[mythtv-users] Advice on Building a Quiet MythTV Box?

Paul Bender pebender at san.rr.com
Sun Nov 16 21:06:37 UTC 2008

Charles Iliya Krempeaux wrote:
> Hello,
> First, thanks to everyone to responded to my first e-mail:
> http://mythtv.org/pipermail/mythtv-users/2008-November/238792.html
> So given people's comments in there, I'm exploring building a MythTV box myself.
> The first thing I'd like a MythTV box (that I would build) to be, is
> to be quiet.  Completely silent if possible.  Does anyone have any
> advice or experience in doing this?

I hate noise. In fact, I hate it so much that I sleep with ear plugs. My 
suggestion is to separate the backend and frontend functionality into 
two separate computers. The backend can have the hard drives while the 
frontend can be diskless. That is how I have my MythTV system configured.

In addition, separating the backend and frontend isolates the backend 
from frontend graphics driver instabilities caused by proprietary 
drivers from ATI and NVIDIA.

> Is using SSDs (Solid-State Drives) instead of a Hard Drive an option?
> (Anyone have experience using them?)

At this point in time, I believe that you will be better served by 
traditional drivers for recording.

> What about not having any fans?  (Like no CPU fan, no power supply
> fan, no graphics hardware fan, etc?)

One thing to realize is that fanless does not mean quite. I have a an 
VIA EPIA SP8000E diskless frontend with no fans and an AMD+NVIDIA 
diskless frontend with two slowly-rotating 120mm fans. Due to its 
switching power supply and other noisy components, the system with no 
fans makes more noise than the system with the 120mm fans.

If you have the space, I would suggest putting together a system using 
slowly-rotating 120mm fans rather than no fans. Doing so will allow you 
to put together a system that will be much more responsive and that will 
support HDTV playback.

> Does anyone have a list of hardware that is known to work (with Linux
> and MythTV)?  (Such that I could pick parts from the list?)

Sadly, keeping up with the ever-changing motherboards is difficult. As 
all my frontend motherboards are out of production, I cannot help here.

> Also, what considerations are there for video playback?  Is it
> recommended to get a system that can playback certain video formats in
> hardware (rather than in software)?  (Like a hardware MPEG player or
> something?)  And if so, what hardware of this type is known to work
> (with Linux and MythTV)?

I would not bother with hardware decoding. I started with frontend 
hardware that had hardware accelerated MPEG2 decoding (e.g. VIA EPIA 
M6000 and VIA EPIA SP8000E). However, I found that the hardware decoding 
was limiting without making the frontend quieter. It was limiting in two 
ways. First, it did not accelerate non-MPEG2 content. Second, it did not 
accelerate the MythTV GUI or plugins (e.g. MythGallery). As a result, 
while MPEG2 played w3ll once it started, it took a long time to start 
and navigating the the GUI took longer.

Therefore, I would get a decent CPU (I have a AMD Athlon 64 3200+ 
(single core) and it plays HDTV MPEG2 with no problem) and forget 
hardware acceleration.

> Also, what output jacks should I be looking for (in people's
> experience)?  Is RCA (3 plug) output enough?  Or should I go for a
> system that supports SVideo?  Or do I want a system that support HDMI?
>  Or is there some other output jack that I want a system to support?
> (Note... I'm not an expert on output jacks.)

I was not surprised to find that SDTV over VGA has noticeably better 
quality than SDTV over S-Video. I was surprised to find that SDTV over 
DVI-D (and HDMI) has noticeably better quality than SDTV over VGA. Of 
course, with HDTV the difference is even more noticeable.

Therefore, given a choice, I would use DVI-D or HDMI. However, if you 
television does not support DVI-D or HDMI (as is the case with one of my 
televisions), then I would not buy a new television in order to have a 
digital rather than analog video interface.

Additionally, if your receiver supports it, then I would consider 
optical S/PDIF. Depending on the rest of your equipment, eclectically 
coupled audio can result in a hum. While I have not had this problem, I 
have friends that have.

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