[mythtv-users] Time for the big upgrade. Need some advice!

Brett Kosinski fancypantalons at gmail.com
Sat Oct 11 21:21:17 UTC 2008

> Hardware:
> I need two IR blasters: I currently run analog cable with two PVR150's.
> Just upgraded (mostly by force) to digital cable and now I have a cable
> box. When I get it working I will get a second. My PVRs didn't come with
> the blasters. I see wikis and such talking about Microsoft media center
> remotes but I don't see much for sale. What should I get (see software
> below)...

Well, my setup uses a pair of serial port IR blasters that I bought
from the guy who runs irblaster.info.  The downside is this requires a
serial port expansion card... 'course, assuming you have a spare PCI
slot available (I planned ahead and bought a board with a lot of
slots), a 2-port card is something like $20.

The only other gotcha, here, is that lirc requires some hackery.  Last
I'd looked into this (admittedly two years ago), a given instance of
the lirc blaster driver module could only handle a single serial port,
and since the kernel doesn't let you load two modules with the same
name with different settings, one finds oneself in a conundrum.  The
answer is to compile out a regular serial lirc module, then hack the
code to rename the module, then compile it again.  Fortunately the web
is replete with recipes for accomplishing this.

Other than those intricacies, it works great.  I have two Motorola
DCT-2524's driven by serial port blasters, and they never miss a tune.

> Total Media Server: My system is a self contained set top HTPC type of
> system with an AMD1800+ CPU and 380GB of disk. I have music on my laptop
> hard drive, a desktop system, a ton on an external drive, my wife has
> music on her laptop, ipod and external drive. I want to consolidate all
> this.  I'm going to get a 1TB drive and need to decide if I should go
> with a seperate backend server. I don't want to buy another PC so I may
> try to piece one together from parts I have.

Do it if you can (and can afford the electricity of running a separate
piece of hardware (and don't mind maintaining another box)).

Consolidating everything into a single backend server has some very
nice advantages... you can pick a nice, large, possibly ugly, but
well-ventilated case, which is good for hard disk lifetime, not to
mention for expandability.  It lets you put all that noisy, bulky
hardware somewhere where it won't be seen or heard.  And, as you point
out, it keeps everything in one place where it's easily accessible.

That said, it does create a single point of failure.  If you can
afford it, I'd buy two terabyte drives and set up a RAID-1 mirror
('course, that doesn't obviate the need for backups, as a PEBKAC can
still screw you, but it does significantly reduce the chances of
catastrophic disk failure destroying all your data).  Even better, set
up the mirror, and then throw the md device into an LVM volume group,
and splice off storage from there.  Then you can tack on additional
mirrors if you want to expand storage (this is the way my server is
set up... it's basically glorified RAID 10, but lvm provides some
management advantages).

Of course, this all depends on how easy it will be to wire everything
together.  After all, a consolidated backend isn't nearly as nice if
you're forced to stick it right beside the TV.  In my house, I dropped
cable from the livingroom to the basement, and so my backend sits down
there where it's nice and cool while my frontend is under the TV.  And
for the rest of the house, for now, I'm piggybacking on the
pre-existing cat5e.

> Software:
> Mythdora or Mythbuntu?
> I run Ubuntu everywhere else in the house and laptops. I have run Fedora
> for the MythBox for many years. Which is more 1 clickish install for the
> IR blasters? Which one is more likely to upgrade without major
> problems?  I don't have a ton of time available for the install this time.

Well, I can say this much:  I used Fedora for my FE and BE, and I
*seriously* regret it.  In my experience, Ubuntu has been *far* easier
to upgrade and maintain (my own laptop has gone from Feisty -> Gutsy
-> Hardy without incident).  And these days, with Fedora having so
many problems with their servers thanks to that security compromise a
month or so back, I *really* regret it.

Consequently, if I were to do it all over again, I'd go with Ubuntu,
no question about it.

But, as always, these things often come down to personal preference...
myself, I've always been a big Debian fan, and Ubuntu has really won
me over in the last six months, while Fedora continues to be a pain in
my personal backside.  Others I've spoken to say the exact opposite.
So, as always, YMMV.

As an aside, regarding the blasters... odds are, they'll be a pain no
matter what distro you go with. :)

> Who's using a myth server as a media server serving/storing music for a
> group/family of iPod users? What packages are you using to maintain the
> library (folder locations, duplicates, tagging, album covers etc)?

No one here owns iPods.  That said, we do stream our music to work,
and use Ampache for that purpose.  As for management, that's more or
less a manual process for me, with the help of some scripts I've
hacked up here and there.


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