The Movie DB

Oliver Brown
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I found a new website through the MythTV mailing list a few days called The Movie DB. It’s essentially aiming to be an open version of IMDB.

Many projects (such as MythTV and XBMC) have depended IMDB for a long time to provide metadata. Unfortunately this has usually been against the rules and was often difficult any since it relies on rather fragile screen scraping.

So in steps the Movie DB. From what I can tell from reading around the forums and stuff (and apologies if any of this isn’t accurate) it was started by the guy who wrote Meligrove, a database of fan made movie posters to replace a similar effort called Movie XML. The content is a little limited right now (about 8000 movies apparently) but the database from Movie XML is soon to be imported adding another 150,000.

Of course the important point is that the Movie DB is an open database - all the entries are editable wiki style. It also has high level support for TV series (with seasons and episodes etc) as well and a not-quite-ready public API.

Introducing Elisa

Oliver Brown
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I’ve keeping my eye on a project called Elisa a lot recently. It’s basically another attempt to produce a cross platform* media centre solution. At the moment its features are fairly limited, it’s essentially just some nice media playing software. It does have plugins to handle Youtube and Flickr though with lots of other stuff planned.

The main reason I’m interested in it though is that it feels likes it’s constantly making progress (and they make the progress very visible). They have weekly releases and every one actually has some cool new feature. It’s also written in Python which I think lowers the bar a little for community contributions (as opposed to C++/Qt required for MythTV).

For it to replace MythTV for me the obvious missing feature is, well, TV. Reading the forum suggests it’s quite low on the priority list for the moment (since it obviously requires a lot of work and other features are less likely to be released in the meantime just because the developers are busy). But, as I said at the beginning, it’s worth keeping an eye on.

* Not so long ago it only worked on Linux, now it supports Windows. It technically supports MacOS with some messing around but they’re aiming for proper support soon.

Mythbuntu is even simpler

Oliver Brown
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One of the newest developments in MythTV land is the development of “multirec”. Multirec is the name of the SVN branch of Myth where code to handle the recording of multiple DVB streams from a single tuner (providing the streams are on the same multiplex). This means any DVB users (in the UK this essentially means Freeview users) have the possibility of recording many more channels at once. In fact if you had six tuners (three Nova-T 500s for instance) you’d be able to record the whole of Freeview (if you had enough hard drive throughput at least).

Unfortunately using this wonderful feature requires you to run the latest SVN version of MythTV. Since I didn’t fancy compiling Myth from source I looked for a simplrr way - the answer is Mythbuntu.

Mythbuntu is basically Ubuntu (7.10 - Gutsy) with MythTV installed. It’s basically the same idea as the other MythTV distributions. The big difference is that they also provide weekly packages built from trunk - i.e. if you’re willing to accept the small chance of instability you can have bleeding edge MythTV installed without having to leave your package manager (well within a week of bleeding edge at least).

PS - You can also add MythTV to an existing Ubuntu 7.10 installation by clicking the relevant link on the Mythbuntu page. This also comes with a nifty utility called Mythbuntu Control Center which lets you choose whether to install a frontend, backend or both as well as choose which desktop to use (Gnome, KDE or XFCE) and enable/disable various useful services (VNC, MySQL etc.) all in one place.

Back to vanilla MythTV - Part 2: Fiddling

Oliver Brown
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After installing MythDora, there were a few extra things I had to do that took a while to figure out.

Upgrade to mythtv-trunk from ATrpms

I figured I just enable the “bleeding” repository and then do yum install mythtv. This worked fine. But nothing was different. It seems that “mythtv” is a meta package that just says you have Myth installed without actually containing anything. So then I tried yum install mythtv-frontend mythtv-backend mythtv-setup mythweb mythplugins. This worked up until a point but then failed a transaction test. The actual failure was a mismatch between themes that different parts provided. I decided this was unimportant but couldn’t force yum to install. So I installed apt (yum install apt) and used that (apt-get install mythtv-frontend mythtv-backend mythtv-setup mythweb mythplugins and it all went fine.

Import old recordings

This was easier than I expected. Simply replace the database with your old one (make sure you stop mythbackend before you do). I had previously copied all my old recordings to my FreeNAS box and dumped the database (mysqldump -u _username_ -p mythconverg > mythconverg.sql). So I deleted the mythconverg database and imported the SQL file (mysql -u _username_ -p < mythconverg.sql. You could also just copy the mythconverg directory in the MySQL data directory directly. The next time you start mythbackend it will update the database schema (if necessary) and everything will work. Apparently if you had slave backends on your old system you might have problems but I didn’t so I’m not entirely sure what they are…

Automatically mount a remote file system

To get MythTV to save on my FreeNAS server I obviously needed to mount it at start up. This was simpler than I expected (although I did it using a terminal). Open the file /etc/fstab and add the line: _server_:_/share_ _mount_point_ cifs defaults 0 0. server is the IP address of the FreeNAS server, /share is the folder on the server mount_point is the name you want to access it with locally (this directory should already exist - you normally make a sub directory of /mnt. After adding this run the command mount -a to force the system to mount all the file systems (it does this automatically at start up). Then run MythTV Setup, select storage groups and add the mount point you chose as a directory.

Back to vanilla MythTV - Part 1: MythDora Rocks

Oliver Brown
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Well I tried LinuxMCE but didn’t really get very far.

After deciding everything was too much of a hassle, I downloaded MythDora 4.0 and installed it. I have to say that unless you have a specific reason otherwise, MythDora is definitely the way to go for a MythTV installation. It was really easy and actually worked (something that seems not to have happened a lot when I’ve tried Linux). One of the big advantages of using MythDora is since it’s Fedora based you can update (usually) painlessly from ATrpms. It has MythTV packages based on regular SVN checkouts. Importantly for me it also has packages from from mythtv-trunk (the latest version). Although they’re marked as “bleeding” they are usually stable.

The reason I needed the latest version is for storage group support. Without storage groups MythTV is limited to storing recordings in a single directory, storage groups allows you to specify multiple storage groups, each containing several directories. MythTV then use some clever load balancing to spread things out across available drives. This is important for me since I was planning on keeping most of my recordings on my new FreeNAS server, at least in the long term. The recordings aren’t tied to a specific storage group by the way - you can move them around freely (so I record to the local hard drive and then move them to the FreeNAS server later).

Once it was installed I did have to do a bit of fiddling, and it’s the sort of fiddling other people may have to do, so I’ll explain in part 2.

LinuxMCE 0704

Oliver Brown
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A new version of LinuxMCE is out. And from what I’ve read (I haven’t installed it yet) it looks like a big improvement.

The biggest factor is improved MythTV support (which to be honest I feel is the most important part of it). They also claim the DVD quick install only requires three keypresses (but that’s only for the install, no setup). There is thankfully a new video as well that is considerably less annoying than the previous one - complete with disclaimers about things that may only work on specific hardware.

On the subject of specific hardware, there is a company called Fiire offering some pretty affordable computers with LinuxMCE already installed. Personally I’d build the core myself but maybe buy their thin clients.. They also a do a cool remote with built in gyro (like a remote/gyro-mouse combo) but it’s a $150…

LinuxMCE 1.1

Oliver Brown
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Last month a new version, of LinuxMCE was released bringing with it some much needed improvements. The most noticeable is a switch from Ubuntu to Kubuntu (and an upgrade to Feisty) which apparently the KDE people are so happy about they want to bundle LinuxMCE with KDE 4. The most important in my opinion however is better integration with MythTV. From what I’ve been reading on their forums it’s not mature enough for general users (even less so than MythTV on its own) but it definitely has potential and if you’re comfortable with Linux and have a spare machine, you should go try it.


Oliver Brown
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Could this be the ultimate home entertainment system? There’s a video dotted around the Internet that firmly says yes but I strongly suggest that video is not your first source of information about LinuxMCE since its uber-fanboy nature will just annoy you.

It’s basically a wrapper for MythTV, Asterisk and a few other things brought together with a snazzy interface and user accounts. The third party reports I’ve read suggest it’s not as easy to setup as the website suggests, nor perfectly stable. But the list of features it claims to support (and hopefully will completely support soon) is quite amazing.

For more info, visit the LinuxMCE website.

GMyth - a MythTV frontend on a Nokia 770?

Oliver Brown
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Someone on the MythTV mailing list recently announced GMyth, a library based on ANSI C and GObject to provide access to Myth backends in a GTK environment. Their ultimate goal is to have MythTV accessible from a Nokia 770/N800 complete with live transcoding.

You can find lots more info over on MoRpHeUz’s Blog.

Mono brings everything together - MythTV, PS3, Nokia 770

Oliver Brown
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MythTV finally runs on a Playstation 3. Linux has been running on PS3s for a while doing all sorts of cool things. Well Takeshi Yaegashi has now got a USB TV tuner working for it making MythTV essentially complete.

So where does Mono come into this? Well Mono runs on a PS3 as well. Actually that’s not the link. In a cool coincidence, I first found out about MythTV on a PS3 after subscribing to a Mono RSS feed.

And the Nokia 770? Well the very next entry on said RSS feed was about Mono running on a Nokia 770 (and a Nokia N800 and Windows XP and Linux - all with one executable).

It’s a small world…