Home Theatre PC Guide
Posted on: 04/02/2005 06:00 AM

As we close out our discussion on the Media Library, you'll see that MythTV once again will allow you to import your picture (and video) collection for viewing within the application. Initially I had MythTV configured to store all forms of media in the same directory, but what I discovered is that each component of the library won't only display files of that particular type, but everything in the directory... so viewing each component of the library can get messy. After creating separate picture and video directories, it becomes much easier to navigate. I imported a few pictures of Ollie once again, and everything here works just fine. The slideshow function can feature OpenGL-accelerated transitions from one picture to the next providing your hardware and configuration support that. You can rotate images clockwise or counter-clockwise and import additional photos if you so desire.

Care to perform some legal backups of your favorite DVDs? MythTV has built-in DVD ripping that will let you make perfect copies of your DVD collection, and also offers the option to transcode them down to smaller, more transportable files. For my testing, I just grabbed the DVD that I most recently watched, "A Beautiful Mind" and ran it through the gauntlet. I requested a "Perfect" copy (other options are "Excellent" and "Good) and away it went. It took awhile, but eventually I did have a perfect copy stored on my hard drive. I know a couple of guys who are hardcore MythTV users and they tell me that this is one of the features they use on a regular basis. If you're going to put together a semi-mobile HTPC, I can imagine a lot of people would simply rip some of their favorite titles to disk. When I first tried to access the DVD-Ripping option, it told me that it was unable to connect to the transcoding daemon and that the operation couldn't continue. A quick google told me that the daemon in question wasn't launched automatically when the front-end started. After quickly opening an xterm window and issuing an 'mtd -n', it worked perfectly.

To wrap up our coverage of MythTV, I thought it would be a good idea to spend a few minutes discussing the various configuration options that you'll be able to toggle within MythTV's interface. Once you access the "Utilities/Settings" page from the main menu you'll be presented with a plethora of sub-options to choose from. As I did with MCE2005, let's just do a quick run through so you'll know what to expect:

General Settings: Here is where you'll be able to manipulate your database client configuration. Where the database is located (you can actually add additional client machines that connect to your main MythTV database back-end over the network) and what credentials it will use to connect to it.

Appearance Settings: You'll spend quite a bit of time in here adjusting things to your liking. You'll be able to toggle through several packaged themes, adjust window sizes if you'd rather run the application windowed instead of maximized and adjust all fonts used in MythTV. If you have a case that has a built-in LCD or VFD, you can also enable them here to have certain information displayed such as movie or song title.

TV Settings: In this section you'll be able to adjust settings that pertain to your electronic program guide, such as whether or not you'd like each genre of show (movie, sports, tv) to be represented by a different color. Here you'll also be able to play with different Recording Profiles. As you can see in the last screenshot, you'll be able to adjust the stream type, the aspect ratio if you want to be recording things in 16:9 for your wide-screen television, and even the bitrates that will be used during recording.

Media Settings: The Media Library, which we talked about at length, can be configured here. Namely, the locations where you'd like to store your music, picture and video collections.

Like BeyondTV and SageTV, there is the ability to remotely connect to MythTV to view your program guide and to schedule recordings. It's simple to setup. You just take a quick look at one configuration file, start apache and then browse to http://your.mythtv.box.ip/mythweb/. Try it out; it's quite handy. On the issue of capture cards, MythTV does support multiple cards and multiple simultaneous recordings. Feel free to add as many capture cards to your HTPC as it will handle (and you can afford). MythTV will handle them all with ease.

MythTV can be frustrating one minute and highly rewarding the next. Once you get past the installation and configuration, MythTV works quite well. I only encountered a couple of glitches along the way that were quickly resolved by using google. I'm definitely going to continue playing with MythTV because it might let me rationalize two dedicated boxes down to one and have my MythTV box also handle all of my home web-serving and file-serving duties. Why have two machines running 24x7 when you can rationalize it down to one?

My only concern with putting MythTV into production is the level of comfort for my family. While in the application, use is quite easy, but what if something fails while I'm away or at work and Alicia is stuck without any television? At least with a Windows-based HTPC application, she'd be quite familiar with the OS and able to perform some basic troubleshooting. I'm sure it's reliable enough that this wouldn't be much of an issue, but it's something to think about nonetheless.

If you even feel moderately comfortable with Linux, I'd definitely suggest giving MythTV a try.

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