another mythfrontend

I’ve been poking on and off at the idea of getting a second frontend for MythTV.  I already have my Mini-ITX all setup in my living room, but since I also have a TV in my bedroom as well, I’d like to get one in there as well.  The problem is, I’m not really sure if I’d use it, so I don’t know if I want to jump into spending the $600 to $800 to buy all the hardware.

I never thought I’d really use my other one either, and it actually wasn’t until a few months after I set it all up completely that I finally started playing with it.  That’s a bit of an odd thing about me — I enjoy the challenge and the possibility of setting something up more than using it.  Practicality really does take about the third or fourth position on the list of priorities when it comes to setting something up.  Filling a void is usually number one. :)

Since this idea costs a lot of money, and it’s not something I can throw together lightly, I want to experiment a bit first, and see if I’ll ever actually use the thing before committing.  My first frontend actually came together quite by accident — I had both the motherboard and the HTPC case, but for some reason I had it in my mind that they would never work together because of the cabling or something.  One day it dawned on me that maybe I should actually try, and when I did, it came together great, and I’ve been using it ever since.

Interestingly enough, though, once I got it working, I still wasn’t interested in playing with it … something was always missing.  But since I got my main objective complete, I was happy anyway.  It wasn’t until a few weeks later that I took a closer look at what was stopping me from using it, and I realized it was all the navigation issues that I had with mythvideo, which I patched.  Now I use it on a regular basis — it’s great to have a lot of media on demand and nicely categorized and accessible.  It’s still not perfect, but at least now it’s more of a software issue than hardware.

I actually like the setup so much, in fact, that I’m thinking about cancelling my cable TV altogether and just watching stuff from my library.  That kind of reinforces the idea of getting a second frontend, though.

So, the idea I have so far is to find a cheap frontend that I can play with to see if having a second frontend is even worth all the hassle.  That’s easy enough … it’ll cost me less money, and while it won’t be elegant, I’ll at least be able to see if it’s something I’d actually use or if I’m just looking for a project to play with.

I also have some spare parts that I can put things together, so that makes things helpful.  Unfortunately, I also have the kiss of death whenever it comes to hardware, and everything I touch inexplicably stops working sooner or later for some reason.  I don’t know why, but apparently it works doubly effective when it comes to sound cards.  The onboard sound on my Mini-ITX board died, and I have no idea why.  Well, no idea other than it’s a VIA chipset.  There’s room for one PCI slot, so I put an older SoundBlaster in there, which works great.  I’d much rather have that slot open to use something else …. say, a PCI nvidia VGA card that’d put out a much better picture than the cheap VIA one, but whatever.

I have an extra desktop, which is an old ASUS amd64 motherboard with an nvidia chipset that has worked really well for me.  In fact, I think it was the first 64-bit computer I put together way back in the day.  Somehow, the onboard audio died on this one too.  I have no idea how it happened here, either.  I found a computer store nearby my house that sells used computer parts, so I went there and found an old PCI sound card for only $10.  I bought that, figuring that the older it is, the better it would be supported in Linux.  My bad luck paid me a visit again though, and I managed to find one of the few cards that ALSA never supported.  Whoops.  So now I’m back to square one when it comes to audio.

I could try buying another PCI card, or I can try and find a USB sound device instead.  I’m a bit nervous about those, as I worry that something might happen where either ALSA has issues with it or there is just some small latency that would drive me insane.  Plus, I’m factoring in even more money to support an old piece of hardware, that could instead be invested towards a newer machine which I know would work flawlessly.

I went on Craigslist to see if I could find any cheap sound cards, and instead I found a cheap computer.  I picked up a Gateway Pentium3 for $20.  It has an Intel chipset (sound, VGA) and an onboard NIC (3com).

Ah, crap, I just realized something.  I thought I’d save all this money, after all … $20 for a whole new box instead of just a sound card, but I’m gonna have to get a new PCI video card with S-Video out, which is gonna cost me another $40 anyway.  Dangit.

Oh well, maybe I can use the box for a noisemaker for New Year’s.  The hard drive sounds like someone threw a cat in the washing machine.

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