I recently tried using two comparatively new ATSC tuner for computer. Hauppauge WinTV PVR 950 and Pinnacle PCTV HD pro stick. Both the products use same chipset and virtually identical, except that PCTV has a better and longer antenna. When running both of these in windows I found that the software for WinTV to be slightly better, but it virtually consumes 100% cpu on my old Windows laptop. PCTV media software in that way better but real buggy. I kept PCTV and returned WinTV, just because it is actually usable in my laptop.
While using these tuners I noticed that virtually no indoor antenna improves the signal, received by these tuners. I even tried the venerable Silver Sensor. Instead of improving the signal it actually degraded it. Therefore, I made one more trip to Circuit City to get my money back. According to AntennaWeb I was supposed to receive around 20 digital channels in my area. I was receiving around 15 channels. Then there came the revelation – I could actually use Motorola signal booster to boost the signal. This booster boosted signal virtually in all VHF and UHF frequencies and now I could receive 29 digital over the air broadcasts.
As usual I went and tried to use this tuner in my Fedora box. It turns out that linux V4L projects actually has driver for it. But the driver works only for Kernel 2.6.19 and will not compile in recent 2.6.20 Kernel. At the time of this writing there is a experimental branch of the driver available. This compiles in Kernel 2.6.20 but doesn’t upload the firmware. For the time being you have no other option but to stick to Kernel 2.6.19.
When installed, the driver works like charm. But there were two hardles to overcome. The first one is how to get the channel list. There is a bug in the Kaffeine that will prevent it to do a channels scan. Here is the way did it.
If you followed the instruction in the wiki to install it, you should have dvb-apps installed in
/usr/share/dvb-apps. To scan the channel list-
scandvb /usr/share/dvb-apps/atsc/us-ATSC-center-frequencies-8VSB >channels.conf
Copy this file to your ~/.xine directory, and you should be able to watch DVB in Xine. But to record it you need Kaffeine. Unfortunately, Kaffeine doesn’t recognize the zap format that scandvb generates. So here is the second hardle. You need one more application to use it with Kaffeine. Download a small utility from here. Complie by running make. Then use it on the channels.conf generated earlier.
atsc-converter channels.conf > channels.dvb
Now copy this file to your ~/.kde/share/apps/kaffeine directory and run kaffeine. It should detect all the channels.
Now I can use all the 29 channels in Kaffeine. Moreover the MPEG decoding is real smooth in my Fedora box.
To use analog reception you can use TVTime which can scan the tuner automatically.
I didn’t try to use the remote that comes with the tuner. I’ll write an update when I do that. In the meantime just sit back and enjoy your Fedora box in HDTV glory.
Update on 4/24/2007: The recent branch of experimental tree of V4L driver can be compiled and works great for 2.6.20 series of Kernel. Problem solved 🙂