07 February 2010

Media on Linux

I’ve had a media PC sitting under the TV for quite a while now and it’s been very useful for recording TV and showing photos to the family. A few months ago I replaced the TV card with one supported under Linux (a Hauppage WinTV-NOVA-TD 500) and thought it would be a good opportunity to learn a bit about how Linux works, plus I’d heard good things about MythTV and wanted to try it out. A few months later the things I have learned are:

  1. With a family and a full time job I don’t have the hours of free time needed to get things working, especially when I know I can do the same thing under Windows with far less trouble.
  2. Mythbuntu sounds like a good idea, but when things don’t work (which in my experience was all too often) it’s another layer of unfamiliarity to work through. i.e. “Is this a problem in MythTV, Ubuntu, or Mythbuntu specifically?”. Also walkthroughs for Ubuntu may not work as various tools have been stripped out of Mythbuntu to make it lighter-weight. So if you are familiar with Linux already then Mythbuntu may help, however, if I was doing this again I’d install the full Ubuntu first and then MythTV on top.
  3. MythTV has a pretty slick frontend and when it works it is good. However, it’s quite fiddly to set up. If you want to get a TV card IR remote control working at the same time as a USB keyboard and mouse (which may or may not be plugged in at boot time) then be prepared for an unnecessarily convoluted fight with various configuration files. (I believe because the IR receiver in my TV card also looks like a USB device to the operating system.)
  4. For some reason DVDs are jerky under Linux using either VLC or the built in DVD decoder in MythTV. The same (rather old) hardware plays DVDs fine using a free copy of PowerDVD on Windows.

So when DVDs stopped playing altogether it was the final straw. In that particular case it turned out that the DVD drive had actually died but by then the die was cast and Windows XP was back.