Well, my MythBox, which has been running Ubuntu Feisty has failed me. It seems to have been a bug in the 2.16.20 kernel. The main thrust of the bug was that it screwed with the I/O (read/write) to the hard disk. The first noticeable problem was at three weeks after the upgrade from Edgy because my /home partition (JFS for the very large video files) crashed. I was able to recover the log, but I thought the problem was in the JFS package. After ten days of research, I discovered that it wasn’t JFS (which hasn’t had any major upgrades for quite a while) but the kernel package. So, I contemplated my two options: upgrade to the 2.16.21 kernel (which was in gutsy) or downgrade back to Edgy. It’s nearly impossible to manually downgrade Ubuntu without having a lot of headache, so I chose the upgrade path (after all, my main computer runs Debian unstable with a few experimental packages). During the upgrade, apt-get choked on a disk I/O and the system is no longer bootable. Joy.
Since I now have to reinstall the system (and hopefully recover the pertinent data from my /var and /home partitions), I did some more research. My first priority was remain in the Debian-based system. Second was having a very stable system with less frequent updates (this was, for all intents and purposes, a server environment in which cutting edge is unnecessary). Some things I would need on this box: MySQL server, Apache, PHP, MythTV (of course), Subversion, an FTP daemon, and a SSH daemon. Right off, most MythTV-specific distros were out because they make it somewhat difficult to install other programs/packages. Ubuntu was out because this was the second time I’ve had some major problems with it. So, I settled on Debian stable. It has all the packages I want/need, and it’s super-stable. I’ve not have a bad experience with Debian stable (Debian testing, on the other hand…). SO, during whatever free time I may have this week, I will be re-installing old faithful.
After many moons and suns, debian has finally released a new stable: Etch. I’ve been running Etch for over a year now (back when it was considered “testing”). With this release also means that the new “testing” version has been codenamed “Lenny.” To many Linux users, Debian is much like the Cadillac of Linux, being a very dependable distribution with a long maintenance cycle. It took the Debian developers 21 months to tweak Etch into a stable distribution. It’ll be at least 18 months before another stable version is released. And that is why I tend to keep my copy in the testing and unstable branches because a lot can happen in 18 months (KDE ought to have its new version 4.0 out well before then). Of course, with Ubuntu‘s latest version about to be released, this news won’t last long.
Well, my computer parts came in today as planned. I spent the morning assembling everything and installing the base system. I tried to go with Ubuntu, but it became problematic. Here’s why:
- I wanted to have separate partitions for /boot and /tmp. This nice development, once I worked it out, still screwed up the install of GRUB and the computer would not boot from the hard drive unless I put the install CD and manually made it boot from the hard drive.
- The madwifi (atheros chipset-based wireless cards) driver would not cooperate with wpa_supplicant (the binary for wireless cards to use WPA encryption).
- After getting #2 to work, the clock was screwed up (set to October 2006!) and would not let me use sudo (to correct the time).
- Of course, there is no root password, so trying to use su resulted in yet another problem.
So, I ditched Ubuntu and popped in dvd disc 1 of Debian Etch (the newly released isos with the RC for the debian-installer). It has a new graphical installation, but that’s over-the-top as the text installer is more intuitive and easier to use (I ran both for the hell of it!). My only difficulty was getting madwifi to work because it is not included on the dvds…I had to download it on another computer, save it to a disc, then install it manually. After installing it, it had some problem at first resolving the IP address from my router (small user error in configuring wpa_supplicant). But, it’s running nicely now (after manually building the alsa and madwifi modules). So, Ubuntu may be nice for those who don’t have a clue as to what they’re doing, but it also restricts what one is able to do if one knows what one is doing and likes root. Sorry (k|x|ed)Ubuntu, it’s just not my cup of tea.
I now have a fully dedicated MythTV box running in my living room. Here’s its lovely specs: dual Hauppauge PVR-150 for input (that’s two channels simultaneously) with a remote, a 256 Mb PCIe 16x video card with component video out to my TV. The box does has a hi-def 7.1 sound system, but I don’t have a sound system to handle it, so it’s just doing the regular two-channel audio. The box runs on an Pentium 4 3.06 GHz (With HyperThreading) and a half gig of DDR2 RAM (running single-channel). It has a 250Gb SATA drive for storage (approximately 200 hours). Also, it boasts an 18x DVD burner for ripping and burning DVDs thanks to MythDVD and MythArchive. The system itself runs on Ubuntu 6.10 and MythTV 0.20 with a working lirc input for remote control usage. Also, I have MythWeb installed on the box for (secured) remote access.
In addition to being a dedicated Myth box (frontend for the living room and only backend), the box also doubles as the new server through DynamicDNS. I need to finish moving everything over to it (as it is replacing my normal computer as the main outlet for the web because it is hard-wired onto the network (hence, no problems with wifi), but it will contain all of my public SVN repositories, as well as hosting working copies of all of my projects. Internally, it will be my testing server for my offline replicas of the sites that I maintain (for backups and testing). I have also configured everything so that my own personal computer (which is running a Debian install) also serves as a frontend to the MythTV box, so that I can access and watch things from the Myth box.
Lastly, I have wired my living room electronics so that there is an additional cable connection to my VCR and TV, allowing me to record 2 channels on the Myth box, while also watching or recording a third on the VCR. I may re-wire it so that I can have a fourth output to the TV so that I can record to the VCR while also watching on the TV. Yes, that’s major TV watching, which I doubt I’ll never do, but it’s a possibility, mainly for completeness’s sake.