Mythtv DVR/PVR Frontend Using Shuttle XS35GT
Have you ever had one of those days? Well I have been having one of those weeks. I posted an article a couple of weeks ago about building a new Frontend for our Mythtv system we have in the house.
We wanted a smaller foot print PC that wouldn’t take up so much room in our living room. So I did a little research and settled on a Shuttle XS35GT with 2gb of RAM, a 500gb hard drive and based the ION2 chip set. I found one online in the $350.00 to $380.00 price range. It took about a week to arrive and I set about getting Mythbuntu installed and configured to work with our backend server.
First I have to comment on the construction of the XS35GT. This is a neat little package that really impresses with it’s construction and compactness. It uses fan-less construction which makes for a extremely quit operation. The power supply is an external brick the is about 3″ by 2″. I have the one the came with a built in DVD. There is just one screw that you have to remove to open the case and everything seems to be easy to get to. It comes with a stand to sit it up vertically, which you have to use so that it can keep the unit cool. You can also purchase and optional mount that allows you to attach it to the back of most LCD/LED TV’s.
I also purchased and Windows Media Center clone infrared remote control to work with the unit. It comes with a usb receiver that you just plug into one of the USB ports on the computer.
Of course I couldn’t find the original CD that I used to install Ubuntu, so I had to download a new copy which you can find here http://www.mythbuntu.org/downloads. I went ahead and downloaded version 10.10 and since the ION2 is a 64bit processor, I went ahead and got the 64bit version and burned the CD.
It took about 15-20 minutes to install Mythbuntu on the machine and every thing went well. I rebooted the machine and waited for it to come up. That was the end of easy street. As soon as it came up to the Mythbuntu control center I had problems. It turns out that on the old system I had was version 10.04. The new version 10.10 usees protocol 23056 and 10.04 uses protocol 56 and they are incompatible. I could have upgraded my backend server, but then it would have broke the software I have loaded on several PC’s in the house called Myth Player. It allows you to view recorded shows on a laptop or pc running windows and has a better picture than the web browser version of Mythtv.
No problem, I just went back and downloaded the 64bit version of Mythbuntu 10.04 and reinstalled. This would be the first in about a half dozen times that I would try a reinstall. Well now I could get into the backend and view recorded programs without any problems. So next on the list was to get the wireless card in the XS35GT working. Ubuntu has a program called Network-Manager that is supposed to make configuring network connections easy. The problem was, it couldn’t see any wireless access points in my area. Even if I had it 2 feet from the access point.
So I spent the next couple of days googling solutions and trying this and that to get it to work. I would reinstall after awhile trying to keep the config clean and also so I could document here the steps needed to make it work. The XS35GT has a Realtek rtl8192SE wireless card in it. It has been known to be a difficult install on Linux, but they seemed to have it figured out from what I could tell.
Anyway this is what got the Wireless working. It seems the released version of the bios for the XS335GT is 1.08. I did look at the wireless settings in the bios and the were something like AP managed and Off or along those lines. It seems that the power is shut off to the wireless card until in Windows you run a utility and turn the card on. There is no external button on the unit to turn it on like there is with a laptop.
At some point, Shuttle put out a bios upgrade version 1.09 that allows you to go into bios and change the power on the wireless card to always on. From what I can glean, they took it off of their website for some reason and you have to email their tech support to get it. A quick search of google will give you a couple of links to download it. It was scary to try, but I had spent two and a half days on it, so what the heck. I had to make a bootable usb stick. A good resource for some of this can be found at http://breden.org.uk/2011/01/15/shuttle-xs35gt-installing-xbmc-10-0-live-dharma/#fixhdmiaudio it’s for another program, but a lot of it applies to Mythbuntu.
The bios fix enabled me to turn the power on to the wireless card and it worked for a little bit with Network-Manager. Then I rebooted and couldn’t get it to work. So I went to the Realtek site and downloaded the latest rtl8192SE drivers and compiled/installed them. I also uninstalled Network-Manager and installed wicd. What do you know, I could then scan for and connect to my wireless access point. So now it was time to try out play back with the wireless. It worked, but apparently I am too far away from the AP or there is still some tweaking to do to get the wireless to work without dropping too many packets. So after about 3 days, I am back on the wire. I will try to work with the wireless later, but I have other projects to get to.
In the meantime I had tried to play a DVD from the frontend. Didn’t work. It would show the FBI warning and then go to a white screen with some design on it and then lock up. I spent 2-3 hours tweaking and trying to get VLC to work in Mythtv to no avail. Finally I grabbed a different DVD after doing a clean install and what do you know. It popped right up and played. Asked the family and sure enough they had some problems playing the first one I tried in the DVD player. There is a lesson in that, I will let you figure it out.
So finally, I needed to take it to the living room and try it out. Hook it up and use the HDMI cable for the first time. One problem I have to fix is that with wicd controlling the network cards, it doesn’t initialize the eth0 interface before Mythtv starts. So it can’t connect to the backend and you have to exit out of Mythtv and go back in to make it work. I will fix that by setting the network up to use a static IP address.
The final problem is that I don’t get any audio using the HDMI cable. I have tried a few things that I have found on google, but at 1:30am last night I decided to give it a rest. I will get it working this weekend and post my findings.
Final conclusions on the hardware. The X35GT is a neat little package. I was half tempted to just install Windows on it and use the Mtyh Player. I think the hardware is a nice piece of engineering. I don’t know if I would do it, if I had to do it over again. I was hoping to just have a 30 minute install. But I have learned a few things along the way and if you read this, maybe I can save you some steps.
PS, now you know why I haven’t posted anything for a few days 🙂