The Asus EB1033 is a good choice for a silent MythTV front end system. I’ll explain how to set it up and hopefully entertain you along the way.
If you’re not familiar with MythTV it allows splitting the functionality of a PVR/DVR across multiple machines. You can build a “Back End” system to record shows and “Front End” systems that allow you to “consume content”. I put my larger machine, with the noisy fans and hard disks, in the equipment room. In the home theater I want something quiet and small. I chose the Asus for this application.
Here’s the hardware I purchased:
* ASUS EB1033
* StreamZap remote control
* 4 GB of RAM (overkill. 2GB will probably work fine)
* An SSD drive that’s at least 16GB
* Rosewill external USB DVD player
* A TV with an HDMI connection. The Asus does not provide hardware output for sound you’ll need to use the television for audio.
* An HDMI cable
* A network cable to connect to your network (if you have a wifi router you don’t need this)
You’ll need these things to complete the install but will not need afterward. (borrow them from another system)
* usb keyboard
* usb mouse
* regular vga monitor
* Android phone or tablet as an extra remote
I would not recommend using the Asus for a back end if you’re using an SSD drive. At this time mechanical hard disks are much cheaper per gigabyte. You’ll want to put as much disk space on your back end unit as you can afford. You can easily purchase enough space to store hundreds of hours of programs.
I had an existing, but very old, version of MythTV that had a combined front and back end. If I put a new front end into the mix it would not be able to communicate with the old back end because the communications protocol they use had been changed. I had to update my back end system as well.
For the installation I chose MythBuntu. Why did I chose this one? Let the saga begin!
I have in the past rolled my own system. It generally took several days to build one like this. First you install Linux. Then you tweak the video drivers settings file because it can’t figure out your video hardware. Then you have to install drivers for the infrared receiver so you can have a remote control. Then you install mysql and fight with permissions issues. Then you install mythtv and spend a day figuring out how to get your channel lineup loaded. etc. It’s not fun unless you’re a masochist. If you are a masochist I can recommend a dominatrix making you build a mythtv system from scratch. It will be endless hours of fun.
About a year after my first build I had to rebuild the system after a hardware crash. I updated the software and got it all working again without issue. Later that year daylight savings time rolled around and I started getting the wrong shows recorded. It was starting all recordings an hour off. The system time was correct and the time zone setting was correct. I hadn’t changed anything because the system had been working fine. It had to be a software bug.
A bit of research using google revealed the problem. The Qt library had a bug in its handling of time zone adjustments during daylight savings time. The MythTV coders knew about the bug. Their response was, instead of fixing the Qt library, they added a special offset to get the correct time. They added a bug to correct a bug. Two bugs that cancel each other out instead of zero bugs. Sigh.
When I rebuilt the system I downloaded the newest version of the Qt library. This version had the time zone handling correction. The old version of MythTV didn’t take that into account. So their ‘fix’ ensured that it recorded an hour off now. A perfect example of why software repositories are not a good thing. What you tested is never what the users end up running. I guess if you’re not supporting it you don’t really care though.
I couldn’t just adjust the clock by an hour because the cron task that automatically adjusts the clock to the atomic clock in colorado would set it back to the correct time. So, at this point, it was either adjust all the recording schedules to record the show that comes on just before the one you really want, or set the time zone wrong. I set the time zone wrong until daylight savings time ended again.
A year later an open source group started producing a disk image with everything pre-installed. That eliminated some of the work but still left the tweaking stage. I used them the next time I had to rebuild my system. This was a nice improvement.
Then I fell prey to the evil of duh ta duh “BAD ADVICE.” I had an annoying problem getting it to load my list of cable stations correctly. I was told “you can probably fix that if you upgrade to the new version.” It seemed simple enough since I already knew the settings I needed. Unfortunately the guys who packaged MythTV also fell prey to the evils of software repositories. They updated to the latest distribution of Linux when the created the package with the new version of MythTV. The new version of Linux decided that my hardware was duh ta duh “DEPRECATED.” This is technical talk for “You’ve got old crap that’s not interesting any longer. We don’t care that it works. Go out and buy some new stuff that’s cool grampa.”
So there I am with a perfectly good system that’s perfectly useless. I can’t reinstall the old software since I don’t have a copy of it and you can’t download it any longer. I can’t install the new version since my computer is now an antique (It’s more than a year old). I searched around and found a different packaged version of MythTV.
The MythDora distribution packaged up MythTV using a Linux that would run on my antique. It was even easier to install than what I had been using. It was able to reliably detect what kind of video hardware I had and automatically install a working driver. Wow. Kudos to you guys!
This long and winding tale finally comes to an end here. Dial forward to today. In my search for the new software my first action is to visit MythDora’s site. The note on the front page indicates they’re not going to keep up the project. Dang. That’s disappointing. A bit of further searching finds MythBuntu and it’s off to the download button.
* The EB1033 has an Intel Atom processor so you’ll need the 64 bit version of MythBuntu for it. I used the 11.10 version for both the front end and back end.
* Download the ISO file and use your favorite CD burning software to make a bootable disk from it.
* For the back end if you’re using old junk hardware you may need the 32 bit version.
* Unpack your new Asus.
* Marvel at how small the unit is. We’re in the future now baby.
* Take out the screws and pop off the top. It’s slightly tricksy. If you can’t figure it out there are some good youtube videos.
* Put in the RAM
* Put the mounting bracket on the SSD drive. Plug it into the connector inside the unit and use the provided screws to secure it.
* Re-assemble the Asus
* Plug in the video monitor, usb keyboard, and mouse. You won’t need to connect the TV yet.
* Plug in the usb dvd drive.
* Connect the power supply.
* Plug in the dongle provided in the StreamZap remote control package.
* Turn the unit on. Press the button on the dvd drive to open the door. Put in your MythBuntu disk.
The installation for this distribution is very good. It will lead you through the installation using simple step by step menus.
* You CANNOT perform the installation using the TV output. You must use a monitor during the installation. It won’t be needed in regular use so just borrow one for the process.
* There’s an option for downloading updates during the process. Do NOT use this option. It drastically increases the time to complete the installation.
* The install will offer the option of using an android device to control the backend. You can scan a QR code to install the app or just select it from your app store of choice. It’s free but not very pretty.
* If your wifi router has a password you’ll need to enter it early during the installation. The installer will automatically set up the networking for the installation and use this password. You will not have to configure it again later.
* The StreamZap remote is one of the explicitly supported remote controls. During the install process you can select an option to install a remote control. Scroll through the list of supported remote controls and select “StreamZap.”
* Once your installation is complete remove the CD and reboot the Asus. Since the Asus does not provide hardware output for sound you’ll need to use the television for audio. The mythtv back end setup (in the system menu of the desktop) allows you to choose the audio drivers to use. In the list you’ll find a driver with “nvidia” and “hdmi” in the description. This is the correct choice.
* You probably do not need a pin to connect to the backend system. Leave it as “0000″
* You SHOULD enable the option to automatically fill listings in the mythtv back end setup (in the system menu of the desktop). This will fetch the new program listings. I purchased a years worth of service to get the tv listings from Schedules Direct. They aren’t expensive, they’re reliable, and they don’t send me spam wanting me to join a multi-level marketing scheme.
* If you want to be able to use a web browser to control your back end go to the plugins setup and enable “MythWeb”. Once your install is complete you can connect to the backend and perform many functions through a web interface. The plugins setup can be accessed by exiting from the mythtv front end. Then use the mouse to select the mythbuntu control panel.
* There is a music player plugin but I cannot recommend it. It easily has the worst user interface design I’ve ever seen.
After you’ve configured the system to connect to the back end you can remove the keyboard, mouse, and monitor. Connect the TV using the HDMI cable. Put the remote control dongle somewhere visible from where you use the remote control.
Good luck with your new DVR! I’ll add some links to the hardware if you’re interested in purchasing it shortly