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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hello everyone.

Been trying to get 7.1 audio working on Linux for quite some time.

So far the only thing I have been able to get working is from here:

http://www.momentaryfascinations.com/technology/getting.7.1.hdmi.audio.working.under.ubuntu.html

This method relies on Pulse Audio to send a PCM 7.1 bitstream through HDMI.

What I am interested in is sending direct (unprocessed) bitstream of DTS HD MA and Dolby TrueHD via HDMI.

So far, the only player I got working is mplayer with PCM using the above link to modify my pulseaudio configuration file.

I tried forcing devices and codecs but the only way I got any 7.1 result was with PCM and only with mplayer running vanilla audio through the pulse server.

I can get 5.1 using bitstream but not 7.1. Dolby Digital EX 6.1 matrix is decoded OK via bitstream also. Not sure about DTS-EX but I presume it works too.

Ideas?

Configuration: very old core2 duo machine using vdpau through Nvidia GT730 with the 14.04 distro video driver. Onkyo TX-NR929 receiver running 11.1.

I tried vlc and mpv etc with no better luck.

Thanks.
 

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Don't know about 7.1 audio, but Pulseaudio will NOT bitstream DTS HD or TRUEHD.

The workaround I do to get bitstream DTS HD and TRUEHD is to temporarily kill pulse audio as follows:

I use Kodi.

First you have to turn off Pulseaudio's autospawn:

Run the command:

Code:
sudo nano /etc/pulse/client.conf
and change the line:

Code:
; autospawn = yes
to

Code:
autospawn = no
Now you can temporarily kill pulseaudio with this command:

Code:
pulseaudio -k
I also made a short script to start Kodi:

Code:
#!/bin/bash

pulseaudio -k
sleep 1
AE_SINK=ALSA kodi
pulseaudio --start
That way both DTS HD and TRUEHD bitstreams with Kodi. Don't know about 7.1, but 5.1 works.

Hope this gets you in the right direction.
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
Don't know about 7.1 audio, but Pulseaudio will NOT bitstream DTS HD or TRUEHD.

The workaround I do to get bitstream DTS HD and TRUEHD is to temporarily kill pulse audio as follows:

I use Kodi.

First you have to turn off Pulseaudio's autospawn:

Run the command:

Code:
sudo nano /etc/pulse/client.conf
and change the line:

Code:
; autospawn = yes
to

Code:
autospawn = no
Now you can temporarily kill pulseaudio with this command:

Code:
pulseaudio -k
I also made a short script to start Kodi:

Code:
#!/bin/bash

pulseaudio -k
sleep 1
AE_SINK=ALSA kodi
pulseaudio --start
That way both DTS HD and TRUEHD bitstreams with Kodi. Don't know about 7.1, but 5.1 works.

Hope this gets you in the right direction.
I tried this with mplayer and still could not get 7.1 through. There was some sort of parameter error. I saw a post about it on GitHub forum with mpv so it appears to be a library or codec thing rather than player bug, unless it arises from the common code base between the original and fork player.

Also, I could not seem to start up pulseaudio again properly after killing it the way you describe. I had to at least restart the desktop if not reboot (forgot which).

It would be nice to know if this bug is a feature of mplayer/mpv or Ubuntu. Anyone get 7.1 bitstreaming working with mplayer on Kodi?

VLC has this bug where some container types seem to induce instability in the audio. Just touching the mouse wheel is enough to move the volume bar and depending on the media that might be enough to cause the audio to suddenly sound like it is saturating into full clipping. Only restarting VLC will fix it. Because of this disastrous behavior I avoid VLC now, where I used to rely on it before. Not sure what is causing this strange bug. Could it be from the hooks for HDMI audio in the stock Nvidia driver? I began the initial system setup with new drives, OS upgrade to latest LTS, and a new GT730 before the released Ubuntu driver had support. Could there be remnants hanging around from that driver?

Plus somehow when I added firmware for my e-mu 1212m I noticed that pulseaudio had issues with it. I cannot get the input working for REW. I can see the input meter flicking on Audacity but somehow I cannot get it to actually end up in a recording. I use Audacity to rip my analog media to digital. I did not start setting up the audio until I got the video working so by that time the stock Nvidia driver was already running, sort of, with lots of strange flickering between buffers etc. but at least it worked well enough to get me through the period when there was no released Ubuntu driver for this graphics card.

Kodi certainly bitstreams 7.1 dts-ma and truehd. Get rid of pulseaudio though. If you want to test it use openelec live on a USB drive.
Thanks for that suggestion. I will give it a shot. I had not gotten that far in the debug but obviously since I have two votes for Kodi I have to try it out. Maybe I will get lucky and discover what the issue is with other players. If I can get them working off the liveCD then I know I need to start looking into the audio driver libraries for answers.

I really, really want to get MythTV running again. That is what all my existing recordings are 'databased' under but I have to rebuild the older release of Ubuntu and do a full backup of the database so I can import it into the new version of SQL. I was sort of hoping to get confirmation of 7.1 functionality on a couple of existing Ubuntu tools before rebuilding the database though, since I basically have to install two full operating systems and two versions of MythTV to do the conversion. I did allow extra boot partitions but so far I have not got to the point of actually trying out virtual machines. If I cannot do 7.1 audio on Ubuntu at all, I would like to know that in advance before investing that much effort into configuring PVR on a machine that is also my NFS server.

Does openelec come with full encryption, nfs, kerberos, virtualization, hardware video decoding etc. support? I am playing house with my computer, trying out everything required for secure system in the hope that sysadmin experience actually has more than curiosity value to me some day.

Obviously if I have to give things up I will still want to have access to them at least via virtualization if at all possible, but never having done that either I am sort of at a loss where to begin. As it was, it took me close to a year to figure out how to boot from GPT on legacy bios and get hardware video decoding working in stock drivers and confusing command-line players. The forum moderators deleted my more amusingly confused posts to clean up the thread and make a path through the confusion for those following in
my footsteps (and I am very grateful to them for doing that since I have other fish to fry...):)

Thanks for your inputs. When I get the projector mounted I will dig back into this question. You might find more questions here in a month or so...:)
 

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Openelec is a small linux distro designed to run kodi. It is well optimised for that task. It has hardware video acceleration, nfs (nfs is built in to kodi actually). I simply suggested running it on a usb drive to chack that your hardware will do 7.1 audio in linux. If it does, it should work on ubuntu too.

I am not sure what you are trying to achieve here. Why the emphasis on security? Most people use a HTPC within their own private LAN and security is not usually a major consideration. Virtualisation seems an unnecessary complication. I am a believer in KISS.

You might like to know that kodi can run as a frontend to mythtv. I have a mythtv backend machine in a cupboard, and four small kodi machines running kodi as frontends. I prefer kodi because most of the use is playing ripped DVD/Bluray material rather than recorded TV, and kodi is so much nicer than mythfrontend for that (IMHO). Kodi also has a huge number of addons, including youtube, vimeo, netflix.

Happy to help more if I can.

Regards, Nick.
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
I am not sure what you are trying to achieve here. Why the emphasis on security? Most people use a HTPC within their own private LAN and security is not usually a major consideration. Virtualisation seems an unnecessary complication. I am a believer in KISS.
While a valid viewpoint, it is not a universal viewpoint. Depends on the use model. I suppose I can shed some light on it so at least my intended goals are clear.

Eventually I hope to run a secure server on the Internet and access it for remote playback through MythTV or Kodi or whatever is required. I want to share it with relatives and friends and that means I have to learn basically everything there is to know about securing a server for casual use. I also want remote access routed via a high-performance OTF transcoding proxy to insulate it from direct attack and keep the bandwidth manageable. Basically I want Xfinity-style remote access to all my media without having to rely on anything but open source software, mostly obsolete hardware, and a reasonable data link speed. Why? Primarily because I am bored and this stuff is interesting to me, but also because I would rather do it all myself and understand what is involved to keep it running than just pay a subscription fee and spend months on hold when it crashes, or when I am overbilled for something I did not intentionally subscribe to.

Security emphasis is combination learning experience and future-proofing my skillset. Never done a secured system install. Never even did a Linux/posix install until a couple of years ago. I suppose that knowing the difference between a file allocation table and a password list and a disc quota is a prerequisite to any future IT-related position I may be interested in, and my current situation does not afford me any such learning opportunities anywhere but in my home. I am wandering far out of my specialization (such as it is).

Also, security is in the news with revelations of multi-state-sponsored spying on private citizens via advanced firmware infiltration of hard disks, USB sticks, BIOS, phone, boot sector etc. and I guess I am just not as sanguine about the panopticon as some. The current tech situation literally frightens me when I learn that the microphone and camera and GPS on my portable phone can be activated at any time by an appropriately skilled attacker if the battery is in.

To me the whole situation is like being a sheep in a flock surrounded by hungry wolves. Safety in numbers only works if A) you happen to be solidly hidden from view by row upon row of sacrificial lambs and B) the wolf population is under control. These days attackers can single us out at will with no problem and the number of threats is multiplying daily. I would rather trade in my wool for porcupine spines than just sit idly by grazing and waiting to be served for lunch.

Figured I would get ahead of the curve and see if I can learn how to secure a system from the ground up to the point where I can at least possibly detect if I have been hacked. I can access all the applications I need to do this for free with open source Linux tools. Only investment is my time.

Secure log-in and virtualized sandboxing of the Internet browser is a minimum level of security for in-home server/HTPC under the assumption that my router firewall is no defense against a router or wireless hack that is known to exist for many consumer access points or commercial routers, and could conceivably be created in days by people way smarter than me, if it does not exist already for my hardware. Separating the server from the HTPC is simply a matter of disconnecting the server HDMI from the Onkyo receiver. The home network has to be Internet capable for streaming so no matter what I do the server is exposed. I figure I should at least understand how to add some form of firewall that will protect my server data. Running NFS with root access is a really bad idea and I still have no clue how to do it any other way.

The most disturbing part of the recent revelations is that for every state-sponsored attack on a target, there are thousands of wannabe hackers and script kiddies just waiting for an opportunity to wipe my server or turn it into a spambot and now they have a somewhat comprehensive blueprint of how to do it courtesy of the US NSA. Plain fact of the matter is this tech is vulnerable right down to the microcontrollers and if we do nothing at all beyond antivirus scans we are all sitting ducks waiting for a shotgun blast whenever someone with evil intent takes an interest in us.

I already lost two CRT monitors to viruses that scrambled the video sync signals in the early 2000s and burned them out plus had to reinstall Windows every year for ten years due to rootkits and registry corruption until I finally stopped using MS entirely. If I can run Netflix and Amazon from Kodi that is great but as far as I know, current version of Flash is required for Xfinity and Adobe stopped supporting Flash on Linux years ago. Virtualization of Windows is only option for Flash that I know of unless I multi-boot and then I have to do the whole Windows antivirus thing that will cost me more money and grind my Core2 HTPC to a standstill. Rather just re-install a virtualized image if it gets corrupted and avoid all the reboots to watch Xfinity.

Ubuntu install is the first OS I have been able to keep running for years on end with only a reboot when I upgrade the kernel. I like it.

Not looking forward to waking up to a blank server after investing all this time transferring my discs onto it. RAID is only a first step. Backup is impossible with the data size I am using so I am also using script to automatically lock down data directories with access control permissions that require manual root commands to alter anything at all, just in case I fall asleep on the delete key some evening. Disabling Unity lens ad/spyware, browser plugins to remove tracking cookies and LSOs and disable Javascript until I manually let a site run it, WOT, OpenDNS etc. are all good ways to secure a system but ultimately such bandaids may be worthless if the system is not secure installation by design too.

Some of my source discs are already unrecoverably damaged plus lots of analog recordings that I digitized over a period of years including vinyl, VHS, cassette, and reel to reel, some that is now unplayable and the playback devices failed and trashed. I have also lost some material that I created myself when discs crashed or got lost. If I want to keep my data in perpetuity I am going to have to defend it.

I guess I am just the kind of person who reflexively cringes inside when informed that multiple national governments plus untold hackers have the tools to walk in through my router and pull my data any time they want to. I have some brains and some time and wasting it on Linux security has at least the potential to secure me an IT job in the future if nothing else plus the frustration is a great cure for boredom.;)

Now that my system is running I want to learn how to drive it properly, that is all. Not planning on having a secure server as my home theater PC indefinitely, rather hoping some day to have very simple setup that I can re-image any time off whole disc backup file from a separate secure server, but as long as my file server, HTPC, Internet browser, and main LCD display all connect directly to my Onkyo receiver, I pretty much have no choice but to integrate it all in one.

I know I am overthinking all this and it is doomed to fail at least once but I would rather try and fail than never try at all. If I gave up easily I would have quit at GPT on legacy BIOS and hardware video decoding. The learning curve on those two was painful enough to deter any less persistent person. Doing it all on a shoestring is sort of my Slack solution to boredom.

You might like to know that kodi can run as a frontend to mythtv. I have a mythtv backend machine in a cupboard, and four small kodi machines running kodi as frontends. I prefer kodi because most of the use is playing ripped DVD/Bluray material rather than recorded TV, and kodi is so much nicer than mythfrontend for that (IMHO). Kodi also has a huge number of addons, including youtube, vimeo, netflix.

Happy to help more if I can.

Regards, Nick.
Thanks for that info and offer of help. I just hope you never regret that offer!

So is the Kodi frontend going to directly access the MythTV MySQL database, or is it going to run through a web browser interface instead? Is it capable of running the recording scheduler etc? What native MythTV functionality is lost in Kodi?

Better yet, is there a link describing this capability? (on Kodi web site of course, isn't it?)

Gotta run, thanks for the info and I will get back to you once I progress past the current roadblock (backing up/migrating MythTV database on old server drives to latest Ubuntu LTS backend).:)

Regarding 7.1 audio it seems the only way is through Kodi so I will definitely be exploring that, and thanks again for the info.
 

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You have far too much time on your hands LOL. I do appreciate your concerns but I am not sure I care enough to go to those lengths! Anyway, those discussions are OT your post, so lets move on.

Re kodi/mythtv, the access to the backend is done via the mythtv services api https://www.mythtv.org/wiki/Services_API . The pvr.mythtv addon is developed by janbar and the main thread on it is http://forum.kodi.tv/showthread.php?tid=198833 (I am nickr there.) Background: the previous kodi frontend pvr.cmyth.mythtv used a library called cmyth to access the database directly, but the library got old and unreliable as myth changed, so janbar re-wrote it using the services api.

The scheduling is not as good as with mythfrontend, but is usable. I tend to use mythweb anyway.

By the way, I wouldn't mention sharing your recordings with friends/family on any mythtv mailing lists, they regard that as unacceptable discussion because it breaches copyright. They are very hot on that, don't even post a log playing some obviously pirated file (eg with a SCENE name in the filename). Kodi, less anal about that, but still have policies.

7.1 passthrough audio should work in mythtv too. In fact I think it had it before xbmc (as it was then called). However I prefer kodi overall as (IMHO) it has a much nicer interface, better metadata support, and better access to addons.

Regarding your database problems, do I take it that you have a mythtv database created by a version of mysql that you no longer have? You need to do a backup to text file and restore? Next time I guess you will backup your database more regularly! I assume you know this page? https://www.mythtv.org/wiki/Database_Backup_and_Restore

I have ubuntu 12.04 on my server with mysql-server-5.5.40-0ubuntu0.12.04.1. If I can assist let me know.
 

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I forgot to comment on Netflix/Amazon

I don't have access to Amazon so cannot comment. I believe there is an addon, but don't quote me.

However there is certainly a netflix addon, but it launches google chrome to access netflix. It does work on linux though, I have it working on precise, no doubt later versions will work too.
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
You have far too much time on your hands LOL. I do appreciate your concerns but I am not sure I care enough to go to those lengths!
Not exactly too much time but more succinctly, nothing else to occupy what time I have. I do not really care that much either. The chances of a relative babe in the woods like me staving off a concerted attack on my server with my raw intelligence:rolleyes: are probably far less than being struck by lightning, winning the lottery, and taking a ride in outer space all on the same day. Still, I would like to at least understand and participate in securing a server just to have the insights that would bring and any marginal benefits in security I might be able to implement might be just enough to prevent that one lethal hack from ever occurring.:)

Re kodi/mythtv, the access to the backend is done via the mythtv services api https://www.mythtv.org/wiki/Services_API . The pvr.mythtv addon is developed by janbar and the main thread on it is http://forum.kodi.tv/showthread.php?tid=198833 (I am nickr there.) Background: the previous kodi frontend pvr.cmyth.mythtv used a library called cmyth to access the database directly, but the library got old and unreliable as myth changed, so janbar re-wrote it using the services api.

The scheduling is not as good as with mythfrontend, but is usable. I tend to use mythweb anyway.
Thanks for that, I will definitely check it out. Primary reason for not going straight to Kodi was pre-existing database of recordings. If Kodi will handle the interface then the only obstacle is installing it so that is a big green light to me to move forward with it. Thanks!

By the way, I wouldn't mention sharing your recordings with friends/family on any mythtv mailing lists, they regard that as unacceptable discussion because it breaches copyright. They are very hot on that, don't even post a log playing some obviously pirated file (eg with a SCENE name in the filename). Kodi, less anal about that, but still have policies.
Actually by 'share it' what I meant was giving friends and family access to the storage space and OTF transcoding/streaming capability, not the data. It will be run like any other server, with each user having a disc quota, email account, ftp, etc. etc. etc.

Sorry, re-reading 'it' I can see I was not clear on that aspect. Basically it will be sort of like web hosting, except I am not planning on running a web server, just media server plus email. Web server is too complicated for me to even contemplate until I understand the basics of locking down the system. Not a database type of person, not yet anyway.

There are many musicians in the family and friends network plus I have been doing live AV recordings of bar gigs and parties and holiday gatherings etc. Storage will be partitioned by user and any playback of recordings via remote access would be by the person who stored/owns the recording.

The whole point of this exercise is to learn how to do it right and that includes protecting material from illicit use as well as destruction or theft. Eventually I would also like to learn how to incorporate some form of VPN or streaming encryption and PGP etc. for mail and documents so that all communication with the server is inaccessible to sniffers on the network nodes it traverses too.

Regarding DVD and BluRay playback, ebooks, DMCA etc., since no open source tools I am aware of incorporate a decoder license, the whole question of fair use and personal use on Linux is a big black box to me. Not sure but it seems to me that the whole concept of open source sort of negates any possibility of compliance with DMCA by design and that leads to one vital question.

Is it legal to force someone to pay a use fee for a proprietary software/hardware media player in order to access media they already own playback rights to? Is it legal to force someone to pay a use fee for proprietary glasses to read encrypted parchment they own reading rights to?

The whole concept is so bizarre and alien to me, the notion that I could be required to pay a use fee to access a library that I already own simply to attempt (not succeed in) preventing someone else from pirating the material. To date no one has challenged playback on open source tools (that I know of anyway) and I suspect the reason no such challenge has arisen is that it would be an 'emperor has no clothes' moment where the whole DMCA is called into legal question on constitutional grounds as prior restraint, restraint of trade, monopoly, censorship, conspiracy etc. in the largest shake-down of consumers ever that never had a prayer of accomplishing its actual stated goals.

I have no idea and until there is a ruling at the Supreme Court I will not know and cannot know because the whole concept is so bizarrre that even understanding the legal, moral, ethical, constitutional or whatever background is beyond someone like me let alone attempting to come to any conclusions on the ultimate rights and responsibilities of a consumer. Given the recent rulings that corporations are people and money is speech it seems to me that the Supreme Court has lost its collective mind or been bought by the super rich and the constitution itself is under attack.

The only thing I can state conclusively is that in a fair world it seems obvious to me on the face of things that I cannot be legally forced to pay an ongoing license fee for access to material that I already own the rights to, even if that means decoding/decrypting it with unlicensed tools. Since the whole point of law is fairness it seems I have the right to play back my media on any device that is capable of playing it, period, and I also have the right to make a backup copy in case the original media fails since I am purchasing rights to the program, not the media.

Any other interpretation seems to me a surreal modern re-invention of serfdom that is clearly unconstitutional.

Anyway, as you said, this is off topic.

7.1 passthrough audio should work in mythtv too. In fact I think it had it before xbmc (as it was then called). However I prefer kodi overall as (IMHO) it has a much nicer interface, better metadata support, and better access to addons.
I did notice that MythTV is unintuitive in most aspects. I really like the scheduling capability though.

Regarding your database problems, do I take it that you have a mythtv database created by a version of mysql that you no longer have? You need to do a backup to text file and restore? Next time I guess you will backup your database more regularly! I assume you know this page? https://www.mythtv.org/wiki/Database_Backup_and_Restore

I have ubuntu 12.04 on my server with mysql-server-5.5.40-0ubuntu0.12.04.1. If I can assist let me know.
I was running 12.04 also but due to failure of a RAID drive I lost the redundancy. At that point I decided to upgrade the capacity and re-installed to a new larger RAID with 2 redundant drives. In the process I installed 14.04 on GPT also, and re-vamped the partitioning to make all 6 drives bootable so I could have backup copy of the OS plus a few partitions to experiment with or upgrade on without destroying the existing (presumably functional) OS. Eventually one or more of those partitions may have virtual image to boot other copy of Ubuntu (for the browser sandbox) and/or Windows (for access to Xfinity).

I tried several times to backup the database but somehow not sure it worked properly. Then I got busy on the home theater install including swapping out the drives, and the old drives have been sitting fallow. They are currently in another system that is booting OK on 12.04 but the RAID is not assembled and the original OS with the MySQL is just sitting there doing nothing. Eventually...
 

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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
I forgot to comment on Netflix/Amazon

I don't have access to Amazon so cannot comment. I believe there is an addon, but don't quote me.

However there is certainly a netflix addon, but it launches google chrome to access netflix. It does work on linux though, I have it working on precise, no doubt later versions will work too.
OK great, if Chrome can handle the DRM then maybe I do not need Windows at all.
 

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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
...Re kodi/mythtv, the access to...

...7.1 passthrough audio should work in mythtv too.
Oh yes, almost forgot...

One of the purposes of the server is to be a digital audio (with maybe some minimal video) workstation. I am interested in running whatever tools it takes to make that happen on the server, including some live capture and midi. 7.1 mixing is possible with the sound card so I am hoping to get that working with ASIO, but so far I have had no luck figuring out how to use Jack. I am suspecting pulseaudio conflicts in some basic way.

I have the e-mu 1212m sound card. For some reason I cannot get the audio in to work now that the OS is upgraded. Some problem in the driver maybe. I can see indicators flicking in both the pulseaudio interface and the Audacious input meter, but no sound comes through anywhere.

I tried a few mixer applications but nothing seemed to unmute the input.

So in addition to the difficulty of figuring out Jack now I have to debug the sound card. It worked fine before but now I have HDMI audio on the graphics. Maybe that is causing some sort of conflict.:confused:

So do you have any idea about the studio tools, which OS to choose, etc.? This is another possible consideration to me, if I have to boot the OS that runs all the hardware properly I may have to virtualize things like MythTV or Kodi etc.

At this point my boot OS is more a proof of concept on the partitioning than anything else. Ubuntu makes it easy to get the graphics running well with hardware decoding and it is more Windowsy-friendly than some others, but what I really need is the platform with the best hardware support.

How about installing Kodi on Ubuntu and running the 10-foot interface on the TV screen like I do with Myth? Does that work OK, or would there be some reason I have to use a custom OS for Kodi?

If I have to remove pulseaudio from the equation, what is a good starting point? Which OS gets me closest to a machine that will handle all this without too many driver issues? I know that is sort of ridiculous to ask, but if you have any insights I would appreciate them. I have heard that it might be better to build an Arch system than to start by ripping pulseaudio out of Ubuntu. Seems to me it should be simple enough to just disable it if the proper hooks are in place at the OS level. Pulseaudio is not even necessary for sound on Linux per my understanding (such as it is...).

I hope at least the TV tuner is still working. The scheduling with OTA programming here worked very well, except occasionally the guide was off a little on times so I had to add some margin. Just debugged an antenna problem and reception is back strong again.
 

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For audio workstation you are asking the wrong guy, but one distro that springs to mind is ubuntu studio.

Kodi is a 10 foot interface in the same mould as mythfrontend. Entirely remote driven if you want, also a number of great android and ios remotes.

If you want a combined backend/frontend machine and if you want to avoid pulseaudio at all, I would install mythbuntu 14.04. That will give you your backend. You don't have to install the frontend. Activate mythbuntu repo ppa to get latest updates to mythbackend.

Then install kodi from the team-kodi ppa. Kodi is well supported on ubuntu, it is the only distro they actually build packages for. Set it to boot to kodi.

However I would urge a separate backend and frontend. The backend should be stable and contain all your media (whether recorded, ripped from your DVDs/Blurays or - dare I say it - downloaded). You want it to run and run and run. No experimental software. It resides out of the lounge as it may be noisy and hot.

Your frontend is a small box that looks OK next to the TV, or fits behind it. Current pick of the crop is a Acer Chromebox http://kodi.wiki/view/Chromebox - cheap and very capable. If the new version of kodi or mythfrontend is a failure, you can simply re-image it in 5 minutes and configure it in another 10.
 
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