My Weekend MythTV Project

A while back I built a MythTV box for my buddy, got it all up and running, though on an old Pentium 2 system with a small hard drive and a really ugly case. The system had a PVR-350 in it, which does hardware encode and decode, so the CPU speed didn’t matter a whole lot. He recently moved out of province for 6 to 9 months, and left the box back with me. My weekend project was to give it a new home.

I started by exploding computers. My thoughts were as follows.


  • I have an AMD xp2500 (about 2Ghz) and 512mb of RAM in my current fileserver.
  • I have the old UFies.org system which isn’t needed now that the new system is fully burnt in which is a dual 1.13Ghz Pentium 3 with 2G of ram.
  • I have the PVR box which is a pentium 2 with about 256 mb of RAM.

I can take the guts of the fileserver out and replace them with the UFies guts (though not the case, because it’s huge). I can then take the old fileserver parts and use them in another case that just came back to me and turn that into the PVR. The PVR would remain with the same hard drive, and the same peripherals, just a new motherboard and new case.

Other than some minor issues getting the oversized server class motherboard into the Antec P160 “desktop” case (ended up having to use the tinsnips in the picture to chop off a protruding chunk of aluminim from the case parts, which made me sad because I really hate chopping up nice things, and it also messed up the fancy motherboard tray connector thingamaging), the transplant went well. Luckily this server runs Linux so changing the motherboard, CPU class, and number of CPUs didn’t phase it a bit. I think the only change I made was to enable the module for the new network card. Based on my experience with Windows machines, changing even the motherboard chipset under the OS makes it shit it’s pants.

Anyway, with the fileserver back up and running, sans the LED readout at the front (I must have missed a connection somewhere, will have to fix that tomorrow), I went on to the MythBox. This I basically built the box up from parts, throwing the old fileserver motherboard into a spare case I had gotten from ex-work long ago. Into that went the original hard drive, with MythTV already set up via Knoppmyth and a 200G SATA drive I’d just bought from an ex-coworker, and luckily the motherboard not only had SATA connectors right on it, but I had already compiled SATA support into the system so it just showed up. Then the PVR-350 card, a NIC I later took out when I realized the system had a NIC onboard, the sound card and a crappy vga card.

The swapover of hardware this time was a little less easy. The PCI ID of the PVR card has to be set in the X.org config file to output X11 to the TV out, and since the hardware had changed, that changed. Unfortunately I didn’t realize it was that simple until I had re-set up my original MythTV testing ground consisting of my old TV, a monitor, keyboard and mouse and the box all sitting in the middle of the floor of the office with 40 feet of coax cable connecting it to the cable jack in the next room (the only one in the office was taken up by the cable modem) and 15 feet of network cable plugging it into the network.

This also doubled as a good trap for unsuspecting people entering the room!

Anyway, a bit of testing and I got it back to outputting to TV properly, and then I did some more fiddling to make sure that remote picture/file/music shares were mounted, the buttons on the remote all worked, and so on and then it got plugged in for it’s next first test. Of course, it almost all worked. I currently have two bugs.

The first is that the sound from videos played comes out of the sound card while sound from recorded or live TV comes from the PVR’s audio out. I had this issue before and with the help from my buddy R, fixed it. I can’t remember what the fix was though. I have the audio looped from the PVR into the sound card, I have the line in in alsamixer unmuted… grrr…..

The other issue is that when playing some videos it won’t play them in the foreground. The screen flashes for a second and then goes black. I can fix this by hitting the attached keyboard’s ‘F’ key to un-fullscreen the video, and then hit ‘F’ again to re-fullscreen it, and it comes back in the foreground. This one isn’t as big a deal because I think it might have something to do with the mouse I have attached to the system doing a funky focus follows mouse thing that will go away when I disconnect the mouse from the system.

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