Linux Crumbs

Building MythTV PVR with HDHomeRun Network Tuner

Summary

This article describes the hardware I selected to build a PVR using a network based tuner in the Fall of 2015.

Previously I built three identical Personal Video Recorders in Spring 2011 and these continue to run well. Recently another family member requested a PVR. Now that it is four years later, a few challenges arise because some hardware is no longer available or the hardware has changed. As a result of these challenges, I wrote this updated article covering hardware selection and Mythbuntu 14.04 installation steps.

Contents

Selecting Hardware

Back in Spring 2011 I wrote Selecting Hardware for a MythTV PVR. Now that it is the Fall of 2015 I have written this updated article.

When selecting the hardware, it is a good idea to have some goals to help guide decisions. For this PVR we desired the following features:

  • Must be quiet (PVR directly attached to TV)
  • Must be both MythTV Backend (record) and Frontend (play)
  • Must support recording at least 2 shows at once
  • Must have TV show listings
  • Must be able to watch and burn DVDs
  • Must support PVR in basement with TV antenna upstairs
  • Should keep options open for future upgades

Following are the hardware components chosen.

TV Tuner/Video Capture

You have to start somewhere when building a computer so for the PVR I started with choosing a TV Tuner.

There are a variety of TV Tuners available (network connected, USB connected, motherboard connected). To find one compatible with MythTV, see MythTV Digital Tuner Cards. The LinuxTV hardware device information website is also helpful. This is an area where searching the Internet can provide more up-to-date information and personal experiences from others.

Since this PVR was to be placed in a basement and the TV antenna needed to be on the main floor, I did not want to suffer from TV signal degradation over a long coax cable. Hence I eliminated the internal card and USB connected tuner devices. This left network connected TV tuners allowing the tuner to be placed right beside the antenna and then connected to the PVR by an Ethernet cable. Using the goal of recording at least two shows at once guided me toward my choice.

SiliconDust HDHomeRun CONNECT (dual tuner) - Cost $150

Case / Power Supply

Cases come in a variety of shapes and styles, such as Home Theater Personal Computer (HTPC), tower (tall), and desktop (wide). The one you choose will depend on the space available near your TV. Since space in the TV cabinet was limited, I chose a tower to stand off to the side.

This is a key component if you wish to keep noise levels low. Common sources of noise come from moving parts in the PC, such as fans and spinning disk drives, and sometimes from the power supply. To limit noise, large fans spinning at a lower rate are quieter than small fans spinning quickly. To further limit noise, it helps to isolate the hard drive from the case. This is often accomplished using rubber grommets. A good quality power supply can also help limit noise.

Due to my good experience with my desktop computer I chose the same Antec Case.

Antec Sonata III quiet mid-tower case - Cost $170

This case has proven to be very quiet in operation, has rubber grommets to isolate spinning hard drives, and includes a quiet 500 Watt power supply.

Processor (CPU)

Since I've had good luck with the Intel quad core processor used in previous PVRs, I selected a similar processor with built in HD graphics.

Intel Core i5-4430 Processor, up to 3.2GHz w/ 6MB Cache (Intel HD 4600 Graphics) - Cost $240

The stock fan on this processor has proven to be quiet so I did not need to opt for a larger fan CPU cooler.

Motherboard (MB)

There are many motherboard manufacturers out there. When choosing a motherboard it is critical that it fit within the case you select. Since I wanted future upgradability I looked for the following:

  • 1 HDMI port (for Intel HD 4600 Graphics to TV)
  • 1 slot that could be used for a video card (if discrete video card needed -- it isn't)
  • 4+ SATA connections for optical/hard drives
  • 4+ USB ports (for keyboard/mouse/remote control)
  • 2+ memory slots for RAM chips

Personally I've had good experiences with Gigabyte and ASUS so I limited my choice to these manufacturers. Since the case would easily support 4 hard drives and a solid state drive I gravitated toward a board with 6 SATA ports.

ASUS B85M-E/CSM Motherboard - Cost $110

The BIOS on this motherboard works well with MythTV automatic startup and shutdown.

Memory (RAM)

The type of RAM to use is dictated by the motherboard. Since the motherboard had 4 memory slots, I opted to fill two slots. This led to my choice.

Kingston HyperX Fury Black 8GB DDR3-1600MHz CL10 Dual Channel Kit (2x4GB) - Cost $65

My previous PVRs have shown that a single 4GB RAM DIMM is more than sufficient. However since the incremental cost to get 8 GB RAM was low, I went for 2x4GB = 8GB RAM.

Video Card

Personally I've been happy with the integrated graphics in my PVR, so I opted to stick with this option. The processor chosen has Intel HD 4600 Graphics.

Sound Card

Years ago I used SoundBlaster sound cards. Nowadays I find that the built-in sound on the motherboard to be more than sufficient. To save a slot on the motherboard I recommend staying with the onboard sound.

Network Card

Many motherboards now include a wired Ethernet port as is the case with the above chosen motherboard. The PVR will communicate with the network tuner over an Ethernet cable.

Disk Storage

The amount of storage for TV shows is a key factor for how many hours of recordings the PVR can hold. With this in mind, it is usually better to go for a larger hard disk drive. From my experience, one hour of 1080i HDTV video takes up to 9 GB of space.

Because a PVR will typically see much more read and write activity than a desktop computer, I suggest using a traditional spinning Hard Disk Drive (HDD) for storing TV shows instead of a Solid State Drive (SSD). Also the cost for HDDs is significantly less than for SDDs.

I chose two 1 TB hard disk devices to be configured in a RAID to store the TV show recordings.

Seagate Barracuda 1TB 7200RPM SATA 6 GB/S - Cost 2 x $80

From past experience I now like to keep the operating system separate from the PVR recordings. Since small Solid State Drives boot up fast and are not excessively priced, I chose a 120 GB SSD.

Intel SSD 535 Series 120GB 2.5in SATA 6 GB/S - Cost $95

Optical Drive (DVD-RW)

With the DVD-RW optical drive, I simply chose an inexpensive one that would connect to a SATA port.

ASUS 24x DVDRW SATA DRW-24F1ST - Cost $25

This optical drive works well for watching and also burning DVDs.

Keyboard and Mouse

There are many choices for computer keyboards and mice. Some keyboards even combine touch pad functionality into the keyboard. To avoid the clutter of cords, I chose a wireless keyboard with built in touch pad.

Logitech K400 Wireless Touch Keyboard - Cost $50

This keyboard is great for couch surfing and short emails, but I would not use it for extensive typing due to the small non-standard layout.

Remote Control

MythTV supports many remote controls. See MythTV Remote Controls.

Since the previous remote controls I chose continue to work well, I made the same choice again.

Rosewill RRC-126 MCE Remote Control - $30

This remote control includes a USB infrared receiver which easily plugs into the front of the case, or into a USB extension cord if needed.

2015 PVR Component List

Following is a list of components and their costs in October 2015.

Category Component Cost
TV Tuner/Video Capture SiliconDust HDHomeRun CONNECT (dual tuner) 150
Case Antec Sonata III quiet mid-tower case 170
Power Supply Included with case (500 Watts) 0
Processor (CPU) Intel Core i5-4430 Processor, up to 3.2GHz w/ 6MB Cache (Intel HD 4600 Graphics) 240
Motherboard (MB) ASUS B85M-E/CSM Motherboard 110
Memory (RAM) Kingston HyperX Fury Black 8GB DDR3-1600MHz CL10 Dual Channel Kit (2x4GB) 65
Video Card Included with processor (Intel HD 4600 Graphics) 0
Sound Card Included with motherboard (onboard sound) 0
Network Card Included with motherboard (onboard Ethernet) 0
Disk Storage (Recordings) Seagate Barracuda 1TB 7200RPM SATA 6 GB/S
Note that 2 drives were purchased for RAID setup - 2 x $80.
160
Disk Storage (Operating System) Intel SSD 535 Series 120GB 2.5in SATA 6 GB/S 95
Optical Drive (DVD-RW) ASUS 24x DVDRW SATA DRW-24F1ST 25
Keyboard and Mouse Logitech K400 Wireless Touch Keyboard 50
Remote Control Rosewill RRC-126 MCE Remote Control 30
Grand Total   $ 1,095

The total cost came to $1,230 including tax, assembly, network cables, coax cables, 3-way coax splitter, 20' HDMI cable, and a 15' USB extension cable.

The resulting PVR is very quiet, powerful and expandable in the future.

PVR Internals

Following is a picture of the inside of the PVR.

MythTV PVR Internals

As can be seen the case provides lots of room for expandability, such as the addition of extra hard drives, internal tuner cards, and extra memory.

Installing Mythbuntu

To install Mythbuntu on this PVR I followed the steps in Installing Mythbuntu 14.04.1 with MythTV 0.27 with the following notable changes.

A. Setup BIOS

On the ASUS P85M-E/CSM motherboard I made sure I had the following BIOS settings:

  1. BIOS at a working level (2202 Feb 13, 2015)
  2. Ensure SATA set to AHCI mode (default)
  3. Ensure iGPU Memory set to AUTO (default)
  4. Ensure Boot Logo Display set to AUTO (default)
  5. Set Power ON when power restored
  6. Disable Fast Boot
  7. Set Secure Boot OS Type to Other OS
  8. Change boot order to DVD then USB then HDD

Next, continue with B. Partition Drive.

I. Enable Capture Card

No additional firmware is required on the PVR. However, now is a good time to update the firmware on the network connected HDHomeRun CONNECT dual tuner.

  1. Download the latest firmware for your HDHomeRun Connect dual tuner at SiliconDust Linux Firmware Downloads.

    Near the bottom of the web page I used the link named HDHR4-2US (hdhomerun4_atsc) to download the hdhomerun4_atsc_firmware_20150826.bin file.

    Be sure to choose the correct link for your model of HDHomeRun tuner.

  2. Start Applications -> Multimedia -> HDHomeRun Config GUI.

    Select the Device and the Upgrade tab.

    Select the firmware file and then click the Upgrade button to load the new firmware.

Note that there is no harm if you do install the Hauppauge firmware onto the PVR from the other tutorial.

X. Configure MythTV Backend

Follow the steps in this section of the other tutorial, but for 2. Capture Cards substitute the following:


    2. Capture cards

      (New capture card)
        Card type: HDHomeRun networked tuner
        Available devices:  10416512-0 *       <- from pick list
        Recording Options
          Max simultaneous recordings: 2

      (New capture card)
        Card type: HDHomeRun networked tuner
        Available devices:  10416512-1 *       <- from pick list
        Recording Options
          Max simultaneous recordings: 2


      * Note that your HDHomeRun device will have a different number.
        The digit after the dash indicates one of the two tuners.

Similarly for 5. Input Connections substitute the following:


    5.  Input Connections

        For ATSC Over-The-Air Antenna:
          Choose HDHOMERUN:   10416512-0
                Video source: HD Antenna
                        Name: HDTuner1
            Starting Channel: 3_1
              Input Priority: 0
              Schedule Order: 1   # Ascending order, increment by capture card max simultaneous recordings
               Live TV Order: 3   # Descending order, to avoid conflicts with scheduled recordings

          Choose HDHOMERUN:   10416512-1
                Video source: HD Antenna
                        Name: HDTuner2
            Starting Channel: 3_1
              Input Priority: 0
              Schedule Order: 3
               Live TV Order: 1

After finishing 6. Input Connections, continue with Y. Configure MythTV Frontend.

Installation Complete

Congratulations! You have now completed the steps to setting up an always on PVR that should reboot and work properly after any power outages.

To save on power expenses I followed the steps in Configuring MythTV Automatic Wakeup and Shutdown.

To enable streaming of content over the Internet I also followed the steps in Tear Free Firefox Menu in MythTV.

Completed PVR

Following is a picture of the PVR in operation.

MythTV PVR on far right of  Large Screen TV

The PVR is shown on the far right of the large screen TV (black tower on white stand). Not shown is the network connected HDHomeRun CONNECT dual tuner which is located upstairs near the TV antenna.

References

While setting up this Mythbuntu MythTV PVR, I found the following reference useful:

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