MythTV is an application suite designed to provide an amazing multimedia experience. It provides PVR functionality to a Linux based computer and also supports other media types. Combined with a nice, quiet computer and a decent TV, it makes an excellent centerpiece to a home theater system.
- 1 Structure
- 2 Requirements
- 3 Getting Started
- 4 Make a "mythtv" User
- 5 Installing MythTV
- 6 Frontend setup
- 7 MythTV Plugins
- 8 Environment Variables
- 9 Hints to a Happy Myth System
- 10 References
The MythTV system is split into a backend and a frontend. Each component has its own functions:
- Schedule and record television programming
- Stream video data to the frontend
- Flag commercial breaks
- Transcode videos from one format to another
- Provide a pretty GUI
- Play back recorded content
- Provide an interface to schedule programs
The frontend and backend may be on separate computers on a network, and there may also be multiple frontends. This architecture allows for a central media distribution system that can reach anywhere a network can. This is a remarkably flexible system, and it even allows very low power machines to act as perfectly usable frontends.
MythTV is a very scalable system. With standard definition television and pure MPEG2 encoding and decoding with hardware acceleration, even a very modest system can act as both frontend and backend. How modest? Some people report being able to use fanless Via systems with Hauppauge PVR cards for both backend and frontend simultaneously. While the author does not condone the use of such a lightweight system, it has been done successfully.
On the other end of the spectrum, high definition TV with MPEG4 transcoding and commercial flagging can require serious horsepower. Most people in the HD realm use high-end Athlon XPs, midrange to high-end Athlon 64s, and high-end Pentium 4s for their backends. The frontend can get away with a somewhat more midrange processor if XvMC playback acceleration is used.
All systems are going to need a tuner card. The Hauppauge PVR series of cards (150, 250, 350, and 500) are very popular for use with MythTV due to fairly decent Linux support and low CPU usage. Other cards, like those based on the BT878 chipset, are also used. Unlike the PVR series, BT878 based cards require significant amounts of CPU power to save the video, as these cards output raw frames and not compressed streams.
The only combination of hardware the author can say works is an Athlon XP 1700+ frontend with 512MB of DDR memory, and a Pentium 4 2.8GHz backend with 512MB of DDR2 memory.
In order to install MythTV on your system(s), you must have a working Linux installation. Since this is the Arch Linux website, this article will be geared towards Arch. A simple base system Installation with no extras is a suggested starting point.
For the backend, it is also good to have LAMP working properly so that anybody can use a web browser to schedule programming through MythWeb. While it is not necessary, it is a very handy feature.
A working Xorg (graphical) environment is necessary.
Make a "mythtv" User
If the purpose of the box is a stand-alone system, consider making a dedicated user for this purpose. For the rest of the guide, this username is "mythtv."
# useradd -m -g users -G audio,lp,optical,storage,video,games,power -s /bin/bash mythtv # passwd mythtv <<set the password of your choosing>>
Become user mythtv
# su mythtv
Create a file for mythtv for database connections ~
$ mkdir ~/.mythtv
Paste the following into
DBHostName=localhost # By default, Myth tries to ping the DB host to see if it exists. # If your DB host or network doesn't accept pings, set this to no: # DBHostPing=no DBHostName=localhost DBUserName=mythtv DBName=mythconverg DBPassword=mythtv # Set the following if you want to use something other than this # machine's real hostname for identifying settings in the database. # This is useful if your hostname changes often, as otherwise you # will need to reconfigure mythtv (or futz with the DB) every time. # TWO HOSTS MUST NOT USE THE SAME VALUE # LocalHostName=MYCOOLMYTHTVHOST # If you want your frontend to be able to wake your MySQL server # using WakeOnLan, have a look at the following settings: # # # The time the frontend waits (in seconds) between reconnect tries. # This should be the rough time your MySQL server needs for startup # #WOLsqlReconnectWaitTime=0 # # # This is the number of retries to wake the MySQL server # until the frontend gives up # #WOLsqlConnectRetry=5 # # # This is the command executed to wake your MySQL server. # #WOLsqlCommand=echo 'WOLsqlServerCommand not set'
Install the MythTV package and any desired plugins:
# pacman -S mythtv mythplugins-mythweb ...
- mythplugins-mytharchive - Create DVDs or archive recorded shows in MythTV
- mythplugins-mythbrowser - Mini web browser for MythTV
- mythplugins-mythgallery - Image gallery plugin for MythTV
- mythplugins-mythgame - Game emulator plugin for MythTV
- mythplugins-mythmusic - Music playing plugin for MythTV
- mythplugins-mythnetvision - MythNetvision plugin for MythTV
- mythplugins-mythnews - News checking plugin for MythTV
- mythplugins-mythweather - Weather checking plugin for MythTV
- mythplugins-mythweb - Web interface for the MythTV scheduler
- mythplugins-mythzoneminder - View CCTV footage from zoneminder in MythTV
At this point a generic MythTV installation is present that must be refined into a backend, a frontend, or both.
Before setting up your backend, make sure you have a functioning video capture card or a firewire input from a STB. Unfortunately, that part of setup is outside the scope of this article. If you are in the United States, get an account at Schedules Direct (this service provides TV listings at a minimal cost). Users outside the United States will need to use screen scrapers (xmltv) to do the same job.
Setting up the database
Install and run MySQL
# pacman -S mysql
If other machines in your LAN are expected to connect to the masterbackend server, comment out the "skip-networking" line in
/etc/mysql/my.cnf at this point.
Setup mysql with a password:
NOTE: RUNNING ALL PARTS OF THIS SCRIPT IS RECOMMENDED FOR ALL MySQL SERVERS IN PRODUCTION USE! PLEASE READ EACH STEP CAREFULLY! In order to log into MySQL to secure it, we'll need the current password for the root user. If you've just installed MySQL, and you haven't set the root password yet, the password will be blank, so you should just press enter here. Enter current password for root (enter for none): OK, successfully used password, moving on... Setting the root password ensures that nobody can log into the MySQL root user without the proper authorisation. You already have a root password set, so you can safely answer 'n'. Change the root password? [Y/n] n ... skipping. By default, a MySQL installation has an anonymous user, allowing anyone to log into MySQL without having to have a user account created for them. This is intended only for testing, and to make the installation go a bit smoother. You should remove them before moving into a production environment. Remove anonymous users? [Y/n] ... Success! Normally, root should only be allowed to connect from 'localhost'. This ensures that someone cannot guess at the root password from the network. Disallow root login remotely? [Y/n] ... Success! By default, MySQL comes with a database named 'test' that anyone can access. This is also intended only for testing, and should be removed before moving into a production environment. Remove test database and access to it? [Y/n] - Dropping test database... ... Success! - Removing privileges on test database... ... Success! Reloading the privilege tables will ensure that all changes made so far will take effect immediately. Reload privilege tables now? [Y/n] ... Success! Cleaning up... All done! If you've completed all of the above steps, your MySQL installation should now be secure. Thanks for using MySQL!
Create the database structure:
# mysql -u root -p </usr/share/mythtv/mc.sql
If you have lost or overwritten your mc.sql file, it is always available here.
Do not forget to update your database
# mysql_upgrade -u root -p
To add them, simply execute the following:
mysql_tzinfo_to_sql /usr/share/zoneinfo | mysql -u root -p<yourpassword> mysql
Setting up the master backend
Load up your WM (lxde is a good choice for light-weight builds, but anything will work.)
Now run the mythtv-setup program
- General menu
If this is your master backend, put its IP address in the first and fourth fields, identifying this computer as your master and giving its network IP address.
On the next page, enter the paths where recordings and the live TV buffer will be stored. LVM or RAID solutions provide easily accessible large scale storage. But again, those are outside the scope of this article. Set the live TV buffer to a size you can handle and leave everything else alone.
On the next page, set the settings to your locale. NTSC is mostly used in North America, and be sure to set whether using cable or broadcast.
On the next two pages, leave everything as is unless you know for sure you want to change it. On the next page, if you have a fast backend that can handle recordings and flagging jobs simultaneously, it is recommended to set CPU usage to \"High\", maximum simultaneous jobs to 2, and to check the commercial flagging option.
On the next page, set these options to taste. Automatic commercial flagging is highly recommended. Ignore the next page and finish.
- Capture card menu
Select your card type from the drop down list. Hauppauge PVR users will select the MPEG-2 encoder card option.
Point mythtv-setup to the proper location, usually /dev/v4l/video0
- Video sources menu
This is where it gets important to have a source for TV listings. Schedules Direct users should create a new video source, name it, select the North America (Schedules Direct) option, and fill in their logon information. In order to verify that it is correct, go ahead and retrieve the listings.
- Input connections menu
This menu is rather self-explanatory. All you need to do is pick an input on the capture card and tell myth which video source it connects to. Most users will select their tuner and leave all the other inputs alone. Satellite users will select a video input, and on the next page provide the command to change channels on their STB using an external channel change program. This is also outside the scope of this article.
- Channel editor menu
This menu is safe to ignore
- Exit the program (Esc)
- Run mythfilldatabase
This should populate your mysql database with TV listings for the next two weeks (or so).
Add mythbackend to the /etc/rc.conf daemons line.
DAEMONS=( . . . mythbackend)
You may want to have the backend run as the previously-created mythtv user:
This is a good idea since all user jobs are run as the same user as the user running the backend. If the backend is run as root, all user jobs will be run with root privileges.
- Edit /etc/conf.d/mythbackend
If you get a libXvMCW.so.1 shared library error, install the following:
# pacman -S libxvmc
If you cannot open /dev/video0 of your PVR150, install the firmware:
# pacman -S ivtv-utils
Compared to the backend, getting a frontend running is trivially simple. Just make sure you are in an X environment as a normal user and run mythfrontend. It will pop up a menu asking about the IP address of the backend and the local computer's name and IP address. Fill in this information and your frontend should be functional. On the other hand, the frontend has more options than a luxury car. All of those are an article on their own. There are a few notable options that should be set to ensure a good working setup. If you do not have an interlaced monitor (and almost nobody does), you will need to deinterlace your television output. Go into the TV playback menu and select kernel deinterlacing or bob2x deinterlacing. Try both and see which you like better. Also, in the general settings page, it is good to set up your [Alsa setup] settings, but those vary so greatly it is not worth suggesting values here.
One problem I encountered running mythfrontend 0.20.0.2007013 on fglrx was that the colors were mixed up. People were blue-skinned etc. It turns out there is a hack for ATI cards in the source, but it is not enabled. Uncomment #define USE_ATI_PROPRIETARY_DRIVER_XVIDEO_HACK in libs/libmythtv/videoout_xv.cpp and rebuild. (this will change names in svn and so future versions)
Nvidia XvMC Setup
Assuming you have loaded the proprietary Nvidia drivers from pacman you may need do the following:
echo "libXvMCNVIDIA_dynamic.so.1" > /etc/X11/XvMCConfig
This will allow Mythfrontend to use the XvMC environment for acceleration. Restart Mythfrontend
There are a number of plugins available for MythTV in the AUR. They range from RSS readers to DVD players. Take a look at them. Simply installing the package on the frontend computer should impart the intended functionality. There is rarely any additional setup, and when there is, the install file will mention it.
As of 7-10-08 Mythweather is broken in Extra
extra/mythweather 0.21-1 (mythtv-extras)
I found mythbackend would randomly stop running with the following error message:
Cannot locate your home directory. Please set the environment variable HOME or MYTHCONFDIR
So I did the following as root:
mkdir /home/mythtv ; cp /home/(myusername)/.lircrc /home/mythtv/ ; chown -R (myusername):users /home/mythtv
And then put the following in /etc/rc.conf
Hints to a Happy Myth System
But not full articles (yet)
- Run ntpd or openntpd on your backend to make sure it always has the right time.
- LIRC on your frontend allows you to use a remote control, which is wonderful in a living room.
- Use gdm, kdm, or xdm to automatically log in your frontend, and ~/.xinitrc to load mythfrontend on boot.
- Set the "automatically run mythfilldatabase" option on one of your frontends to make sure you always have listings.
- Do not forget to use the verbosity statements and log file location arguments to mythfrontend so you can see when things break.
- Do not run your frontend as root, create a mythtv user
Using GDM to autologin your Mythfrontend
In your /etc/gdm/custom.conf add the following statements under the [daemon] heading:
AutomaticLoginEnable=true AutomaticLogin=mythtv (assuming your frontend user is mythtv)
FYI - GDM will not autologin as root
Using XDM to Automically Login to your MythFrontend
Find in your /etc/inittab file the following line:
Then add the following below it (or anywhere in the file):
x:5:respawn:su - MYTHUSER -c startx
If you'd like to start mythfrontend on booting into Xorg, edit (or create if none exists) your MYTHUSER's .xinitrc file and add the following line:
Optmize your system
Be sure to have a look at MythTV's extensive wiki documentation on how to keep your data stores happy, as well as optimize your system in various other ways to get the most out of your Myth box.