Geek TV

[I’m not referring to the excellent and when-is-season-two-ever-going-to-start Cringley series Nerd TV, though if I were going to write a post about that, I’d say, go watch ’em all, and maybe send PBS a few bucks to encourage them to produce such simple yet enlightening content and continue to make it available for free download.]

[Nor am I referring to any of the hundreds of other things named Geek TV or GeekTV or geekTv or whatever that are everywhere out there.]

[I should just retitle this post. But I’m too lazy to do that.]

[I still use ‘cat’ as my editor, see. Haha, get that?]

I recently bought a Hauppauge WinTV-HVR-1600 as my new TV tuner. Wanted to step into the world of digital timeshifting. I don’t watch a ton of television, but I do watch more than people claim to when they’re trying to impress their friends at the coffeehouse.

At first, I was just going to replace my old Hauppauge WinTV-Radio. OK, Hauppauge makes some decent hardware and cheap, but damn if they can figure out the concept of software. I replaced their drivers with some open-source ones a while back, btwincap. I replaced their TV app with the open-source DScaler. I was fairly happy with the combo (well, technically, DScaler bypasses the drivers on 8×8 hardware), but still couldn’t really do the timeshifting thing reliably, either due to crashes or CPU hoggery or VfW bit-rottery or ffmpeg command-line-arguments-confusery. So I said, how about I spend $100 instead of 100 hours. I mean, the software, at least, must have evolved.

I started shopping at the “just equivalent hardware but different manufacturer” level. Heard reasonably decent things about the ATI TV Wonder series, and it even seems to use the same BT8x8 chipset. But, ya know, hopefully better software. In the process of getting more info on the competitors in that space, I ended up deciding I better at least get a hardware MPEG encoder. Should give a great improvement in reliability and let me get work done while I’m recording. Important work, like writing blog posts about TV hardware.

So that led me to stuff like the TV Wonder 550, PVR-150 and brethren, even junk like Pinnacle (OK, I have an irrational dislike for Pinnacle because of the horrific experience I had with another of their products), which I’m not sure really does hardware anything.

The good news in that sphere is that the PVR-150 is highly recommended for MythTV, and if I were completely insisting on Linux compatibility today, I would have stopped there. But I didn’t; I let my good judgment about driver compatibility slide because someone mentioned OTA HDTV, and I said, why not, unless it’s really expensive.

Turns out that it’s quite cheap. Thanks to the various converging technologies of the world, and let’s not forget those sports fans who provide the bulk of the market for HD stuff that drives down the prices to let the rest of us watch Nature in HD, getting an analog tuner, an ATSC tuner, and hardware MPEG for the analog side only sets ya back $100 or less, in the case of the HVR-1600. Not bad. Well, not bad if you’ve read my next post, which tells you how to replace that DAMN HAUPPAUGE WinTV 2000 CRAP. 🙂

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