Back from Vacation

I just got back from a vacation with the family. 2,000 miles in two weeks with a four and seven year old in the back.

Of course, no major road trip would be complete (or even possible these days) unless you provide some kind entertainment. When I was a kid, that consisted of hours on end of singing "I've been working on the railroad", and playing every possible variant of I-Spy (I spy something that starts with the letter P --- Peterbilt -- again...). But for somebody with MythTV on the brain, you have to think a bit outside the box. Enter LaCie's Silverscreen.. I won't go into a major review here, but this little guy can output up to 1080i via component, it also outputs S-Video, and composite, and can play almost every popular video format. We hooked it up to a pair of 7" TFT displays strapped to the back of our headrests, and the kids had more shows than they could possibly watch during the trip. Where did the shows come from? MythTV + nuvexport to Xvid format. Being able to take my content on the road with me in a totally open format is one of the great advantages to MythTV. I know there are other commercial solutions available, but since they are all closed source, you need to use proprietary solutions which are either more expensive, or have less features.

Wendy Seltzer, EFF Lawyer and MythTV user debates Fritz Attaway from the MPAA in the WSJ

When Fritz Attaway starts out the entire debate with this line:

Attaway:"Digital rights management is the key to consumer choice..."

He then goes on to explain how by being able to control the content, and how it can be distributed, and used, the movies studio's can get a return on the millions they made to make a movie. See how much better that is for us? It occurred to me that he really believes that.

Wendy replies that the DMCA stifles technological innovation, and she describes that there are still no legal solutions for viewing DVD's on her Linux computer (go Wendy). Then she throws him this:

Seltzer:"DRM plus DMCA protects existing business models, such as that of the blockbuster movie, but at the expense of new developments that could create more value for both creators and users of content. In the era of podcasts and YouTube, I'm quite interested in seeing what those users can do as they become creators."

What she's getting at here is that if the MPAA continues down their current path people will find ways around them, not just DRM.

Over and over again, Fritz stresses that any possible innovation around Media technologies that are disallowed because of current DRM are completely acceptable because it's more important that the studios make money.

Fritzie:"'Transformative' uses are fine, but they cannot be given priority over the incentive to create new works. A central tenet of our fair use doctrine is that fair uses do not interfere with the ability of the creator to exploit the economic value of her work."

I don't know about you, but it seems clear to me he knows exactly who pays his bills.

The debate rages on, and is a must read.

The broadcast flag is back, let's knock it down!

I got my EFF Action Alert in my inbox this AM, and sure enough, the broadcast flag has jumped up again. This is the text from the newsletter:

"The Communications, Consumers Choice, and Broadband
Deployment Act of 2006 is a monster name for a monster bill
-- in its latest form, it contains 159 pages of densely
plotted telecommunications reform. But while politicians
struggle with its major clauses, the RIAA and MPAA have
piggybacked their own agenda: the broadcast and audio flags,
which restrict innovation and legitimate use of recorded
digital radio and TV content. Your call today could force
the flags to find a home of their own.

The Committee markup of this bill is on Thursday, and your
Senator is on the Commerce Committee. One last push from
you could get Congress to remove the entertainment industry
mandates from the bill."

The call to action is to either call or write your Senator. They make the process of writing your Senator incredibly easy by providing a form that you can fill out, and they provide sample text for the e-mail. I can tell you that they do get the message so I encourage you to write.

Major League Baseball v. Sling Media (and the rest of us)

Major League Baseball says that users of placeshifters like Slingbox are lawbreakers. According to them, if you are remotely watching a baseball game that is being broadcast at your home, you are stealing from the local cable/satellite companies that paid to broadcast in the area you are watching the game.

Read More: Major League Baseball takes swing at Sling Media | CNET

My two cents, I can't imagine what MLB is trying to enforce here. The customer is paying for the content once somewhere, isn't that all that's important?

Time to clear some disk space!

Not much going on lately, except that now that the summer is here, I get to clear out the backlog of shows that I recorded but didn't watch. Including the entire season of Alias! It should actually be a fun summer. I find my viewing habits have changed so much with MythTV (or any PVR for that matter). I don't feel the need to 'keep up' with shows any longer, with the exception of a couple reality TV shows.

MythTV: First PVR to offer Karaoke!

Who knows. There might be Tivo-aoke, or something, but it's fun to dream...

And now.. I give you: MythKaraoke

If only MythTV could open and close my garage door... Wait... It can?

SageTV 5.0 - Claims "First PVR Software with Built-in TV, Music & Photo Placeshifting"

"SageTV Media Center today becomes the first full-featured personal video recorder/media center software product to offer placeshifting capabilities enabling users to access their live or recorded TV, music and photos on any PC when they are away from home."

Huh? First? I call bullshit. MythTV has been placeshifting music and videos for years. Is it the fact that it doesn't "placeshift" photos? That hardly seems like enough innovation or differentiation to claim "First".

Link: PVR Spot: DIY PVR, TV Cards and more » Blog Archive » SageTV 5.0 - First PVR Software with Built-in TV, Music & Photo Placeshifting: Hacking MythTV (ExtremeTech) (ExtremeTech): Books: J. Wilson

Hacking MythTV

Jarod Wilson, author of the renowned 'Fedora MythTV Setup Guide' (a.k.a. "Jarod's Guide") is now author of a book "Hacking MythTV" soon to be available.

I haven't read the book but if Jarod's writing and technical ability come through in the book half as well as his guide, then it should be very well received.

Good Luck Jarod!

How to customize your MythTV Menus

How to customize MythTV's menus in MythTV Tips.

Link: MythTV Tips

Edit Keys explained in MythTV Tips

MythTV's new Edit Keys feature explained, along with a tutorial for re-mapping keys.

Link: MythTV Tips

Announcing MythTV Tips

I'm introducing a new section of the site: MythTV Tips. I'm kicking off this blog after assembling several questions (both mine, and from others) about how to actually use MythTV. There are SOOOOO many features in MythTV, some documented well, and some.. not so much. I am going to use this site to publish my personal tips, tricks, tutorials for MythTV.

Feel free to comment with any questions you have, and I'll do my best to answer.
You can subscribe to MythTV Tips via RSS

First up: MythTV's new Edit Keys feature

Orb drops the ball with DVR Everywhere

Just caught this on PVR Wire:

Orb Networks has released their new DVR Everywhere software, allowing TiVo users to access content directly from their Series 2 box anywhere in the world over an Internet connection.

Not sure why the good folks over at PVR Wire say that this would work with "Presumably any other networked PVR", everything I see on the site says 'TiVo only'. It's really a pity, because Orb had previously managed to stay away from any platform specific media sources. I see this as a step in the wrong direction for them.

StormLogic contributes some tidbits of code for MythTV

I just ran across this site: StormLogic, LLC's MythTV Store - Contributed Code where there are a few bits of interesting code for MythTV.

The two I find the most interesting are DVB Fixer Scripts:

"DVB fixer scripts v1.1, used to automate the manual process of using an HD-3000 card with the DVB drivers"


", a wrapper for mplayer that remembers where you left off."

When much of my time watching transcoded HDTV shows was spent using mplayer instead of the internal player, I was always frustrated by the lack of a 'bookmark' capability in mplayer. The script is a nice workaround to that problem.

Microstar Mega Sky 580 from MSI for £30.

HD capable, USB 2.0 DVB tuner for under £30. Wow... I'm not sure if any Linux Drivers would support this, but I love the idea of the HDTV PC tuner coming down in price.

Link :Sub-£30 Digital TV mini receiver HDTV ready PVR - PVR Wire

NBC and ABC Network schedulers outsmart themselves

I was reviewing my MythTV Schedule for tomorrow (Wednesday) and noticed something strange. Usually, there is a conflict between Law & Order (NBC 9pm - 10:01pm) and Heist (ABC 10pm - 11pm) due to the infamous 'Tivo Busting' one minute shift in the schedules (the last minute of Law & Order overlaps the first minute of Heist). But on this night, there was no conflict. Why? Because Lost (ABC 9:00 - 10:01) is bumping Heist's start time to 10:01pm. Classic. Was this a move by NBC to regain TiVo viewers for their 10pm timeslot? Will ABC retaliate by going to 10:02? Will CBS jump in the game and mess everything up? Or maybe, they will stop the silly games, and realize they are simply hurting their own industry with these childish antics.

Windows MCE, MythTV Smackdown...

O.K. Maybe I took liberties with the title, but Bruce Shankle does a side-by-side comparison between Windows MCE, and MythTV. It's not a feature comparison, but rather an installation, ease-of-use, comparison. He does get a bit into what he considers his key feature (the ability to watch and rip a DVD) where MythTV is the clear winner. My favorite quote from the article:
I try again, same thing. It can't play the DVD. After hours of Googling I learn that I have to buy a piece of software (a DVD decoder) that let's Media Center play DVDs. I'm thinking 'WTF? Media Center can't play DVD's out of the box?'

That's right. If you want that feature you have pay for it.

Link:Bruce Shankle - Inside Out: Windows Media Center vs. MythTV (or Making my own PVR)

Washington Post write-up on MythTV

A bit bland and watered down, but that's kind of what I would expect when writing an article for the masses.  When MythTV is presented in this context, it seems like there might actually be future for it in the 'consumer' space.

Link: MythTV Invades Realm of Cable and TiVo

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Center for Social Media releases Fair Use booklet

Joshua Paul blogged about Fair Use over at O'Reilly Digital Media. I jumped over to the link he mentions in his blog and found a wonderful description (and an 8 page booklet with more detail) of Fair use.

"Fair Use is the right, in some circumstances, to quote copyrighted material without asking permission or paying for it. It is a crucial feature of copyright law. In fact, it is what keeps copyright from being censorship. You can invoke fair use when the value to the public of what you are saying outweighs the cost to the private owner of the copyright."

If you haven't had a chance to read it, jump on over and take a look

Link: O'Reilly Digital Media

Windows Media Center requires an NTSC tuner? WTF?

I was cruising AVSForums when I ran across a thread from somebody complaining that they were having a hard time setting up their MCE PC with just an HD (ATSC) capture card. Lo and behold, after a bit of digging, I confirmed (for myself at least) that it is indeed true. That in order to set up High-Definition in MCE2005, you must have an NTSC tuner installed. Here's the snippet from Jay P. Kapur, Lead Program Manager, WIndows Media Center TV Team:
You must setup an NTSC tuner first, so that MCE2005 can get the correct guide information for your area. There are no reliable ATSC only EGP services, so we have to key off of the NTSC information. If you don't setup the analog tuner and EPG, the ATSC experience won't work correctly.

Ah yes. Another reason to jump the Windows ship for MythTV.

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Sony BMG Lawsuit (get the word out)

The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) has done a great job fighting for the consumers rights in a digital age.  As a member, I've been very proud to support this organization and what they have accomplished.  Currently they are trying to get the word out about the Sony BMG Settlement. 

Here's a snippet from their newsletter:

EFF's campaign to help music fans claim their share of the
Sony BMG settlement is off to a great start. News reports
and EFF's settlement banners have spread around the web,
driving over 20,000 hits to our settlement site in one week.

Help us keep the momentum going. Sony BMG won't be held
accountable for infecting its customers' computers with
dangerous DRM if music fans don't learn about the flawed
software, the settlement, and how to submit claims. EFF has
created a webpage to guide people through the Sony BMG
settlement site, and we've designed several banners that
link to this webpage. By posting a banner on your website or
blog, you can help music fans protect themselves and get
what they deserve.

So folks, if you are interested in getting the details, hop on over to the EFF site and check out the FAQ.

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Coming soon: The 8-terabyte desktop

I'd more consider this a media backend server than a desktop.. strange headline.  I think folks are finally getting it right with the disk space.  The initial estimated street price will be $8,000.  The smart buy would be to buy an empty system and fill it as you go.  My reasoning is that with the constantly dropping price of storage, you should always buy just what you need, when you need it.  Then by the time you are actually buying the last few disks to fill the 16 slots, you will be buying 2TB disks at $120.00 each...

From the article:
Depending on the standard and the compression, HD video can require anywhere from 11 to 410 gigabytes per hour of video. (1,000GB make up 1TB.)
A point of clarification is that broadcast HD will *never* be 410 GB/Hour.  That is a the requirement for completely uncompressed 10bit 1920x1080i 60fps 932Mbps video.  Trust me... that ain't gonna happen.  More realworld numbers are from 6-9 GBytes/hour depending on 720p, 1080i.

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Narrow minded uninformed opining by

The good folks at are becoming about as tech savvy as cnet. Maybe this is what happens when you get too big for your britches. The article "Build Your Own PVR, Then Trash It"
sounds as if it was written by somebody at the MPAA and Microsoft, and handed over to wired. Here is an example:

For those suspicious of free software, a host of commercial options are at your disposal.

You can buy a brand new PC, running Windows Media Center Edition, and pair it with an Xbox 360 in the living room.

As the article goes on you begin to realize the theme (I'm paraphrasing here)... "Building your own PVR is expensive and stupid. It's expensive because ultimately it will cost you more than your TiVO and it's stupid because Cable, Satellite, and even Over The Air broadcasts are coming with DRM technology which will make it impossible to record shows in the future."

Nowhere in the article do the mention organizations like the EFF who are fighting for the consumer's fair use rights, and have successfully helped to knock down several attempts by the MPAA and others at implementing the Broadcast Flag initiative.

Another quote to get your blood boiling:
For the home brewer, this means their solution won't work if they upgrade to high-definition cable, because the cable box won't send a readable signal to any tuner card that isn't part of a locked-down environment, such as TiVo or Windows Media Center.

Want more? How about this gem:

You could always unplug your cable box and record free HDTV off the public airwaves, but perhaps not for long. The industry is trying to get Congress to make it illegal to build TV tuners that record broadcast HDTV without including DRM on the recording.

That means the only option for a future-proof PVR is to use something like TiVo, Windows Media Center or a cable company-provided
recorder, which may or may not think your mp3 player or your second television is secure enough to access your own media.

Well.. I guess that's it... I'd better trash my MythTV system right now, because says so.

Upgrade to Mythtv 0.19 (smooth)

I upgraded to version 0.19 of MythTV last weekend, and here is my takeaway. The upgrade went very smoothly, I have a frontend running FC3 (apt) and a backend running FC4 (yum), and both went well. I was a bit dissapointed that I had to update them simultaneously as once I updated the frontend, it would no longer connect to the backend until I updated it.

To my surprise, once I finished the upgrade, I went into the recorded shows section, and for the first time, was able to playback all of my HD content; 1080i, 720p, everything, smooth as silk. skip forward, back, seeking, all worked flawlessly. This simple new ability has changed everything for me. I now no longer have to transcode all of my shows and view them in MythVideo.

The first thing I wondered was, now that I'm not transcoding my shows, how does mythtranscode work? At first it appears that I'm able to transcode shows automatically, but I'm definitely going to have to fiddle with the settings to get satisfactory results.

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HD Beat - 'How do you record HDTV'

Here are the results of a poll that HDBeat did recently which shows just how people are recording their HDTV. The thing I find interesting is the behind Satellite, Cable, and Windows Media Center, lies Mythtv. I didn't participate in the poll (only 23 mythtv HDTV folks out there did), but my little vote wouldn't have changed the results much.

Link: HDBeat

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Online TV Recorder

The online TV Recorder. You log in, program your show to record, then download the recorded show. This appears to be a community driven site based in Germany, along the same line as Rent My DVR

I'd love to see something like this come to the US, but there would have to be a few questions answered first:

  • What is the legal ramification?

  • What are the service limitations

  • What is the revenue model (if any)

  • What is the quality of the download

Thoughts? Feel free to comment

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CyberLink launches PowerCinema Linux

I'm going to have to give this a look. I'd like to do a feature comparison with MythTV, and if I get a chance to download it and give it a spin, I will.

Link via :Engadget

The Aargh Page

And now for something completely different.

O.K. I had to take a break from my normal geeky HDTV, MythTV stuff, and post a link to this: The Aargh Page. This might just be one of the most useless, best sites I've come across in a while. Maybe it's just my mood right now, but I couldn't stop laughing.

Building your own Linux Media Center? Try MythTV first.

I was over at, and there was an article about building your own Linux Home Media Center. It makes me realize that there is a strong perception that MythTV is hard. And while it can be difficult/challenging, and yes... hard. It can also be used in a simple way as just a Media Center with no recording (no backend capabilities). I would strongly suggest anybody considering rolling their own media center give the MythTV route a shot first, because it's such a short jump to wanting a full-fledged PVR, and MythTV is up to the task.

Good Luck folks

D-Link's DSM-5210R Wireless HD streamer - Engadget

From Engadget:

D-Link is touting the new DSM-5210R as the first wireless high-def streaming media player with 100GB of storage...

I think the 'first' they're claiming is that the device is a Media server, as well as a player. The LinkPlayer is not a server. Personally, I like more flexibility in my server. My feeling is that with no recording capabilities, it will be relatively useless as a server, and with only 100G it will not be able to act as a storage device for all media. It will either be used only as a wireless HD player (which LinkPlayer among others already do) or it will get stuck in the middle and die a horrible death.

Link: Engadget
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