My MythTV setup

A few years ago I jumped on the mythtv bandwagon and I have found it to be an extremely reliable and powerful media pc interface and thought i'd share my findings.



I first started with A Hauppauge PCIE dual tuner card, a Leadtek DTV-1000t and some other unknown brand that used the same chipset as the Leadtek. At the time, the Hauppauge was the "best" tuner of the three considering it was worth $200 and the others were worth $20. 
Surprisingly enough, It was one of the hardest tuners to get working properly and also managed to be the least reliable. The Leadtek automatically installed it's drivers and needed little configuration to work correctly. The "Other" card never worked even though it was almost identical to the leadtek and I came to the assumption that it was broken.


I decided to restart with a fresh install of mythbuntu and only used the Leadtek card. This worked perfectly, I configured the card to record a maximum of three shows at once (on the same provider) which at the time really surprised me as i'd never seen any commercial appliances that supported this.


The next problem that I battled was my newbie ubuntu skills, I managed to get my way around by googling every small problem that I found and would now say i'm quite capable at ubuntu. I initially used an NFS share to share my downloaded content drive with my windows pc so that i'm able to easily put new content on the mythtv. While this worked, the speeds were mediocre, Roughly 40-60MB/s over Gigabit ethernet. This began to frustrate me so I searched for a new solution and came across Samba. Once I had configured Samba properly, I was able to transfer at 110MB/s which made copying large files considerably quicker.



At this stage, the storage for the Mythtv consisted of a 320GB drive for OS (5gb) and recordings (which were set to auto expire) and a 2TB drive for downloaded content.
The rest of the system specs are: (limited I know, but I can't remember and it really doesn't matter)
2.8ghz Core 2 Duo - Cooled by a coolermaster 212+ with stock fan running at 7v
4GB DDR2
Gigabyte motherboard with 4 PCI slots and 6 sata2 ports
Gt430 1gb passive 
Corsair hx650w
320GB WD 7200rpm
2TB Hitachi 7200rpm
No name case that looks like an alien designed it.

 

The way that mythtv works is that it divides it's processing into two parts, Frontend and Backend.
The frontend is what plays the content back, schedules recordings and has the user GUI with remote interface.
The backend is what manages the tuners, recordings, storage of ALL content and commercial detection. 
This computer was configured as a Primary backend + frontend which means that it's pretty much a standalone appliance similar to a DVR.


 
After having this (rather basic) setup for about two months, I crossed paths with another fellow mythtv user that actually knew what he was doing and he told me about some of the other features that I had not yet come across, MythWeb(A web gui for scheduling recordings or watching recordings) and Commercial detection.

 

The following day I went ahead and configured the Commercial detection and found that it's completely flawless and even automatically skips the advertisements, letting you enjoy the show the way you should be watching it.(And also saving time not having to fast forward through the ads).


Around this time I started getting complaints from other people in the household about it not recording all shows in busy periods due to only having one "real" tuner. I hit up eBay and managed to find another DTV1000T tuner for $30 pickup, 20 mins drive from me. Again, Ubuntu seemed to like the tuner and automatically detected it and installed the drivers, 30 mins of configuring (It would only take 5 mins now but I had no idea what I was doing so it took ages) and both tuners were working and the scheduler was now spreading the recordings out between the two tuners (6 virtual tuners).


Not long after that, due to now having the second tuner avaliable most of the time, Live tv was now viewed through the second tuner which allowed us to pause/rewind/auto ad skip if we were more than 5mins behind.


The next objective to overcome was the issue of streaming to iPads. While there are plenty of windows applications for this, the ubuntu ones barely existed or were far to complex for me to setup. I decided to outsource this to the i7 desktop office/gaming/fileserver using samba shares to access the content. I chose VLCStreamer which processes the videos down to a format suitable for ipads and streams them in chunks to the ipads. This works well and requires no maintenance and is still used in our household today.

 

I can't remember my exact reasons but I decided to do some hardware upgrades to the mythbox.
1. Storage - was becoming limited so a second 2TB drive was added to share the downloaded content with the existing drive. The recordings were only lasting about 1 week before being erased so that was also upgraded with another 1TB drive which boosted the recording space to 1.32TB
2. Tuners - I sourced a third DTV1000t Tuner on ebay and installed that alongside the other two, now having 9 virtual tuners. (I'm really not sure why I did this back then)
3. Ram - The original Ram config was 2x1GB + 1x2GB, I had a 2x2gb much faster kit laying around so I decided to swap the 3 sticks for two, This gave a noticeable performance increase.
4. Cooling - At this point, one fan just on the cpu wasn't capable of cooling the whole computer. I added three very low speed 120mm fans that are barely audible. One at the front of the pc and near the HDDs, one at the exhaust and one over the tuners/gpu for some forced cooling as the tuners could get quite warm.

 

The setup stayed like this for about one year.

Now we're at the present (This month)


Two new HDTV's were purchased and were left practically unused for two weeks due to them not having access to any content.

 

I began hunting around for the cheapest computers that I could use alongside the primary mythbox as secondary frontend clients. I found the Asrock ION3D 152D computers for $300 and decided to buy two.
Specs: http://www.asrock.com/nettop/overview.us.asp?Model=ION%203D%20Series


I configured these PC's with mythbuntu and setup as Frontend only machines. They were not designed to do any of the processing, just to provide access to the content. These PC's are now able to stream live tv over ethernet from the main mythtv's tuners with only a 3 second delay! When I finally finished configuring everything, the new frontends act exactly the same as the main mythtv and they all have access to the same content on the main mythbox.

I can post photo's or in depth explainations of specific components if anyone is interested.

I'd highly recommend mythtv to anyone who is tech savvy and doesn't mind putting some time aside to do the initial configuration. Once set, they run forever.

I'm now able to stream 50GB bluray extracts to the secondary frontends over Gigabit ethernet with next to no delay!