Tuesday, August 21, 2012

My MythTV system - the story so far

For the past 18 moths or so I've been running a MythTV system in the lounge, which has been an excellent performer. It has liberated us from TV advertisements and from having to be home in time to watch a particular show. It has been slowly enhanced and upgraded over that time to be quite a capable machine, exceeding what could be purchased from a store.

Following on from one of the earlier build posts, one thing done was purchasing a larger wireless antenna. For under $20, it allowed the antenna to be moved to a position with better reception to the wireless router, and with a stronger signal. There have been very few connection dropouts since putting that in. The eventual goal is to have a hard-wired ethernet connection, but that will be some time down the track if I ever get the house wired up for it.

Another issue was with a hard drive upgrade. Originally with the 2TB Samsung disk, I upgraded it to a Hitachi 5K3000 3TB drive. It ran well for about three months, but then I came down to the lounge one morning and the system wasn't happy. There were drive errors of one kind or another. I grabbed the 2TB Samsung drive again (which had been serving a happy retirement in my desktop PC), and luckily was able to copy all the recordings over to it. It was fortunate that I hadn't filled the extra space either.

So the system was back to its original storage drive, until the warranty fix came back from Hitachi. About three weeks later, a replacecment drive showed up - this time it was a 3TB 7K3000, the next model up. Also, since this happened after the Thailand floods, one of those drives was now worth nearly $400, quite a bit different from the ~$160 I paid.

Now I had a refurbished 3TB drive and a 2TB drive with a year's heavy usage already on it. This made me a little nervous. It was time to move to a RAID1 system. I used the linux mdadm software RAID, with some LVM volumes on top of it. It is a while back now, but the install went OK I can't quite remember the tutorial I used, but these two have quite a lot of information on doing so. The performance hit from running RAID and LVM was not noticeable on the system, either. If desired, you can also set up email notifications if a drive fails or some other problem arises with the array - see here, here and here. One thing to note if you use gmail to send the notifications: if your password has a "#"in it, ssmtp will read the rest of the line as a comment and you'll get all sorts of strange errors. Oh yes, it's best to set up a secondary gmail account to do this, with nothing important in it, since you have to keep the password in a text file.

Since the system worked well, I didn't bother with updating it. It wasn't open to the wider internet (to access via MythWeb). But it was time for a change, and Mythbuntu 10.10 was no longer supported. It was time for an upgrade to a newer version - which will be detailed in another post.

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