MythTV and KnoppMyth progress

TV: here’s a quick update on my PVR box progress. I have a very extensive /etc/LOG which I should probably just publish as-is, really, rather than trying to make it legible ;)

Anyway, the hardware arrived last month, but the main VIA EPIA ME6000 board was non-functional — it could never get as far as powering up the CRT for the BIOS self-test. So it was RMA’d back to, and they sent out a replacement, which arrived a couple of weeks ago.

I finally got to checking this out the weekend before last, and hey presto, it powered up nicely. There followed a whole week of busy nights doing a load of cautious hardware hooking-up, not-so-cautious KnoppMyth installation, and thoroughly non-cautious hacking crazily at the desired enclosure with a hacksaw (because I was too cheap to buy a Dremel).

Things got a little hairy with respect to CPU temperatures, but some looking at specs (the VIA Eden CPU can deal with up to 90 degrees C!), and repurposing of a bin-bound case fan together with some soldering and snipping, has that under control.

Eventually, we’re now at the stage where it can:

  • watch live TV in perfect realtime, pause, rewind, timeshift, ffwd, etc. (the PVR-350 output is good)
  • record our desired shows (bloody Antiques Roadshow! argh), according to the TV schedule
  • play mp3s
  • be ssh’able and sftp’able via a wifi USB dongle
  • expose its schedule and allow recording via MythWeb
  • expose its full desktop UI via x11vnc

and it looks good doing it, too. Credit goes to the MythTV guys for a fantastic job on their project, especially with its well-polished UI.

In addition, I have to plug KnoppMyth heavily. They’re dealing with an awful situation with hardware compatibility where bleeding edge features like MPEG2 decoding and TV out are concerned, and doing a great job — there’s been several occasions where I’ve been staring down the barrel of a daunting patch/rebuild/test cycle, and then find out that KnoppMyth includes that component built-in for free.

But — on the other hand — no credit to the hardware vendors. As I link-blogged yesterday, VIA is doing the classic ‘throw it over the wall’ trick with respect to their linux support — video drivers are written and deposited on their website, with scant documentation and virtually no support.

That’s bad enough, but even worse is the situation with Hauppauge’s PVR-250 and PVR-350 TV encoder/decoder cards. I realised soon into the setup process that other options for these should have been considered — Hauppauge have done a great job at confusing the issue for driver developers, as far as I can see. Here’s an example. When you buy a ‘WinTV PVR-350’ card, you may get the same box with the same manuals etc., but including these bonuses under the covers:

  • one of seemingly about 5 different tuner chips, which you’ll need to edit /etc/modules.conf for;
  • one of about 3 different remote controls with differing output codes;
  • a good chance you’ll have to enter two mysterious ioctls to fix the colour registers, because recent PVR-350 models have changed these somehow and everything shows up as purple-on-green through its TV-Out.

It’s absurd. The results are threads like this and a truly daunting setup procedure, which (of course) everyone blames on the software (and Linux itself).

Anyway — how am I doing vs. Brendan‘s progress? ;)

  • pro: my X display sizes are good
  • pro: no need to switch audio outputs
  • pro: I’m not using a separate cable box, so no need to hack up something IR to switch channels for me
  • con: I can’t yet watch AVIs or other video files, which I think he has working.

More on the latter when I eventually solve it. (it’s tricky. I suspect I’ll need to run two X servers with two TV-Outs to do this acceptably, and that’s uncharted waters.)

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