I’ve been wanting to build a PVR with MythTV for a while, and when talking to my friend Barry McKay about it, he said he had a Hauppauge PVR-350 I could borrow. So, I took him up on the offer, and with an old PC I built one.
However, much of the documentation I found on setting this up was out of date, resulting in some extra work for me to get it going. The rest of the article shows how I set it up.
The PVR-350 has hardware encoding and decoding, along with TV out. This means that it’s usable on low end computers, and can handle both the recording and viewing of TV. Since it only has one tuner, you can’t simulatenously watch a show and record a different show, though you can watch the show you’re recording.
I ran it on a P3-700 with a 10GB disk. It was pathetic until I got the hardware decoding for TV out working (hardware encoding is on by default). After that, it ran perfectly with very little CPU activity.
I used KnoppMyth R5A15.1, which is a live CD based on Knoppix. The idea is that you boot the CD, select “Autoinstall”, and it images your hard drive with a full MythTV installation, including extra utilities. That was the first step.
I followed the instructions for the autoinstall, and then followed the prompts in the setup as follows.
After boot (output to monitor), enter the root password.
From now on, use tab to select the field, and the left/right arrows to change options. Some menus may require you to select “new” before being able to enter the settings.
Here are my settings:
Option 2, Capture cards. This defines what will be recording the TV:
Option 3, Video Sources. This defines where you’re getting your channel listings from. For this one, once you enter your username and password (assuming you’re in North America), it will retrieve the lineups you register over on Zap2It (see next paragraph)
You need this lineup not only for the schedules, but it populates the SQL database with the frequencies of the channels. Without this, you can’t watch TV (or you only get one channel)
My username and password were registered at labs.zap2it.com using code ‘TGYM-ZKOC-BUTV’ (Letter O, not zero). Give it some time!. The site was slow. I had to wait overnight before the previous step worked.
Option 4, Input Connections.
Unfortunately I don’t have the card anymore so I can’t show this screen. All I did was linked “Tuner0” to “Cable” for my card, essentially giving Myth the linkage between the card and the channels (you can have multiple tuners)
After that, reboot, and MythTV should work. I was able to watch TV on my monitor, pull up a list of channels, and record stuff.
The next thing was to get the remote working. Even though the 350 should come with a Grey remote, I had a silver one, and guess what, they’re all different. I followed the instructions for the PVR 250 Remote, which had me download new config files for lirc and it worked. Note that the model number they say on that page didn’t appear on my remote.
At this point, the only thing left was TV out. Follow the instructions on the Wiki, until you finish step 2. Then run step 7, which recompiles IVTV. The IVTV on my system was 0.3.3u, so what I did was
tar -xjf kernel-source-220.127.116.11-chw-4.tar.bz2
tar -xzf ivtv-0.3.3u.tgz
Then, follow the instructions at http://ivtv.writeme.ch/tiki-index.php?page=XDriverHowTo which is partly done in the above steps. To find the busID, I used scanpci instead of lspci, as lspci’s output was backwards.
I then edited /etc/mythtv/modules/ivtv, and the big “install ivtv” line added “; /sbin/modprobe ivtv-fb” to the end. Unfortunately with ivtv-fb loaded, your regular console goes away, so I had to ssh in from then on. However, after I moved the PC to the TV, it worked. At that point, follow steps 4 and 5 from the big set of instructions earlier to centre your screen and enable hardware playback. In the second set of menus is the option to let you use the PVR-350 for the audio out, which is what I chose. I had it working through the sound card while it was on my monitor, but I didn’t have a set of speakers attached near my TV.
At that point, everything worked, and I was able to record, play back, and watch live tv. It rocked. Unfortunately I had to give back the card to my friend, and the way KnoppMyth partitioned the disk only gave me 1.5 hrs of recording. Since it would cost me CAD $350+ to buy the parts, this project will have to wait.
Just a note on the cost of the card, Amazon currently has the PVR-350 for $171US which includes shipping. I searched Froogle, and the best I could find was $163 but with added shipping. Buying the card retail is around $200US. I compared the price of a separate TV tuner card and a TV out card and it was around the same, not to mention you need a much faster computer to do the MPEG decoding to TV (most tuner cards have the encoder in hardware, but the tv out cards don’t have a hardware decoder). So, the PVR-350 is a pretty good buy. And if you buy enough from the Amazon affiliate link above, maybe I’ll be able to afford one of my own :)
Update September 12, 2005. Hauppauge dropped the price of this card to $149USD on September 1. I’ve called a few places and they haven’t seen the update yet. I’ll be ordering one of these directly from Hauppauge’s website in the next week.