1. I most likely won't be able to do anything about this, but channel changing on my PVR-250 with cable connected directly to the card seems extremely slow compared to my tivo. Also, picture quality is horrible, is this an issue or is something in my setup likely the culprit?
Ok the bad news is you can't make the channel changing any faster in MythTV, the good news on that one is that the Orbiter can in some cases switch your TV to another input and do direct channel flipping, but you lose the ability to Pause/FF/REW live tv in that case. The good news is that the picture quality is completely configurable. In MythTV go to the PVR-250 recording profile under and change the capture resolution to 640x480 or 720x480 and increase the capture bit rates. There are four profile LiveTV/Low Quality/Normal/High Quality. And you can specify that certain recording rules are treated differently. You might want to record the nightly news at low quality, SG-1 at normal quality, and your favorite movie at High Quality. You can create profiles of your own choosing, but LiveTV and Normal are the defaults for LiveTV and Normal recordings, resp.
2. The UI needs quite a bit of polishing, text is too long for most fields, inconsistencies throughout setup and configuration, bad graphics, sloppy feeling navigation within the main UI if not using a gyration remote, etc. The 704 video made it all appear very impressive, but the text issues are apparent there as well. I've searched for information on skinning, but didn't come up with much useful information, just some stuff that really doesn't make sense. This is the area I feel I can contribute to, but the documentation is difficult to understand and find.
Yes, Thom Cherryhomes led a developer seminar to start addressing this a couple weeks ago, the HA Designer workshop. I expect he will be posting excerpts from that any moment now, and he's also been busy in the last few days porting the HA Designer from MS Windows to Linux to make it easier for us to all to use.