Posted by: patdavila | November 11, 2009

Thoughts on Mythbuntu 9.10 (MythTV 0.22)

I’ve been running Mythbuntu 9.10 on both my main MythTV box and frontend Zotac Ion box for a couple of weeks now. Here’s a breakdown of what I like and don’t like:
Likes:
Support for the Hauppauge PVR-1212 HD capture device. This is huge and I’m very happy a mainline Linux distribution finally supports this device out of the box. Now that most people are getting their HD content via encrypted digital sources this device is the ONLY viable option for most. The device works as advertised and my recordings (HD & SD) look great. The PVR-1212 is poised to become the defacto capture device in MythTV.

VDPAU support out of the box. VDPAU is huge. Being able to offload playback of HD & SD h264 and mpeg2 videos to a graphics card processor is a game changer. This enables very low powered machines to handle HD playback without issue. The little Zotac Ion box (Intel Atom processor) I put together works great as an HD outputing MythTV frontend. Playback is crystal clear with no audio sync issues whatsoever. Simply amazing! Because of this Nvidia graphics cards are the only logical option when putting together a MythTV based HTPC system. None of the other graphics cards manufacturers have anything like it. It’s so good that Windows users running Boxee or XBMC are migrating to Linux based setups.

The new Qt4 based interface is a huge improvement. The developers have based their entire interface on the completely re-written MythUI. MythTV now has the tools to compete against the slick interfaces of Boxee and XBMC. It no longer looks dated like a Tivo or SageTV interface. Slick custom themes and fan art can be incorporated fairly easily and more uniformly now. In the coming months you’ll see some sweet looking skins and themes coming down the pipe for MythTV.

MythBrowser has been completely redone. It’s actually pretty usable on a tv now. It’s webkit based and can handle flash. This is a huge improvement over it’s previous incarnations.
Shutdown choice from the main menu. This is a such simple thing but makes a huge difference in user experience. Being able to cleanly shutdown your system via a tv remote is a must for any serious HTPC solution. Oddly it appears only on my frontend system. What gives? It should be on all MythTV systems.

Dislikes:
Ext4. Not really a dislike but more of a concern. While ext4 just flies on a regular desktop it’s a bit of questionable choice as the file system for a MythTV system. Previously Mythbuntu used XFS for the recordings partition. This makes sense as XFS is suited for large files. I think video recordings in the 2-8 gig size range qualifies as large. Hopefully the early file corruption issues that plagued ext4 with large files doesn’t come back to haunt this choice. Only time will tell.

The installer. As previously discussed in my last post the Mythbuntu installer has some serious issues that need to be addressed. Nothing ruins a person’s first experience than a bad installation process.

MythMusic. While not a Mythbuntu specific issue it is a MythTV issue. The music player is just plain klunky and outdated. Setting up music playlists is very counter intuitive and a total pain. Check out the audio player in XBMC for a simple and slick audio application in an HTPC solution. Mythbrowser got a great re-write with MythTV 0.22. Mythmusic should be the next item targeted for a re-work in MythTV 0.23.
Mythbuntu has a great centralized configuration application called MCC (Myth Control Center). One of the cool things you could do with MCC was setup diskless frontends from your main MythTV system. The diskless management tools seem to have disappeared. What gives?

Overall MythTV 0.22 is a great leap forward. Great things continue to come down the pike from one of my favorite Open Source projects. Mythbuntu 9.10 while having some minor deficiencies is still overall ahead of the crowd. It is the first MythTV specific Linux distribution shipping with MythTV 0.22 and the 2.6.31 Linux kernel. For that alone they should be commended. I’m really ecstatic to be able to finally make the Hauppauge PVR-1212 the centerpiece of my home theater experience. VDPAU is a simply amazing and Nvidia should be commended for making it available in the Linux driver for their products. People should take notice.

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