paired up with my backend. Looking forward to playing around with it a bit more tonight, but I was watching hd shows on my bedroom lcd last night through it.

Any suggestions of things to look for on the frontend?
post #22 of 52
Quote:
Originally Posted by Timothy Whatley View Post

Any suggestions of things to look for on the frontend?
Someone else will need to help you with that as I don't use Mythtv, I use a custom-made HTPC front-end software (based on Linux obviously).

DId you get the setup exactly as you mentioned in post #9?

How is the ASUS C60M1-I mobo? I'm considering it for a different project so I would be very interested to know how warm it gets with just the PSU fan cooling it.

Do you have lm_sensors configured? If yes what are the temp readings after it has been running for an hour or so?
Edited by tux99 - 7/7/12 at 12:00am
post #23 of 52
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by tux99 View Post

DId you get the setup exactly as you mentioned in post #9?
How is the ASUS C60M1-I mobo? I'm considering it for a different project so I would be very interested to know how warm it gets with just the PSU fan cooling it.
Do you have lm_sensors configured? If yes what are the temp readings after it has been running for an hour or so?

I did. The same exact setup, with the exception of the case. For that I ended up getting: http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16811154062 ... but it's essentially the same, just a little cheaper.

Honestly, I was a little worried about the mb/cpu but it seems to handle myth frontend duties flawlessly. It seems to handle even 720p video itself just fine, but I obviously have it setup to offload it all to the gt520, which works like a charm for 1080p. I streamed the biggest file I had on hand (a 40 gig 1080p m2ts file) to try to stress it, but it didn't.

The PSU fan doesn't actively cool the CPU... it sucks air in the the case and blows it out the back of the PSU. But, this still works fine as it's a low power, low heat cpu anyway. I really feel no heat coming from the system and all that runs is the PSU fan inside, and that's essentially silent as well. The only time you can hear anything from the system is when you have your ear right up against it. Nice and quiet--perfect for the bedroom.

I installed lm-sensors and ran sensors-detect, but the only output I'm getting from running sensors is:

$ sensors
k10temp-pci-00c3
Adapter: PCI adapter
temp1: +57.0°C (high = +70.0°C)
(crit = +100.0°C, hyst = +97.0°C)

... and that seems really, really off. Like I said, I feel no heat at all.

I'm not familiar with lm-sensors but I'd be more than happy to show you whatever details if you can help me set it up correctly.
post #24 of 52
Thread Starter 
Just to add to this.. when I go into the BIOS there's temp readings there. Hovers around 37C. Obviously, not really in a stressed state at that time, but this is after the system has been running for the last 24+ hours.
post #25 of 52
Quote:
Originally Posted by Timothy Whatley View Post

I installed lm-sensors and ran sensors-detect, but the only output I'm getting from running sensors is:
$ sensors
k10temp-pci-00c3
Adapter: PCI adapter
temp1: +57.0°C (high = +70.0°C)
(crit = +100.0°C, hyst = +97.0°C)
... and that seems really, really off. Like I said, I feel no heat at all.

It's hard to tell if that value is correct or not, AMD Zacate APUs tend to run at relatively high temperatures, for example my E350 APU (1.6GHz) idles at 50C after 24 hours of uptime (and that's with a 80mm fan running at 2000rpm right on top of it, but the heatsink on mine is much smaller than yours) but even if your APU is really at 57C after 24 hours without a cpu fan I wouldn't worry about it, as these APUs are designed to run hot, the max. temp they support is 100C! (if your APU was showing consistently over 70C, then it would be worrying)

I like that mobo more and more, I'm tempted to get it for some project soon.

If I get this mobo I will provide you my sensors.conf for it once I figure it out.
post #26 of 52
Thread Starter 
FYI.. after a few days of running it's still hovering around 52-58C. It doesn't matter if I check when streaming live hdtv or 1080p mkv's, it always stays in that range. As long as the sensors output is reasonably close, looks like heat will never be an issue. I'm more and more pleased with this thing every day.
post #27 of 52
Hello Timothy,

How is your frontend build working for you? Any problems? I am considering a similar build. Anything you would do differently the second time around?

Do you leave the frontend running all the time, even when you're not using it, or do you shut it down/suspend it?

Are you streaming live TV from your backend? What kind of tuner are you using?

Thanks for sharing.
post #28 of 52
Thread Starter 
Quote:
How is your frontend build working for you? Any problems? I am considering a similar build. Anything you would do differently the second time around?
Great. No hiccups at all. It's been perfect for what I wanted to do with it. I really can't think of anything I would do differently. Keep in mind, I just built this for 2 purposes--streaming live tv and streaming a 1080p mkv library--but there hasn't been a hiccup with either.
Quote:
Do you leave the frontend running all the time, even when you're not using it, or do you shut it down/suspend it?
I leave it running all the time since heat never becomes an issue and it's just a little more convenient. Thanks to the ssd system drive it only takes about 8 seconds from powered down to powered up with mythfrontend running on the screen.
Quote:
Are you streaming live TV from your backend? What kind of tuner are you using?
I am. I am just using a single HDHomeRun Prime for the tuner.
post #29 of 52
Good to hear. I appreciate you taking the time to reply :-)
post #30 of 52
Quote:
Originally Posted by Timothy Whatley View Post

I am. I am just using a single HDHomeRun Prime for the tuner.

I'm pulling my hair out configuring my Prime w/ Mythbuntu. I'm reading the latest Mythtv .25 might be why, so I went to .24 and stil no luck. I'm going to install Ubuntu 12.04 as you have and hope that solves my problems.

But I have a few questions if you don't mind:
  • What version of Mythtv you using?
  • Are you using XBMC - Mythbox? What version of XBMC? and how long does it take to change channels?
  • Are you using SchedulesDirect or find an alternate (free) one?
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