Reg reader seeks living room Myth advice - can you help?
Care from the community
Reader Assistance We received the following plea for assistance from Reg Hardware reader Ian Bonham this morning:
Dear Reg Hardware,
As Chrimbo closes on us, I'm looking at a new family TV and Blu-ray to keep the ankle-biters quiet while I enjoy a bit of much deserved downtime. I am in a bit of a quandary though.
As a dedicated Penguin, I have Myth TV running in my home office watching Freesat and Freeview (Hauppauge HVR-4000), and it streams telly, video and music around the house. Lovely!
She doesn't want a PC in the lounge though, so is there a Blu-ray that will interface fully with Myth? Or am I looking at a TV, Blu-ray and an ARM box I can maybe put a Myth front-end on, like the TrimSlice?
Hope you can give me some advice, because with last payday coming up before Crimbo Santa needs his list soon, and we all want to watch the Doctor Who Christmas Special in style, but I need my toys too!
Now, we're not - we have to confess - Myth TV boffins. But maybe some of you guys are. So, here's the challenge to you, readers: can you solve Ian's conundrum?
Suggestions, tips and tricks in the comments, folks. And let's keep it on-topic - no divergence about how Ian should throw out his entire set-up and buy a PS3, please. Let's see if we can't help Ian get his kit ready in time. ®
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Keep the PC!
Why does the good lady not want a PC in the lounge? Is it looks? Fan noise? Having a PC outputting to your TV is by far the most flexible option.
If looks are the problem, there are a plethora of non-PC looking cases around, ranging from cases that look like DVD players to ones that look like Daleks. As for noise, by using good quality large diameter fans you can get this so low as to be barely audible.
Un-universal Plug n Pray
FWIW 'HTPC' cases are almost without exception FUGLY (cheap looking front-mounted tatty ports, anyone?) - or those that aren't are ludicrously expensive or are badly designed to the detriment of sane airflow. In the case of smaller Nvidia-powered SFF bricks they can (rightly so) be hidden behind the TV, mounted VESA style.
The concept of UPnP / DLNA is very nice & all but server software like that in MythTV needs to have a shedload of workarounds hard-coded into it to cope with many different clients. Apparently the 'universal' part of the acronym seems to mean "here's the standard, do whatever you want".
Besides, with a dumb streaming client you'll miss out on being able to schedule recordings but most importantly seek within streamed content (some clients can't even do that!) & do funky stuff like time-compress during playback. My wife *really* loves MythTV's ability to play her recordings back faster than real time & wouldn't be without her one button 4 minute skip feature.
Unless you really *must* have an optical drive in the livingroom you can still adhere to the 'no PC in the lounge' by using the existing backend machine as your frontend too. HDMI can be comfortably run for 10+ metres without an extender & extenders to put HDMI over 30 metres of cat6 cable are under £50 nowadays. Your remote control can be RF, or a local USB IR receiver (again, USB extenders don't cost the Earth) - or even just the one which comes with most TV tuners these days (obviously extended long enough to sit near your telly). I'll be doing this when (if?) we upgrade our TV - what's the point having 2 boxes when one can do the job just fine (I'd already have done it were it not for the fact you can't easily buy a PCI-E graphics card with s-video out).
Of course now with MythTV's APIs (http://www.mythtv.org/wiki/Services_API) on the cards it'll likely be possible to write a native mythtv frontend app for network connected TVs and possible to sideload apps the set manufacturers see fit not to approve for their walled garden. I'm pretty excited by the prospect - no more having to de-fuddle the virtually undocumented protocol, no messing about with MySQL... It'll be wonderful.
Don't ditch everything but do consider a PS3
I have a similar Myth setup. The front-end, in the living room, is based on a Zotac ION board and is silent. I use an external USB DVD drive.
However, it doesn't support Blu-Ray (as mentioned by other posters).
My children use their PS3 as a front end on 'their' TV and it works very well. They can play back any recorded programmes and use the Myth web interface to schedule recordings. It plays Blu-Ray discs and also has a native client for watching streaming films - full screen - from Love Film (which are included 'free' with certain rental subscriptions).
It also has 5.1 surround sound output.
The latest model is quite slim and un-obtrusive although there is some fan noise.
The only thing is doesn't support is live TV playback - but does anyone watch things live anymore?