MythTV (part 1 as it turns out)

So what did I do with my Bank Holiday long weekend? Well the first day and a half I did what I always do – slob around the house and watch TV etc. The rest of the time, aside from a little eating and sleeping, has been taken up with re-configuring my MythTV box.

But let’s take a step back and review – cos last time I blogged about MythTV I was rather brief.


So let’s go back to… to this entry. Or in fact a little further. Sometime in 2002/2003[?] I bought a Hauppage WinTV card. From that point on I was interested in using my computer to record programs from the TV.

Although I had the software to do timed recordings, to make my computer a PVR, I never did that as it meant leaving the computer on all the time and the software wasn’t that reliable. So I mostly used it to record programs and make VCDs and SVCDs, and later DVDs. By the time I wrote about changing to Linux and nearly changing back, I had been doing this for a while and doing it quite a lot. (I still have nearly two series of West Wing and various movies on S/VCD).


One day my computer (running Windows XP) started behaving strangely. I recall I rebooted it once and it got worse. I rebooted a second time and it wouldn’t boot at all. This was obviously some form of malware – virus, whatever. But my computer had a firewall, up-to-date anti-virus and all the latest security fixes. I know that’s no guarantee but it angered me that I could do everything right and still have my system unusable. So I decided to switch.


I didn’t do it straight away, impulsively, as I am prone to do sometimes. I used my internet connection at work to find out something – could I use Linux to do all the things I did under Windows? Well I already knew I could do things like web browsing and email. I could do the odd bit of word-processing. The big question was whether I could use my TV card. Could I a) watch and record programs under Linux and b) do all the conversion, editing and manipulation needed to generate DVDs etc? Under Windows I’d amassed an impressive array of (mostly free) programs for manipulating audio and video. After brief googling I found that others were doing it with the same TV card as me and that there were similar programs available – which must mean it’s possible.


So I booted my computer using a Linux ‘live cd’ (i.e. running from the cd without using the hard drive). Using that I was able to back up data from my hard drive. Then I installed SuSE 9.3 from a cover disc from some magazine. That was the easy part. Finding and compiling the programs to replace my Windows tools was only moderately harder. (Mplayer is great and will nearly always compile, it’s whether it compiles with all the various formats supported that’s the trick. Still mostly that’s just a time investment – you try to compile, it fails, you figure out there’s a library you need, you find it, install it, re-compile – lather, rinse, repeat.)

The hard part was getting the TV card to work. Although I had done my (minimal) research before switching, I’d found that the instructions I’d found didn’t work. It took me three days of it almost working but not, of reboots, of compiling kernels and kernel modules, of figuring out why said modules wouldn’t load, to finally get it working. It took another couple to get all the channels tuned in and figuring how to record.  It was during this  time that I almost went back to Windows.


Oh dear. As usual what was meant to be a bit of background has taken over. I feel a part 2 coming on…


About shuggie

My name is Shuggie, Paul or LatePaul depending on where you know me from. I work in computers (databases) and occasionally write about softw
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