Installing MythTV

October 19, 2008

I chose to install Knoppmyth (R5.5) since it’s Debian based and it’s somewhat familiar to me from having messed around with it three years ago.  There’s also a good community forum built around Knoppmyth for support.  Mythbuntu also looks nice and I will probably try it out later when I have more time to see how each distro compares with one another.

Installation on the new system was a breeze but I did run into some minor snags.  The installation was done with the HTPC connected to my Westinghouse 22″ LCD, and subsequent tweaks are being done via VNC on my Window’s box.  Once I feel comfortable with the install, I will reconfigure xorg.conf to play nice with my Sony KDS-55A2000 HDTV @1080p.

A nice feature of the Knoppmyth installer is the remote control script.  During installation, I was prompted to select a remote control to use with Myth, and I choose the Imon-Pad option to match the Moneual’s Imon pad remote.  Without any issues, I was able to use my remote immediately without hassling with recompiling LIRC or config files – nice!

Soundgraph Imon VFD
The VFD wasn’t working out of the box.  A few minutes on the Knoppmyth forum yielded a quick solution.  As root, running this script brought the VFD to life:

/usr/local/bin/vfd_install.sh

When prompted to configure, hit “y”.  A reboot was then required before the VFD would activate.  Note: the large clock mode isn’t compatible with my VFD’s two line display so I had to disable this option under the Appearance > LCD settings within MythTV.

EDIT: The VFD install script has broken the pad function on the Imon remote.  All other buttons function normally, however the pad is no longer responsive.  The “pad” on this remote provides up, down, left and right navigation and is essential for myth menu navigation.  After spending several hours trying to resolve this, I gave up and mapped some other buttons to perform the same function by editing:

/home/mythtv/.lircrc

DVD Playback
DVD’s aren’t working out of the box with my system either.  Xine throws this error at me when trying to play a DVD (both unencrypted and encrypted):

Per Myth’s general settings, the DVD device is set to /dev/dvd which didn’t exist on my system:

Creating a symbolic link fixed the problem allowing me to view a DVD when inserted in the drive:

ln -s /dev/scd0 /dev/dvd

with “scd0” being my optical drive and “/dev/dvd” the location of the DVD device as defined in Myth’s general settings.  However, when rebooting the machine, the symbolic link is lost every time.  I fixed this by modifying (as root):

/etc/udev/rules.d/z25_persistent-cd.rules

The lines that contained the string “SYMLINK+=”cdrom1”  were changed to “SYMLINK+=”cdrom”, and similiarly for SYMLINK+=”cdrw1″SYMLINK+=”dvd1″, and SYMLINK+=”dvdrw1″ – the “1” had to be dropped from each instance.

EDIT: After writing the above, and after a fresh “re-install” (long story), the DVD issue did not manifest itself and the DVD functionality works as expected the second time around.  I have no explanation for the DVD problem on the initial install…

Fix Myth Gallery mount failure messages

When myth starts, I was greeted with the following each time:

“Failed to mount device /dev/sde, showing default myth gallery directory”

This is probably caused by myth trying to mount the empty slots of the USB card reader.  For the meantime, I disabled them by adding the following to the “Ignore Devices” list:

/dev/sdb,/dev/sdc,/dev/sdd,/dev/sde
 
Tweaks

Make Samba autostart on reboot so I can copy files to the HTPC at anytime from a Window’s box.  From a terminal as root:

update-rc.d samba defaults

Connecting from Window’s, the default username and password are both mythtv 

X11VNC  – get it working correctly with Nvidia and install TightVNC on my Window’s box.  I’m using VNC on my Window’s box to control the Myth frontend while I setup and tweak things.  Remember, I don’t have xorg.conf configured yet to communicate with my HDTV, and I don’t have a spare monitor sitting around to use to connect to the HTPC.  The HTPC at this point is a headless box – meaning it does not have a monitor, keyboard, or other peripherals connected to it at this point.  VNC is not practical for video streaming but well suited to navigate the myth frontend menus. There are issues with nvidia, so first edit:

/home/mythtv/.fluxbox

uncomment and alter the following line (change is in red):

[startup] {/usr/bin/x11vnc -nap -wait 50 -noxdamage -passwd fubar -display :0 -forever -o /var/log/x11vnc.log -bg}

Next, turn off OpenGL flipping by right clicking on the Fluxbox desktop & Apps > Tools > nvidia-settings to bring up the settings panel.  Uncheck “Allow Flipping”:

Results: Remote access to the new headless HTPC from Windows:



Assembling the components

October 14, 2008

With all the parts on hand and after a lot measuring, I ordered a Zalman CNPS 7500 AlCu CPU cooler.  This cooler seemed to have the best reviews of anything that I could find that would fit into this case.  Given the low profile nature of the case, my choices were greatly limited.

Assembly went well without any major snags.  I decided to forgo any kind of cable management as I was more concerned about verifying all the components worked correctly in case I had to return something.  I will clean the cables up later once I know everything works properly.

The biggest challenge in assembling the system was figuring out how to hook up the VFD panel since there was no documentation present and the connectors were not clearly marked.  There are four different plugs on the VFD, some obvious like the USB plug, while others weren’t so obvious to me.  Luckily I tracked down the information and wiring schematic on Soundgraph’s website.  It then made perfect sense to connect the case’s power button connector to the VFD panel, and the VFD’s power connector to the motherboard’s power button header.  This allows the computer to be powered on via the remote control – a nice feature!  This left two more connectors on the VFD to deal with – the USB header connector (obvious) and a two pin power connector that draws power from an odd adapter that taps power from the PSU to motherboard’s large 24 pin power connector.

Internal IR receiver Imon connection diagram

Internal IR receiver Imon connection diagram

Though the Zalman cooler fits the case nicely, you loose two DIMM slots for the ram.  You could probably utilize the two front slots, but I think the top of the ram would probably just make contact with the radiator fins on the cooler.  Clearance would be very tight and might cause thermal issues.  I just moved the two sticks of ram to the outer two slots.  Aside from this, there are no other clearance issues with the Abit AN-M2HD board and the Zalman cooler.  The cooler comes with a three pin connector and does not use PWM but instead comes with a rheostat which allows you to dial the fan’s speed up or down depending on your needs.  The cooler also has a gimmicky blue LED.

Here are some pictures of the case with components assembled.  The beast comes to life:

Assembled system and a mess of cables to clean up

Assembled system and a rat's nest of cables to clean up

The Zalman CPU cooler

Zalman CPU cooler

 

Everything works so it’s on to cable management:

Cables better organized to increase airflow and appearance

Cables better organized to increase airflow and appearance.

Cables better organized to increase airflow and appearance

Extra PSU cables are hidden in the unused drive bay located under the optical drive. The Zalman fan control is shown between the PSU and optical drive.

Cables better organized to increase airflow and appearance

I need a short SATA cable for the hard drive but this works for now.

Cable routing turned out to be a huge challenge and took me the better part of a Saturday afternoon.  I was hoping for a little more clearance under the motherboard to hide some cables, but clearance is tight so I routed many of them on the outer edge of the motherboard.  The area located under the optical drive (the second hard drive bay) also conceals the PSU cables, including the large Molex cables.  By default, the case fan is used to exhaust stale air from the interior of the case but I suppose it could be reversed to blow cool air directly to the hard drive.  I may explore that later if thermal issues crop up.

References:

Soundgraph support site