With more and more people assembling MythTV boxes as alternatives to Windows Media Center or going out and buying a TiVO, for this introductory article we will share some recommendations of hardware we had used on a recent MythTV build along with other information to consider when building your next home theater PC.
For those that have never tried out MythTV before, it is much more than just a PVR (Personal Video Recorder) for Linux. MythTV is licensed under the GPL and is popular on such distributions as Knoppix (KnoppMyth), Fedora (MythDora), and Ubuntu, but can run on most any Linux distribution. MythTV is broken into a backend server and front-end client with the backend doing all of the recording while the MythTV front-end is just used for watching the recordings and interfacing with the backend. Some of the MythTV features include commercial skipping capabilities, smart schedule recordings, free TV listing data, and the standard PVR features you would expect like pausing, skipping, and rewinding live TV. MythTV also has a plug-in system, which allows the installation of extra MythTV front-end components like a web browser, games, and mail client. MythTV was started in 2002 by Isaac Richards with the most recent release of MythTV (v0.20) coming out on September 11, 2006.
MythTV supports tuner cards using the Video4Linux, Video4Linux2, and IVTV drivers. Also supported are digital set-top boxes that interface with the MythTV backend using IEEE-1394 Firewire. For the build we are documenting in this article our TV tuner card we used was a Hauppauge WinTV-PVR-500 MCE. This PCI tuner goes for about $140 USD, but it features two complete tuners. The hardware encoders used on the PVR-500 were Conexant's CX23416-22 for MPEG2 audio/video encoding. The TV tuners were for NTSC and NTSC-J and labeled 23552 LF with the revision E492. Using the IVTV Linux driver for Conexant-based TV cards, we have been using various Hauppauge TV tuner cards now in several MythTV boxes. We are fond of the WinTV-PVR-500 for its dual tuners and MythTV being able to properly handle the two tuners simultaneously. If you are looking for something a bit cheaper, the Hauppauge WinTV-PVR-150 is a great introductory TV tuner.