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Configuring MythTV Automatic Wakeup and Shutdown


This tutorial outlines the steps to configure MythTV automatic wakeup and shutdown on a custom MythTV Personal Video Recorder originally running Mythbuntu.

Update 2014-11-13: These steps were originally documented using Mythbuntu 12.04.2, and have been updated to cover Mythbuntu 14.04.1. In order to be of use to users on other hardware or MythTV versions, I try to explain why specific choices are made.

This tutorial is one in a series of articles that started with cutting the cord on cable TV, selecting hardware for a MythTV PVR, and installing Mythbuntu 12.04.2 with MythTV 0.25, and more recently installing Mythbuntu 14.04.1 with MythTV 0.27. Note that although I am updating this article in November 2014, we have had our MythTV PVR reliably automatically waking up and shutting down since shortly after we first installed MythTV in May 2011.


Why Configure MythTV Automatic Wakeup and Shutdown?

The main reason to configure a MythTV PVR for automatic wakeup and shutdown is to save money on your power bill. If you do not mind leaving your PVR running all the time (24/7), then you can skip this tutorial.

At this point we have built a stand-alone PVR with both a MythTV backend (for recording) and frontend (for viewing). Because my spouse and I wanted maximum power savings we chose to use the real time clock (RTC) on the motherboard to wakeup the PVR. One inconvenience of this method is that when the PVR is powered down then we must physically press the power switch on the PVR and then wait for it to completely boot up before we can start watching recorded shows.

If you wish to avoid this inconvenience then another option available is to place the PVR in a sleep state whereby the USB ports remain powered to receive signals from a remote control. Note that such a scenario draws more power in the sleep state as compared to being powered down. As such we did not pursue this option. Further, I have read that due to problems with some hardware waking up from a sleep state, it is advisable to have the PVR reboot immediately after waking up from sleep.

If you have a MythTV PVR backend with multiple MythTV frontends, then you might want to consider configuring wake on LAN. Wake on LAN is the ability of one computer to power-up when it receives a specially crafted network packet from another computer. For this to work, you will need a motherboard that supports Wake on LAN.

To summarize my spouse and I opted for maximum power savings by implementing only the real time clock (RTC) wakeup, and we did not implement a minimal sleep state or wake on LAN.

A. Exiting MythTV Frontend after Mythbuntu Boot

In several of the following configuration steps we will need to reboot the computer. By default the computer will boot into the MythTV Frontend. This is perfect for when we are using the computer as a PVR, but since we have more configuration to perform we need to exit out of the MythTV Frontend.

TIP:   If prompted with a warning regarding connection to the backend database, simply acknowledge this by pressing the Esc or Enter key.

To exit the MythTV frontend:

  1. Press Escape key until prompted: Do you really want to exit MythTV?
  2. Use arrow keys to select Yes, Exit now and press Enter key.

B. Opening Terminal Window

Several of the following steps require commands to be entered in a terminal window.

To open a terminal window:

  1. Start Applications -> System -> Terminal

C. Test Real Time Clock Wakeup

Before configuring automatic MythTV wakeup, we wish to confirm that the motherboard actually wakes up from a powered off state. In a terminal window enter the following commands:

  1. Set the Real Time Clock (RTC) to wakeup after 5 minutes.

    sudo sh -c "echo 0 > /sys/class/rtc/rtc0/wakealarm"
    sudo sh -c "echo `date '+%s' -d '+ 5 minutes'` > /sys/class/rtc/rtc0/wakealarm"

  2. Check that the RTC time has been set about 5 minutes into the future.

    cat /proc/driver/rtc

    In my test the contents of the file were as follows:

    ---------- begin contents of /proc/driver/rtc/ ----------

    rtc_time : 18:18:00
    rtc_date : 2014-01-17
    alrm_time : 18:22:42
    alrm_date : 2014-01-17
    alarm_IRQ : yes
    alrm_pending : no
    update IRQ enabled : no
    periodic IRQ enabled : no
    periodic IRQ frequency : 1024
    max user IRQ frequency : 64
    24hr : yes
    periodic_IRQ : no
    update_IRQ : no
    HPET_emulated : yes
    BCD : yes
    DST_enable : no
    periodic_freq : 1024
    batt_status : okay

    ---------- end contents of /proc/driver/rtc/ ----------

    Check the "alrm_time" is about 5 minutes into the future and the "alrm_date" is today.
  3. Shutdown your computer and see if it comes back up in ~5 min.

    sudo shutdown -P now

    After your computer shuts down, if all goes well, it should power up again within 5 minutes (assuming of course that you completed all of the above commands in less than 5 minutes.)

    If your computer does not automatically wakeup at the expected date and time, then you might read ACPI Wakeup for tips on how to get this to work.

In some of the following steps we need to navigate through the MythTV backend or frontend to alter values. Rather than detailing each keypress required, I have opted to describe how the keys work.

  Key            Action
  ---------      ------------------------------
  Tab            Moves forward through options
  Shift+Tab      Moves backward through options
  Esc(ape)       Backs out of a screen or setting
  Enter          Enters a screen or setting
  Right arrow    Like Enter, but also change value
  Left arrow     Like Esc, but also change value
  Down arrow     Move down through options
  Up arrow       Move up through options

E. Check MythTV Frontend Paint Engine Setting

The MythTV frontend handles the display of recordings from the backend. Unfortunately with the MythTV 0.25 version included with Mythbuntu 12.04.2 I have discovered that the mythbackend setup screen does not work with the paint engine set to OpenGL. Further complicating this situation is that mythwelcome does not work with the paint engine set to Qt. The solution is to ensure that the paint engine is set to Auto.

Note that Mythbuntu 14.04.1 with MythTV 0.27 does not suffer from this problem and works well with the paint engine set to Auto.

TIP:   Set Paint Engine to Auto Setting.

With OpenGL setting, mythwelcome screen works.
With Qt setting, mythbackend setup screen works.
With all settings, mythfrontend screen works.

Hence choose the Auto setting so that MythTV can use the appropriate paint engine for each of mythbackend, mythfrontend, and mythwelcome.

*** Need to reboot for changes in this setting to take effect ***

  1. If the MythTV Frontend is not running then choose Applications -> Multimedia -> MythTV Frontend
  2. Select Setup -> Appearance

    Ensure paint engine is set to Auto.
      On Theme / Screen Settings page:
        Paint engine:  Auto
    Mythfrontend appearance screen with paint engine setting

    If you change the paint engine setting then make sure to navigate through the three Next buttons and then the Finish button so that the change is saved. You will also need to exit the MythTV Frontend using the steps described in Exiting MythTV Frontend after Mythbuntu Boot, and then reboot the computer.

    To reboot:

    1. Start Applications -> System -> Logout
    2. Choose Restart.

F. Setup Scripts

In order to use mythwelcome, which is a new welcome screen introduced for automatic shutdown and wakeup, we need to enable mythwelcome. We also need to create a script to set the Real Time Clock (RTC) on shutdown, and to ensure that the mythtv user has permission to execute the script without providing a password.

In a terminal window, enter the following commands:

  1. Edit /etc/mythtv/session-setting to uncomment the MYTHWELCOME line.

    sudo leafpad /etc/mythtv/session-setting

    Delete the hash mark and space "# " from in front of the line:

    # MYTHWELCOME=true

    Then save the file an exit the editor.
  2. Create the script /usr/bin/ to set the wakeup time.

    sudo leafpad /usr/bin/

    Cut and copy the script contents into the editor.

    ---------- begin contents of /usr/bin/ ----------

    # set ACPI Wakeup time
    # usage: seconds
    # seconds - number of seconds from epoch to UTC time (time_t time format)
    # set UTCBIOS to true if bios is using UTC time
    # set UTCBIOS to false if bios is using local time


    if $UTCBIOS
      #utc bios - use supplied seconds
      #non utc bios - convert supplied seconds to seconds from
      #epoch to local time
      SECS=`date -u --date "\`date --date @$1 +%F" "%T\`" +%s`

    echo 0 > /sys/class/rtc/rtc0/wakealarm # clear alarm
    echo $SECS > /sys/class/rtc/rtc0/wakealarm # write the waketime

    ---------- end contents of /usr/bin/ ----------

    Save the file and exit the editor.

  3. Make the script executable.

    sudo chmod a+x /usr/bin/

  4. Ensure that the script /usr/bin/ is in the sudo list for the mythtv user.

    Note this enables the mythtv user to set the RTC wakeup time without having to provide a password.

    CAUTION:   Enable ability to recover from editing mistakes.

    Open another terminal window and run "sudo bash" so that you have a shell with root privileges. This way you will be able to recover if you make a mistake in /etc/sudoers.d/mythtv that causes sudo to fail. You can test with "sudo ls" after updating sudoers.

    sudo leafpad /etc/sudoers.d/mythtv

    Copy and paste the sudoers contents into the editor, ensuring that there is a line feed (press enter) at the end of the line. Note that all of the text should be in one line, not multiple lines.

    ---------- begin contents of /etc/sudoers.d/mythtv ----------

    %mythtv ALL = NOPASSWD: /sbin/shutdown, /bin/sh, /usr/bin/, /usr/bin/mythshutdown, /sbin/poweroff, /sbin/reboot

    ---------- end contents of /etc/sudoers.d/mythtv ----------

    Set the permissions for the /etc/sudoers.d/mythtv file.

    sudo chmod 0440 /etc/sudoers.d/mythtv

    If the above sudo chmod... command does not work then using the other terminal window you opened (as noted in the Caution above), remove the file with rm -f /etc/sudoers.d/mythtv and repeat the steps to create the file again.

    TIP:   sudo permission message

    Until the permissions are changed, you will see the following message when using sudo:

    sudo: /etc/sudoers.d/mythtv is mode 0644, should be 0440

G. Configure MythTV Backend

Before MythTV can automatically shutdown and wakeup later to record shows, we need to update the backend configuration.

For our setup we chose to shutdown MythTV if it would be idle for more than 5 minutes, but only if a new recording was not scheduled within the next 5 minutes. We also allowed 5 minutes for the PVR to boot up so that it is ready to record. These values have worked well in practice.

  1. Start Applications -> System -> MythTV Backend Setup
  2. Click Yes to close any currently running mythbackend processes.
  3. Enter your "pvr" account password.
  4. Configure the Shutdown/Wakeup Options as described below:
    1. General
         On Shutdown/Wakeup Options screen
           Startup command                        : (Must be blank)
           Block shutdown before client connected : unchecked
           Idle shutdown timeout (secs)           : 300 (if using active EIT this may need to be set to a lower value)
           Max. wait for recording (min)          : 5
           Startup before rec. (secs)             : 300 (make this time long enough to complete the boot & disk check before the recording should start)
           Wakeup time format                     : yyyy-MM-ddThh:mm:ss (Must be this format for mythshutdown)
           Command to set Wakeup Time             : sudo sh -c "mythshutdown --setwakeup $time"
           Server halt command                    : sudo sh -c "mythshutdown --shutdown"
           Pre Shutdown check-command             : mythshutdown --check
    Mythbackend shutdown / wakeup option settings

    Make sure to navigate through the six Next buttons and then the Finish button so that the change is saved.
  5. Press Esc until you exit the MythTV Backend.
  6. Enter your "pvr" account password to start mythv-backend.
  7. Click Yes to run mythfilldatabase.

H. Configure Mythwelcome

We also need to configure the mythwelcome screen for automatic shutdown and wakeup.

  1. From a terminal window, enter the following command:

    mythwelcome --setup

  2. Configure the MythShutdown / MythWelcome Settings as described below:
      Command to set wakeup time    : sudo sh -c "/usr/bin/ $time"
      Wakeup time format            : time_t
      nvram-wakeup Restart command  : (Must be blank)
      Command to reboot             : /sbin/poweroff (Yes, poweroff is correct)
      Command to shutdown           : sudo shutdown -P now
      Command to run xterm          : xfce4-terminal
      Command to start the frontend : /usr/bin/mythfrontend

    Mythwelcome setup screen settings

    Make sure to choose Finish button so that the change is saved.

I. Alter Mythwelcome Settings (Mythbuntu 14.04.1)

On Mythbuntu 14.04.1 I discovered that if Mythwelcome was set to automatically start Mythfrontend, then this prevented automatic shutdown until Mythfrontend was exited. This becomes a problem when there is a power outage and power is restored because the PVR would remain running until someone manually exited Mythfrontend.

After a short time of running Mythbuntu 14.04.1, I noticed a change in behaviour in that upon boot-up both Mythwelcome and Mythfrontend cannot connect to the backend database, but now retry until this is successful. I did not observe this behaviour with Mythbuntu 12.04.2. I believe that the connection that Mythfrontend establishes with Mythbackend is recognized as a user of the Mythbackend and hence prevents auto-shutdown.

To avoid this minor problem, alter the Mythwelcome settings to not automatically start Mythfrontend. Note that this setting will likely work fine with Mythbuntu 12.04.2 as well, though I did not test it.

  1. From a terminal window, enter the following command:


    If you are taken to Mythfrontend, then exit Mythfrontend to get back to the Mythwelcome screen.

  2. Press the i key to access Mythwelcome Settings.

  3. Configure the MythWelcome settings as described below:
      Automatically Start mythfrontend:  disable

    Mythwelcome Settings screen

    Make sure to choose Finish button so that the change is saved.
  4. Press the M key to bring up a menu.
  5. Select option Exit to exit out of Mythwelcome.

J. Reboot Computer

To test our changes, reboot the computer.

  1. Start Applications -> System -> Logout
  2. Choose Restart.

On bootup one of two things should happen.

  • If there are no scheduled recordings within the next 5 + 5 minutes, then mythwelcome should invoke mythfrontend.
  • If there are scheduled recordings within the next 5 + 5 minutes, then mythwelcome will not invoke mythfrontend. In this case you can press Enter to select Start Frontend.

Instructions for Using Mythwelcome

Now that you have configured your MythTV PVR for automatic shutdown and wakeup, there are some key concepts that are important to know.

Always Let Mythwelcome Shutdown the PVR

When finished watching MythTV recordings and you are finished using the PVR, exit the MythTV Frontend and leave the PVR at the Mythwelcome screen. Do not manually shutdown the system.

This is critical so that mythwelcome can set the Real Time Clock and then shutdown the PVR. This allows the RTC to wakeup the PVR for the next scheduled recording. If the PVR is shutdown without setting the RTC, then the PVR will not automatically wakeup and scheduled recordings will be missed.

Mythwelcome status screen with no recordings in progress

Use Power Switch to Power Up PVR

If the PVR is powered off and you wish to use it then you will need to manually press the power switch to boot up the PVR.

Since we configured the PVR to automatically shutdown in 5 minutes if there is no active connection to the backend database, we have 5 minutes to create such a connection. This can be done by navigating to the Media Library and displaying a list of recorded shows. If a list of shows is not displayed then keep trying until a successful connection is made to the backend database.

Note this opens a connection to the MythTV backend database and will stop premature shutdown. Later when you exit the MythTV frontend, this connection to the backend database will be terminated.

Temporarily Using PVR as a Desktop Computer

If you wish to temporarily use your PVR as a desktop computer, and not be surprised by the PVR automatically shutting down, and also not miss any recordings, then use the following instructions.

  1. If the PVR is not running, boot the PVR.
  2. [Mythbuntu 12.04 only] When mythfrontend starts up wait ~30 seconds and then keep trying to go into the Media Library until you get a listing of recorded shows.

    Note this opens a connection to the MythTV backend database and will stop premature shutdown.

  3. [Mythbuntu 12.04 only] Exit out of mythfrontend, see Exiting MythTV Frontend after Mythbuntu Boot. The mythwelcome status screen should be displayed.
  4. Press the M key to bring up a menu.
  5. Select the first option, Lock shutdown.
  6. Press the M key to bring up a menu.
  7. Select option Exit to exit out of Mythwelcome.

  8. Proceed to use your PVR as you would a desktop computer.

    During this time mythbackend is running so it will record any shows that are scheduled to be recorded during this time period.

  9. When ready to return your PVR to normal MythTV operation, start Applications -> Multimedia -> MythTV Frontend
  10. [Mythbuntu 12.04 only] Exit out of MythTV, see Exiting MythTV Frontend. The mythwelcome status screen should be displayed.
  11. Press the M key to bring up a menu.
  12. Select the first option, Unlock shutdown.
  13. Leave the PVR in this state to permit it to shutdown by itself.

Testing [Optional]

At this point your MythTV PVR should now be correctly setup to automatically shutdown and later wakeup to perform a scheduled recording.

In order to ensure you do not miss your favourite show, you can test by scheduling a show to record that is at least 15+ minutes into the future. Then leave the PVR at the Mythwelcome status screen. Watch to confirm that the PVR shuts down in 5 minutes. Check later to see if the PVR started up to record the show.

NOTE:   For Testing, Schedule Recording At Least 15 Minutes In the Future

In my testing, scheduling an upcoming recording at least 15 minutes into the future was required. Otherwise the PVR would not shutdown. I think 15 minutes is the total of the 5 minutes idle timeout plus the 5 minutes prior to a show recording plus the 5 minutes allowed for PVR to boot up. Either that, or there is a predefined minimum time of 15 minutes in the MythTV source code.

Automatic Shutdown/Wakeup Configuration Complete

Congratulations, you have now configured your MythTV PVR to automatically shutdown during idle periods, and later wakeup to capture scheduled recordings. Now you can benefit from a reduced electric power bill due to reduced power usage. :-)


While configuring the Mythbuntu MythTV PVR for automatic wakeup and shutdown, I found the following references useful:

For users that want to stream video content from the Internet using a MythTV PVR, see tear free Firefox menu in MythTV.

Future Articles

In future articles, I plan to cover the following steps of our path:

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