The perfect OS for a Mythtv Backend?

Sep 25 2010

I've been working on my development system lately trying to determine what operating system I want to use for it.  In my "production" Mythtv server I am using Fedora.  I started out with Fedora Core 5 on this box and have upgraded it to Fedora Core 8 over the years.  Fedora is now up to Fedora 13, with Fedora 14 coming out soon.  While Fedora has been nice because a newer version comes out every 6 months or so with more features, it is also a pain because the ATRPMS repo that I use for my Mythtv packages only supports the current and previous versions of the OS (currently 13 and 12).  Because of this it forces me to update my backend every six months or so, which inevitably means that my frontends also need to be updated to stay in sync which in turn means that my Mythtv network is down for repairs for a day or two while I work out the kinks that always pop up after an upgrade.

If you are interested in what I have since tried out and what I am looking into next, please read on.

So now I'm trying to determine what OS to use for my development Mythtv system which I intend to make into my new production backend over time. My biggest requirement is that I want an OS that I can continue to use the most recent version of Mythtv on without needing to upgrade the base OS.  With that in mind, the first OS that I tried on this system was Debian 5 - Lenny.  After digging up some install instructions from the Mythtv Wiki I was able to get a system up and running quickly.  All of my hardware was recognized (Nvidia 6150 based motherboard, two Dvico Fusion 5 LT Lite tuners, etc) and I was ready to go.  The main issue I had with this system was that I am very used to the Redhat/Fedora feel of things, including the use of the YUM package manager over APT.  For those of you that are used to Debian based systems - including Ubuntu - this may be a good choice for you.  But it wasn't quite right for me.  I may try it again later to see if I can get used to it if I don't find something that I like first, but for now it's off to greener pastures for me.

The next one that I tried was CentOS 5.5.  CentOS is based on RedHat, just like Fedora is so it was very familiar to me.  It is also supported by the Mythtv packages at ATRPMS.  The advantage that it has over Fedora is that it does not get updated as frequently.  This is both good and bad.  The bad is that the CentOS operating system starts out each "major" version - version 5 in this case - at a specific kernel level (i.e. 2.6.18) and each "minor" version update - 5.1, 5.2, etc - adds patches to that specific kernel.  CentOS does not update the kernel version until the next "major" version is released.  This means that new hardware isn't supported for quite a while.  For example, the HD portion of my Fusion5 cards were not recognized.  I believe that Redhat 6 will be released soon which means that CentOS 6 will be following soon after and that should bring the system up to date, but over time it will fall behind again.

If anyone is interested in seeing what kernel version their hardware is supported under, a good resource is the LinuxTV website.

So where do I go from here?  Well, the next OS that I am in the process of loading as I type this is MythDora 12.23.  It has the advantage of being based on Fedora but does not get updated as frequently.  Also, Mythdora has its own repo so it is not as critical to stay up to date.  We'll see how it fits once I get it loaded and tested.

If you have any thoughts or suggestions of other OSes to test out, please leave a comment.  I would love to get other opinions for this.

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