The first choice which comes to mind is MythTV which is well known and popular. MythTV has been under development since April 2002 and is a mature and stable product despite the self-deprecating version number being merely 0.21.
MythTV offers what we want, namely the basic live TV functionality permitting you to watch television, along with PVR facilities to pause, rewind and fast forward the TV signal.
MythTV also supports multiple tuner cards – so if you connect more than one you can record one channel while watching another, or record two different shows at once while you are away. Even if you are only watching one channel MythTV can take advantage of multiple tuners to give picture-in-picture functionality.
Additional features include some games, a web-based interface to easily manage your scheduled recordings, automatic advertisement detection and trimming, recording shows to DVD and a free integrated television guide (which may not work in all regions.)
MythTV is remarkably lightweight at just 13.57MB for the essential binaries. It can be downloaded directly or installed via your regular package manager.
Alternatively, you can also find at least three MythTV-specific Linux distributions which pre-package the OS and software all-in-one installation. This includes KnoppMyth, MythDora and MythBuntu which are based on, as you might guess, Knoppix, Fedora and Ubuntu Linux distributions.
MythTV is very good, but at the same time it can be a complex system. There are two essential parts to the product, namely a server component and a client component.
The principle is sound: you can have multiple clients all about your house – or even connected via the Internet – working from the one server. The clients can view recorded content, schedule recordings and watch live TV. With a few old computers you could realistically have a media centre in every bedroom even with just one TV input into the house.
On the other hand, if you just wish to set up one single computer and don’t need a client/server configuration you might find MythTV overkill. This is also true if you don’t want a dedicated box – you may be just interested in periodically watching TV on your existing Linux desktop or laptop with a plugin USB TV tuner and just want a simple run-on-demand program.
In these cases, here is an option for you.
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David has been computing since 1984 where he instantly gravitated to the family Commodore 64. He completed a Bachelor of Computer Science degree from 1990 to 1992, commencing full-time employment as a systems analyst at the end of that year. Within two years, he returned to his alma mater, the University of Newcastle, as a UNIX systems manager. This was a crucial time for UNIX at the University with the advent of the World-Wide-Web and the decline of VMS. David moved on to a brief stint in consulting, before returning to the University as IT Manager in 1998. In 2001, he joined an international software company as Asia-Pacific troubleshooter, specialising in AIX, HP/UX, Solaris and database systems. Settling down in Newcastle, David then found niche roles delivering hard-core tech to the recruitment industry and presently is the Chief Information Officer for a national resources company where he particularly specialises in mergers and acquisitions and enterprise applications.