algebraicthunk.net/ blog/ entry/ Mini-Review: mythtv for non-TV viewers

Several months ago, I set up a low-powered box to act as a fileserver and media center. I don't get cable TV and I have no interest in doing so, so I don't need a PVR. However, I do have a rather large music collection (and new speakers to play it on); I want to be able to put Internet radio on in the background (since we can't get NPR over the air), and a quick-and-dirty slideshow program for my digital camera photos could be nice too. So, I decided to try out the free media center, mythtv. I've summarized the notes I took here for the benefit of other people who don't watch TV.

Setup was fairly straightforward -- I installed the packages from debian-multimedia.org and configured them. I had a bit of trouble getting myth to actually start, but looking over the documentation apparently resolved it (my notes contain no details).

Mythtv has some very well-thought-out aspects. By all accounts, it makes an excellent PVR; since I don't watch TV, this is the last time I'll mention PVRs in this post. :) The interface looks exactly the way you want a TV-based system to look, with bright colors, big fonts and big interface elements. There's even a cute OpenGL mode with fancy screen transitions (I left them disabled because my video driver is unstable even without 3d effects running -- thank Via).

However, it became painfully obvious after a bit of use that MythTV is really meant as a TV program, with everything else being an afterthought. Here are just a few of the problems I noted:

That's just a small sampling of the problems I ran into. I ended up just setting up a normal desktop system with a wireless keyboard/mouse, and I'd recommend the same thing for anyone else who doesn't need a PVR. The non-TV features in Myth have a strong smell of being extras for people who occasionally switch away from the TV, rather than a well-integrated media system in their own right.