HP LX195 MediaSmart Home Server – The Ultimate MythTV Backend?

by Alex Kuretz on December 10, 2010 · 8 comments

in Forum Spotlight

The following is a guest article contributed by forum member (and one of my former HP co-workers) “Pete”. Thanks to Pete for sharing his setup of the HP LX195 as a MythTV Personal Video Recorder

Before I get into the details of my wicked LX195 setup, I feel like I should make a statement. My forum name is “Pete”, and I am an infrequent lurker in the forums. However, I also spent some of my career working on the HP MediaSmart Server team as a software developer. I want to personally thank everyone who has helped support the HP MediaSmart Server efforts. While working in this area, it has been a joy working with cool technology on interesting subjects. I know many people are disappointed with the direction HP is taking, and I share the disappointment that this product line was not more successful.

Now that being said, the rest of this article contains material that is in no way, shape, or form supported by HP. If you follow my path, you will be on your own. I do not work on the MediaSmart Server team, and these actions are not endorsed by anyone on the MediaSmart Server team or by HP.

What I have done is to take an LX195 machine and:

  • Replaced the drive with a 1TB drive (you can go bigger, but 1TB is pretty good for our house)
  • Using the break-out /debug /console cables and a USB DVD drive, I installed Mythbuntu, setting up the LX195 as the primary backend
  • Paired this setup with 2 Silicon Dust HDHomerun dual tuners (a total of 4 tuners). If you are looking for TV tuners, I think the HDHomerun tuners are awesome

By doing this I now have a central DVR server, one that consumes very little power and requires very little maintenance. In addition, I have a DVR system that contains some pretty interesting features – automatic commercial skipping being the best in my opinion.

Some Background on MythTV
MythTV is an open source DVR project, and primarily users deploy it on Linux. Windows is technically an option, but you will have to build source code and do some very strange things that even as a software developer I have no interest in attempting. Myth has a distributed option where you have a backend and a frontend. The backend keeps track of schedules and does the actual recording. The front end provides a fancy UI and does the actual media playback. You can have both the frontend and backend on the same machine, on different machines, or even have multiple frontends and backbends. The hardware requirements for a backend can be fairly modest, but a frontend will need either a decent CPU or a decent GPU that can provide hardware acceleration of HD video content.

My Steps
Opening up and replacing the drive on an LX195 machine is fairly straightforward, and I bet a forum post or two can be easily found with these steps. In addition, you will likely find you need to set a debug jumper to boot from a USB drive (again, see forum posts). Once you have this, I went through what seemed like a fairly straightforward install of Mythbuntu and selected my LX195 to be a primary backend.

There was a little bit of confusion on my part around how to configure input groups and multiple tuners, but after stumbling through Myth forums, I had a machine up and ready to go. I use the Myth web UI to setup my programming selections and check on status. For actually watching Myth content, I am currently using a couple of win7 machines and XBMC with their Mythbox plug-in. I strongly recommend using the latest XBMC builds if you are trying this, as they provide an easy way to add the Mythbox functionality and also provide DXVA (offloading video playback to a GPU).

Just last night I had 4 simultaneous HD signals I was recording, all to the LX195. It all seemed to work well, and it sure seemed like a pretty amazing setup to me!

I would also state that if you do this type of project, using gigabit network is required – especially from your tuners to your LX195. I have media playback working over Wi-Fi N, which works well. However, HD streams from TV stations come in MPEG2 and have 6 channel audio – they are big, and using Wi-Fi G seems pretty crazy to me. My guess is that a single HD stream will go from 10 Mbps to 50 Mbps. The HDHomerun tuners have a 100 Mbps port, but I believe with both tuners running you are coming close to the ceiling of their single network port. My guess is that last night my network was running close to 35% capacity, which is pretty crazy for a gigabit network. Many people think they really need gigabit, but I think my setup is the first time I was confident gigabit really made a difference.

Also of note is that cool commercial skip feature. What happens is that after MythTV records a show, the default behavior is to start a process that flags commercials within the video. On the LX195 I have observed the commercials detection taking round 150% of the recording time. In other words, if I have a recording from 7-8pm, commercial flagging starts at 8pm and finishes around 9:30pm. But once you play a video that has been processed, you can set the remote control down…. I have watched a few shows already and the remote control is ignored for the entirety of the show and I don’t see any commercials. Really quite slick, the quality of local OTA HD, with the added benefit of commercials being removed for you.

In Summary
I might eventually end up using Windows 7 MCE (under the direction of my wife), but I am a tinkerer – much like many of you. This type of stuff can be fun and interesting. I know some of this information might be a bit disorganized, but I think I have a pretty cool little science experiment going. I know readers of this site enjoy this type of craziness, and I wanted to share.

I also wanted to once again thank everyone who helped support the HP MediaSmart Server team. The enthusiasm of users, like this very website, really helped us out. I know the entire team valued having active and engaged customers.





Article by

I'm Alex Kuretz, and I'm the founder of MediaSmartServer.net. I was the Lead Test and Integration Engineer at HP for the MediaSmart Server until April 2008 when I moved on to other opportunities outside HP. I've kept active in the Windows Home Server community, creating several add-ins and helping users make the most of their Home Servers.


{ 8 comments }

Awake December 10, 2010 at 6:43 am

I have been using SageTV on an LX195 for some time now, and it works very well. It is a very similar arrangement to yours.
- Upgraded disk to 1.5 TB
- 1 HD Homerun dual tuner
- Using stock WHS software V1

I normally use the Sage Placeshifter to do the playback, since the Windows Media Center setup that I have does not really like the default recording files and stutters a lot. Probably a Codec problem that I have not bothered
to troubleshoot.

The LX195 is rather underpowered for media conversion, so I batch those up within SageTV and run the ones that I want to keep overnight. SageTV includes a very good media converter, although if you are going to be watching stuff on the big screen it is better to leave it in it’s original capture format.

The LX195 is a great little low power “always-on” box, and I have dedicated it to backups and media recording and storage. By using SageTV I keep all the functionality of the WHS software, including remote management. SageTV also has the ability to run a mini-webserver, so program management can be done from outside the house.

John December 10, 2010 at 6:51 am

It wasn’t exactly clear the first time I read the article, but you basically ditched Windows Home Server completely correct? You are essentially re-purposing the hardware to run Mythbuntu?

Also, pictures/screenshots would be helpful! Cool project though, LX195s are pretty cheap on eBay.

Pete December 10, 2010 at 8:05 am

Sorry if it was not clear… yes, I ditched WHS on the LX195 (I still have 2 other WHS machines running @ home elsewhere). I should have done more screen shots indeed – you can tell I write software and not human readable material! :)

Chris December 10, 2010 at 10:18 am

Hi Pete, thanks for sharing your setup. I’ve also constructed a custom setup, though I think my path was unorthodox. I have a EX495 running windows 7 (x64) as a backend connected to 2 HDPVR TV tuners with HD dishnet receivers attached to them. I am using DVBlink server to overcome lack of support for H.264 in Windows 7. To control channel changing I’m using a USBUIRT cable controlled by Girder. I use the EX495 as a media server, to record HDTV from the 2 tuners and to record surveillance video from 2 IP cameras. I also have commercial skip working using dvrmstoolbox in conjunction with showanalyzer.

One of the reasons I decided to use windows 7 was because I had trouble getting Girder or any other program that works with the USB UIRT to work under WHS. Another reason is because I really like the way you can access remote libraries through windows media player with windows live authentication. When I am away from home I can just open windows media player and there right in front of me is all my home media content including the latest recorded TV using the familiar interface of wmp.

The main way I access my content at home is with 2 XBox 360s used as media center extenders.

For now I am extremely happy with this setup. I did also upgrade the cpu on the EX495 to a quad core processor and the RAM to 4gb.

I would rate my technical abilities as rather limited, so I am sure there probably is a better way to achieve perhaps better results. But, considering my tech level, I am satisfied with what I’ve accomplished. Another plus side to my setup, like Pete’s, is that I have only 1 low powered machine running at my house that handles all background tasks.

SeaRay33 December 10, 2010 at 10:19 am

Interesting article, Pete. I will look into doing this when my HTPC dies. Sounds like a great solution. Thank you for contributing your ideas.
George

Comp1962 December 10, 2010 at 2:58 pm

Hey Pete nice job! Repurposing the LX195 is interesting as it allows those who have out grown thier LX195 to put it to use in another application. This just demonstrates how versitile these units are.

Kumar November 14, 2011 at 10:25 am

I have MV2010 /MV2010 – I would like to instally mythbuntu in my NAS – Do you think it will work?

Alex Kuretz November 14, 2011 at 10:23 pm

No, those Media Vaults don’t use x86 hardware.

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