building a pvr using linux and mythtv may 19 2004 jeffrey perry jeffperry 2003@yahoo com
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Building a PVR Using Linux and MythTV May 19, 2004 Jeffrey Perry [email protected] Boston Linux Users Group. Building a Linux PVR w/ MythTV . Introduction Planning Installation Demo Conclusions. What is a PVR?. PVR = Personal Video Recorder

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building a linux pvr w mythtv
Building a Linux PVR w/ MythTV
  • Introduction
  • Planning
  • Installation
  • Demo
  • Conclusions
what is a pvr
What is a PVR?

PVR = Personal Video Recorder

A video recorder which records to the hard disk instead of a tape

Definition varies but most include:

  • Electronic Program guide, pause/ff/rw live and recorded shows
  • Other possible features ... remote viewing, web scheduling, music etc.
  • TiVo is cool, wouldn\'t you like one too?
    • How much does it really cost?
    • Ok, I want to burn DVDs too. How much now?
  • Interesting project
  • Practical - no VCR or DVD player already
commercial pvrs
Commercial PVRs
  • TiVo
  • ReplayTV
  • Others....
tivo how much does it cost
TiVo: How much does it cost?
  • 40 Hours - $149 *
  • 80 Hours - $249 *
  • 140 Hours - $349 *

*= PLUS program listing service fee of

$ 12.95/month or $299 lifetime

PLUS $99 for Home Media Option

tivo home media option
TiVo: Home Media Option
  • Web scheduling
  • Digital photos
  • Digital music
  • Multi-room viewing
replaytv how much does it cost
ReplayTV How Much does it cost?
  • 40 Hours - $150*
  • 80 Hours - $300*
  • 160 Hours - $450*
  • 320 Hours - $800*

*=PLUS program listing service fee of

$ 12.95/month or $299 lifetime

cost of dvd recorders
Cost of DVD Recorders

Q: How much to buy a consumer device which can record TV shows to DVD?

A: Consumer DVD recorders range in price from $200- $500

Consider: PC DVD Writers

Sony 4x for $118( Jan 2004, rebate)

Sony 8x for $160 (now @

enter mythtv features
Enter MythTV: Features
  • Record TV shows, scheduled, instant record
  • Free Program guide - via, others
  • Pause/Fastforward/Rewind Live TV, recordings
  • Store & play music, DVD videos
  • Watch & record at same time
  • Check weather, news, and browse web
  • Play and burn DVDs
  • Skip commercials – auto detect and flag
  • Play SNES & other video games (Xmame)
mythtvarchitecuture strengths
MythTVArchitecuture Strengths
  • Distributed modular design
      • Frontend - the UI you interact with
      • Backend - Tracks schedule, records, streams playback
  • Highly Scalable
    • Multiple tuners
      • Add tuners to machines and share
    • Multiple back ends
      • A single master backend coordinates the rest
  • Open Source
hardware tv tuner tradeoffs
Hardware: TV Tuner Tradeoffs
  • Hardware MPEG chip
    • Faster encode/decode without load on PC
    • Result: Can use slower CPU
  • Tuner only
    • Requires card support video4linux driver (or bttv driver)
    • Requires high speed CPU for encode/decode
    • See: PVR Hardware Guide
hardware hauppauge tuner cards
Hardware: Hauppauge Tuner Cards
  • WinTV PVR250 (~$100)
    • Hardware Encode
  • WinTV PVR350 ($200)
    • Hardware Encode
    • Hardware Decode
    • Radio Tuner
    • Comes with an IR remote
hardware display options
Hardware: Display Options
  • WinTV PVR350 has TV Out
    • Linux ivtv driver needed
      • Still under development
      • Still a bit unstable with occaisional hangs
  • Video card w/ TV Out support
    • This may be the better bet for stability right now.
    • Still need a tuner card (either simple or w/MPEG encode/decode in hardware)
hardware motherboard dvd hard drive
Hardware: Motherboard, DVD, Hard Drive
  • Beware of cheap VIA chipset motherboards. MythTV problems await! (Don\'t panic yet- some workarounds exist which MAY cure it)
  • DVD Writer (optional)
    • Used to install Linux, archive shows
  • Big Hard Drive
    • approx 1G/30 mins @ 480x480 MPEG2
    • better compression possible with lower res or tweaking
hardware device drivers for tv card video
Hardware: Device Drivers for TV Card &Video
  • TV Card
    • Hauppauge WinTV PVR250/350
      • ivtv version 0.1.10pre2 or newer stable version
      • PVR350 only - Patches to X windows (framebuffer coexistance with ivtv framebuffer interaction)
    • Other tuners
      • Video4Linux kernel module
  • Video card w/ TV Out
    • X windows driver for your card
hardware remote controls
Hardware: Remote Controls

Remote control functionality: LIRC package

  • Supports IR and RF remotes including home made receivers
my hardware setup
My Hardware Setup
  • Case: AMS gBox P4 Blue CF-968L ($230, sale)
  • CPU: 1.7Ghz celeron ($65)
  • Motherbrd: Socket478B Chyang Fun CFI-S968L
  • 256 meg RAM ($65)
  • Hauppauge WinTV PVR350 ($200)
  • Sony DVD +-RW writer 4X ($118,rebate)
  • Seagate 200 Gig (about 100 hours) HD ($100,rebate)
  • TOTAL Cost: $778
installation choosing a linux distribution
Installation: Choosing a Linux Distribution
  • Suse 8.1 too many additions & probs reported
  • KnoppMyth R4 is not the easy way out
  • Choose tried and true Redhat 9.0
    • ATRPMs has most of the rest of what you need
    • Apt-get for rpm is your friend
    • Still some kernel packages issues, requires forced loading of some rpms. Getting better.
    • Use Jarrod\'s guide - updated now for Fedora
installation choosing a filesystem
Installation: Choosing a Filesystem
  • File system choice
    • Ext3 (my choice, simple default for now)
    • XFS (some report better perfomance)
    • Generally good idea to increase inode size (default is 4k, 64 meg would be better)
installation overview
Installation Overview
  • Install Redhat
  • Install device driver for tuner (PVR2/350 reqs extract windows driver from cdrom)
  • create mythtv user
  • Install atrpms-kickstart
  • Get latest updates (Apt-get update)
  • Get mythtvsuite and dependencies (apt-get mythtv-suite) - 54 packages in all - not perfect
  • Mythtvsetup
installation overview cont
Installation Overview (Cont.)
  • Mythfilldatabase
  • Start mythbackend
  • Start mythfrontend, visit setup section and config
  • Configure each module - (see docs at
  • (some modules )Additional tweaks outside GUI (example: Installing a new Video for MythVideo)
installation tweaks
Installation tweaks
  • Turn off automount of Cds (mythmusic ripper)
  • Turn off esd or artsd
  • Remove ~mythtv/.kde/Autostart/Autorun.desktop
  • Chkconfig autofs off, apmd off, httpd on (mythweb)
  • Ln -s /dev/scd0 /dev/dvd (MythDVD)
  • Edit channels (~mythtv/<sourcename>/.xmltv & tweaks to associated DB tables)
  • Turn on DMA on HD (hdparm -d 1 /dev/hda)
demonstration mythtv




Games (not setup)

Demonstration MythTV
  • MyhtvSetup
  • Mythfilldatabase
  • MythFrontend Setup
  • TV
  • Video
  • DVD
  • Music
conclusions mythtv rough spots
Conclusions: MythTv Rough spots
  • PVR250/350 record to MPEG2 directly so Commercial cutting must be done manually. Still not perfect. A/V sync is a challenge for MPEG2 w/o having to rencode whole file (takes hours)
  • Integration is not as seamless as it may seem (ex: Remote control of MythVideo requires edits to your lirc config file) [mplayer]
  • Installing videos not ripped from DVD is done outside the GUI by copying, then back to GUI to "scan" for new files
mythtv rough spots cont
MythTV Rough Spots (Cont.)
  • Mythfrontend UI
    • Selecting exit, then yes does not shutdown the machine
    • Icons for recorded state non obvious
  • - MythWeather (simple, easy to use, does it\'s job well :-)
    • A few small bugs
    • Zip code feature is not obvious.
  • MythTV - generally non existent end-user documentation.
conclusion mythtv strengths
Conclusion: MythTv Strengths
  • Recording scheduling flexibility & prioritization
  • Playback features including FF, Pause, Rewind
  • More features than TiVo
  • Excellent modules: MythTv, MythMusic, MythDVD, MythWeather and MythNews
  • Flexible distributed architecture
  • Clever design makes apps appear mostly seamless (xml config files control app integration & gui themes)
conclusion recommendations
Conclusion & Recommendations

Building a reasonably priced full-featured Tivo alternative with more features including DVD writing is possible - the result is very usable and enjoyable but will take some effort

  • Recommendations
    • TV Out: Buy a video card with TV output
    • Tuner: PVR 250/350
    • Redhat 9.0 / Fedora & Jarrod\'s walkthrough
    • DVD Writer, Hard Drive (BIG)
resources start here
Resources - Start Here
  • MythTV
  • IVTV (Hauppauge PVR250/350 Driver)
  • PVR Hardware Guide
  • Jarrods Redhat 9.0 and Fedora Install Guide
resources mythtv
Resources - MythTV
  • Myth TV Main site (download, docs, etc)
  • MythTV Mailing list archives (links to lists at bottom)
  • MythTV forums
  • Windows front-end for MythTV
  • Jarrod\'s MythTV install walkthrough for Fedora, other info
resources lirc ivtv
Resources - LIRC & IVTV
  • LIRC Remote control
  • Ivy Wiki (ivtv community)
  • IVTV Sourceforge page
  • IVTV Development list archives
resources pvr hardware
Resources - PVR Hardware
  • PVR Hardware News
  • PVR Hardware Guide
  • PVR Hardware Install guides for MythTV, others
resources edit cut commercials
Resources - Edit/cut commercials
  • Avidemux
  • Note on running dvdauthor w/ avidemux
  • Gopchop
  • Cinelerra Video Editor
  • MythMkMovie (output not mpeg, requires transcoding)
resources dvd burning
Resources - DVD Burning
  • Dvd-rw-tools & growisofs
  • DVD Author
  • GUI front-end for dvdauthor
  • DVDStyler - GUI front-end for dvdauthor
  • DVD Slideshow
  • Linux Journal artile on DVD authoring
  • Linux Gazette DVD burning howto
  • Cdrecord (limitation on burn size w/o agreeing to license and getting free key)
  • Computer burned DVDs - info on compatibility w/ consumer DVD players
resources misc
Resources - Misc.
  • Libmpeg
  • Transcode
  • Commercial DVD burning package - GearPro for Linux
  • Linux video studio - GUI for editing