The Ultimate Pre-Built MythTV Box?

Installing Linux for MythTV on the
HP z555 Media Center PC

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Initially Posted: 28 December 2005
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MythTV is cool.  Really cool.  But unlike many other Linux applications, you can't just stick an install disk in the old '486 in the closet and have it fill a need.  MythTV takes hardware -- good hardware.  I decided that if I was ever going to build a MythTV box, it had to basically do it all.  I already have a TiVo, so simply reproducing TiVo's capability made no sense to me.  It also had to look like home theater equipment.  With these thoughts in mind, I started spec'ing out hardware:  Dual Tuners,  Motherboard with surround sound, Silverstone case... I quickly passed $1300 for a cost estimate, and the project went on hold.  Then came a deal I couldn't -- Uhhh, well I guess I could have passed up, but I didn't.   CompUSA had the HP z555 Media Center PC on closeout.  Here was great hardware, already built into a beautiful case -- for less than it would have cost me to build.

HP Z555
HP's z555 ships with Windows Media Center.  Will it run Linux/MythTV?
Photo: HP.  Used for educational purposes.

The system ships with WindowsXP/Media Center.  Would it run Linux?  Would Linux support the z555's hardware?  I took the gamble, and I have to say that while I do not currently have every feature fully supported, the system is functional as a very nice PVR .
UPDATE:  I have now gotten much more working, and I believe that I can now say that the system is more functional (at least for my needs) than it would be with Windows Media Center on it.

Why MythTV?:
Why not just leave Windows Media Center? The purpose of this page is not to discuss Windows vs. Linux.  I am a "Linux Person" and I wanted my PVR to have UNIX functionality.  For example, the ability to automatically run scripts to re-encode what I have recorded.

About This Document:
First and foremost, this document is NOT A HOW-TO.  Instead, this document describes some of the z555's hardware, and what I had to do to get it to work under Linux (Fedora Core 4, specifically.) Various parts of this document are also applicable to other z55x - series boxes, such as the z540, z545, z552, z553, z555, and z557.  (OK, OK, I admit it - listing them like that is just search engine bait.)  I will not give step-by-step instructions in this document.  If I say for example: "Change the permissions on this so that a regular user can write to it."  I expect you know how to do that.  This is NOT Linux 101.  Secondly, most of what is here is actually from other people's work.  I relied heavily on the "Fedora Myth(TV)ology" site.  I am not going to reproduce Jarod Wilson's instructions.  Rather I am going to assume that you follow his (excellent) instructions, and reference this page for the specifics of the HP z555.
Most importantly, I am still getting things to work on this box.  This page will be updated as I learn more.  If you can provide input, or you have a (relevant) comment, email me at:
Myth Address (obfuscated)
(Sorry for the obfuscation, but there is just too much harvesting going on.)

The above email address no longer works, instead, please
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More Philosophy -- Why Fedora Core 4?:
The Fedora Project represents the cutting edge (but perhaps not bleeding edge) of Linux.  Due to the hardware on this box, you need pretty close to the newest drivers for many things.  Your Debian Woody disks aren't going to help you much.  What is detailed below does contain proprietary code.  Also, unlike the "Fedora Myth(TV)ology" site, I use a combination of RPMS and building from source.  If you are afraid of typing 'make' please DON'T read on.

OK enough talk, lets look at each particular aspect of the hardware and what it takes to get it running under Linux:

Basic Hardware, and the Fedora Core 4 Install:
The basic hardware is a Pentium 4 @3.0GHz supported by an Intel Chipset.
There is a single 7200 RPM 250G HD connected via SATA, and a LightScribe CD-R/RW DVD±R Drive connected via PATA (IDE).  LightScribe is only supported in Windows, but who spends an hour designing a graphic for every TV show they burn to disk anyway?

Before beginning the install, go into the BIOS (F1) and Set the PATA/SATA setting from Enhanced to Combined.
NOTE:  This is only done for the install.  After the install, set this back to Enhanced, or the DVD/CD Drive will have no DMA.  This will result in DVD frame dropping, and the inability to burn DVD's.

It does not take long for the difficulties to show up.  When you attempt to boot the Fedora Disk 1, you'll get an error about mounting the root filesystem, and a kernel panic.  The almost unbelievably silly workaround is to type some nonsense at the boot prompt.  This will return an error, and another boot prompt.  Just enter a valid boot option at this second prompt, and all will be fine:
boot: boogie
Could not find kernel image: boogie
boot: linux jfs nofb text
The 'nofb' and 'text' are needed if you are connected to a TV (s-video or composite) for the install. If you are connected to a Monitor, go ahead and try a GUI install.  I recommend sticking pretty close to the suggestions on the "Fedora Myth(TV)ology" site for configuring your disks with one exception;  I used /var/video as the mount point for the MythTV video storage partition.

I split from Jarod Wilson's recommendations in another way too... I used Gnome.

Follow Wilson's package options, and make sure you install all relevant development stuff. (X, Gnome, Legacy).

After the install, reboot and catch the machine at the grub boot screen.  Hit 'a' to add options, and then append 'single' to the end of the kernel parameters.  This will prevent the system from trying to start X, and drop you to a single user shell.  From here, follow the directions below to install the nVidia drivers.

When this is done, reboot, and go through the RedHat Firstboot. Don't forget to create the mythtv user.

Now that the system is up, we need to let it go out and do an update. Obviously, this requires a network connection. See below to get either the WiFi or Ethernet connection working. Then, in a terminal do:
yum update
Since the update will affect the kernel, and X, we will have to repeat the installation of the nVidia drivers and possibly the networking drivers.

Wireless Keyboard:

Identified as:  BTC USB Multimedia Cordless Kit.
This is handled in hardware on the z555, and is recognized as a standard 105 key keyboard.  It can be used in the BIOS and in the install.  The "Multimedia" keys along the top also produce standard key codes.  I have not done it yet, but xmodmap should allow you to map them as desired.

nVidia GeForce6600 Video:
Go to: and download the Latest Linux IA32 drivers.  I found it worked great to put them on a flash card transfer to the z555.  Prior to the first actual boot, copy the file to the HD, and run the installer.  The 1st attempt will fail, and it will ask you if you would like it to attempt to download a driver for your kernel.  Well, you can try if you want, but since we haven't done the network stuff yet, it is not going to work.  Select No, or let it fail, and it will inform your that it is attempting to build a module for your kernel.  As long as you installed the development packages, this should succeed.  Let it install the module, and reboot.  You should be greeted with the nVidia logo when X starts.

Network -- Wireless:
The z555 contains a PCI 802.11b/g WLAN card identified as:  Intersil ISL3890 [Prism GT/Prism Duette].  After spending a day trying to get the Prism54 drivers working, I finally gathered from the forum that there are 2 versions of this card.  Apparently, the z555 has the version that is not supported by the old (FullMAC) drivers, and probably not really working with the new (FreeMAC) drivers either.  I resorted to ndiswrapper, and was up and pinging in minutes.  Here's the steps:
rpmbuild -ta ndiswrapper-1.7.tar.gz
Select WinXP Home, and unzip the resulting file someplace convenient.
(You can also try
    2802W51.sys      2802W.inf
ndiswrapper -i 2802W.inf
Check it with
ndiswrapper -l
This should indicate:
2802W driver present, hardware present
modprobe -r prism54
depmod -a
ndiswrapper -m
modprobe ndiswrapper
alias wlan0 ndiswrapper
echo prism54 >> /etc/hotplug/blacklist
Network -- Wired Ethernet:
The Ethernet port is identified as:  Marvell Technology Group Ltd. 88E8053 Gigabit Ethernet Controller (rev 19).
Due to the location of my system, I am not using the Ethernet port.  Drivers are reportedly in new kernels (But not the original Fedora Core 4 2.6.11 kernel).  A driver can also be downloaded from:

The Sound Sub-sysem is identified as:  Intel Corporation 82801FB/FBM/FR/FW/FRW (ICH6 Family) High Definition Audio Controller (rev 03)
Apparently, there are bugs in some versions of Alsa that can cause problems (No Sound) with this card.  I tried the 1.0.11rc2 build, and with some difficulty, it worked - including Surround Sound through the S/PDIF connectors - Coax and Optical.  Ready?  Let's hit it:
rpm -e --nodeps alsa-lib
rpm -e --nodeps alsa-utils
rpm -e --nodeps alsa-lib-devel
# ALSA portion
alias char-major-116 snd
alias snd-card-0 snd-hda-intel model=6stack-digout
alias sound-slot-0 snd-hda-intel

# OSS/Free portion
alias char-major-14 soundcore
# card #1
alias sound-service-0-0 snd-mixer-oss
alias sound-service-0-1 snd-seq-oss
alias sound-service-0-3 snd-pcm-oss
alias sound-service-0-8 snd-seq-oss
alias sound-service-0-12 snd-pcm-oss
/etc/init.d/alsasound start
chkconfig alsasound on
aplay -D analog /usr/share/sounds/startup3.wav
aplay -D spdif /usr/share/sounds/startup3.wav
rpm -e --nodeps system-config-soundcard
-ao alsa -ac hwac3,
(Note the comma on the end.)
Most sites say the above shoud be: 
-ao alsa:device=digital -ac hwac3,
-ao alsa:device=spdif -ac hwac3,
For me, these just produced noise.
chmod 666 /dev/adsp

Dual NTSC Tuner Card:
The 2 tuner NTSC card is a Hauppauge WinTV-PVR-500 MCE with the backplate (and IR port??) removed.  The card has MPEG encoding hardware for each tuner. This is supported by the ivtv project.  This one is straight-forward.  I choose to build from source, but unlike sound, we can use the stable release here.  We can follow the ivtv instructions pretty much straight through.

UPDATE:  As of this writing,  The RPM's for ivtv should work.  If you would rather use the RPM's, follow the instrcutions on the "Fedora Myth(TV)ology" site with the following changes:
Frankly, it is really not much harder to build from source.  If you choose this method, continue below.
-r--r--r--   1 root root 376836 Jan  7 23:25 HcwFalcn.rom
-r--r--r--   1 root root  14264 Jan  7 23:25 HcwMakoA.ROM
lrwxrwxrwx   1 root root     12 Jan  7 23:28 v4l-cx2341x-enc.fw -> HcwFalcn.rom
lrwxrwxrwx   1 root root     12 Jan  7 23:28 v4l-cx25840.fw -> HcwMakoA.ROM
ATSC Tuner Card:
The ATSC tuner card is a modified ATI HDTV Wonder card.  It is modified in the sense that (as with the NTSC card) the backplate is removed. Additionally, all of the connectors other than the ATSC RF connector are absent.   The ATI HDTV Wonder is listed as supported by the Linux DVB drivers. (Click ATSC), but the 2.6.14 kernels do not recognize this card.  With the release of the 2.6.15 kernel, this HDTV capture card is supported.  Details can be found at the MythTV Wiki.  Note that the ivtv How-To has instructions for systems with mixed ivtv and DVB cards.  The card cannot currently be used as a 3rd NTSC tuner.  Only the digital portion is currently supported.  Since I don't have a OTA (over the air) antenna right now, I have not tried this myself.  When I do, I will post details of my experience.

The Remote, and IR control:
The IR Subsystem is identified as: Tatung eHome Infrared Transceiver.  USB Vendor code 1460  ProdID 9150
Note: I am not currently using this to control a cable box.  That should work, but is untested.
The IR subsystem is supported by recent versions of lirc.  Instructions for the impatient:  Use the lirc_mceusb2 module.  For more detailed instructions, read on:
---> Continue here if you installed lirc via RPM's.
alias char-major-61  lirc_mceusb2
cp contrib/lirc.redhat /etc/init.d/lircd
cp contrib/lirc.rules /etc/udev/rules.d/lirc.rules
cp remotes/mceusb /etc/lircd.conf   (This one is an overwrite)
ln -s /usr/local/lib/  /usr/lib/

(Done over network:)
modprobe -r ehci_hcd
modprobe lirc_mceusb2
modprobe ehci_hcd
service lircd start
chkconfig lircd on
ln -s /home/mythtv/.mythtv/lircrc /home/mythtv/.lircrc
irexec &
# lirc drivers
for module in `/sbin/modprobe -c | awk '/^alias[[:space:]]+char-major-61+[[:space:]]/ { print $3 }'`; do
load_module $module
ls -al /dev/lirc*    and check for the correct devices.  You may have to edit /etc/udev/rules.d/lirc.rules to get it to re-create the correct devices following a re-boot.  Try deleting some or all of the   /%n   off of the end.

VFD (Vaccum Flourescent Display), Front Panel LED's and Front Panel Keys:
The VFD is connected to one of the internal USBhubs.  The VFD Identifies itself as:  Manufacturer=HP  Product=HP VFD Front Panel Board   Vendor=1460 ProdID=0024.   The Entire Front Panel is a USB HID Device.  It can be found on /dev/input/event0   As a HID device, the keys produce normal keystrokes.  I haven't actually done it yet, but you can use xmodmap to map them as you desire.  I am still figuring out how to talk to the VFD and LED's.  It will probably need a modified HID driver, or standalone driver.  I am studying the Linux USB HID pages at:

Multi-Card reader and Removable Drive Bay:
The Multi-Card reader is a standard USB 2.0 Mulit-Card Reader.  Fedora 4 Supports it very well without doing anything.
For reference it is identified on the USB bus as: Vendor=058f ProdID=9360.

The "Personal Media Bay" is really just another USB 2.0 connector, and a coaxial power plug.  I do not have the drive that it uses, but I see no reason why it would not be fully supported.

ACPI  (Sleep/Suspend):
This box uses a lot of power.  It would be really nice to get (at least) suspend to RAM working.  Unfortunately, I am not an ACPI expert, and I do not have this working yet.  Any help from someone experienced with ACPI would be much appreciated.

Other Notes and Issues:

Disuss this article on the Linuxslate Forums
HP z555 Specs and Motherboard info
MythTV Home Page
Fedora Myth(TV)ology

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