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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
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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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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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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Quote:
Originally Posted by Troubleshooter /forum/post/0


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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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.
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·

Quote:
Originally Posted by Troubleshooter /forum/post/0


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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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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Quote:
Originally Posted by madpuppy /forum/post/0


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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Quote:
Originally Posted by Sprak /forum/post/0


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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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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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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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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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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Quote:
Originally Posted by Retalin /forum/post/0


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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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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Discussion Starter · #17 ·

Quote:
Originally Posted by Retalin /forum/post/0


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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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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Quote:
Originally Posted by wnewell /forum/post/0


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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Quote:
Originally Posted by Traalfaz /forum/post/0


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 /forum/post/0


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 /forum/post/0


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
 
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