Setup Live TV on Kodi XBMC Using Cable Card, MythTV, and HDHomerun

My experience with running live tv through my XBMC or now known as Kodi boxes has been very favorable.

Why do this?

  1. I already have XBMC boxes in different flavors on every tv in my house so this setup saves me from changing TV inputs to another set top box provided by my cable provider
  2. Condense remotes (everything is integrated through one box)
  3. It also allows me to still have all the DVR/Program guide functionality we are accustomed to without paying the fees to my cable provider along with their box on each TV.  Essentially I save around $50 per month in DVR/Set top box fees for around a $150 investment depending on what hardware you already have.

Did I mention it is really cool?  Tip: you may want to keep your cable boxes or current setup in the interim while getting this going so you don’t upset the wife or kids.  I suggest transition them slowly over a few days period once you have all of this working.  You don’t want them to reject it before trying it as nobody likes change (except guys like us that attempt these projects).

Let’s get into the nuts and bolts of how to do it.

Needed Software/Hardware pieces explained

  • Mythbuntu – This is simply your dvr software running on a dedicated pc or virtual box; I ran a dedicated dual core box with 4 gig of ddr2 ram and 1 tb hard drive without issues, but tested on a windows 7 box running virtual box
  • Cable Card – This is a card issued by your cable provider that typically runs around $2 a month; it will allow you to receive the digital cable package you pay for without a set top box
  • HDHOMERUN Prime or Dual – This is a physical box that you insert the cable card into and it will put your cable package out on your network for your MythTV software to utilize
  • Schedules Direct feed – An electronic program guide feed that integrates with MythTV so you can have a guide no different that what a cable box does for you integrated right into your XBMC box; runs about $2 a month
  • XBMC Kodi boxes – This is your XBMC box (htpc, amazon fire tv, raspberry pi, etc) where/how you get XBMC on your TVs.  You can read our guide here if you are not familiar with HTPCs.

HDHOMERUN Prime and Cable Card

There are a few ways to capture/stream hd content through either cable card (for digital cable) or antenna (over the air).   After extensive research I settled on the HDHOMERUN Prime for it’s price and simplicity along with no monthly fees.  We could probably get away with just an over the air antenna, but my wife likes several shows on TLC, kids like Disney, plus I can get Monday Night Football on ESPN so we wanted to keep the basic digital cable package.

So what is the HDHOMERUN Prime?

It accepts a cable card from your cable provider and puts 3 tuners out on your network.  This means you could watch 3 shows at once, record 2 and watch one, record 3, etc.  Again, it will have available all the shows you subscribe to on your cable package.
Best price is at Amazon like everything else.

If you only want to get local stations like NBC, CBS, ABC, Fox, CW, etc then you could get away with the HDHOMERUN Dual.  Essentially this guide will get you the same results where you can stream and record local stations in HD without paying for any cable packages because you will use an antenna to get content instead of the cable card.  It will put 2 tuners out on your network (watch 1 and record 1 show, watch 2 shows, record 2 shows at the same time).

Amazon link to the Dual

Cable Card

So in my area we have Cox cable, but that doesn’t really matter.  Essentially you need a provider that provides an “M-Card” style which they all should.  Just call your cable provider and tell them you want a cable card and they will provide one for around $2 a month.  They also may provide what is called a tuning adapter which essentially plugs into your router to help with the signal (there is no charge for this).  FYI: At&t Uverse is “TV over IP” not cable, so if you have them you will need to switch like we did.

Once you have the cable card in hand and cable services ready plug it into your HDHOMERUN prime and with the prime plugged into your network boot it up.

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Get TV on your network!

HDHOMERUN Software Installation

  • On a pc/mac/linux computer on your network, download and install the latest HDHomeRun software from downloads.
  • Open HDHomeRun Setup
  • On the Location tab, set the Country and Zip/Postal Code
  • On the Applications tab, set the Main Application to XBMC
  • On the Tuners tab, set the Signal Source to CableCARD for each of your HDHomeRun PRIME tuners.
  • On the CableCARD tab, click Scan to download a channel list from the CableCARD. Uncheck the boxes for any channels you don’t subscribe to or otherwise don’t wish to see in Windows Media Player/HDHomeRun QuickTV. If you do not receive a channel list, this means the card has not yet received programming information from the cable provider. Follow the steps in the next section to activate the card.

CableCARD Validation

  • Your CableCARD must be validated (paired) with your HDHomeRun PRIME in order to receive copy-protected content. This normally only needs to be done once, unless you switch to a different CableCARD, or insert your CableCARD into a different device.
  • On the Tuners tab in HDHomeRun Setup, click on one of the Tuner IDs to access your HDHomeRun PRIME’s webpage. This can also be done by clicking the link on the Device tab in HDHomeRun Config GUI, or by directly navigating to the IP address of your HDHomeRun.
  • Click on CableCARD Menu. In the CableCARD Status section, you will see the current status of the CableCARD in your HDHomeRun PRIME. Verify that Card Authentication and Card OOB Lock show success. If Card OOB Lock does not show success, this suggests that your HDHomeRun PRIME does not have a good cable connection. Verify that the TV cable is securely connected to the RF in port on your HDHomeRun PRIME and to the wall outlet or splitter.
  • Follow your cable provider’s directions for validating your CableCARD. This normally involves calling the cable company or accessing a web page and providing the CableCARD ID and Host ID (and if using a Motorola CableCARD, the Data number) listed on this page. The validation process can take anywhere from 1-30 minutes depending on the cable provider. Refresh the Status page every few minutes to check to see if the process is complete, indicated by the Card Validation status showing success.

If successful at this point you can now view TV via the provided “Quick TV” software on your pc.  This is a huge step once it is working.

Schedules Direct Feed

Now that you have your cable out on your network an important part of watching/recording TV is the program guide.  You will need a “feed” similar to rss for your MythTV box to consume so you know what shows are when.  This is a non-profit service that costs $25 per year.  Save your time and just subscribe.  I looked for free alternatives and it’s not worth the headace.  It works out to around $2 per month so along with the $2 per month for your cable card you are still miles ahead of even one set top box from your cable provider and DVR service fees (Probably $20 a month for the first box and fees).

  • Go to schedulesdirect.org
  • Register and pay the $25 fee
  • Once they verify payment you can create your feed

Click Add a line up and enter your zip code; this will give you available feeds in your area.

add a lineup

Select your service and it will add it.  Once it is added click the edit button next to your feed so you can modify which channels you want to show up on your system.  I went ahead and only added the HD version of the channels we subscribe to.

edit lineup

 

Once you have the channels you want selected click “save” at the bottom and you are done with this step!

 

Mythbuntu

Mythbuntu is a Linux distribution that comes ready to get your DVR going (Free like all Linux).  Do not worry if you are not a Linux user, you can do this.  Essentially you need a pc with some hard drive space.  Again, I ran a dual core box with 4 gig of ddr2 ram and 1 tb hard drive without issues.  I tested this in a virtual environment and it worked fine, if you already have a pc on your network and want to keep windows on it without dedicating the entire thing to Mythbuntu.  I will blog the virtual route soon.  You should be able to build a dedicated pc for around $200 with a 1tb hard drive that will run this fine.

Download Mythbuntu.  It is an iso file so you will need to either burn it to dvd or use a usb flash drive for the installation.  I hate dealing with DVDs and also moving the dvd drives around on computers so I will show the flash drive way here, but essentially you will need an install media to load it on your soon to be MythTV box.

After you have the iso downloaded, I use a free program called Unetbootin to create my install flash drive.  Get it here (you will want to download the version that matches the pc you are on which for most will be windows).

  • Open UNetbootin
  • Select “DiskImage”
  • Browse to the Mythbuntu iso file
  • Select your USB Key you will use for the installation by drive letter (you will get this key back to use for what you want when the installation is done, but it will erase it during this process)
  • Press OK and grab a coffee or beer as it takes a few min to complete

unetbootin

Once it completes you now have a usb key that is ready to install Mythbuntu on the computer that is going to run it permanently.

Insert the USB key into the soon to be mythtv server and boot to the key.  Install the software.  It will ask you basic questions like time zone, etc.

Steps/Screens

  1. Language
  2. Time Zone
  3. Keyboard layout
  4. Disk space (probably want to use the entire disk so you can have plenty of dvr room)
  5. Name and password (your mythtv password will be different in later steps)
  6. Standard Installation
  7. You will want to setup “Primary Backend w/ Frontend”
  8. Select the default to include all MythTV plugins
  9. Check the box for themes
  10. Important check MythTV Service box along with any other services you want to run like ssh
  11. Setup a MySQL Server Root Password “remember this password”, I do not have a password for Mythweb
  12. If you are using a remote set it up here, however I use an android app called “Yatse” which you can see in the video at the top of this blog so no remote needed in this step
  13. Drivers – select the drivers for your computer type

Once installed I want to walk through the settings of the MythTV backend.  You will ultimately be presented with a menu screen on the MythTV backend.

  1. General
  2. Capture Cards
  3. Recording Profiles
  4. Video sources
  5. Input connections
  6. Channel Editor

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Let’s start by adding your “Capture card” or the HDHOMERUN

Select Option 2 then “New Capture Card”

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You will want to select

  • “HDHomeRun networked tuner
  • Manually Enter IP Address
  • The IP address of your HDHomeRun
  • Then the tuner number so for the first one you will put “0” here
  • click recording options and set the Max recordings to 1 (because you can only use this tuner for 1 task)

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We have to do this 3 times for the HDHomeRun Prime or 2 times if you bought the Dual version.  Each time you set it up you will increment the “Tuner” by 1.  When you are done you will have all tuners in the system and it will look like the following.

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So now your MythTV box knows about the HDHomeRun lets get the program guide pulled in.  Press “esc” and go back to the original menu and select option 3 “Video Sources”.  This is where we will want to add the schedules direct feed you setup earlier in the blog.

  • Under Video Sources select “New Video Source”
  • Name it something that makes sense to you like “SD” for schedules direct
  • Under Listing grabber select the schedulesdirect.org option
  • Enter your user and password for the schedules direct website
  • Click “Retrieve Lineups”
  • It should auto fill in your “data direct linup”
  • click finish and you will now see your new source

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Now we just need to connect up this new video source you created with your tuners.  Select Option 4 “Input Connections”.  You should see your 3 tuners.  Select the first one.

  • Insert a display name, I just used HD 1, HD 2, and HD 3 for each of my tuners
  • Under Video Source you should only see the new schedules direct source listed; it will be named whatever you called it, select it
  • I use the quick tuning option for Live TV only
  • IMPORTANT: Click “Fetch channels from listing source” not “scan for channels”
    • The Fetch will use the schedules direct and only get you the channels you have on that listing which is what you want
    • This step could take a few min depending on how many channels you didn’t filter out in your schedules direct feed
  • Select a starting channel as this is the channel devices will start at when started
  • Next over, next over again and finish

 

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  • Do the same steps above for all your tuners

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We are almost done with the MythTV portion!  Lastly you will want to add channel icons to your channels so they distinguish better on your XBMC boxes.  So Option “6” is channel editor.  In tere you will be able to select each channel and download icons for them.  Some you will have options to choose one while others should be found repetitively easily.

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After you have the channel icons like you want them exit out of everything.  It will ask you if you want to run mythfilldatabase.  You do!  This is where MythTV will pull all of the schedules direct listings into your database.  What this means for you is your program guide will be up to date.

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You are done with MythTV.  We need to do one more thing on this box.  We need to get the generated MySQL  password from your machine so the other boxes can connect to it.  There is an xml file called config.xml that is located in etc/mythtv/ folder.  Open it and you will see the password.  Snap a pic with your phone as it will not be one that is easily remembered.  NOTE:  You no longer need the myth database password if you have updated to Kodi “Helix” or above.

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You are so close.  Now we just need to access it from our XBMC/Kodi boxes.

 XBMC/Kodi Setup

You can read our full media center setup guide starting here if you are not familiar with XBMC “Kodi”.  This guide assumes you have at least “Gothom” installed that supports PVR functionality.  I would take a min and update to the latest version now anyways before completing this step.  Here I am going to focus solely on connecting into your MythTV box from XBMC.

Boot up your Kodi box and make sure it is on the same network as your MythTV box.

Go into System Settings

settings

Then click “Live TV” and check “Enabled” under General

enable pvr

It will prompt you to enable a pvr addon.  Click OK and you will be taken where we can configure MythTV

Mythtv addon

Go into the MythTV PVR addon and click configure.  This is where you will input all the settings from the MythTV xml file we got above.  This includes the ip address of your MythTV machine on your network.  NOTE:  You will not have the option to enter a database password in Kodi “Helix” or newer and you will not need to.

mythtv kodi settings

At the bottom I prefer to change the “conflict handling” to “Prefer recording and stop Live TV”.  This way my recording take precedence over Live TV.

Click OK, then enable the addon.

EnableIf done correctly you will see all your channels scan in across the top.

SUCCESS!  You can now navigate to Live TV on the home screen and start watching TV and your DVR recordings.

 

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