OK, so you’ve got the background to how I got myself a Linux box with a working TV card – what’s that got to do with MythTV? I think I said previously that I’d been thinking about MythTV for a while. The thing that really made me want to do it was my new house. However that’s the same reason that made me a bit short of cash – so going out and buying the hardware for a custom-built myth box wasn’t realistic/wise.
Then it hit me one day that I already had 90% of what I needed. I had a Linux box with a TV card that worked. So enter the big idea – a phased approach.
Phase 0 – Do the research. Figure out exactly what software I need.
Phase 1 – Install the software on my existing machine.
Phase 2 – replace my aging analogue TV card with a freeview capable one.
Phase 3 – buy the parts and build a custom box for a really good Mythtv box.
Phase 0 I kind of did though I could have done more. My main goal in phase 0 was that I knew I’d probably be installing over a weekend and that, as we know, at present means no internet access. Which means I didn’t want to be stuck half-way through but have that one tantalising problem left to solve, or one missing prerequisite program. On that score I succeeded phase 0.
Phase 1 was what I had done last time I blogged about MythTV. It showed the possibilities of the software. But the quality of the picture, and the size of the recordings made it nothing more than a proof-of-concept.
Phase 2 came last weekend when I spent £60 on a Hauppage Nova T 500 card. I’ll pause a moment to say how good this card is. It contains not one but two Freeview tuners – which for the price is very good value. It’s well supported under Linux. True, I had to compile a new kernel but that was straightforward and whilst it took time, it was no three-day marathon. Within a few hours of installing the card I was using it to watch TV using some very basic tools. Once I’d re-configured the MythTV software I had something which was actually useable as a PVR. And I did use it. I started recording whole programs, not just ‘tests’.
The reason it was so useable was because the Nova T card resolved the two problems with the older card. First since it is Freeview and Freeview channels are natively mpeg2 streams, the file sizes are inherently smaller. (with analogue cards you typically re-encode the files to make them smaller, but with my old PC the CPU was too slow to do that and do, well, anything else). Second, since it’s digital, if the channel tunes at all it’s as good as it going to be. The other fact is that because it’s actually two tuners then it’s actually useful because you can record two channels at once, or watch one and record another.
So that was last weekend. More on this weekend in part 3.