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Is MythTV still relevant?

One question you may be asking yourself is whether MythTV is still relevant in the era of internet TV and cheap freeview HDD recorders.

It’s actually a very good question because it’s certainly less relevant than it used to be. I’ve been using Myth for 10 years and in the early days there was no substitute. It pre-dated Sky Plus, Amazon instant, Youtube, etc.

My family still use Myth a lot, but we also watch plenty of content streamed from the internet on our Smart TV. As my current MythTV system is broken, we’ve been getting by with that and BBC iPlayer for most of our viewing needs. That, along with a cheap HDD recorder would be enough for a lot of people.

For me, though, the MythTV server is the hub of the house, it doesn’t just record TV, it acts as NAS, it stores our photos, it hosts our entire music collection. It stores gigabytes of DVDs which I’ve ripped from my collection. No to mention way too many TV recordings which the kids want to keep forever.

It does all of this way better than any NAS or generic media server could ever hope to do, because its running Linux and I can set it up exactly how I want.

So, maybe MythTV itself isn’t as essential as it used to be, but as one component in a Linux based home hub, it still does a great job.

Keeping MythTV up-to-date on Ubuntu

If you want the latest features of MythTV without the hassle of upgrading Ubuntu then the easiest way to do it is using the Mythbuntu repositories. The folks at Mythbuntu backport new releases of MythTV for both regular and LTS versions of Ubuntu. Regular Ubuntu releases get just the next version of Myth, while the LTS releases get new versions for the lifetime of the release.

Instructions on using the repos are here:

Bruce Dickinson Rock Show Axed!!!

I had a knot in my stomach when I hard the news that the Bruce Dickinson Rock Show will be dropped from BBC 6 Music. As a long time fan of rock and heavy metal music, I can remember the days of the venerable Friday Night Rock Show with Tommy Vance. Since discovering the Bruce Dickinson Show, I thought those days were back for good. The show has given me many, many hours of listening pleasure. No other show on any station or channel comes close.

How can the BBC not know what a gem of a show it is? The respect Bruce commands in the hard rock community means that he gets frank and interesting interviews from all of the top artists. On top of that, he’s an excellent DJ; knowledgeable and witty in a quintesentially English way.

The music played on the show is an excellent mix of old and new, picking the best from the broad mix of genres which fall under the banner of rock. It proves that this style of music is as strong as ever. I don’t know what I would do without it. Come on BBC – keep the show on air! It’s worth the price of my license fee alone.

Changing the Order of Music Files on an SD Card

It turns out that prefixing the track number onto my music files did not fix the problem with the way my car stereo plays them. It turns out that the Pioneer does not play them in alphabetical order, but the actual order that they appear on the drive. The same order you would get if you just ran “find” with no arguments on Linux.

To fix this is fairly easy, just read the files in alphabetical order using ‘ls’ and move them. A script for doing this is here: Run it in the directory containing the artist folders and it will process all albums in each folder. It creates a temporary directory, moves the files there and deletes the original directory (backup your collection first!!!). Because it uses mv and not copy, the process only takes a couple of seconds for a few throusand tracks. What I do is copy the files onto the SD card and then run the script.

One other point, and this baffled me for a while, the above script does not work on a Linux ext3 filesystem. No matter what order you copy the tracks to a directory on ext3 the listing order does not change. I’m sure there’s a perfectly good explanation for this. Suffice to say that it works fine on a FAT filesystem, and that’s what most MP3 players use.

Playing home videos randomly

My kids are currently obsessed with watching home videos of themselves. They’d rather do it that watch stuff on telly. I got bored with sitting there manually clicking on videos for them to watch, so I wrote a little script to play videos randomly using VLC. Given a parent directory, it searches all sub-directories for AVI files, randomises the list and then plays each one using VLC. Change DIR to the location of your videos:


To stop it, run the following script:


BBC HD missing – some progress

So, I installed a quad LNB and it made absolutely no difference. Still, at least I’ve now got 3 spare outputs from my dish if I even need them. My next job was to try moving the dish, until I made a breakthrough…

The machine I’m trying my Sat card in dual boots XP, so out of interest I decided to see if the software which comes with the Hauppauge card could find all the channels. It’s called PowerCinema 5.1. I installed it and did a scan and, hey presto, BBC HD in all its glory. So, I booted back into Ubuntu and did a scan with the command line scan utility, with MythTV and with Kaffeine. No BBC HD!

Well, at least I’ve narrowed the problem down to Linux. Plus, I don’t have to get back up on the roof and start moving my dish! Software’s so much safer to work with. Even if I fell off my char it wouldn’t hurt that much.

Sat channels missing

So, my DVB-S card is working fine in myth, but I have one very annoying problem – some of the channels are missing. Whether I do a scan with the DVB “scan” utility or mythtv-setup, it can never find BBC HD, plus the other channels on the same transponder. The list of channels I get are here:

I got the “BBC HD” channels.conf entry from a nice chap on UbuntuForums, but when I try to tune to that using mplayer, I get:

$ mplayer dvb://"BBC HD"
MPlayer 1.0rc2-4.3.2 (C) 2000-2007 MPlayer Team
CPU: AMD Athlon(tm) XP 2400+ (Family: 6, Model: 10, Stepping: 0)
CPUflags: MMX: 1 MMX2: 1 3DNow: 1 3DNow2: 1 SSE: 1 SSE2: 0
Compiled with runtime CPU detection.
mplayer: could not connect to socket
mplayer: No such file or directory
Failed to open LIRC support. You will not be able to use your remote control.

Playing dvb://BBC HD.
dvb_tune Freq: 10847000
Not able to lock to the signal on the given frequency, timeout: 30
ERROR, COULDN'T SET CHANNEL 0: Failed to open dvb://BBC HD.

Exiting... (End of file)

I’ve checked the cable and it’s direct from the LNB.

The dish is quite old (was on the house when we moved in a year ago), so my next plan is to change the LNB for a new quad version.

DVB-S working in MythTV!

I spent ages last night trying to scan for satellite channels from within Myth, but no luck. In the end I did a full scan from the command line using dvb-utils:

scan /usr/share/doc/dvb-utils/examples/scan/dvb-s/Astra-28.2E | tee channels.conf

…and imported the resulting channels.conf file into mythtv-setup. To my surprise, it worked! I navigated to “Watch TV” in mythfrontend and suddenly had access to hundreds of channels of complete drivel. The EPG even worked.

Next step: HD.

FreeSat progress

So, I rerouted the satellite cable to the study last night and re-ended it. The following guide was very helpful for fitting the F-connector:

I’d already got the card working by downloading the latest v4l-dvb driver and firmware, following the instructions on the linuxtv wiki (the HVR-4000 and my Nova-HD-S2 are essentially the same when it comes to DVB-S2):

I then ran a channel scan:

scan -v /usr/share/doc/dvb-utils/examples/scan/dvb-s/Astra-19.2E

To my surprise, it found upwards of 80 channels before I quit it, so it looks like the dish and card are working.

Next step, MythTV…