MythTV is an Open Source HTPC application. Some people say it's a free TiVo and others says it's "TiVo on steroids". To an extent, both are true but the latter is more true. Not too long ago, I got interested in the idea of a Home Theater PC, so I set out to build my own MythTV box.
In all fairness, I evaluated many applications (Yes, even Windows-based HTPC apps. ) but none had the features and appeal of MythTV. Here's a list of some that I tried and why I didn't choose them:
- MediaPortal(http://mediaportal.sourceforge.net/) - Documentation is out of date. No mention of controlling a set-top box using a serial IR Blaster
- GB-PVR (http://www.gbpvr.com/) - Not enough features. Tends to use a lot of resources. Ugly program guide (You do have to use it after all).
- Freevo (http://freevo.sourceforge.net/) - Written in Python! I wanted a native app that didn't have to be interpreted.
After days of kanoodling with all these other apps, I settled on MythTV. Here's a list of what MythTV can do (from the website):
- Basic 'live-tv' functionality. Pause/Fast Forward/Rewind "live" TV.
- Support for multiple tuner cards and multiple simultaneous recordings.
- Distributed architecture allowing multiple recording machines and multiple playback machines on the same network, completely transparent to the user.
- Compresses video in software using rtjpeg (from Nuppelvideo) or mpeg4 (from libavcodec). Full support for Hardware MPEG-2 encoder cards (Hauppauge PVR-250 / PVR-350). Preliminary support for DVB cards and the new pcHDTV tuner card.
- Support for the (very nice looking) hardware MPEG-2 decoder and TV out present on the Hauppauge PVR-350.
- Completely automatic commercial detection/skipping
- Grabs program information using xmltv.
- A fully themeable menu to tie it all together.
- Displays basic program information on channel change using a themeable semi-transparent on-screen display.
- Basic video editing abilities. Optional transcoding to remove the commercials from the video file to save space.
- Picture in picture support, if you have more than one tuner card.
- A nice web interface to let you select programs to record remotely.
- Rip, categorize, play, and visualize MP3/Ogg/FLAC/CD Audio files. (FLAC, Vorbis, and MP3 encoding). Create complex playlists (and playlists containing playlists) through a simple UI.
- An emulator frontend. (MAME, NES, SNES, generic PC games)
- An image viewer/slideshow application.
- A weather module.
- A generic video player module, with automatic metadata lookups
- A DVD player / ripper module. Make perfect backups, or transcode down to smaller file sizes.
- An RSS news feed reader module.
Like many HTPC applications, MythTV uses the idea of a "backend" and a "frontend". A backend is the workhorse that does all the scheduling, recording, and so on. A frontend is what the user sees on his or her television. MythTV is configurable enough so that you can have a separate backend in another room of the house, filled with large hard drives and multiple capture cards and have a silent frontend near the TV. This is preferable, obviously, because you don't want a noisy PC next to your television to ruin the experience.