Using VMWare to Watch TV?

I remember being so excited the first time I played PacMan in an emulator.  Now virtualization has become so fast, I can watch TV in a virtual machine.  Specifically, VMWare Server 1.0.5 is able to run Mythbuntu 7.10 as a front-end at 640x480 at a full frame-rate (40% CPU on my Athlon 64 X2 Dual 3 GHz).

Since MythTV users can user shared directories to view movies on a LAN, why go to all this trouble?  Two reasons: 1.2X playback (with pitch bend) and automatically skipping commercials.  Combining the two wonderful features, I can watch a 60 minute show in less than 40 minutes (and a 30 minute show in 20 minutes).

For the VM settings I used:

  • 8 Gig disk image with auto-grow (only 1.4 Gig is used for the final installation)
  • 512 memory (that could probably be cut to 256, but I was starting to get performance issues)
  • Default sound card
  • ISO image of Mythbunto 7.10
  • 1 CPU (using 2 CPUs actually slowed down playback!)

For initial boot-up, I used the “Start or install Ubuntu” option (safe graphics mode didn’t seem to work), and I followed the instructions to install Mythbuntu as a frontend (selecting “advanced install” to do that).  Using the default vmware video driver works great, so essentially use the defaults for installation.

After installation and reboot, exit the frontend and reset the resolution to 640x480 by going to Applications/Settings/Display Preferences.  Then restart the frontend and enjoy!