MythTV

The great MythTV project! First off, you may be wondering, what is MythTV? Well, you could go to the project website to find out. Or, alternatively, I could tell you.

You know all this talk of PVRs and so forth? You know, these devices that let you record live TV and then fast forward, rewind, commercial skip, etc? Well, MythTV is a software package that lets you turn a PC into a PVR. A PVR on ‘roids, that is. In addition to the usual PVR functions, you can use Myth to view other video content, play music, games, browse the web, and a whole lot more, all on your TV. And because you build it yourself, you’re free to extend it to do whatever you want. Pretty damn sweet for a hacker like me.

But it gets better! See, MythTV has this concept of ‘frontends’ and ‘backends’. Backends do things like capture and store video, manage various data sources (like guide information), handle recording scheduling, and so forth. They’re basically meant to be big, noisy servers with lots and lots of storage. The frontends, on the other hand, perform all the actual video playback functions, streaming content from the backend servers. They’re typically small, quiet, low-power devices that are meant to sit in your A/V cabinet.

But why is this cool? Well, this architecture allows you to have as many frontends as you want. So you can have 3 frontends, one in the living room, one in the bedroom, and one in the family room, all with access to the exact same content. And with multiple tuner cards in the backend (and multiple DSTBs to feed them), each can watch different TV programs if they like. Pretty snazzy, eh? But even cooler, you can turn a PC or laptop into a frontend, so you can take the laptop outside and watch TV if you like (assuming your wireless will stream fast enough). Or you can even stream content to remote frontends, so you could watch your favorite shows from work! Not that I would ever do that…

Update: After cutting the cord, this system is now long dead. It served me very well for many years, though, and I will be forever grateful to the developers of Myth for all of the work they did on the product.

On the bright side, I ended up repurposing my front-end case into a kickin’ gaming rig. To this day people are still jealous of that case, and I have yet to find anything new and comparable… long live Antec Fusion!

Hardware