MythTV and CAT5e: Geek Paradise

September 6, 2005

Been a while, sorry, whatever, here is what's new:

MythTV: It's like TiVo on crack! MythTV is a program that turns a computer into a "set-top box." A set-top box is a computer that you use with your television. MythTV performs TV enhancements like the ability to pause and rewind live TV, and also allows you to record programs for later viewing. With the recorded programs you can skip commercials while viewing, and even output them for burning to DVD. I hardly ever watch live TV any more. Another cool feature is that I can rip a DVD to image and put the image on the MythTV box and then watch the DVD from the hard drive with menus and everything else you expect from a DVD. You can play music (mp3, ogg vorbis, etc.) on the box, as well as standard video formats (avi, mov, mpeg, etc.) Recently, I have been downloading movie trailers and watching them on the TV instead of the computer.

I installed MythTV on an old computer using a distribution called KnoppMyth. KnoppMyth is a single CD installation that installs Debian and MythTV with other extras that enhance MythTV. It even has a walk-through setup that makes it easier to get working. If you didn't know, Debian is a distribution of the Linux operating system. That's right, MythTV only works with Linux. This is nice because both Linux and MythTV are open source, which also means both are free. While KnoppMyth makes the installation much easier, installing MythTV this way is still not for the feint of heart. Getting my system working still required quite a bit of tweaking the system. However the online community for KnoppMyth is excellent, and most people have had the same issues as me and there are tutorials that walk you through resolving those issues. The only extra hardware I had to purchase was a TV-tuner card (goes in computer and has a coax-in connection on the back), and eventually a larger hard drive to store all the TV shows and ripped DVDs.

The next step I would like to take is to build a new box from the ground up to make a set-top box that actually looks like it belongs on top of my TV. Right now, I have a computer tower on top of my TV. Once I get that done, I will turn the current computer I am using for MythTV into a second desktop computer so that Heather and I don't bump heads when we both want to use the computer.

Centralized network: Wired Ethernet in the home. Well, now that I have two computers hooked up to the internet and to each other via a network I thought it would be nice to improve my network setup. Before everything was in our media room and I had a long cable running from the cable connection over to my cable modem and an even longer cable going from the router on top of my desktop computer over to the MythTV box on top of the TV. My thought was this: install Ethernet jacks in the walls behind both computers and move the cable modem and router to the coat closet. The closet is a nice central location for when I run Ethernet to other locations I want it at, and it also seemed like a good place to put any server computers I plan to put together later. So, this weekend I ran power over to the closet, ran CAT5e Ethernet cable between both computers and the closet, and temporarily terminated the cable with RJ45 plugs. I also ran a coaxial cable from my cable splitter over to the closet. Right now the cable modem and router are in the closet and the network is up and running. I am expecting materials in the mail today that will allow me to make the installation more finished (faceplates, and RJ45 jacks). This setup is going to make it easier for me to complete my master plan. My master plan is to have MythTV set up on all televisions in the house (at least 3), have two desktop computers, a file server in the closet, and possibly a master MythTV backend in the closet. If you have trouble counting, that would mean I plan to have as many as 7 computers in my house. Pretty cool, huh? I'd have to buy a new router, though...

I plan to have a new survey up soon, so check the main page.

Expect to hear more about MythTV as I do more cool stuff with it. Also, feel free to ask me questions about it, as it has consumed much of my time and I'm still real excited about it.