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Author Topic: Porting my HTPC to Linux?  (Read 964 times)

avid

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Porting my HTPC to Linux?
« on: July 20, 2023, 02:00:21 pm »

This post is to ask the MC community, if they feel able and willing, to “sanity check” my ideas for a significant change to my HTPC system. I apologize in advance for the length of this posting.

This system has been in use and evolving for over 20 years – I started it in March 2003. It comprises a Windows PC with an attached AV receiver and TV screen. All control of all media uses a remote device – nowadays my phone (as a web app), but originally a custom program on a “Pocket PC”. No screen displays or requires any UI from any player apps. Instead, it has its own UI and relies on rich APIs in the players. There has always been more than one player, each providing the functionality that it does best (or did best in 2003!). So MC is used for music, Zoom Player for watching video, and DVBViewer for TV recording and live watching. And the TV comes in via a BlackGold card which still (just about) has available Windows drivers.

But I have been more and more annoyed by the intrusiveness of Windows 10 (and more so with 11). And I am concerned about what happens when the BlackGold card dies. So, I am thinking about moving the server (and my extensive ASP.Net custom software) onto Linux.

This has several significant implications. Firstly, as neither Zoom Player nor DVBViewer are available for Windows, I would have to pull the TV and video functionality into MC. So far, I have found no issues with that – there are some good MCWS APIs around those areas. And I know I need a "master license" upgrade. Secondly, as there are no Linux drivers for the BlackGold card, then that needs to be replaced. And I have two cards – one for the live domestic system and another for my dev/test machine.

So my thinking is to put a SiliconDust HDHomeRun Flex networked tuner onto the LAN. I assume that this can be used as a multi-tuner by MC, while possibly being accessed elsewhere in the home. And, as far as I can see, this has no platform implications.

So, my questions are:
1)   Is a move to Linux sensible? Is the MC functionality and quality the same across platforms?
2)   Is the video quality up there with the best software players?
3)   Does the HDHomeRun work well as a tuner for watching live and for recording?
4)   Am I right in thinking that MC should be used for scheduling and performing recordings with the HDHomeRun as a “simple” tuner?
5)   Do I need a separate XMLTV service?
6)   Are there any limitations of MC that I may not have thought of?
7)   What else should I be concerned about?

Thanks in advance,
Brian
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mwillems

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Re: Porting my HTPC to Linux?
« Reply #1 on: July 20, 2023, 02:28:40 pm »

So I use MC exclusively in a Linux ecosystem with an HDHomerun Prime tuner.  I used to use the same tuner with a Windows machine.   I don't know about the HD Homerun flex, but my HDHomerun prime works exactly the same with Linux as it did on Windows, both for watching and recording content.  I have no problem scheduling recordings in MC.  The TV functionality mostly just works once you get your guide data sorted out. 

Thoughts:
1) One potential limitation concerns cable channels with copy protection enabled, which some windows programs can navigate, but MC in general cannot; in my market those are only a few channels so I just let them go but you may have other feelings
2) You do need to find a source of guide data/XMLTV data for your market.
3) Now that JRVR has rolled out, MC's video quality on Linux is just about as good as on windows except for OS limitations (i.e. Linux's support for HDR is more limited than Windows, but I don't know whether JRVR can work around that as I don't have an HDR display to test with).
4) Most MC features work the same on Linux, but a few notable ones do not work the same.  A brief list of notable areas where Linux functionality is more limited:

i) No audio inputs/loopback on Linux
ii) Limited disc playback. Audio disc playback and ripping is newly supported, but direct read of DVD or other video disc formats is not supported to my knowledge (although obviously you can rip them to mkv and MC will then play them back happily, I'm just talking about playing directly from disc).  The MakeMKV integration may be a way to work around that, but I haven't tested it recently.
iii) Web content that relies on using the integrated Edge browser's DRM will not work on Linux (i.e. the new netflix integration for MC for Windows does not work on Linux)

Otherwise things are mostly the same.
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avid

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Re: Porting my HTPC to Linux?
« Reply #2 on: July 21, 2023, 01:44:26 am »

Thank you so much for this. It gives me the confidence to go ahead with the port of my system to Linux and of the TV/video functionality to MC. As this is going to take a few weeks, I didn't want to waste my time, only to abandon the move at a late stage. So I shall get a HomeRun box as my first step.

The limitations of MC on Linux are not things I need. I never now play physical discs as I would always rip audio or video (on my main PC). Netflix would have been "nice to have", but I have been using a Roku box for that, and can continue to do so. Roku has a limited REST API - enough not to need to use its remote control. Similarly audio inputs can be handled by my Yamaha AV receiver (also chosen for its complete-functionality REST API). You might have gathered that the integrated programmatic control of all media playing in a single app is a fundamental requirement of my design!

I have used XMLTV in the past, so I know what is involved. But the last few years have been using DVBViewer's really good OTA EPG instead. So I shall find myself a reliable XMLTV feed for the UK.

Cable channels are not an issue for me. I will lose the ability to receive satellite channels as the BlackGold has 2 terrestrial and 2 satellite feeds. But nothing I watch is on satellite only, and terrestrial is much higher quality for me anyway - I am in line-of-sight of the strongest UK transmitter.

Once again, thank you for your detailed (and reassuring!) sanity check. Now the work commences!
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