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 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 pvr using linux and mythtv may 19 2004 jeffrey perry jeffperry 2003@yahoo com

Building a PVR Using Linux and MythTV

May 19, 2004

Jeffrey Perry

Boston Linux Users Group

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