After 2 years of on and off attempts to get MythTV working, I can can now confirm that it has been running well for the last couple of months. It’s currently recording TV shows (via dual tuners) and playing back DVDs and videos that I’ve collected. Although I’ve enjoyed not having a TV for the last couple of years, sometimes it’s nice to come home to the latest Simpsons episode or a recent news broadcast.

I ended up building a diskless system that boots from my main server. This allows me to run a virtually silent system and utilises already avaliable managed disk space on the backend server. Although slightly more complicated to setup, I’m particuarly fond of running workstations disklessly. It allows snapshotting of the filesystem before a big upgrade of trying untested software and makes replication to other systems easy. I had a couple of hickups with the NFS mounts and optimising them but they seem to be working well so far. Eventually I plan on ditching NFS and moving everything to Samba or if I’m in a particualry machioistic mood, OpenAFS. Ideally all systems will use Kerberos for authentication of mounts but I am still a little way off that goal. Naturally the MythTV box is fully LDAPified.

MythTV comes with a neat feature that will scan recorded TV shows for commercials and insert skip markers where is thinks commercials are beginning and ending. Most of the time this works remarkably well (and when it doesn’t there is always the fast forward button). Another neat feature is the option to play back shows at up to 1.5x the original speed. I sometimes use this feature at 1.2x for Startrek episodes with too many repetitive “can you raise the shields” scenes.

To actually display videos and TV I hooked the MythTV box up to a LCD projector via a (30M long) HDMI cable. I have the MythTV box running at a fixed 1280×720 resolution and do all video scaling on that rather than trusting the projectors onboard scaler. I figure that a beefy video card GPU will do a better job than some integrated scaler. The results are rather impressive. NASA has loads of HDTV clips and, after a long download, I my initial sceptism of HDTV melted away. The details, like seeing the astraunauts through the shuttle windows at launch time, made me realise how much information SDTV throws away.

I’m still controlling the MythTV box with a keyboard although I have bought a Microsoft MCE remote and keyboard. One weekend I will get around to actually installing them.

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