Cutting the Cable, Part 2

A few weeks ago I blogged about buying the hardware to set up a MythTV PC to record off air high def TV and integrate it with Boxee.

The hardware arrived and I’ve been working on on the setup off and on over the last few weeks. Some random thoughts:

  • The HD Homerun tuner is pretty cool. Fedora has the HD Homerun configuration tool in their repos. Installing that through PackageKit and yum made it easy to test out that it was working and had a good signal.
  • I had to install MyTV 3 times before I could get it to work. On a vanilla Fedora 12 install and then adding MythTV from the repos, only one tuner of the HD Homerun would work. Trying Mythdora, my MythTV front ends on my desktop PC and my laptop wouldn’t connect. Also there was a nasty bug in Mythdora’s kernel that wouldn’t let me mount a NFS share. Using Mythbuntu everything just worked.
  • Schedules Direct is a pretty cool service. I remember hearing about the story a couple years ago when it all went down, but when Zap2It started charging users for the scheduling data, a group of MythTV users started Schedules Direct and licensed the data. $20 / year is more than reasonable to pay to get all the scheduling data.
  • I love the fact that I can browse to the IP address of the MythTV PC from any computer and see the scheduling data and record a show. It took a few minutes to find the setting to only record new episodes, but it’s there! Obligatory screenshot:

    mythtv-schedule

    • The first recordings I made were the second night of the 24 season premiere and an episode of How I Met Your Mother. A one hour recording is about 6 GB.
    • I only have a 100GB hard drive in the MythTV backend, so I mounted my NAS via NFS . I would then in Boxee use the File Browser and surf to my tv recording directory. One downside to this method is that MythTV records the file, such as last week’s 24 as 1091_2010011819000mpg. The File Browser also displays a PNG file so it’s easy to tell what show is what, but it’s not intuitive at all.
    • There are plugins for XBMC, such as MythSExx and MythicalLibrarian that will rename your TV recordings into a S01E01 format and create a symlink for you to make it easier to browse your recordings. I couldn’t get the former script to run, but I didn’t spend a lot of time troubleshooting either.

And then yesterday while idling in #boxee on Freenode IRC, user SpaceBass mentioned that MythTV support was working for him in the Boxee Beta. There are a number of threads in the Boxee forums that the “mythtv://” protocol doesn’t work – but it appears to be working now.

In the Boxee settings, add a manual souce, and make it: myth://IPADDRESS where IPADDRESS is the IP address of your Myth backend and give the source a name – I used “DVR”.

Now use the File Browser in Boxee and when you first choose it you’ll have a list of your sources:

IMG_4870.JPG

Select DVR and you’ll be presented with “All Recordings”, “Guide”, “Live Channels”, “Movies” and “TV Shows”:

IMG_4871.JPG

Note: Guide doesn’t work for me.

If you choose “All Recordings” you’ll see everything that MythTV has recorded:

IMG_4872.JPG

(TV Shows and Movies will just show the MythTV recordings based on those filters). I haven’t looked into using MythTV’s built-in commercial skip as Boxee has a 30 second skip that just works too. I also like that Boxee remembers to resume where I left off watching if I stop playback.

To watch Live TV streaming from your Myth backend to Boxee, choose Live TV from the menu I mentioned above. You’ll be presented with a list of TV channels by station ID, not number:

IMG_4873.JPG

And here’s a screenshot of the NHL game on NBC in HD earlier this afternoon:

IMG_4874.JPG

There are two bugs I’m experiencing that I need to spend some time with:

  • When playing back a recording or starting a live TV stream, it will sometimes start as if it’s being fast-forwarded, including the audio. Hitting pause and then unpausing fixes it.
  • I think this may be related to signal strength as I’m seeing it on NBC and CBS, but not Fox, but I’m seeing jagged edges around an object, such as a person, when it’s moving quickly. If it’s a fairly static image, there are no jagged edges. But even someone quickly sitting down will have the distortion. But I don’t see this problem when accessing the recording from a Myth frontend on another computer, so it needs more investigating.
  • My other theory is it could have something to do with saving the content on the NAS and not on a hard drive in the Myth backend, so I bought a larger hard drive to throw in there too. I’d also rather have it on a hard drive than the NAS just to save wear and tear.

I’m almost done – if I had to guess, I’m about a week away from telling DirecTV to pound sand. I’ll poke at the distortion issue some more and install that hard drive when it arrives but this has been a pretty cool project to work on so far.

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