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:



Pre Build 1: HTPC Expectations

August 31, 2008

Let’s outline some expectations before jumping in and lay a proper foundation for this home theater PC build.

HTPC Function:

By basic definition, the HTPC is the central hub of a media entertainment system and it should be able to perform a number of tasks such as music and video streaming, PVR functionality, CD/DVD playback, provide on-screen data such as weather conditions, RSS feeds, etc.  Additionally, our HTPC should be able to stream live and recorded television to low cost satellite front-end machines scattered around the home via hardwired Ethernet (which I installed last year throughout our home).

Software Considerations:

I experimented with MythTV briefly three years ago and was impressed by the functionality that it offered.  At that time I didn’t have a spare machine to dedicate to MythTV and my involvement with the software was rather short.  Though that install was short-lived, it made some lasting impressions and desires to create a permanent MythTV box which I now intend to do.  At that time I used the Knoppmyth distro for a fairly painless installation.  Since I’m not familiar with anything outside of Debian based distros I intend on using Knoppmyth again or perhaps Mythbuntu to get a base system up and running.

Hardware Considerations:

DVI / HDMI Output

This system will be connected to a Sony HDTV which accepts 1080p over HDMI, so ideally the HTPC should be 1080p display capable and capable of playing high definition content.  Decoding 1080p will be a big challenge and perhaps won’t even be possible with the hardware I select.  I will explore this more thoroughly later.  The HTPC must have DVI or HDMI video output.  Though the KDS-55A2000 has a VGA input, the display’s resolution is greatly limited when connected via VGA.  Simply put, VGA isn’t an option for me.

IEEE 1394 Firewire

My high def cable box is the Motorola DCT-6200 which has two firewire out ports.  It would be ideal for the HTPC to communicate with the 6200, so the next prerequisite is that the HTPC have a firewire port to interface with the cable box to provide the tuner functionality.

Motorola DCT-6200 Cable Box

Motorola DCT-6200 Cable Box

Gigabit LAN

Gigabit connectivity is desired since my home LAN is already equipped to handle it and it surely can’t hurt when we start streaming video across the LAN.  Since most new motherboards support it these days, it should not be a problem.

Graphics Chipset

The HTPC will be Linux powered, and Nvidia is very well supported with Linux and Mythtv so this is an important requirement for the build. 

Case & Motherboard

Simply put, the case needs to look great and have good build quality.  An HTPC case is a must for my personal taste and I prefer the look of a low profile case.  I’m fully aware of the constraints this will put on the build.  The case design will probably limit my motherboard choices to Micro ATX, which should work out fine in the end assuming I can find one with the prerequisite features above.  I anticipate the case will be the most costly part of this build.