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MythTV Revisited

A Second MythTV

Our 2 year old daughter took over the MythTV to watch Barbie and Dora videos constantly (with our help to start them of course) so we had a need for another MythTV box!

This gave me an excuse to upgrade my main PC and hand down the old system to the kids and take a crawling system they were using to turn into another MythTV. I could have added another Myth frontend for the existing Myth backend but since the other machine is so slow, transferring files to/from it slows down the video playback!

My Setup

Here's what I used to build our second media server

  • Knoppmyth R5D1 (R5F27 failed, this was the latest I could get to boot this box)
  • HP Presario 900 Mhz P3
  • 256 MB SDRAM
  • NVidia GeForce 6200 AGP graphics card with composite TV out
  • 500GB IDE hard drive (replacing the ancient 20GB drive)
  • Channel Vision E4200 four channel RF modulator (optional, for home distribution)
  • gigabit network PCI card (optional, you can use slower cards)

This time around installing KnoppMyth was much more difficult than I remembered. So I took notes to make it easier for myself in case I needed to do it again later and for your benefit!

Obstacle #1: I was excited to try out the latest KnoppMyth to see what they might have fixed or improved since the R5B7. Unfortunately, R5F27 failed to boot, complaining about a pre-2000 BIOS and other things like IRQ 15. This was the same for all previous versions until I got to R5D1.

Obstacle #2: This large drive was not bootable when KnoppMyth finished installing. I'm pretty sure it was due to the old BIOS and I remembered having a similar issue last time. A work around is to use a Mandrake 10 install CD, let it install with basic options, then boot the KnoppMyth disk and select manual configuration and manually select the /dev/hda1 partition and do not allow it to recreate the partitions. When prompted tell it to install the boot record into the MBR.

Obstacle #3: The large partition was not mounted to /myth doing it this way so I had to do that manually and copy the exiting /myth directory to the large partition (/dev/hda6).

mkdir mythtv2
mount dev/hda6 /myth2
cp -r -preserve /myth /myth2
umount /myth2
mount /dev/hda6 /myth

Edit /etc/fstab to make it mount upon each reboot. (See www.skullbox.net, also helpful for installing new drives.)

Obstacle #4: Installing the vnc server was more difficult than I remembered. Trying apt-get update and apt-get install x11vnc resulted in it trying to remove mythtv! So instead I downloaded the x11vnc source and compiled it myself. Download x11vnc from sourceforge

tar xfz x11vnc-0.9.3.tar.gz
make install

Obstacle #5: Getting x11vnc to start automatically after reboot. You need to add a line to /etc/gdm/PreSession/Default and since the x11vnc path was now different on this machine because of the different way I had to install it, it took me a while to figure out why it was not starting. Add this line afther PATH, replacing xxxx with your desired password.

/usr/local/bin/x11vnc -nap -wait 50 -passwd xxxx -display :0 -forever -o /var/log/x11vnc.log -bg -auth /var/lib/gdm/:0.Xauth

Then just install RealVNC viewer on your PC to control your MythTV from any PC on the network.

Final Steps

Unfortunately the weather plugin still does not work in this version and neither did the IMDB lookups. However the IMDB issue can be fixed by updating the /usr/share/mythtv/mythvideo/scripts/imdb.pl script. (See fauxzen.com.)

wget http://svn.mythtv.org/trac/browser/trunk/mythplugins/mythvideo/mythvideo/scripts/imdb.pl?format=raw

The remaining steps are to configure the video output properly, and setup samba so you can map a drive to this machine in windows. In this case, configuring X11 for the NVidia card is just a matter of copying X86Config-4.nvidia... to X86Config-4. Then I edited the file to change the output from S-VIDEO to COMPOSITE. Until then the composite output is in black and white. Using an earlier version of Knoppmyth like R5B7 resulted in poor video display because of a bad NVidia driver for this card. This card is probably overkill for this purpose but it was what I had spare on hand while putting it together.

Samba installs quite easily. See the Samba HowTo on KnoppmythWiki. To start it manually just execute


To make it start automatically, execute

update-rc.d samba defaults

Map a drive from windows by mapping the drive as \\mythtv_machine_name\myth, with user mythtv_machine_name\mythtv. Test to make sure its writable, if its not, you are likely using the wrong username.

If you want to play commercial DVDs with MythDVD, you probably need to run this script:

cd /usr/share/doc/libdvdread3/examples

Again to use a remote control, just purchase an IR keyboard and map your learning remote to the needed keys. I have a Pinnacle serial remote from a TV tuner card, but I was not yet successful configuring lirc to use it.

Here are some useful keys you will want to program to your remote for video playback:
* - Volume Up
/ - Volume Down
PgDn - FF (10 min)
Up - FF (1 min)
PgUp - Rew (10 min)
Dn - Rew (1 min)
Esc - Stop/back
Enter - Play/select
i - Info (used in video manager)

RF Modulation

Since I now have two MythTV boxes and need to keep them on the gigabit network, I am again running the output through an RF modulator to the kids analog TVs. This time I am using a Channel Vision E4200 four channel RF modulator. This allows me to modulate 4 different video sources at once on different configurable channels, not just 3 or 4. I run this output up to the attic to split to all the rooms upstairs and now the kids can choose another MythTV just by changing the channel on their TV. It works great and there is no interference between the channels.

Since my daughter is now using one of these MythTVs, I wanted to change her theme to a more girly theme. However none existed so I created a pink theme based off of Mythcenter. If I polish it up a bit more I could post it for others to use.

Oh yeah, I also spared yet another PC from the landfill and recycled it to do something usefull!

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