Since the U.S. conversion to digital television I have been wanting to try integrating TV reception into my desktop computer.  The first step was to do some research into the TV devices that would have the features I want *AND* work in a Linux environment.  I found this web site very helpful for compatibility research:

http://www.linuxtv.org/

The leading manufacturer of TV reception devices for computers appears to be Hauppauge:

http://linuxtv.org/wiki/index.php/Hauppauge

The Hauppauge company web site is excellent.  It contains lots of detailed information about each of their products, including photos, manuals, and even tips for using their products under Linux:

http://www.hauppauge.com/pages/faq/support_faq_linux.html

In my case I located the Hauppauge WinTV HVR-1600 (model 1178 / version 74021) on Craig’s List for $40.  I believe Hauppauge sells these directly from their web site for $79.

This is a card that fits in a PCI expansion slot in a desktop computer.

The next challenge was to actually install it and get it to work!  This turned out to be a challenge, and maybe a needless challenge had I done things in a different order.  Let me explain…

Linux Mint (and Ubuntu) have the drivers for this WinTV card built into the OS.  In theory, I should be able to power down the computer, install the WinTV in a PCI slot, power up the computer, and start watching TV.  Well, my Mint 12 computer would not boot up with the card installed!  I did more research; I tried lots of things; and nothing worked.  For kicks, I booted my computer (with the WinTV card installed) using the Mint 12 DVD (for a live session) — and the TV worked!  This caused me to conclude that some configuration I did with my permanent install of Mint was creating the problem.  I suspected the NVidia drivers I installed.

So, I backed up everything, reinstalled the TV card, booted with the Mint DVD, and reinstalled Mint 12 from scratch.  And instead of installing the NVidia graphics card drivers, I simply used the default drivers in Mint 12 to configure my dual monitor set up.  I really cannot see a difference between how the displays are now (default Mint drivers) versus how the displays were before (NVidia proprietary drivers).  So I am happy.

By the way, getting my Firefox and Thunderbird configurations set up again the way I had them was amazingly fast and simple in Linux.  Basically it involves copying the .mozilla and .thunderbird old folders (from backup) into the new Mint file structure.  That might be a good topic for another post.

Now with a fresh install of Mint 12, I downloaded three TV packages (via Mint Software Manager):  TV Time, XAWTV, and Me-TV.  Over the past couple of weeks I have gotten comfortable with Me-TV.  The Me-TV interface is fairly intuitive, although there is one feature that would greatly improve it:  An option to re-scan channels.  As the program works today, Me-TV will launch a channel scan “wizard” the first time you launch it.  But that option does not exist after that.  It would be handy to be able to re-scan channels after antenna changes / repositioning.  There *is* a workaround!

Me-TV creates a database file after a channel scan.  If this file is missing, Me-TV will launch the channel scan wizard again to re-create it.  To get Me-TV to rescan the TV channels:

  1. Make sure the Me-TV program is not running (check the status bar at the top of the screen in Mint 12)
  2. Navigate to home/.local/share/me-tv
  3. Delete the file me-tv.db
  4. Launch the Me-TV program again

To make this easier to repeat, I created a link (shortcut) right on my Mint desktop to take me to the me-tv directory (folder).

Although the WinTV HVR-1600 version that I have is cable-QAM (C-QAM) compatible, my current plans are to use it to receive terrestrial digital TV, from an antenna.  Later today I hope to get the antenna installed higher up, in the attic.  But at this moment I have a home-made UHF antenna leaning against the wall in the den, about 6-feet above ground level.  To see how I made this antenna, please visit this page:

http://sites.google.com/site/artstadlin/Home/Pursuits/hdtv_antenna

Since the TV stations have their towers clustered about 30-miles from me, my reception is not so great yet, until the antenna is mounted higher.  Nevertheless I am amazed it works as well as it does.  Some stations have no drop out!Me-TV in Linux Mint 12

The Me-TV program has a nice “TV guide” section at the bottom, under the screen (see screen shot).  This makes it very easy to quickly see what programs are on, and also what programs are coming up.  There is a record capability which works nicely.  Finally, I can record digital TV!  There are also capabilities to do timed recording (like a VCR in the good ‘ol days).  I look forward to trying that feature soon.

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