Picking out the hardware for my MythTV box

by Matthew Gast

Related link: http://www.oreillynet.com/pub/a/oreilly/digitalmedia/2005/06/22/myth_tv.html

Earlier this year, I made the decision to take the plunge and build myself an HTPC. The initial impetus is to run MythTV, though it's always nice to have programmable logic to see where it leads. (Especially when it seems to be endangered--it's thankfully much harder to take rights away from the installed base.)

My MythTV machine is the most powerful expensive and powerful machine in the house (though a good bit of the expense is in the attractive case). I estimate that I was able to save several hundred dollars by purchasing an AMD-based system. I was looking at cooler processors, and the 90 nm Athlon64 CPUs and motherboards are substantially cheaper than the Intel equivalents. Selecting hardware was a time-consuming process for me because I had to digest a large number of guides and personal observations, many of which were Intel-based and not as useful to me.

I recently finished off the minimum amount of work that makes MythTV useful, and I have the Myth system running in parallel to my existing TiVo setup for "experimental" purposes. The last bit was getting a remote control working. For Christmas last year, I received a Logitech Harmony remote, which is the obvious choice, except for one problem.

The IR receivers used with Linux are universal receivers. You adapt the receiver to your existing remotes by telling the software what the flash patterns mean for each application. The Harmony is a univeral transmitter. It expects you to tell it about the home theater equipment you have, and adapts its flash patterns to control what you already own. A bit of a chicken-and-egg situation, when you want to get the universal transmitter to talk to the universal receiver.

As a short-term fix to allow me to control everything from the couch, I set up my TiVo remote. Series2 TiVo remotes have a rocker switch that enables them to control two different DVRs. I configured my existing TiVo so that it responds to the DVR 1 position, and the Myth box to respond to the DVR 2 position. Although it has basic functionality, it is by no means perfect. I have yet to set up all the features, including switching between audio tracks.

With an upcoming trip across the Pacific, now all I need to do is get video export and transcoding working...