MythTV and Apple – my saga

Over the past year I’ve been gradually migrating all my hardware from home-built linux boxes to Macs (Mac Mini’s specifically). I’m still keeping my separate MythTV frontend/backend setup. I’m using a Mini as my backend in the office, and a Mini as my frontend in the family room. I’m going to do a couple different posts, describing my frontend configuration, and my backend configuration. Each has it’s own interesting twists, but overall, I wanted to get back into my blog, and try and help folks who might be going down the same path (going Apple).

Next post… my frontend.

Myth Mac just got promoted

My MythTV frontend on a Mac Mini experiment just moved up to a new level. My downstairs, full-time, home-built, ubuntu frontend died. The mac just got promoted from a part-time upstairs frontend, to a full time downstairs big tv frontend. I have been a bit hesitant really promoting the mythtv on a mac experiment, but now that I’ve had it downstairs and up front for about a week, I can say that I’m very impressed. Here are some of the things I like about the mini:

  • Small
  • Silent
  • I can run far more useful applications with the same remote as mythtv than I could with my Linux box
  • did i say small?

The third bullet (all the applications I can run) deserves some attention, and I’m going to do a separate post on just that topic. Here are a few things I don’t like (so far…)

  • I haven’t been able to resize the screen to non-native resolutions without getting skippy playback. Which means.. overscan.. and lots of it.
  • The mac remote has 6 buttons (3 are overloaded, so there are really 9). That’s enough for 95% of the everyday use, but not for more advanced tasks.

As I mentioned above, the possibilities are broad and wide when it comes to now integrating MythTV with other Mac multimedia apps. Here is a short list.

  • Hulu Desktop
  • Frontrow
  • Itunes
  • Netflix Watch Now
  • Better games

As I begin putting all this together into one monster media machine, I’ll make sure to document the pitfalls, how-to’s etc… along the way for anybody who wants to go down this path.

Streaming HD wirelessly

As I had mentioned in a preview post, I’ve been working on a mac mini MythTV frontend. The only current issue I have is streaming HD content over 802.11n. My first attempt worked great as long as I didn’t move the mini to a different room than the router. I’m learning a bit more about wireless networking as I go along here, essentially, my ‘old’ router operates in the 2.4 Ghz range which is significantly more crowded than the 5 Ghz range, so I’m going to test out a 5Ghz router this weekend, and see what I can get.

Another possibility is to transcode the HD to SD (which is the quality I would be viewing it anyway) and stream that. I don’t want to outright replace my HD content (I still watch it in HD downstairs afterall), so I might set up a User Job to transcode it, and place an entry in the MythTV database for a ‘second’ show.

Mac Mini and Analog video


Well, it seems in Apple’s infinite wisdom that they’ve dropped support for analog video in the newest mini. After pounding through forums and what-not, I’ve discovered the same issue exists for the macbook pro’s as well. Unfortunately, that will lead me to the purchase of a VGA -> S-Video adapter. More on that later, as I continue my quest for a turnkey MythTV frontend.

MythTV on a Mac Mini


I’ve finally gone and done it. I’ve purchased a new mac mini for an upstairs MythTV frontend. MythTV runs well on Mac OS X so I figured I’d give it a shot. I’ve never experienced anything quite as easy as this. The Mac Mini is the *perfect* MythTV frontend. I’ve unboxed (always fun with Apple products), plugged it in, gone through initial Leopard setup, and downloaded the precompiled dmg from The Snider Pad. I have my backend broadcasting itself as a UPnP Media Server, so when I fired up Mythfrontend.app on the mac for the first time, it found it right away. Once it connected, I was done. There were all my shows. Of course, the first thing I did was go straight to some of my traditionally difficult HD content, and it played it back flawlessly.

Now onto the next steps

  • I streamed HD over 802.11n in the same room as the router, I need a real-world test upstairs
  • The apple remote worked out of the box, but only has six buttons. The nice thing about MythTV is you can remap the buttons, but six… hmm… just not quite enough. I’ll need to find out if there is another remote that can work. I might go down the lirc path

Bottom Line

This was such a pleasant experience and the mini is soooooooooo silent that I’m counting the days until my monstrous 4 year old media PC dies in the family room! Another project might be to figure out what the most compatible tuner’s are for a mac and kill my loud backend in the office. I’ve been impressed with MythTV on a Mac OS X. I hope to write some apple friendly applescripts/automator actions to do some fun things that I’ve been dying to do.

New mac mini


The new mac mini has been released, and we’ve decided to go ahead and use it for a second frontend for the MythTV backend. Not that we’re big TV watchers, but having a second frontend upstairs gives us a chance to hole up upstairs when sick/etc… and watch the same programs as downstairs. We’ll see how streaming HD over 802.11n goes!

Upgrades galore

For the past six months, I’ve been content with Ubuntu 7.10 and mythtv 0.20. Very stable, very smooth solid HD playback, no recording glitches. Everything I could ask for. When Ubuntu 8.04 came along (along with an upgrade to MythTV 0.21) I resisted for a bit. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. Maybe it was just an excuse, but after deciding to set up a second front end upstairs, I also decided to install Mythbuntu 8.04. Little did I know that 0.21 frontends are not compatible with 0.20 backends… and so my upgrade began.

I’ll chronicle a few of the major gotchas I had and how I solved them over at the MythTV Tips page, but as a quick summary, it took about two days, and several nasty looks from my wife and kids to complete the upgrade of both the backend and the frontend. Everything is working wonderfully (again/finally) and there are a few cool surprises in 0.21 that made it all worth it.

Next up… installation of a frontend upstairs. I think I might go with a mac-mini for that one, and since I don’t have cat-5 upstairs, I *might* just try 802.11n.

Ubuntu + MythTV = happy me

Well, I know it’s been a while since I’ve posted. I’ve been a busy camper, and this blog hasn’t quite risen to the top of my todo list in a while. I was re-reading my past posts, and noticed that the theme has been my thoughts about switch from Fedora Core to Ubuntu. An update is that I made the switch a few months ago, and haven’t looked back. Ubuntu comes with all the mythtv packages that I use and was incredibly easy to set up for both my backend, and my frontend systems.

My current system is Gutsy (7.10) and I used the guides from the Ubuntu community docs for setting up mythtv (https://help.ubuntu.com/community/MythTV). No big gotchas for me, even with my HD setup.