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What does XMLTV actually *do* ?

Any good PVR system needs to know when to record. Systems like VideoPlus in the UK, where numbers encode start and stop times, have made programming easier, but it's much easier to just look at an EPG and click on the programme you want to record.

However, there is no central system for acquiring TV programme data, at present, so that's where XMLTV comes in. XMLTV's job is to take program data off the internet and convert it to a standard format for PVRs like MythTV and FreeVO.

Why XMLTV is so problematical

The problem with XMLTV is it is grabbing data from places that weren't really designed to supply it. It kind of "screen scrapes" - it looks at a web page containing TV information like this, http://www.bbc.co.uk/cgi-perl/whatson/search/grid.cgi?MEDIUM=tv and tries to rip the text off it and convert it into an easy to use format. Things can go wrong with this ; if the website decides it's going to reformat its text, then it will cease to work properly or indeed at all.

What about the DVB-T EPG ?

DVB-T, aka Freeview here, has programme guide information embedded in it ; any UK Freeview set top box has an EPG. It seems to be problematic getting this to work in MythTV, as it is currently "in development". When it does work, this will make it much easier as XMLTV can be abandoned, for DVB-T anyway (still needed for analogue, which is sound and video only)

One downside of the DVB-T EPG is that it only goes 7 days into the future, whereas XMLTV does 14 days. This is useful if you want to record when you are on holiday.

What about the AUR ?

XMLTV is in the AUR, both in 'normal' form, and in CVS form. I personally haven't had much luck with this, so I'm going to compile it from scratch. This isn't difficult, the "hard" part is the "perl dependencies" (XMLTV is a Perl application) and getting them right.

Download and first compile

You first need to obtain the current version of XMLTV ; this can be downloaded from Sourceforge http://sourceforge.net/projects/xmltv ; the current version as I write is 0.5.45

After having downloaded it, create a working directory somewhere and untar the source into it.

cd /aux/arch/mythtv
tar xjvf tar xjvf /home/paulr/Desktop/xmltv-0.5.45.tar.bz2 
cd xmltv-0.5.45

this will create a directory xmltv-0.5.45 in the saved directory with the source code in it, then change to it. Now, we're going to install some basic dependencies. In spite of the long list, there's not actually very much code downloaded here.

pacman -S perl-archive-zip perl-date-manip perl-html-tableextract perl-http-cache-transparent perl-io-gzip perl-io-stringy perl-term-progressbar perl-unicode-string perl-www-mechanize perl-xml-twig perl-xml-writer

and next, we will attempt to compile the program

perl Makefile.PL

This should produce a listing that looks like this.

XMLTV.pm library and the filter programs such as tv_grep and tv_sort
are installed by default; here you choose grabbers for different
countries and front-ends for managing listings.
Grabber for Brazil (tv_grab_br)                                    [yes]
Grabber for Brazil NET Cable (tv_grab_br_net)                      [yes]
Grabber for Switzerland (tv_grab_ch_bluewin)                       [yes]
Alternative grabber for Britain (tv_grab_uk_rt)                    [yes]
Fast alternative grabber for the UK (tv_grab_uk_bleb)              [yes]

.... and so on. Find your country in the list and hopefully it will be marked "yes". If not, try installing perl-tk-tablematrix using Pacman, break with Ctrl+C and run the perl command above again. If it still doesn't work, try installing perl-soap-lite from AUR.

Fortunately for me, it has found the tv_grab_uk_rt grabber for the UK that I am going to use. Make a note of its name, because I will refer to mine (tv_grab_uk_rt) throughout ; whereas you may need, for example, tv_grab_br

It now asks "Do you want to continue with this configuration ?" ; you actually don't need all those grabbers, but what the heck, just press RETURN for yes.

Now compile and install the program with

su (then enter your password)
make install
(Press Ctrl+D to get back to non superuser mode)

Configuring XMLTV

Next we need to configure XMLTV. To do this run

tv_grab_uk_rt --configure

Now, for this grabber, you can individually select whether or not you want each channel. We aren't going to do this yet, and we aren't going to do it this way anyway - it's mindless. So type


And it will configure itself to download every single channel it can.

Checking XMLTV actually works

To check it, simply run it.


If all is well, it should churn out reams and reams of channel programme data. It should look like this

<programme start="20070330035500 +0100" stop="20070330042000 +0100" channel="abc1.disney.com">
   <title>8 Simple Rules for Dating My Teenage Daughter</title>
   <sub-title>Rory's Got a Girlfriend</sub-title>
   <desc lang="en">Sitcom in which a father has his hands full when his wife returns to work and he is left to supervise their teenage daughters. Paul has to face the fact that his son wants to start dating girls, and Kerry envies her sister.</desc>
     <actor>John Ritter</actor>
     <actor>Katey Sagal</actor>

except there'll be pages of it.