Okay, I’m an ungrateful whinger.  MythTV so far has been an exercise in lost sleep and disappointment.  Don’t know if it’s my TV card, the card’s drivers, DVB (particularly HDTV) support in MythTV, or just the general stability of MythTV itself, but I’m far from happy.

I’ve been holding off on buying a TV card for years, partly because of my perception of poor support in Linux, but also because of the state-of-flux that TV in Australia is in (probably in other parts of the world too) regarding Digital TV.  But, XBMC made me take the plunge and I’m thinking it was not a good move.

I wanted to get TV going via XBMC.  There’s built-in support for ReplayTV, but since we don’t have and can’t get that over here I went a-browsing.  There’s a Python XBMC script that hooks XBMC into MythTV — cool, I thought.  I bought a card (supported by drivers written by a local guy, so I figured it would work well and be proven in the local area).

Getting the drivers to build and install was a trial.  Running a 2.6 kernel as I am, the way this guy’s package builds it basically toasts a large portion of my kernel tree and replaces it with symlinks to his code (which looks like a snapshot of the LinuxTV code).  There’s probably a lot of folk out there that don’t know any better, but IMHO you just don’t do that!  On account of how I don’t know a better way to do it though, I’ll shut up.

So I finally got the drivers built.  Where are the dvb-utils?  Ah, good question…  You see on Gentoo, the dvb-utils package builds NOTHING.  The maintainers of this package realise that if you are running a 2.6 kernel you’ll have fairly complete LinuxTV support in your kernel, so they tell you that they are doing nothing.  But what about the user-space utilites?  scan?  tzap?  Grrr…  Watch out for my flaming bug report…

So in the background while a lot of this was happening I was building MythTV.  When it finished, I was itching to watch TV!  BANG — nothing but an error from mythsetup saying that I had to add dvb support if I want to use a DVB card…  Seems there’s a USE flag I was missing.  I like Gentoo, but sometimes…  So I remerge MythTV…

So now I have a working MythTV, and a working card and drivers.  But how do I tune it in?  As they say, nothing worth having is easy to obtain.  This part of MythTV is probably one of its poorest-documented — how to find out the magic stuff you need to plug in to get going with DVB.  After two days of fiddling, I finally Googled a moderately simple method, but it still requires me to key in arcane little numbers and setting for every stream (not just each channel).

So finally I get to watch some TV!  But don’t make it high definition, oh no…  Seems that something in the chain (driver or MythTV) can’t do HDTV on this HDTV-capable card.  And if one of the arcane little numbers is not quite right, the whole things locks up.  Still, it could be worse, I’ve only had a couple of kernel freezes on what was previously a rock-solid machine — I’m just glad that I’m using a desktop machine to test with rather than going with my original plan, which was to put the TV card straight into my server.

It’s no wonder that “people” don’t like Linux.  Almost every endeavour I have undertaken using Linux has required that I undertake an exhaustive course of self-instruction to become aware of almost every facet of the mechanics of what I’m trying to do.  It happened with telephony, with DVD authoring, with TV.  How many people that run DVB cards on Windows would even know what PIDs are?  I have to know, though, because I run Linux.

Lucky I’m such a fucking geek.