Dec 09 2011

Blog - MythTV Reloaded - Day 21

I'm happy to say that after weeks of work (I can't believe that it actually took that long.  I'm so ashamed) I have a frontend that works very nicely.  I should have posted this a few days ago but I've been happily enjoying my new setup.  For the most part it's been working great. I have really been enjoying the quick suspend/resume.  This is the first time that I've been able to get it to function properly on this system.  It's much nicer than the 2 minutes or so it used to take.  Anyway, I noticed that I have a couple of button mismappings on my remote - commercial skip forward and backward are swapped.  Easy enough to fix.  

I haven't had a chance to test out DVD and BluRay playback.  I can report back when I've had time to do that.  I don't think I have BluRay setup quite right yet but if I get DVDs to playback reliably I'll be a step up from my old setup.  It used to work on my old frontend (an installation that I had before my previous setup) but then when I upgraded to what I was previously working it was very hit or miss and I eventually gave up and hooked up a dedicated DVD player to the TV.

I think that my HD playback has gone up a notch in image quality as well from this upgrade.  The new drivers (and possibly the underlying video rendering system) seem to be allowing me to run a much smoother playback.  In the past, high speed panning scenes (football) would have a tear in the middle of the screen but I haven't seen it since the update.  Audio continues to work well - optical out to my receiver; that TV doesn't have HDMI.

In the end I'm very satisfied with this upgrade.  I have everything working as well as or better than my previous setup with the sole exception of Mythweb which I still need to setup.  But that'll be for another day.  For now, I'm going to go back and play with my newly functional toys.

Dec 04 2011

Blog - MythTV Reloaded - Day 20

So, there was one more enhancement that I decided to make to the frontend before putting it back into service.  While I was looking into getting the suspend function mapped to a button on my remote, I ran across this page on the MythTV wiki.  While the command shown for suspending the PC didn't work for me, I did like the idea of adding an entry on the main MythTV menu for putting the computer to sleep.  That way, if for whatever reason the frontend was being controlled by a keyboard or remotely, it would still be possible to put the system to sleep easily without the remote.  I was able to follow the instructions pretty much as written but changing my theme for the one in the example.  The only thing that was different was that I needed to make a second entry for the button icon.  When the icon is highlighted the icon was supposed to stretch to fill a slightly bigger box but without this second entry there was no stretching.  As a result, all of the icons shown after were offset from their tile outline by about 5-10% and it looked pretty bad.  So I found the place to put the second entry (an exact copy of the first entry, just in a different spot in the code), restarted the frontend app and away I went.  Everything looks great, and I have a new sleep icon.  

So, now I think that I'm really ready to put the system into use.  Until then, enjoy.  I know I will.

Dec 03 2011

Blog - MythTV Reloaded - Day 19

Today was spent primarily on cleanup work.  Most of the time was creating the lircrc file for MythTV to use, which maps the remote control button codes to commands within an application.  Luckily for me I had a backup of the lircrc files that I had been using before the upgrade.  The only problem is that all of the button names changed with the update of LIRC. So instead of "Play" I had to change the config file to act on "KEY_PLAY".  They standardized all of the names on me.  So most of my time was spent figuring out what the proper name was for all of the buttons on my remote and mapping those to the correct commands in MythTV.  

Once that was done I had all of the functionality that I had in my previous install. I figured, however, that as long as I was doing this I might as well go for gold.  There were two scripts that I had found and tweaked early in my MythTV days that I was never able to get working on my previous installation of MythTV.  The first script cycled the MythTV frontend application via a button press - so if it hung I could kill the app and if it crashed and died I could restart it.  The second script suspended and woke up the computer via a button push.  I was able to wake up the frontend via a button push but was not able to get suspend to work prop ferly; every time I wanted to watch TV I would have to wait for a minute or two while the frontend booted.  Annoying, but luckily my wife was very tolerant on this problem.  As luck would have it, the frontend cycling script only needed a couple of tweaks to get it running.  The suspend script ended up using a completely new power management interface to get suspend to function properly as a user and not root, but luckily someone had already figured out how to do it and it was a non-trivial matter of Googling to find the solution.

Dec 01 2011

Blog - MythTV Reloaded - Day 18

So today I was doing a bit of stress testing of the frontend system to make sure that it was ready for me to put back into use.  It turns out there were still a couple of bugs to work out.  You may recall from this blog post that I ended up using Fedora 15 with KDE as the desktop environment.  It turns out that under certain circumstances there is a problem with this setup using 100% of one of the CPU cores.  I happen to run into this situation.  I didn't notice it right away since it's a dual core system and the other core is sitting idle most of the time but I did setup the system monitoring widget and noticed that one of the cores was completely pegged out.  Running top showed me that it was "plasmadesktop" that was hogging all of the resources.  A quick Google search showed me that this happens to people running the version of KDE that comes with Fedora 15 and newer.

It sounds like this happens when a system wakes up from suspend and is running multiple "panels" - the bars at the top and bottom of the screen - and various widgets.  Basically, this is resolved by disabling or removing the various widgets and panels that were added in addition to the original ones.  Since this is a dedicated frontend I removed everything that I had added, including the system monitor that I added that found this problem in the first place.  Once this was done I put the system to sleep a couple of times and made sure that I did not have high CPU usage when it woke up (or a couple hours later).  It seems like removing the panels and widgets took care of the problem for me.

Nov 30 2011

Blog - MythTV Reloaded - Day 17

Well, it turns out that I'm a moron.  Apparently everything was pretty much working for me already.  I had all of the pieces, I just didn't put them together correctly.  After days of work I finally have LIRC recognizing my remote inputs properly.  Basically what happened is that I configured the startup script for LIRC to load the correct driver for my IR receiver with the correct device and the correct parameters.  I had the correct config file being used to interpret the key presses correctly.  I had it all.  The problem was that I was doing all of my testing by launching the LIRC daemon from the command line instead of via the startup script that I had configured so none of my tweaks were being taken [facepalm].  Needless to say, after verifying this by running the command line with all of the correct parameters and then again verifying by rebooting the system and having it launch automatically, the remote control is now being properly identified and controlled via LIRC.  I can now launch irw and see all of my key presses as they happen.

At this point there seem to be only a few tweaks left to make before the system is ready for use again.  First, I need to setup the MythTV frontend application to automatically launch at login.  Next, I need to make MythTV always appear on top of the screen; it is currently being covered with the top and bottom panels of the window manager.  Finally, I need to configure the LIRC configuration file to interpret the button presses and pass them to the various applications, like MythTV.  Once I've got that in place, I think that all of the major components will be in place and I can put the unit back into service.  Yay.

Nov 26 2011

Blog - MythTV Reloaded - Day 16

I guess I got a little distracted today.  In doing some of my research for using LIRC with my iMon IR receiver that is part of the Antec Fusion 430 Black case, I ran across a couple of web pages that discussed getting the LCD screen working with LCDProc.  So that's what I did today.  Now when I go through the MythTV menus my LCD screen shows the menu entry that's highlighted.  If I have a show open it'll tell the name of the show and the description, the progress bar, and other stuff like that.  If nothing important is being displayed it will show the time.  It works very well in my opinion.  That's one thing that I never got working under Ubuntu.  The LCD screen was just glowing blue but not displaying anything, not even the time.

In other news, I was playing around with mplayer some today and found that all of the transport controls work there just fine.  What is going on with LIRC and MythTV?  I've even tried to create my own lircd.conf file using irrecord.  I found another program similar to ir-keyboard that I mentioned yesterday, called evtest.  It also recognizes all of the buttons on my MCE-emulating Harmony remote.  There must be something simple that I'm missing...

Oh well, time for bed.  More work to do tomorrow.  It seems like I'm so close but can't quite get to where I want to be...

Nov 25 2011

Blog - MythTV Reloaded - Day 15

I've done a bit more research into this remote control thing and found a couple of commands to use for debugging.  First is ir-keyboard.  If I run ir-keyboard with no options it will show me what device is found, what protocols it is capable of and which one(Drunk it is using.  In my case the output looks like:

Found /sys/class/rc/rc0/ (/dev/input/event5) with:

        Driver imon, table rc-imon-mce

        Supported protocols: RC-6

        Enabled protocols: RC-6

        Repeat delay = 500 ms, repeat period = 33 ms

In addition, I can run ir-keyboard -t and it will put the IR receiver into test mode.  Every time I press a button on the remote it puts up the codes and key names that it decodes.  According to this, everything it being seen properly and should be working.  I guess it's just an issue with the handoff to LIRC that's the problem.  I'm a step closer but still confused...

Again, I can say that the hardware is working fine and it's a software config issue that's holding me back.  Now to figure out what that is...

Nov 24 2011

Blog - MythTV Reloaded - Day 14

Well, I've had a bit of time to look into the new Fedora 15 load and it appears that without doing anything with LIRC at all I have basic directional pad controls on my remote working.  Volume also appears to work.  However, when I install LIRC and point it to lircd.conf.mceusb I get nothing when running irw.  If I do lsmod | grep imon I see that the imon driver is loaded by default, which is apparently what I should be seeing.  Obviously the hardware is connected right and recognized because some of the buttons work.  I guess I have a bit more research to do to figure out what has changed in this new kernel update.

At least I have hope now that I will reach my goal of a working remote eventually.  That's a step in the right direction anyway.  Any thoughts or ideas of things to try?  Leave me a comment!

Nov 23 2011

Blog - MythTV Reloaded - Day 13

Ok, after a good night sleep I have cooled down enough to be productive again.  I decided to reinstall Fedora 15, this time using KDE as the desktop instead of Gnome.  I'm sure that if I had dug into it far enough I could have figured out how to resolve the windowing issues that I was facing.  Maybe there was a desktop effect that I could have turned off somewhere or something but I didn't feel like figuring out that problem when all I want to do is get the MythTV frontend up and running.  So I decided to kill that installation and load up Fedora 15 with KDE as the desktop environment this time.  The rest of the install process was identical as far ask I can tell.  After I got the graphics drivers and MythTV installed I found that I did not have that screen corruption issue.

I did still face the second problem that I reported in my last entry - MythTV playback was corrupted.  This problem turned out to not be as big of a problem as I originally thought.  To fix it I went into the setup options for TV Settings -> Playback and changed the profile to High Quality.  Once I completed that, playback proceeded as normal.  I'm sure that down the road I may tweak the playback profiles some more to get a bit more out of it, but at least it works now.  That's as far as I'm going for now.  I'm still a little annoyed that I had to go through that in the first place.  

Needless to say, WAF is not at its highest right now.  Hopefully there will not be many more setbacks in this process.  Need to get that remote figured out...

Nov 22 2011

Blog - MythTV Reloaded - Day 12

Ok, it seems that every time I take a step forward I also take one back.  So before jumping into setting up the remote I decided to take a quick spin through the desktop and then MythTV to make sure the basics still work.  Now I'm very glad I did that.  I don't know exactly what's going on here because I've never seen anything like it but I'm getting some major visualization issues in my desktop.  What happens is that I open a window and everything looks fine.  Then if I try to move the window or resize it, the window tilts 45 degrees.  That's not the best description so try this.  Imagine a vertical bar that makes up one row of pixels.  Then shift that bar of pixels 45 degrees.  The edges of the windows wrap.  So instead of columns of icons like this: ||||| I see "columns" of icons like this: /////  It's all very messed up.  I wish I had a screen cap of it but I don't.

To make things even worse, I can get to Mythtv and the issue shows up there as well.  But that's only the start of the problem there...  If I try to launch a recording, the recording launches but the playback is at about half time and the image is almost like a checkerboard with the "white" squares showing the correct video image and the "black" squares showing orangish/red blocks.  Arg!  I'm about to give up!

Help me Obi Wan Kenobi.  You're my only hope!

Nov 21 2011

Blog - MythTV Reloaded - Day 11

Welcome back to another exciting entry into what should have been a well planned out and straight forward upgrade from MythTV 0.21 to MythTV 0.24.  Here's a recap:

1) Upgraded the backend

2) "Upgraded" the frontend

3) Got MythTV working on Windows

4) Performed integration testing

5) Failed integration testing - Frontend no workey.  X-Windows doesn't load, then no remote

At this point I was faced with a decision - get a different IR receiver or load a new OS.  I decided to go with an OS upgrade.  This time around I went with Fedora 15 x64, primarily because it is the most recent version of Fedora that I already had downloaded.  Installation was very straight forward following procedures previously mentioned.  As it turns out, the kernel used in this version is so this gets me to the 2.6.38+ that I apparently need to get my remote working.  I didn't get so far as to test it out tonight but I did get Fedora loaded, MythTV installed and the graphics driver loaded.  Tomorrow I will verify that what I have so far is working and then dig into the remote some more.  Until then, have a good day/night depending on when you are reading this.

Nov 20 2011

Blog - TiVo Goes HTPC

When choosing the perfect chassis for a home theater PC (HTPC), something that is more "consumer electronics" (CE) looking is often desired. Missing Remote reader, Kirby Baker, didn't just buy off the shelf in his quest. He modified a TiVo Series 1 chassis and built an extremely capable HTPC inside. Kirby did an awesome job and it is a lot of fun to think about the possibilities of old CE chassis!

You can check out his original thread in our forums. After the gallery, is the system build list and description of the steps involved to modify the TiVo Series 1. We would love to see more of these creative re-uses so let us know if you've come up with something.


Here is the hardware list:

Nov 20 2011

Blog - MythTV Reloaded - Day 10

I've been doing a bit of research today and it doesn't look good.  Getting the remote working a matter of installing LIRC (either with yum install lirc or else building it manually).  In the past, once it's installed, I've had to load the lirc_imon kernel module which is the driver for my Antec Fusion 430 Black IR receiver.  Then I would copy the correct lircd.conf file - in my case lircd.conf.mceusb - into /etc/lirc/lircd.conf.  Once the module is loaded and the config file is ready, you start the lirc daemon and then run irw.  At this point every time I press a button, it should register on the screen.  But that isn't the case this time around.

Nov 20 2011

Blog - MythTV Reloaded - Day 9

Tonight, while pondering my IR receiver, I decided to take it easy a bit and play around with MythTv Player on my laptop.  This has led me to another shortfall of my current setup in that I still need to get Mythweb running.  Mythweb is very handy for use with MythTv Player because the player doesn't have the ability to schedule recordings.  So instead I can do that from a web browser and Mythweb.  I  guess that's another thing I'll need to add to my list once I get the basic functionality worked out.  I'll try to do a guide for that as well.


Nov 19 2011

Blog - MythTV Reloaded - Day 8

Today I spent a while poking at the frontend again.  If you will remember from yesterday the changeover didn't go quite as smoothly as I had hoped for.  When I turned on the frontend I was greeted with a black screen.  Eventually I was able to get to a command line but didn't get any further before going to bed.  After looking at a couple of things and trying to start X Windows manually I realized that I had forgotten to install the AMD graphics driver.  Once that was done I could get the system to boot into X Windows normally.  Mythfrontend started up just like it was supposed to and this quickly brought to light the next thing that I forgot to do - setup the remote control!  

Tomorrow I will begin looking at the remote control receiver and see if I can get that running.   Hopefully that will be as simple to get running also.  It's always gone fairly smoothly in the past but it's been a couple of years since I last did it so I may be a little bit rusty.  We'll see.  Until next time...

Nov 18 2011

Blog - MythTV Reloaded - Day 7

I think I'm ready to do a full system changeover tomorrow night.  That'll be the moment of truth.  We'll see how much I've missed at that point.  I'm sure there's something.

Why, oh why, did I have to say that?!

Nov 17 2011

Blog - MythTV Reloaded - Day 6

I am happy to say that after a couple of hours of Googling and poking at my MythTV server, I've fixed my issues causing my Windows MythTV install to not connect to my backend.  It turns out that it was a firewall issue no the backend after all.  When I configured the backend originally I had opened up the firewall to allow access to the MythTV specific ports (6543 and 6544) but it turns out that MySQL uses its own port (3306).  Once I opened that one up I was able to connect to my backend.  This wasn't an issue for me in the past because all of the installation instructions for MythTV said that to simplify setup you should disable the firewall and SELinux.  Current OSes do not have that option anymore during install so when I did the backend this time I tried for higher security by leaving the firewall and SELinux enabled.  Obviously it caused me some small problems but I feel better knowing that I have this protection while my server is hooked up to the network.  Expect a short guide on necessary firewall ports once this update process is finished.

In other news, I was also able to take the Windows installer for MythTV that was created as part of my build process and install it on my wife's laptop.  Her system is also able to access the backend after a quick test.  Things are now back on track.  For now I have set the server back to 0.21 so that we can use it today and tomorrow but I think I'm ready to do a full system changeover tomorrow night.  That'll be the moment of truth.  We'll see how much I've missed at that point.  I'm sure there's something.

Nov 16 2011

Blog - MythTV Reloaded - Day 5

Well, up until this point, everything has progressed exactly as planned.  As with all things that I do though, something must go wrong.  Well, now I have hit my first big speed bump with this build process.  Today I set my backend system to run the 0.24 install that I made a couple of days ago and that is still working fine.  After re-migrating the database, everything still shows up locally.  

The issue that I'm running into now is that when I launch the frontend application on my laptop I get an error message saying that MySQL couldn't connect to the database.  Eventually I get the initial setup screen asking for the language to use and then later what IP to use for the backend.  I set that up and then once again I cannot connect.

I poked around in the backend for a bit and noticed that there was a spot to set a PIN for the system.  The description said that a blank pin will reject all connections and a pin of 0000 will allow any system to connect to it.  Otherwise, the pin needs to match between backend and frontend(Drunk.  Just as a test, I set this to 0000 but I am still unable to connect to the backend.  When I setup the backend I made sure to open the firewall ports for Mythtv (6543 and 6544).  Not sure where to go from here.  Guess it's time for a bit of Googling.  Until I get it figured out, it's back to 0.21 for the backend.  Still no hickups for anyone other than me so WAF is still OK.

Nov 15 2011

Blog - Media Server Rebuild - Part 1

Server MotherboardI'm in the beginning stages of rebuilding my Windows Home Server box.  Feel free to check out my original blog for the current setup.  (Note that the blog hasn't been entirely reformatted for the new site.)  There, I stated that my intentions were for my first media server to last a minimum of 5 years.  The fact that I'm writing this just around 2.5 years after the original server went live may seem like I failed in epic fashion.  The truth of the matter, however, is that the server is still running fine and I firmly believe it would continue to meet my needs for at least another 2.5 years.  To quote Mythbusters, I'm calling this one "confirmed" (so far).

The reason I say that is because this won't be a complete rebuild of the server hardware itself.  In fact, my actual, original words were, "Meet current and unknown future needs over the next 5 years (minimum)" and it would appear that the hardware is succeeding in that regard... thus far.  But, it will still include some major changes.  First of all, in a fairly significant change of heart, I've decided to upgrade to Windows Home Server 2011 (more on that in a bit).  Second, I'll be moving to a virtualized environment on the server, with multiple client OS's running, consolidating at least one other computer into the server.  This may be a fairly big undertaking in the amount of underlying changes, but the technology I'm using has been around for quite some time, so I'm extremely optimistic this will be a productive change.

Here are my plans...

Nov 15 2011

Blog - MythTV Reloaded - Day 4

So far in this process of bringing my MythTV setup up-to-date I have upgraded my primary backend to 0.24 (but put the old hard drive back in so that it is compatible with the rest of the house running 0.21 still) and my primary frontend to 0.24 (but put in the old hard drive so people can still watch TV).  The last two systems that I have to be upgraded are my laptop and my wife's laptop.  Both of these laptops are running Windows 7 Professional.  Up to this point they have been running MythTv Player but one of the main things that I wanted to do with this upgrade is install the full MythTV native frontend so that they can have the full experience of MythTV.

To that end I decided to take a crack at building MythTV on Windows.  Details of the process are posted in the link.  The build process was not without speed bumps but in the end it appears that I have a functional Windows build of MythTV.  Tomorrow I will setup the new backend for a little bit and see how well the Windows build works with it.  I will have to re-migrate the MythTV database however because new shows have recorded since the original migration and I don't want to lose anything.  That would not help the WAF at all.  I think that's good enough for today.  :)

Nov 14 2011

Blog - MythTV Reloaded - Day 3

I think that the next most important system for me to get up and running is going to be the main frontend.  Again I've decided to load CentOS 6 onto a separate hard drive that I've got sitting around. Where did I get all of these extra drives, anyway?  Again, installation was fairly straight forward following the same Mythtv installation guide for Fedora.  This time through I skipped the steps related to configuring the backend since I will only be using this system as a frontend.  Since my backend is currently running MythTV 0.21 until I'm ready to do the final changeover I did not have a chance to do the final configurations that happen during the first time you run MythTV.  Specifically, I'm referring to designating the IP address or name of the backend.  By default the frontend will point to localhost (itself) as the backend to use.  So that is something that I will have to do later.

There were a couple of things that I did do though such as configuring automatic login (this is a dedicated MythTV system and I don't want to have to pull out a keyboard every time I want to watch TV) and automatically launching MythTV once logged in.  

That is about it for this system right now.  I've got it running a system update over night to pull in all of the latest packages and once that's done I may setup a VNC server on it so that I can do remote administration on it in the future as necessary.  First thing in the morning though, once the update is done, I'm going to put in the old hard drive so that the frontend can be used with the old backend while the rest of the systems get overhauled.  So far so good.  Two systems updated and nothing has been affected by it.  WAF still high.

Nov 13 2011

Blog - MythTV Reloaded - Day 2

As recently noted, I have decided to document my MythTV upgrade.  To start things off, I will be upgrading my main MythTV server.  The current system is running MythTV 0.21 on Fedora Core 7.  The current version of MythTV is 0.24 at the time of this writing.  This time around I will be building the backend around CentOS.  The most recent version of CentOS is 6.0 at this time.  The main reason that I've gone with CentOS is because both it and Fedora are based off of RedHat Enterprise Linux so the interaction is essentially the same between them.  The other popular distribution these days seems to be Ubuntu and I considered going with it but that system is based on Debian Linux and there are a few nuances that I would have to learn.  So I will be sticking with what I am familiar with.

Nov 12 2011

Blog - MythTV Reloaded - Day 1

Earlier this summer my MythTV server died.  After spending a bit of time getting the basics back up and running I've decided that it was time to also get things up to date again.  Thus far my plans have been limited to only software upgrades but I may do some hardware upgrading along the way as well.  With this in mind, I have decided to do a series of blogs detailing my plans for the upgrade as well as progress made and bumps that I've hit along the way.

This first entry will describe my current setup as well as my migration plan.  Some of this has already been accomplished but I want to get it all written down.  So here goes.

Oct 31 2011

Blog - Blu-ray Releases - November 1, 2011

Boy did I struggle this week. Partly due to a busy schedule, but I'm sure partly due to just a terrible overall week of picks. Bunraku is one of the few that I saw, and it was pretty bad, simply tried to be too many things. I think I saw part of Water for Elephants, but I'm not a fan of Vampires who try to eat elephants (read: joke).

MissingRemote's Pick of the Week

I haven't seen this movie, so I know it's an odd recommendation, but everyone I've talked to has mentioned it was easily worth watching. Then again...everyone I asked was a female, and all of them said the same thing--"Ryan Gosseling was in that, right? Yeah, I saw it. Good movie. He's hot." So...I'm going to base my recommendation on the fact I enjoy Steve Carrell instead.

Oct 28 2011

Blog - The Importance of Backups


I recently had the opportunity to utilize my extensive (though, not bullet proof) backup regimen and it managed to save my bacon in a fairly substantial way.  While this certainly is not isolated to HTPCs, I thought it might be a good idea to remind people of the importance of regular, reliable backups.

As everyone surely knows by now, SageTV was purchased by Google.  Those who are running it have been guaranteed a year of guide data and alternatives have already been developed to continue receiving guide data beyond that.  However, there is no way to purchase additional hardware (i.e.  HD300s) or licenses.

Can you see where this is going?  Click the "Read more" link to come along for the ride...

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