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I have this big headache that I'm trying to get my head around with regards to creating a media centre system.
My father-in-law is buying a Bed-and-Breakfast style accommodation that they may use for occasional "retreat"-style weekends, etc.
He told me he was wanting to build an entertainment system into each room (5-6 in total), including the ability to watch DVD's, Play CD's, browse the internet, and Maybe host a central repository of video files to watch over the network. He was also interested is TV on this entertainment system, but that was more of a "if we could do it"
He was also worried about being able to protect the machines from "unwanted" content on the web, and it needed to be easy to administer so he doesn't have to call me up everytime it goes wrong (I'll be about 2 hours away).
I'm not what I would call an experienced Linux user. I messed in it here and there, but always with general purpose distros, nothing on the scale of customised needs as above.
My thoughts were MythTV backend running on a Server in their room, then small, cheap (and possibly diskless?) computers + monitor/TV in each room. I've had a go with KnoppMyth for about a week now, and I've setup a Test Backend and used the KnoppMyth boot CD as a frontend. The problem is, It doesn't seem very customisable, the Menu's seem in the wrong order and all over the place, it crashed on both the server and front end when attempting to go in certain menus, and I'm not even sure If I add media on the server if it will show on the frontend anyway.
As for Hardware, because the room space is limited, I was first thinking of an xBox running linux because of the cheap hardware, but decided it was to big and bulky, and also I read that connected to a TV makes it difficult to read text on a browser. I was then thinking along the lines of either a barebones system (also a bit big) or maybe a Via-based system, but I'll admit I haven't fully looked into either of those yet. I'd be interested to know if I can include TV with myth TV, but will it require multiple backend servers?
Can anyone help me out with this? Am I going about this the wrong way? Is it possible to create a custom Linux image to boot from, say a USB drive, or even using NFS over the network, and make it read only so that it can't be screwed up. or is not possible because MythTV frontend needs to boot from a writable-disk? Am I better off with another System all together, based on something I haven't though of?
So many questions and I can't seems to find most of the answers. Can anyone help me?
Distribution: Xubuntu 9.10, Gentoo 2.6.27 (AMD64), Darwin 9.0.0 (arm)
MythTv should be able to do what you want:
"Can I include TV with myth TV, but will it require multiple backend servers?"
No; if two rooms want to watch 2 different channels you would need 2 tuner cards but not 2 servers. as this is a business and only 5 or 6 rooms I would have 1 tuner card for each room 'just in case'
"He was also worried about being able to protect the machines from "unwanted" content on the web, and it needed to be easy to administer so he doesn't have to call me up everytime it goes wrong (I'll be about 2 hours away)."
This shouldn't be a big problem for linux based systems your guests won't be able to download viruses or spyware because mythtv isn't a privileged user so they couldn't install anything I have my whole house (all 750sq ft.) done up with mythtv over wifi and once it was set up it's pretty stable. worst case my girlfriend can reboot the backend to fix any problems while I'm at work.
"I've had a go with KnoppMyth for about a week now, and I've setup a Test Backend and used the KnoppMyth boot CD as a frontend. The problem is, It doesn't seem very customizable, the Menu's seem in the wrong order and all over the place, it crashed on both the server and front end when attempting to go in certain menus"
Is KnoppMyth a live distro like knoppix? I can imagine this would cause some problems especially in the customizability area. try installing a distro to the harddisk and set up mythtv from there it will give you a better overall experience then a 'livecd'
"As for Hardware, because the room space is limited, I was first thinking of an xBox running linux because of the cheap hardware, but decided it was to big and bulky, and also I read that connected to a TV makes it difficult to read text on a browser. I was then thinking along the lines of either a barebones system (also a bit big) or maybe a Via-based system"
I've seen cheap set top box 'puters on ebay, and many of the small via boards have a tv out and more then enough power to run a myth frontend. In my personal opinion a settop box with no keyboard/mouse just a tv remote would look much better in a hotel room then a computer and a tv or no tv at all; also assuming you already have tvs in the rooms you would save on the hardware costs because you wouldn't have to purchase monitors. while text can be difficult to read on a tv especially towards the corners it's nothing that a larger font won't fix and mythtv was made to run on a tv.
Last edited by johnson_steve; 01-12-2007 at 09:26 PM.
I've decided on ubuntu for the distributions, it's the one I'm most familiar with
I've also decided to try go down the root of booting over NFS, and have been fairly successful, following these steps: https://help.ubuntu.com/community/DisklessUbuntuHowto. It discovers the DHCP address, boot the kernel and initrd image, and starts the bootup seqeunce, however, it hangs on the following line:
eth0: link up
I'm guessing it drops the NFS connection when it brings up the ethernet. I've commented out the 'auto eth0' from /etc/network/interfaces, but it still does it, any one have any ideas how to get over this hurdle?
I do the same thing in my house. A single mythTV backend server. With Xbox frontends. Xboxes and a TV is far cheaper than a computer and a monitor. A simple softmod xbox, the original one, with XBMC is all that you need. There is a python script that acts as a great front end for myth. from the xboxes around my house i am able to watch live tv and record and schedule recording. xboxes can be picked up for around £40 these days and make a perfect media centre.
One issue that I didn't see was licensing for the media you're going to use. Generally, DVDs are licensed only for home viewing, and not for use in a commercial environment. The same goes for redistribution of TV signals. Give it some thought. I'd hate to see him get burned over something like this.
I don't use Ubuntu, but I used that Ubuntu How-To to get diskless Debian workstations. I remember there were a couple strange little obstacles like that, which I needed to research around to fix before finally attaining success.
I still have some funny behavior in that on two of the diskless workstations, I need to reboot after it fails to run an nfs premount script successfully the first time around. Someday I'll troubleshoot it, but maybe you won't run into that issue.
Running diskless workstations is a great way to save money, reduce maintenance headache, and reduce noise. If you use a quiet PSU (NewEgg has Fortron GREEN 300w PSUs for a great price right now) and a Scythe Ninja CPU heatsink without the fan, it's easy to make very quiet diskless computers--a big plus for running the systems 24/7 in bedrooms.
Based on the noise considerations alone, I say forget about the XBoxes. They are LOUD, and not at all bedroom friendly. This is supposed to be a "resort" of sorts, right? Better make sure you don't spoil the creature comforts!
The XBox is too cramped for all but the most basic noise reducing modifications. The fan can be slowed down, but there's insufficient space to replace it with a larger quieter model capable of providing good airflow with reduced noise. There isn't even enough space to softmount the fan (to reduce vibration noises). There's no room for a hard drive suspension. And replacing the heatsink? Forget about it!