Well, things are a bit stalled on the MythTV project, now. The Fedex guy came and took away the dead motherboard that was originally destined for the Living Room Frontend, so now begins the great EPIA Return Saga (tm). If all goes well, I’ll have a new board in a few weeks, with minimal fees in the forms of duty or taxes. I remain skeptical.
On the bright side, the IR receiver and blaster units arrived, so I’ll probably play with those this weekend. They look very well made, so I’m hopeful that they’ll work as advertised. ‘course, I was also hopeful that my EPIA board would arrive fully functional…
Meanwhile, the backend continues to work well. I continue to record The Daily Show and The Colbert Report during their late night showings on CTV (aka, channel 2, aka, one of the few basic cable channels I can currently access with Myth), and it seems to be doing the job quite nicely. I’ve also been noodling around with different plugins on the frontend, such as MythMusic and MythVideo, and everything seems to work as advertised.
Thus far, the only glitch was a period where the frontend started to stutter and generate prebuffering errors, but that could be related to running over a lowly half-duplex, 10 Mbs connection.
Well, the wiring is finally finished! With the help of my friend and co-worker, Chris, it took all of 15 minutes to get the coat hanger fished up to the outlet. From there, it was a cakewalk: draw string back through, draw ethernet up from basement, draw some spare string down into basement (for later expansion, if need be), rejoice.
In addition, last night I got the MythTV subnet running and operating correctly. So, once I get a new EPIA board, installing the frontend should be relatively straightforward. Assuming it isn’t DOA as well…
Speaking of which, it looks like shipping it back should be… interesting. The main problem is in potential customs and taxes which could be levied on the board as it returns across the US border. Hopefully, I can fill out appropriate paperwork and have it marked as a returned item, but we shall see. Meanwhile, on the way back to Canada, I will almost certainly be charged taxes and duty on the replacement, but luckily there’s forms I can submit to get those fees refunded.
Meanwhile, it looks like that EPIA board will spit out component video! It appears to have a header on the motherboard for attaching the proper outputs. Unfortunately… I don’t have a bracket to attach to said header. Fortunately, VidaBox came to the rescue! They specialize it building MCE-based multimedia boxes, but they also sell a number of accessories, one of which is the very bracket I need. A few emails back and forth between their sales staff, and voila! A bracket is on it’s way. After paying $15 for the bracket and $10 for shipping… US. Not to mention taxes.
Did I mention that ordering stuff online isn’t always the most economical thing in the world to do?
Well, after all the problems with ethernet cabling and bad motherboards, things took a bit of an upswing today on the MythTV project, and it all started when the TV tuner card arrived! Yup, it showed up before lunch today, and when we got home this evening, I promptly installed it in the backend and had it configured in around 15 minutes. It went beautifully! And the MythTV setup process went equally smoothly!
But it gets better! What I really wanted to do was test out the backend. So I plugged it in to our basic cable and then configured the mythtv backend. Then, I compiled the frontend on frodo (twice… I compiled 0.20 first, not realizing the backend was running the 0.20-fixes branch), and voila! I was suddenly watching TV on my computer! I could pause, rewind, skip forward, browse around in the EPG (which has a nice little preview of the current channel, just like our existing DSTB), and of course record. And it all works perfectly! Even the channel tune times, which I feared would be a little long, are decent… maybe 1.5-2 seconds to switch? Not bad at all!
So I’ve already marked The Daily Show and The Colbert Report to record this evening (since they run on CTV). We’ll see what they look like tomorrow. Then I can play around with the commercial skip and transcoding functions. Good times! Now if I can only get that EPIA replacement, I can be doing all this right on my TV!
I also managed to play around with MythWeb, the web interface to MythTV, and I gotta say, it’s pretty sweet. It provides a really nice interface for perusing your channel lineup, editting your recording schedule, viewing previously recorded material (assuming your browser and OS are set up correctly), and even accessing your music archive. Very nice! And, again, it worked more or less out-of-the-box (minus a probably unnecessary tweak to Apache’s configuration), proving once again that going with Fedora Core and pre-built binary packages was, hands down, one of the best ways to go.
Things were going so well. The MythTV Backend is now built and humming away quietly in my basement, Fedora Core installed and working nicely. The only minor glitch being some issues with the onboard NIC, though nothing that can’t be solved. Really, it was all going too well.
And then the other shoe dropped.
A couple of days ago, the board for my Living Room Frontend finally arrived after much waiting, whining, complaining, etc. When it finally showed up, I eagerly went home and mounted the board in the lovely Antec case I bought (at which point I realized the EPIA board could also fit in micro-ITX case… it looked so tiny in the mini-ITX Antec). I then wired up all the connectors, routed all the wiring nice and cleanly, and then went to install the RAM. Which didn’t fit. Why? Well, you see, I ordered DDR memory. I then decided to opt for the EPIA EN12000EG instead of the M6000. The M6000 takes DDR. The EN… takes DDR2. $80 blown. Doh.
So, today, after running some errands, we stopped by BEST and I picked up a stick of DDR2. Then, after dinner, I installed the stick and powered up the board. And nothing.
Actually, that’s not true. The PSU and case ventilation fans spun up, even though the power switch hadn’t been pressed. Not good. Experienced computer builders will immediately recognize the potential problem this presents.
So, I decided to start trouble shooting. The first thing was to make sure the PSU wasn’t at fault, so I disconnected the ATX connector from the motherboard and flipped the power switch. Nothing. Nada. This ruled out the PSU.
I then proceeded to reconnect the ATX connector and begin disconnecting other things gradually, testing the PSU in between. And every time, the fans spun up. Eventually, I was left with just the ATX connector attached to the board and nothing else. No RAM. No connectors. Nothing. And when I hit the power switch… the fans spun up. Conclusion? Bad motherboard. Grrr…
So now I have to return the board and get a replacement. Looks like no PVR for at least a few more weeks. On the bright side, at least I can get the backend finished up.
Incidentally, in the process of looking up resources on how to debug this problem, I found this forum post (second one down) describing the process of troubleshooting a motherboard. I mirrored the content here just in case the forum link disappears.
Meanwhile, I figured it would be a good idea to get the networking wired up to the living room. Now, my plan was to reuse the existing coaxial outlet as the ethernet jack. This is particularly convenient, in my case, because I’m dropping down between floors. You see, in this case, when dropping cable from scratch, it’s necessary to drive a hole between the lower wall framing plate and the subfloor. This means augering a hole through four inches of wood… not fun, especially if you don’t want to damage the wall. However, because I was reusing the coax connection, this hole had already been cut, making my job much easier.
Thus, all I needed to do was drop a piece of cat5 around twelve inches straight down into the basement. Easy, right? Well, unfortunately, it wasn’t that easy. You see:
- The coax utility box can’t be moved out of the way, because it’s fixed to the stud,
- I’m dropping through an exterior wall, which means insulation, which gets in the way,
- Because it’s an external wall, the box is surrounded by a PVC boot, making it more difficult to access from below,
- The hole in the basement is located near the exterior wall, over the existing framing, making it awkward to reach,
- The existing coax is fixed inside the wall, meaning it can’t be moved (or used to drag the cat5 through).
Now, the only workable method was to use a coat hanger to fish upward from the basement to the coax box. Once I reached it, the plan was to fix the cat5 to the coat hanger and draw it down into the basement. Things did not work out so well. I eventually gave up at 12:30 last night, after around 4 hours poking and prodding inside my walls.
So, what now? Well, Chris, a buddy from work, said he might come by on Saturday and give me a hand. Hopefully, between the two of us, we can get the cable run. Of course, until the EPIA replacement arrives, it won’t actually get connected to anything…