First impressions of Mythtv 0.21

As we announced here a couple of weeks ago, a new version of Mythtv was recently released.  Now that I’ve been toying with it for a couple of weeks, I thought I would share my initial impressions.

One of the big new features that was included with this release is the ability to create multiple storage groups.  I am guessing that at this point you are wondering what that is and why you should care about it.  You’re probably not alone.  The answer is this: You can create multiple directories for your tuners to record and playback from.  This means that each tuner can record to its own directory or even a completely separate drive.  This also means that you can fill up a drive with recordings, and then instead of needing LVM to get more recording space in the same directory.  You can just add a new drive with a new folder to record to and Mythtv will not skip a beat.  History lesson: You can think of LVM as somewhat similar to RAID in that you can add a drive to your system and expand the directory to include that drive.  The problem is that if you do not follow the directions properly to extend the directory to the new drive, or if your system hiccups at the wrong time during the process, bad things can happen and corrupt the Logical Volume (which is what the grouping of drives is called).  Another issue is that the LVM setup must be done before you start using the drive.  Changing a drive to an LVM group will destroy all of the data on it. /history lesson I have not personally used the storage group option much yet because all of my systems are using LVM currently.  However, for someone starting a new Mythtv setup, I can see lots of advantages here.  And even if you are using LVM currently, you can still use storage groups with it.  If you add a new drive to your system you can set up a new storage group instead of adding the drive to your current LVM group.  Whatever you want to do.

Another new feature that was added in Mythtv 0.21 is the Watch List.  This is Mythtv’s recommendation of shows that you should watch in order to stay up-to-date on your series’s of shows.  I think it’s a good idea but not a feature that I plan to use.  I like just having a list of shows in chronological order which has been the default condition for quite a while.  I personally removed the Watch List from the menu just so that I would have more real estate for the series titles.

A couple of plug-ins were added in this update to Mythtv: MythMovies and MythZoneMinder.  MythMovies allows you to enter your zip code and it will list all of the movies playing in all of your local theaters within a given radius.  You can sort either by movie title or location.  In both formats you will find the movie rating as well as the running time, and if you sort by location you can also find out the show times.  One thing that is missing however is a description of the movies themselves.  All in all though, it’s a very convenient plug-in if you ever feel like seeing what’s playing. 

MythZoneMinder on the other hand is a plug-in that works as a frontend to ZoneMinder, which is a home security/surveillance application.  The plug-in provides most of the features that are available in ZoneMinder.  I have not setup ZoneMinder itself yet so I cannot really comment on its ease of use, but for those that use it, this could make it a little more convenient to use.

One thing that got fixed in this version of Mythtv is the weather plug-in.  It had been working in older versions of Mythtv, but the more recent versions changed something that broke it.  The new version of Mythtv now has this revamped and it’s all working again. 

One of the more visible updates in my opinion is the memory management aspect.  While it has no impact on the bling of Mythtv, it definitely improves the load time.  Mythtv now launches in about 10%*  of the time that it used to.

* This is a rough estimate, I did not time it before and after upgrading.

Also new in this version of Mythtv is the ability to record multiple channels on a single ATSC/DVB tuner if they share the same multiplex.  I haven’t had a need for this yet because most of the channels that I watch are on separate multiplexes, but it’s great for those that can use it.

Included in this new version of Mythtv is the ability to import the channel icons from the setup utility directly.  Previously you could do this by running a separate script that was user contributed but it is a nice touch to have this incorporated now.  The script always worked well in my experience so this should be a walk in the park.

One of the nice features that I found that isn’t in the main section of the Mythtv Release Notes is in the QAM tuning section.  In previous versions, when scanning through the channels in the setup utility, I would get the occasional message saying that a new channel was added or updated.  Most of the time however I would get messages saying that the channel either had no signal or no tables.  The new version of Mythtv, provides a very good indication that instead of having no tables, the channel is actually encrypted.  The end result is still the same, but know there is a better explanation as to why the other channels were not added to the lineup.  I know this doesn’t change the end result, but I really liked this change.

So what do I think of the new version of Mythtv?  On the whole, Mythtv has always been stable for me and with the bug fixes found in this version, I imagine it will be even better.  The recording group feature is very convenient for those setting up a new HTPC.  And with the added plug-ins you can’t go wrong.  If you currently have a nice stable Mythtv setup, I don’t think there’s much need to rush out and upgrade, but if you are looking at one of the new features or are starting from scratch, it is certainly great place to start.