New Mythtv setup

Our old combined MythTV front & backend is getting old and the root partition was continually filling up (I know, I could make it larger with GParted but it takes for ever) so I decided to change things over the Christmas holidays.

My new set up consists of the following:-

  1. HDHomerun network TV tuner (dual tuners in a tiny box)
  2. Old broken keyboard laptop as the back end only – tucked away in my study with the rest of the network gear.
  3. Zotac ZBOX ID80 front end running OpenELEC
  4. Applet TV (version 1) front end modified with the installation of a CrystalHD video decoding card running OpenELEC (special build for the CrystalHD ).

HDHomerun tuners are a complete change in the way you think about TV tuners and what can be done now.  Basically the HDHomerun streams the data that it gets from (what ever terrestrial TV channel its currently tuned to) over your network ready for what ever system wants to pick it up.  In my case the Mythtv backend controls which channel the HDHomerun is tuned to and either records direct to hard drive or throws it at a front end as live TV if that’s what you want.

For the back end I decided to run Mythbuntu.  I have been a big Arch Linux user over the last 8 years and currently run LinHES but having downloaded the most up to date release it didn’t seem to work properly on my laptop so I decided not to battle with it and roll over to Mythbuntu.  Mythbuntu seems to have a more active development than LinHES and given its based on Ubuntu’s LTS releases I decided to go with it.  Installation (as with all Linux distros now days) was very simple.  It picked up the HDHomerun without me doing anythting as it has a HDHomerun tool pre-installed, I used this same tool to update its firmware.

OpenELEC is basically Kodi (the new name for XBMC) pre-built on top of a lightweight linux distribution.  You down load it, install it onto a USB drive and plug it into the device you want to install it on, a couple of clicks later and wammo all done!  After installation you point it to the Mythtv back end it needs to use.  This set up lets you have one central machine that schedules recordings and stores the data while you can have several remote front ends sitting under your various TV’s which will talk to the back end and stream the TV recordings or live TV from the back end.

The Zotac box is very capable and will be the main unit we use (upstairs TV).  We use a Bluetooth keyboard with this setup – don’t use the remote control, I find it comes in handy when I need to open up a terminal if something goes funky.  The remote that comes with this ZBOX is a little small and flimsy – wouldn’t cope long with getting used continually by a family I recon.

The Apple TV 1 is a great solution for a front end but as its an 8 year old piece of hardware its really getting towards the end of its useful life.  The addition of the CrystalHD card breathed new life into these machines as a solution for a Media center.  My particular piece of hardware was unused when I bought it 6 months ago so we should be OK for a little while.  Compared to the ZOTAC box the ATV1 has a little bit of lag but its good enough.


HDHomerun findings

The HDHomerun was already in service with my existing Mythtv combined front/backend.  It seems to me there are restrictions on how many devices can connect to it – not sure if that is hardware limited or firmware.  In any event, if I tried to stream a TV show to the new Mythtv front end (which in turn was connected to the new back end which in turn was connected to the HDHomerun) most stations buffered and couldn’t get enough data to display a picture or audio stream.  This was the same  if I tried to play a stream direct from the HDHomerun from within the Mythtv Backend using VLC (Mythbuntu backend has a GUI installed with a handful of tools/applications, one of which is VLC.  I could watch the bandwidth value coming from the HDHomerun (using the HDHomerun toll in the backend) when I tried to stream in this configuration.  Some stations were up around 7 – 8 MBps but the stream would not work, some were much lower (less than 1MBps) and the stream was obviously broken.  Interestingly, ABC News24 would work with a 12-13 MBps stream rate – I’m not sure why but there you go.

This was a bit of a worry for me so I left it for a day but then recalled I read something about there being a restriction on the number of devices connected to the HDHomerun.  With this in mind I shut down the old combined front/backend and restarted the new backend.  This seemed to “fix” the issue.   Streams were now working fine in VLC and also to the front ends.  So, if you are testing a new PVR installation using HDHomerun as the TVtuner and that HDHomerun is already in service on another system then this is going to cause you problems – shut the old system down, restart the new test system and you *should* be OK but YMMV.


OpenELEC findings

OpenELEC is Kodi, the interface to Mythtv being an Add-On so really, the Mythtv solution is secondary in OpenELEC so its not as good as a true Mythtv frontend installation.  That’s not to say OpenELEC is a good solution, its very polished with a gorgeous UI and long list of Add-Ons for all sorts of media related things (Movie DB and TV DB scrapers, fan art etc) but there are a couple of issues here still to iron out.

The recording  scheduling in the Mythtv Add-On is not as advanced as full blown mythtv front end is.  Perhaps I’m wrong but there is no where I can go in the scheduling where I can select a TV program then schedule a recording of that show when ever it is on that particular channel or once per day or once a week like you can in a mythtv front end.  You can record a TV program if you are watching it and do some very basic scheduling based on channel and time but that is about it.  To get around this I have to do the scheduling using Mythweb – kind of a cludgey work around I think but let me know in comments if there is something I have missed in the Mythtv Add-On.


Email migration to Fastmail

During September I completed the migration of email from being self hosted and maintained email server to that of Fastmail.

I first heard of Fastmail around 10 years ago from a friend that I used to live with in the UK, he was in IT so I assumed Fastmail was a pretty decent offering for him to recommend.  Back then Fastmail also provided access to your emails using the IMAP protocol which to me, back then, was an amazing solution giving you the ability to have several devices with your email on and all kept “in sync” as the email wasn’t located locally, it stayed on the Fastmail servers.   This is a pretty common thing now days but 10 years ago POP was the most common.

Around 4 years ago I started using Fastmail as a back up mail server for the times when my own mail server went off line.

Fastmail have a migration tool which is very useful for moving all your existing emails at your old email host.

So far its been practically painless.  The only thing I have noticed is that the dates shown on some emails when I view through Fastmail’s webmail interface have been changed so that I have a block of email from some random date in 2012 and in 2013.  Not sure why this happened but a few support tickets later and Fastmail have fixed everything now so all dated correct.

So, if you are thinking about hosting your email with Fastmail I recommend you do.  Its all they do and they do it well.

Cape to Cape 2014

A week after the Cape to Cape ended and I am still a little weary, just can’t seem to shake the tired when I wake up in the morning.

It was a busy 4 days with over 220km of off-road riding through the southwest of WA.

Day 1 – Lots of big hills, in fact the first major climb started around 2km after the start.  For the rest of the 40km there were plenty more climbs.  If I am honest I should have pushed a little harder going up the first climb to get further up the field.  Many of the riders wouldn’t try riding up the hills, immediately getting off to push which prevents you from riding yourself as it bunches everyone up and everyone gets off to push.  Beach section was a push fest, very dirty at the end.

The race seeds you on the result of the first day, there after you start in that group you have finished.

Day 2 – Hills, nice views.  One section just after a quarry there were 3 very steep but short rises to climb; I got up them all riding, the rest of the mob around me were walking.  By half way at the water point I had not drunk much so I topped bottles and rode on.

The last 25% was through vineyards including Leeuwin Estate (right in front of the concert bowl – home of the famous Leeuwin Estate Concert and then onward through a bunch of other vineyards after finally finishing at Xanadu Vineyard.

Day3 – Up and down again.  Started with an 8km roll through Margaret River on the roads then into the bush for some medium climbs.  I had someone crash in front of me going down a hill and I landed on top of their bike hurting my knee and loosing my GPS.  After that we went into the pines single track near Margaret River, through several creeks that by the time I came to them were black muddy messes.  The final hill was a ripper but I got up it without walking, the finish was at Colonial Brewery – absolutely filthy.

Day 4 – The longest day (65km) but a mix of single trail, gravel tracks and a bit of tarmac.  A few big hills today but I was feeling OK.  Overtook many on the final 20km.  The last 5 km was single trail at the Dunsborough Golf Club.  By then I was getting tired and could have done without this part but no accidents and a sprint finish with some bloke pushing it down the finish straight.

What I learned

  1. You can never eat to much.  In fact we ate like pigs and were still worried we didn’t have enough calories coming in.
  2. Water is fine but on long events make sure there are electrolytes in there as well (I had a twinge of a cramp on the finish line on day one, there after with electrolytes I was fine)
  3. Camping and racing isn’t as bad as I thought – as long as you have a good camp cot and the other guy you camp with has a fully kitted out camp trailer its not bad at all.  Thanks Chris!
Cape to Cape 2014
Dirty at the end of day 1

Cape to Cape MTB ride

There is a 4 days MTB ride here in WA called the Cape to Cape.  I have entered to ride it this year, should be a hoot with 4 days of off road riding of about 60km per day.  Have been considering a multi-day event for some time and I recon this will be a great introduction.

Fortunately I have a cousin that lives down that way that I will be able to stay with during the time there. – I dare say I won;t be much company, likely to fall asleep by pm each night but we’ll see how we go.

It starts in about a month, better start riding some more km!


MTB Race Cape to Cape
At the start of a stage


Benzina Magazine – all finished….again

Benzina magazine – a low volume magazine about old Italian classic motorcycles has once again finished.  It had a little rest last year then cam back with  another 2 issues and one again finished up.

It was a great read and has had 13 issues over the past 4 years or so.  Here is a link to what is in Benzine 13…..

benzina-magazine-cover-13 benzina-magazine-cover-12

It mostly concentrated on 70′ era Italian motorcycles and was a good read given some of the bikes in the  magazine also live in our workshop so I can ride a magazine article sometime.

Any way.  We have all  13 and they will be a great reference source for years to come an to re-read.

Well done Benzina for publishing a real very good magazine with real content and almost no adverts.  It’s also a pleasure to the senses with high quality paper and printing used throughout (except issues 1 falls apart).

Anyway – here is to old Italian bikes from the 70’s.


DD-WRT on Asus N66U version B2

I have recently started to work from home – its great but you need a rock solid connection to the net.  I’m on a wireless connection in my office and every time someone turned the microwave on the connection dropped out – very annoying for the 2 months it took me to figure it out.

I have been using a really old WRT-54G wifi router for about 5 years, running dd-wrt.  These units are getting very old, especially as the one I have are v1 and v2 units, I recon they must be about 10 years old.  They were very good in their day but they run on 2.4Ghz band so microwaves can be an issue so I lashed out an bought the current best WIFI router – the ASUS N66U.


Its a pretty mean looking unit and by all accounts a clanger of a WIFI router but my home network has my m0n0wall router assigning IP address to the LAN (both wired and wifi).  I needed a wifi router firmware that supported forwarding the DHCP function to my m0n0wall router and as a result the ASUS stock firmware wasn’t going to cut it (or at least not that I could find) and so I needed to load the N66U with dd-wrt as well.

I bought the N66U about 3 weeks ago, read about getting dd-wrt on it and it looked pretty straight forward.  What I didn’t realise is that the unit I purchased was hardware version B2.

I tried installing brainslayers dd-wrt.v24-21676_NEWD-2_K3.x_mega_RT-N66U but it resulted in a boot loop, which isn’t good, so I flashed the stock firmware back on it by accessing the units recovery mode (you hold down the reset button while you power on the machine and then point your browser to it on in case you wonder how you put it into recovery mode) and then put the unit back in the box for a week or so while I read a bit more about the various frimwares available and the issues people have faced.

Flashing of version B2’s is fairly thin on the ground at the moment so here is what I ended up doing.

Using the stock ASUS firmware I chose the upgrade firmware option in the web interface and upgraded to Merlins firmware which looks a lot like ASUS firmware but with a few tweaks, one of which is that you can see what version CFE is installed on the your N66U,  it also gets you ssh access to the router.  The CFE version on my brand new unit – built in 2013 was which may explain why dd-wrt.v24-21676_NEWD-2_K3.x_mega_RT-N66U wouldn’t flash properly.

The majority of noise around the net on this unit is that you needed CFE boot loader or to get the custom firmwares to flash and so I resolved I had to update my boot loader to using the method set out here.

The CFE update script assumes you already have and so you need to make some changes to the update script ( before you can run it.  Basically you need to extract the tar ball of the CFE updater you download, then with the file you find and replace anywhere it say to  Once this change has been made you need to copy the CFE update files to the N66U using what ever methods works for you – I used scp.  Once the 4 files needed are in the N66U you run the cfe_update script and update your CFE.  Make sure you back up a copy of the old CFE and a copy of the new CFE, again use what ever works for you to get it off the router, I used scp again.

OK, now that you have updated the CFE boot loader you can update to firmwares that are 64MB in size, you must not flash a 32MB firmware from now on.

At first I flashed brainslayers dd-wrt.v24-21676_NEWD-2_K3.x_mega_RT-N66U however this started having some issues after a little while and so I changed firmware to Fractal’s 64K dd-wrt build which can be found here.

Of course you must do the 30-30-30 NVRAM clearing before and after each firmware flash (apparently).

The firmware has so far been running fine but, my microwave issue has not been solved.  I failed to note that the laptop I used for work doesn’t support 5Ghz WIFI so all I have gained is some experience with hacking the N66U – others on my network will no doubt enjoy the increased speeds as their machines support 5Ghz 🙁

Thanks to the following forums and links in getting me to this stage.



I just finished migrating my DNS service and domain name registrations to easyDNS.

I started the process a year or so ago and was going to move all my domains across at that time but stopped after I found that if you migrate away from my existing domain name registrar ( with time left on their registration you don’t get any $$ back. easyDNS seems to be a very professional and easy going registrar, no tricky contract or crappy interface, just easy domain registration.

They recently introduces a cheaper service (CAD$15) for people like me who don’t need all the bells and whistles that their old lowest service offered so I’m really happy. Whats more – they accept payment by Bitcoin as well! When my next domain comes up for renewal I’ll be going for that option I recon.

So, if you want a great domain registrar that doesn’t make you feel like you are dealing with some dodgy mob, go with eastDNS.

Bitcoin bubble part 2- why its no good.


The bitcoin price over the last month or so has really gone crazy, as of today its up around $43USD/BTC. It’s hard to understand why it is so high given not a great deal has changed (other than the halving of the mining reward late last year and perhaps a little wider adoption)from when it was just under USD3 in November 2011 after its crash from previous highs around $30/BTC.

A bit unsustainable but good for those who bought some and kept them when they were much cheaper (if they intend on converting back to their home currency).
A bit unsustainable but good for those who bought some and kept them when they were much cheaper (if they intend on converting back to their home currency).

At the end of the day it really doesn’t matter what the price of a BTC is if its main purpose turns into being the “transport medium” of wealth from one individual to another, it is merely the conduit by which value is exchanged. If they are USD100 each or USD1 each it will only mean that the person sending the $$$ to someone else needs to buy more or less of them. The problem with this wild fluctuation in value is that the majority of people who want to buy to store value and to later exchange for goods or services in the medium term are likely to be to nervous to do so given its volatility and as a result the usage of bitcoin as a stored value and accordingly to be used as exchange for goods or services could be limited

Perhaps bitcoin will be relegated to just a short term transfer of wealth vehicle, quickly bought, sent to another wallet and then converted back into the local currency of the receiver before any swings in the exchange rate adversely impacts the recipient.

We will no doubt see soon what happens.