[mythtv-users] Newbee questions prior to getting started

Dewey Smolka dsmolka at gmail.com
Sat Dec 9 18:36:09 UTC 2006

On 12/8/06, Danita Zanre <danita at caledonia.net> wrote:
> Hello - I've been "following" the idea of doing MythTV since I saw a presentation on it at a conference last March.  I'm currently on the fence as to whether I should purchase a new Tivo 3 (I've been holding out on HDTV for awhile, although we have TVs that are HDTV ready), or building a MythTV.
> So first, a bit about my abilities.  I have been using Linux for about 4 years now, and although I'm no great expert, I'm not afraid to compile modules from source, etc.

It sounds like you have more than enough knowledge to get through the
setup. For simplicity's sake, I would look at building your backend as
a dedicated Myth system, or at least setting up Myth on top of a clean
installation. There are a number of guides for setting up a system on
a number of distributions using package repositories, which will take
most of the headache away and not require much in terms of compiling
or wrestling with drivers.

I'm not sure how easy this is on SuSE, but the installation and setup
is now quite easy when using Fedora Core, Ubuntu, or Knoppmyth

> We currently use DishNetwork and have a Tivo 2 (Humax) with a life-time subscription.  [...] I mean, I believe I am correct that I can't use MythTV with my satellite receiver, but I CAN with a cable card from Comcast, for example.  If that's not correct, let me know!

Myth cannot tune directly from a satellite source, but is capable of
recording in SD using the STB from DishNetwork and an analog capture
card (eg PVR-x50). You will, however, need a separate capture device
and STB for each channel you want to record simultaneously. This means
that if you want to record two channels at the same time (or watch one
channel live while another is recording) you will need two STBs and
two capture devices.

For Comcast, a PVR-type card can only tune the analog channels, and
only if Comcast is actually putting out an analog signal on those
channels. In my area of Chicago, Comcast now broadcasts most of their
analog-band channels digitally, meaning you need an STB to get pretty
much anything other than the OTA and public access stations.

CableCard is not supported at the moment, and I don't expect it will
be for the forseeable future.

In either of these cases, you'll still be able to get all channels
that you subscribe to into Myth by using the STB and having Myth
control the STB through serial, firewire, or IR blaster.

In any case, getting HD content into Myth is a bit more complicated.
You won't be able to get any HD content off of your DishNetwork box
(unless that box supports firewire output, and I've never heard that
it does). With Comcast, you should be able to get OTA stations and
possibly a few cable-only stations that Comcast doesn't encrypt either
over firewire (with a compatible STB) or with a QAM-capable capture
card (eg pcHDTV). But it's unlikely you'll get anything you really
want. Don't count on Discovery, HBO, or ESPN in HD for example.

You will, however, be able to record HD programs from OTA channels
with an antenna and an ATSC-capable capture card. I haven't worked
with HD at all so others can give better advice as far as this goes.

> My husband is a fairly light sleeper - our Tivo inside the armoir that houses the TV doesn't seem to bother him, but having my PC on during the night does.  My guess is that we will eventually want a "backend" system in the basement, and then a "frontend" system in our bedroom that can be on only when we wish to watch TV - does that sound right?

Mythtv allows a nearly limitless range of configurations and setups.
It's easiest to start with a combined FE/BE, but expanding to remote
FEs or splitting the BE and FE functions is not very difficult once
you learn how the components all fit together.

Getting a powerful and quiet system together in a small box is a bit
of holy grail around here. Of the three factors, you can pick two.

The way to approach this is to first build a combined FE/BE in a big
enough case that it can hold the necessary capture cards and storage
volumes with big enough fans that it won't sound like a jet engine and
keep your husband awake. The heat comes from the CPU, the video card,
the capture cards, and the HDDs.

Once you have it running well, you can start building FEs that have
minimal HDDs and no capture devices, which means less heat and less
noise in keeping them quiet.

> My understand is that the backend system should be a good quality case with a lot of space for storage and capture cards, etc., but that a frontend could be pretty small - all it really needs as far as hardware goes is a card to put the video out to the TV??

More or less. For an SD FE the requirements are pretty modest. You
could even run it diskless, though that seems like more hassle than I
am willing to go through for not enough benefit. A small drive for the
OS, an nvidia card, and a relatively recent processor is all you
really need for a FE. There are many users who use modded Xboxes as

For HD, the requirements are much stiffer. Recording HD doesn't take
much in the way of processing since the card or firewire essentially
dump the MPEG2 stream to disk. Decoding and displaying HD content,
however, requires a beefy processor and/or tweaking Xvmc to make it
work properly.

You'll likely want to use wired connections between the BE and FEs.
802.11b is not fast enough to support even one FE. You can run a FE on
802.11g but I'm not sure how well it will work if you have more than
one FE trying to use the wireless at the same time.

> Thanks for any advice!  I'll try not to be too annoying with too many newbee questions!

There is a lot of helpful info on the wiki and in the list archives. Good luck.

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