[mythtv-users] Hardware and software pre-building advice

Michael T. Dean mtdean at thirdcontact.com
Tue Sep 7 13:46:46 EDT 2004

On 09/06/2004 01:31 PM, Rasmus K. Brosbøl wrote:

>I plan on using a single machine with this configuration:
>AMD XP2000
>512 Mb ram
>GeForce2 MX 400 (incl. TV-out)
>I want PIP working, but do not particularily care about radio. So the 
>question is if I should go for one PVR-350 and a 250, or should I 
>choose two 250s instead? Can the mpeg2 decoder on the 350 be used while 
>PIP is turned on, or will it decode using software? What if PIP is not 
>turned on?
PIP with ivtv is an off and on thing.  Right now, I think it's off with 
CK's latest patches, but I don't know since I'm not using TV out on my 
350 (the disadvantages outweighed the one advantage--a slight 
improvement in picture quality).  The 350 has no OpenGL support, no X 
Video support, and using a video card instead, I was able to set 
overscan to give me 1/2" more picture on each edge than I got with 
either the satellite receiver or the PVR-350's TV out (which both cut 
off too much image).

>If PIP does not work with the 350's decoder, is there any reason 
>(besides CPU usage) not just to buy two 250s?
That's what I would do if I could do it again.  I'm using my 350 as a 250.

>Can I run MythTV in the background somehow, so I can use the computer 
>for other tasks while it is outputting to the TV. Can it be run on a 
>second X server, or a second screen? Will the remote control work even 
>if MythTV is running in the background, and someone is using the 
>keyboard/mouse for something else? 
At this point, you get into the whole "X Windows is designed so each X 
Server requires its own display"--video, mouse, keyboard--thing.  You 
can work around these issues, but is it really worth it?  Considering 
the cost of computers today, the amount of time you'll save just setting 
up two independent systems is probably significantly more valuable than 
the money you'll spend on the second system.  I spent $180 on the 
case/MB/Athlon XP 2000+/512MB RAM/GF4MX440 I'm using for Myth, $170 on a 
PVR-350, $90 on a PVR-250, $80 on a 160GB HDD, and $80 on a 200GB HDD.  
Therefore, the expensive parts were those that I needed to make a 
computer into a Myth box (tuner cards and big HDD's).  I haven't spent 
more than $250 on a computer in 3 years (and average less than $200), 
so, IMHO, the days of trying to get a single system to do everything so 
I don't have to spend the money on a second system are over (which is 
why I have 7 computers, but then again, I'm crazy that way).  True, in 
some parts of the world the prices may not be so low; nevertheless, I 
recommend considering the time-cost of  trying to do it all on one box.

And, as a final point, it's always nice to be able to pound on my 
computers without having to worry whether the work I'm doing will cause 
an I/O wait situation that results in lost frames (=stuttering) or (in 
extreme circumstances) lockups on my Myth machine when ivtv can't write 
the data.

>Can all "normal" features of MythTV be accessed using the remote?
Depends on how many buttons you have on your remote. ;)

>Turning on PIP, changing channels, volume, DVD menu navigation,
Definitely available

>mame games
Can be started, although, depending on the game, you may have varying 
results trying to use the remote for the games.

>or is the keyboard/mouse required in some situations?
Nice to have, but never required.

>What support is there for launcing external programs, like a browser or 
>mail client?
Can be done by adding items to the Myth menus or by using LIRC's 
irexec.  For the external applications, you would probably want a 

> If watching TV, can I decide to launch a browser (with the 
>remote) and then use the remote as a mouse to control the browser, shut 
>down the browser, and have MythTV pop back into view and continue where 
>it left off?
Some remotes (such as the ATI Remote Wonder) can operate as a mouse 
using lircmd (LIRC Mouse Daemon).  However, when doing so, you are not 
able to use the big directional cursor at the top of the remote as 
buttons (i.e. left/right/up/down) because once a mouse, always a mouse.  
I wanted the four extra buttons, so I'm not using it as a mouse.  It's 
probably easier/more efficient to get a wireless mouse or trackball to 
use when browsing.

Otherwise, the answer is yes.  It works great for a friend for whom I 
built a Myth box because he has a projector with a 12 foot screen.  On 
my 27" TV, I have to make the fonts pretty huge to read the words.  I've 
found it easier to walk into the other room and use my computer with 
monitor (because 90% of the benefit of web browsing is the ability to 
fit a lot of information on screen at once).

>Can this be done using the TV-out on the 350, or will I 
>have to use the GForce?
Can be done, but since the PVR-350's framebuffer was designed to operate 
as an OSD--not as a video card--it has its drawbacks.  Also, note that 
nVidia is including some functionality (overscan among others) in their 
proprietary drivers that only work with GF4 and above.

>I have been running Linux for many years, so I am not scared off by a 
>bunch of configuration files.
Good.  :)

> I realize that what I'm asking for is not 
>going to run out of the box, but is it at all possible to do the above?
Nothing's impossible.  Only you can decide which parts are worthwhile to 

>I want to use MythTV full time and not have to switch back and forth 
>from other devices, prefferably not even from time to time. Is this too 
>much to hope for?
That's why I have a dedicated Myth box.  I just sit down and use it (and 
it works for me while I'm not using it by recording the shows that are 
on TV).



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