Eee 701 Planetoid

2010/04/21

TV on the Eee 701: First steps with a working tuner

Filed under: Hardware, Linux, Software — Tags: , , — Tim @ 19:57

So, once I’d got my new USB TV tuner stick working on my Eeebuntu Linux-powered Eee 701 (this is the Maplin Value model; basically, a rebranded KWorld 395U), it was on to the next task: scanning the frequencies for the digital TV channels available.

First nugget of useful experience to share here: unless you live very close to your nearest transmitter, you’ll need to connect up your tuner device to a powered/boosted aerial, as in my experience the “cat’s whisker” bundled with the Maplin Value tuner stick is practically useless. We have one installed in our house, due to living in an area with a comparatively weak digital terrestrial signal (though it has increased in power since the analogue TV service was turned off), so in testing I plugged into this main aerial, and it worked like a treat. (I’ll probably have to look at a small, portable powered aerial next, for those times when I can’t sit next to the lounge TV 🙂 )

Scanning for channels

The Linux experience when it comes to handling TV tuner hardware, has improved markedly in recent years. However, at the point where you need to tune into specific channels, unless your chosen “front-end” application offers a more friendly interface, you will probably need to install and use the dvb-utils suite of command-line utilities (and possibly others, such as scan-w) in order to set up your system.

At this point, you may find it helpful to find out the name of the nearest transmitter group to your current location. If you are based in the UK, the telecoms regulator Ofcom provides a set of downloadable maps, which should tell you which transmitter covers your area—other countries presumably have similar arrangements.

The command-line utility scan is part of the dvb-utils suite. To use scan, you will need the frequency information file for your nearest transmitter—these are kept in various locations in different Linux distributions, but in Ubuntu they can be found at /usr/share/dvb/dvb-t/. The following command will scan the frequencies and write what it finds to a file called channels.conf:

scan /usr/share/dvb/dvb-t/[transmitterfile] -o zap | tee ~/channels.conf

replacing the file path if necessary, and [transmitterfile] with the frequencies file for your locality.

You need this channels.conf file, as most TV-viewing applications use the file to find out how to switch channels. Bear in mind that if you want to use the TV tuner in a different location covered by a different transmitter, you will need to rescan your channels, so it is advisable to keep backup copies of any channels.conf files you produce this way, to save time when you return.

If you do not know the transmitter which covers your location, you can use another utility, scan-w. This is slower in operation than scan, as it has to scan the entire TV frequency band from scratch, but scan-w will generate a channels.conf file from what it can pick up in the area. (Tip: run scan-w with the -X option, as it will produce a channels.conf file more likely to be compatible with likely TV apps.)

Once you have the channels.conf file (assuming tuning has been successful—I finally managed it with my 701), you can finally start watching TV 🙂 The question is: what application to use?

A few possible answers, will follow in the next instalment…

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