[sclug] Linux compatible Digital TV hardware?

Sebastian Malcolm sebastian.malcolm at gmail.com
Tue Jan 15 02:00:17 UTC 2008

Hi all,
Would any other SCLUGers like to join me in my quest for quality Digital TV
watching and recording using Linux and open source software?

My girlfriend and I have just recently bought a 26" Phillips TV that sports
every input connector except for "PC Input" (VGA & DVI):

and would now like to watch Digital TV channels on it and anything we
record. Rather than buy a Freeview box or DVD recorder with built in
Freeview, we've decided to buy a USB Digital TV receiver for my Linux
computer (a Dell SC430) and permanently connect that computer to the TV,
probably through one of the 2 HDMI sockets.

I've got two hardware selections I need to make that I'd like advice with to
ensure we get the best possible picture quality with a minimum of setup
hassle; I'm happily running a Xen setup on this machine using stock Ubuntu
kernel so I'd rather not recompile a custom kernel.

(1) Graphic Card - PCI, PCIe-8x, PCIe-4x or PCIe-1x (or PCIe-16x with
I've been told that I should be able to get a very sharp image at the full
native 1366x768 resolution using a DVI to HDMI adaptor or cable, so I don't
need to spend the premium on a graphics card with built-in HDMI output or
will I require that to watch Blue-Ray or HD-DVD with a Linux movie player?
Any suggestions on a card with DVI (or HDMI) output that would be able to do
the H.264 decoding to offload that from my CPU(s) that could be busy with
recording video and/or compiling code? I've read that the nVidia drivers
lack the "PureVideo" capability that exists in their Windows drivers to
enable hardware accelerated decoding of H.264 video. I've read that nVidia's
GeForce 6-series (>=6150) will at least do some hardware acceleration of
MPEG-2 decoding.

(2) USB DVB-T Reciever?
I've reviewed the long list of USB DVB-T devices on LinuxTV.org Wiki and
some of the info on MythTV.org but I'm looking for some more opinions for
what spend (my girlfriend's) money on...

Any reasons to buy a Card instead of USB? Perhaps to get 5.1 surround sound
(SPDIF output) if that is broadcast here in the UK?

We're wondering if any of you have a working configuration or any
recommendations of any decent brands, which support Linux. Our criteria is
that when used with appropriate software such as Kaffiene or MythTV are:
- must be able to record and watch digital channels.
- pause live TV option
- preferably dual (can record one channel and watch another) but not
- a USB stick rather than a card so we can use it in other laptops around
the house and when on the move
- preferably under ?100
- obviously must be Linux compatible.
- remote control is preferable but not essential
- connects to the wall aerial (we live in an apartment block so we doubt we
have good reception with a stand alone aerial)
- would be _very_ nice extra to be able to receive (decode?) HDTV in the UK
and Australia, but I don't know if that means it must be able to decode
MPEG-2 or MPEG-4 ( H.264?). I think that in Australia 1080i is available via
a MPEG-2 broadcast but here in the UK and elsewhere deploying HDTV the
digital video stream will be MPEG-4, eventually?

After extensive research over the weekend, we may buy the AverMedia brand
because they provide Linux Drivers for some of their products, but I'm still
unsure which model of thiers to buy because Driver Support for their latest
models seems to be lacking. For example (despite Maplin's claim) the "Volar
X" is the A815 model and lacks drivers but the "Hybrid+FM" A828 model does
have drivers at avermedia.com: http://tinyurl.com/yuqq97. Product info:

Has anyone had any experience with the AverMedia products? If we go with the
cheaper/older "Volar" (A808) model that lacks a remote control, then can
someone recommend a USB IR Dongle and/or remote*?

Many thanks,

P.S. For a remote & IR USB Dongle, I guess I can just shop around for
anything listed at http://www.lirc.org/.

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