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Success with MythTV

Filed in: projects, tech, Mon, Jan 8 2007 00:14 PT

Well, it only took me several years to do it, but I finally have a MythTV setup I’m proud of. I have my Comcast set-top box connected via FireWire, as well as my NTSC capture card, and I can connect from any machine on my network, including my MacBook Pro over Wi-Fi, and watch either stream, or both using picture-in-picture.

I even managed to shoehorn a copy of Xubuntu’s latest daily build onto a 2GB CF card, married to a CF-IDE adapter, so my Vaio with the 700MHz Pentium III and 192MB of RAM can join the party — very, very quietly. It was more of an ordeal than I think most people would be comfortable with, and I still have to get the WPA supplicant running, but I was happy to find that there was still enough computing power to run the MythTV front end. And now I don’t have to buy an alarm clock, or a TV for the bedroom. Instead, I have a nice, small, silent machine that can access all of the media in the house. Woot!

At some point, I may go into detail on how this all came together, but it took both the regular and alternate Xubuntu install discs, KnoppMyth, MythFrontend for OS X, MythTV Player for Windows, Parallels virtualization software, GRUB, dd, obscure FireWire drivers, two 3.5″ to 2.5″ IDE adapters, and the better part of two weekends to finally come together. What it didn’t require was any hardware I didn’t already have in my possession, which is a wonderful vindication of my geek-packrat cred.

4 responses to “Success with MythTV”

  1. Tarry says:


    What exactly did you do with Parallels to achieve this? I’m too dying to set my own MythTV but I need time and some apparatus which I am in a process of acquiring.

  2. Matt says:

    I used Parallels to test live CDs for compatibility with my backend setup. One thing that frustrates me about MythTV is the server versioning stuff: introduce an old frontend to a new backend, and all hell breaks loose. What I found was that KnoppMyth and MythDora both ran fast enough on my MacBook Pro that I didn’t drop frames, even though the video wasn’t using hardware acceleration. That was sweet. Having virtualization available to me made it that much easier to sample what was out there, profile the footprints of the smaller systems, and pick the right setup.

    If I had my USB CF reader, which appears to have dematerialized, I would have imaged the 2GB card I’m using in the Vaio via Parallels or QEMU. I ended up having to do a lot of magic with the command line and the case on my server open in order to fit the Xubuntu “feisty” build on it. Bootable, removable media good. (My Tablet PC doesn’t have a built-in CD-ROM either, but at least when it comes time for me to wipe it and install Linux, as happens with all of my machines, Toshiba made it so you can boot from the SD slot or via PXE, so at least I’ll have options.)

    My only real complaint is that neither Parallels nor VMWare support FireWire, which meant I couldn’t test things out with my STB until after I had settled it into its new location, in the back room. Fortunately, after some futzing, it came around, too. I watched SportsCenter in the shower this morning. 🙂

  3. mike says:

    Which firewire chipset (or which card specifically) and STB are you running? And what display do you have in your shower?

  4. blue4j says:

    yes, 192 MB. 7xx mhz. I feel your pain.

    Mine currently has Fedora Core 5 which was a painful install (probably should have taken notes–but in hindsight is way too slow and runs the fan too much.)

    I actually auditioned the Xubuntu ISO on my MacBook just tonight thanks to Parallels. Is that a nice distro for vaio? (Last pleasant one I loaded was red hat. Xubuntu looks good.)

    So is it tough to load Xubuntu onto the vaio? — as I recall I couldn’t use the cd method with FC5 so I pulled ISOs (or did I expand them) from a USB external drive. I think I forgot the more painful details. i just remember it took all night. any advice?

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