Book review - Practical MythTV

Full disclosure: Publisher Apress approached me asking me to review this book and sent me a free review copy. Other than that, there is no affiliation or other involvement between myself or FOSSwire and Apress.

Practical MythTV

MythTV is one of the most flexible and powerful personal video recorder (PVR) systems out there and is also a thriving open source project. Installing it and configuring it can take quite a bit of expertise, however, and so Practical MythTV - Building a PVR and Media Center PC aims at a project-based approach to getting your MythTV installation up and running and then taking it further.

The book is split into three main sections. First of all, MythTV is explained and the book goes into detail about how MythTV works, what requirements there will be as far as hardware and software are concerned and explains many of the concepts and basics behind MythTV. It makes a very good introduction to the project if you haven't delved too much into it before and makes it very clear what you are going to need.

Next, the book goes through the installation process. Interestingly, the book focuses on a MythTV setup based on Ubuntu 6.06 (Dapper Drake, the long term support release) rather than choosing a pre-installed Myth distribution such as KnoppMyth.

It also chooses to focus on installation from source for both MythTV itself and related software such as LIRC, rather than through Ubuntu packages. Although it is explained very well and is detailed, the inclusion of compiling from source means that readers will probably need previous knowledge and at least intermediate skills with using Linux. The sudden change in the level of technical detail is a little disconcerting - you go from the basics of MythTV in the first chapter and then suddenly jump into doing complex tasks involving compilation.

Once compilation is done, the process of getting TV listing data and setting up recordings is explored. Considering how difficult an issue this is to address with such a diverse range of possible configurations and regional differences in how to get TV data, it is written very well. It details the Zap2It service for North America and XMLTV for the rest of the world.

After getting your MythTV box up and running, the focus shifts towards exploring more advanced functionality and some plugins and other applications that plug into or use MythTV functionality. Looked into are installing and using alternative MythTV themes, remote frontends such as MythWeb and the Jabber/XMPP interface, MythVideo, transcoding and more.

Overall, the book is well written, goes into good technical detail while remaining to explain things well enough for a reasonably tech-savvy user to be able to set up MythTV.

My main concern would be the assumption of prior Linux knowledge. The introduction states you need "limited or no experience with Linux or Unix". I think that in this case, some time should have been taken to introduce complete Linux newcomers into the Ubuntu environment, which is something that wasn't touched on an awful lot. The installation of Ubuntu was well-covered and is generally a very simple process, but after that not much time was given to familiarise the user with the Ubuntu environment used throughout the book.

The rest of the book is extremely well written, clear and is a very good companion to MythTV. True to its name, it takes a practical approach to solving problems and if you're a Linux user interested in setting up a MythTV installation, it will make a very good resource.

Avatar for peter Peter Upfold -

Peter Upfold is a technology enthusiast from the UK. Peter’s interest in Linux stems back to 2003, when curiosity got the better of him and he began using SUSE 9.0. Now he runs Linux Mint 9 on the desktop, runs a CentOS-based web server from home for his personal website and dabbles in all sorts of technology things across the Windows, Mac and open source worlds.

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Discussion: Book review - Practical MythTV

  1. Peter Daly (guest)

    # Posted on 11 July 2007 at 06:51 PM


    It's interesting to read through your review, as I did one myself of this book (same circumstances) a few weeks ago. (

    Your thoughts are very similar to mine. I thought the part about compiling everything from scratch just didn't fit well with the rest of the book.

    I don't know if APress usually does second editions or not, but an updated edition that covers KnoppMyth or MythDora and is clear that you can either compile your self or choose one of the distribtions would make it better suited for the "Practical" MythTV market.

    Anyway, just my 2 cents.


  2. Stewart Smith (guest)

    # Posted on 12 July 2007 at 11:07 PM

    Heya! (yes, I'm vain enough to have a Google Alert for the title of the book :)

    We went with the build-from-source option instead of using any packages as we've found this to be the easiest way of avoiding a bunch of tricky problems, and also allowing the upgrading of MythTV itself without the rest of the distribution (something we've done ourselves several times.... we all know that changing everything at once is a recipe for disaster).

    It also allows the right CPU optimisations to be selected.

    Although, the mythtv packages of various distributions are getting better....

    We're great fans of Ubuntu (which is why we use and recommend it) - easy to install, lots of software packages (thanks to Debian heritage) and rather reliable and easy upgrades (mainly again, thanks to Debian). I have not re-installed my MythTV box since pre-Ubuntu 5.04... upgrade every time.... and it's gone fairly smoothly (sometimes requiring a rebuild of mythtv).

    We were also of the mind that we should focus on things that we ourselves do and are comfortable with (and have lived with for long periods of time). Our whole motivation for writing the book was "wouldn't it have been a bit easier if there was a good book to help with the tricky bits..."

    Glad to read the positive review though! Makes me feel like all the work was for something good :)

  3. # Posted on 12 July 2007 at 11:23 PM

    [...] at, there’s a review of Practical MythTV. Here the copy of the book was provided by our publisher, Apress - who are getting some copies out [...]

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