Hack 78. MythTV as a Digital Hub
MythTV can do more than just show TVit can be a complete digital hub for your home. Learn about MythTV's various plug-ins that extend its capabilities.
As alluded to in "Create a DVR with MythTV" [Hack #77], there's much more to MythTV than just recording and time-shifting TV. MythTV has a plug-in architecture that allows you to add an array of modules to extend the capabilities your MythTV system and make it a true digital media hub for your home.
All these plug-ins are available individually, or you can grab all of them (and all dependencies) in one fell swoop if you have configured yum per [Hack #77] Just type:
# yum install mythplugins
Most other distributions provide the plug-ins via the package manager, but if yours doesn't, you can always grab the source code from the Download page at http://www.mythtv.org.
After installation, fire up the MythTV frontend, and you should find numerous additional buttons throughout the UI, grouped in (hopefully) logical placesfor example, MythWeather and MythNews are accessed under the Information Center menu on the main MythTV frontend menu. Most plugins are configured within the Setup section of the MythTV frontend. A quick hit list of the most popular plug-ins with brief descriptions follows.
Got a large collection of DVDs you've painstakingly converted into video files that your computer can play? Maybe a large library of digitized home movies? Wouldn't it be nice to have it all cataloged and ready to browse, complete with a description of the plot, MPAA rating, run-time, and a movie poster for every Hollywood flick in your collection? MythVideo gives you just that. Just fire up MythVideo's setup utility, which searches your movie storage directory for new files, and then let MythVideo search for your movie on the Internet Movie Database (http://www.imdb.org/) and pull down all that information for you. Now you can thumb through your movies like you were at the video store, select a movie, and start watching it, all without leaving your couch.
MythVideo makes use of a backend video player such as MPlayer or xine. If you don't like the features offered in the default (MPlayer) you can easily make a switch by installing the alternative player and then going to Utilities/ Setup Setup Media Settings Video Settings Player Settings. Youll be required to enter a command-line argument to run your video player. Here is sample line for xine:
xinepfhq --no-splash %s
The plug-in enables you to watch your DVD and VideoCD movies as you would with any off-the-shelf DVD player. Because video playback is handled by software, your DVD experience may actually improve as the software is upgraded. For example, early hardware DVD players did not have progressive scan playback, a feature that enhances the quality of the video sent to the TV, and those people who have these players still lack that feature. However, a software DVD player that lacked progressive scanning may receive the feature during its next program update. Thus, your MythDVD system is more versatile than a hardware DVD.
Most packages have MythDVD set up to use MPlayer as the DVD playback tool, but since MPlayer lacks the ability to display DVD menus, it is not a very good choice if you want to access more content than the main feature. The following command, placed in the DVD Player Command Field located in Utilities/Setup Setup Media Settings DVD Settings Play Settings, will enable playback with the xine backend, which can display the DVD movies:
xinepfhq --no-splash dvd://
MythDVD also gives you the ability to rip your DVDs to the hard drive. Many people may find this feature more user friendly than following the steps found in "Rip a DVD" [Hack #59]. The rip settings are controlled using the same path I just gave you for the player settings, except you'll choose Rip Settings instead. Ripping a DVD shouldn't take more than a few minutes, but encoding it into a smaller file format will take several hours.
What digital hub would be complete without a way to interface with your entire music library, be it digitized audio files or your prized CD collection? You can listen to your CDs, rip them to digital audio files on your Myth box, play them back, build playlists, randomly play your entire library, and display an assortment of visualizations full screen on your television, pulsating in time to the music. Coming soon (as of this writing) is support for remote playlists shared out by iTunes.
Everyone loves a good slideshow of the kids or your vacation to the tropics, don't they? With actual slides and slide projectors having pretty much gone the way of the dinosaur and the rampant use of digital cameras, many of us never see our captured memories outside a computer monitor. Well, how 'bout putting them up on that big screen TV? MythGallery lets you set up folders full of pictures to display slideshow style on your television, complete with slide-to-slide transition effects (plus background music support planned).
Long before touching their first Linux box, many of today's Linux enthusiasts were video game junkiesranging from the old Commodore and Atari systems, up through all that Nintendo, Sega, Sony, and Microsoft have to offer. MythGame provides a coherent interface between a library of game images and a number of today's popular video game system emulators, currently including those for Nintendo, Super Nintendo, and the multi-arcade machine emulator (MAME), with additional emulator support in development.
The Weather Channel for your Myth box, it is always tuned to your local conditions. MythWeather fetches forecasts, current conditions, and radar imaging off the Internet for your location, available for your perusal on demand, no waiting for the meteorologist to get to the part you care about.
With the rising popularity of Vonage and similar digital voice services from the major telcos, its pretty clear Voice over IP (VoIP) will play a dominant role in the future of telecom. The future is already here and then some with MythPhone, which goes above and beyond, providing both voice and video over IP. You can turn your television into a video phone with the right hardware and VoIP service provider.
Nearly every major news site, and even most minor ones have an RSS (really simple syndication) newsfeed available for consumption. MythNews provides you with an RSS feed aggregator to let you read all the day's top stories from all the sources you care about with just a quick glance at your television.
Just want to sit back on the couch and surf the Web on your big screen? MythBrowser is a web browser tuned for use on a television screen, with nothing but a remote control (but you can use a keyboard too).
When combined with the ubiquitous Apache web server and PHP, MythWeb gives you a web interface into your entire MythTV system. Browse your program guide and current recordings, schedule, delete, and download recordings, adjust preferences, key bindings, and much more. Imagine you're away from home and suddenly realize there's a special on that afternoon that you wanted to see. With an appropriately configure setup, you can schedule that recording from anywhere on the Internet. Several plug-ins are also configurable or useable to some extent via MythWeb as wellwith support for more on the way.
The plug-ins mentioned above are all officially sanctioned and supported by the MythTV project, and are maintained in MythTV's source code repositories. Additional plug-ins can be found in the wilduse 'em at your own risk!