Adventures in Digital TV Recording

Okay. I'm tired of my VCR. Granted they are only $80cdn for a good HiFi stereo one, but the quality is 20years old and the time is now to use something else. I could go out and purchase the likes of this but these devices ball park about $220cdn, more if you want a hard drive included with them. I can't afford that. I have too much stuff to pay off first.

But I can afford $30 for a software based tuner. Asus TV FM Tuner card was on sale locally for $30cdn. Now I can afford that. I've also got a Celeron 1.1Ghz with 128k of L2 cache, sitting on a slot 1 adapter that I am not using, add that together with the good ole classic Abit BH6 and a Rage 128 Magnum (tv out) video card from ATi. All that in a case with a hard drive given to me by a friend, I have a unique oppertunity to to test out creating a Video Recording on a PC.

Well, getting this going isn't all roses 'n cherries. First, the machine didn't boot at all. Ha-ha on me, the power switch wasn't connected to the panel array on the mainboard. Then there is the not-so-minor issue getting the Celeron 1.1Ghz to play nice on the BH6 - it works, but you have to work it: Being a Celeron, the BIOS wants to put the FSB @ 66MHz, not 100, so you have to coach-force the bios into learning the new speed is actually OK for the CPU (persistence here is the key).

So once I got the hardware setup so that each component likes each other, the next step was Operating System software. Two options exist, really. KnoppMyth or Microsoft Windows. To start with I chose KnoppMyth.

KnoppMyth is a distribution of linux based upon Knoppix but customized for MythTV. Installation is pretty slick, although it is worth mentioning that I highly recommend you have the installer handle the partitioning of that hard drive, as doing it by hand with the given interface is difficult to do properly. The automatic partition scheme is quite well decided, as I found out later that really there is a boot partition, a O/S partition and a data partition, all pretty much handled nicely by the install and subsequent scripts it makes no sense to do much else.

All complete, remove the CD and reboot. The next part of the process loads linux, and begins the painstaking part of pompting you for various Myth specific decisions that I will not get into. Suffice to say that, the only important part of this process is the channel grid information from datadirect, which is pretty much detailed here.

Unfortunately I could not get it to work. At the time all I could get was "1: Television" . No sound, no nothing. Busted. I couldn't even tell if the TV card was dud or not. On to trying Windows...

Although my Windows experience was OK, I chose W2K as the OS as the machine is older, slightly less powerfull, and has less memory than the average today's workstation. Thus, to making a long story short, everything works. I changed to a diffent sound card though because I could not find a mixer control that would allow me to enable the aux in internal jack on the sound card. Why? So I could not only see the TV programme, but hear it as well. Guess what? I heard the TV programme with the new card, until I installed the real sound card drivers, which didn't have the mixer control option for the input, and thus I didn't have sound at all. Go figure. So I re-installed windows (cause when I reg-edited all the mixer control settings I broke mixer control), went to record a tv programme, no sound. Looks to me like the audio from the TV needs a mixer record option or it might not record the sound. Unless I give up my CD input, because that has a mixer control for both playback and recording.

Given now some time to think on it, I wonder if I needed to run some kind of tv tuning script in KnoppMyth before I get the channels to come out, or even at least change the channel to channel two. Anyway, since KnoppMyth is miles better than the software that came bundled with card for Windows, I intend to spending the time to get KnoppMyth working for my setup, even if I have to give up on straight audio cd's to do it with, after all, most the music I playback these days is MP3.

author note: I'm going to find out if the Asus TV FM multimedia PCI card based on the Philips 7135 chip is supported on OpenBSD, and if so, give that OS a try.

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