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Digital TV in Linux

Linux Journal had an article (subscription to the print version may be required) entitled, “Over-the-Air Digital TV with Linux” in their July 08 print issue. After reading the article, I thought I’d get one of the reviewed USB tuners and play with it. This post provides info (some from the article) which I think is valuable.

The tuner I got was Pinnacle’s PCTV HD Pro Stick. The article let me know that I would have to do the following actions (was written using Ubuntu 7.10, but works on 8.04):

First get all the build tools needed (I had all but mercurial already)

sudo aptitude install mercurial build-essential linux-source

Next get the firmware for USB tuner cards

sudo wget -q http://konstantin.filtschew.de/v4l-firmware/firmware_v4.tgz -O /usr/local/src/firmware_v4.tgz

Unpack the firmware into /lib/firmware

sudo tar xzf /usr/local/src/firmware_v4.tgz -C /lib/firmware

Grab the latest copy of the V4L DVB source code from mcentral.de:

cd /usr/local/src
sudo hg clone http://mcentral.de/hg/~mrec/v4l-dvb-kernel

Compile the V4L drivers:

cd /usr/local/src/v4l-dvb-kernel
sudo make
sudo make install

The next step was missing, and that is:

sudo modprobe em2880-dvb

This loads the kernel module needed for the tuner. When I plugged in the USB tuner without this module installed, the keyboard locked up and I had to reboot (happened on a desktop & a laptop).

The program I landed on for tuning digital TV is Me TV. This is a simple program that uses xine on the backend. I didn’t need the bells and whistles of MythTV, which is what was discussed most in the LJ article. A program to use the analog channels is tvtime, and I used this to check out that the card was working before I found Me TV.

When you are satisfied that the usb tuner is working well, you might want to make the module load every time the machine boots. To do this add

em2880-dvb

to /etc/modules.

On the Seattle Post Intelligencer blogs there is this post which states that the “NBC Olympics on the Go” will only be available to Windows Vista users. (ars technica has more information here.)

This just goes to show how powerful the Monoply is and also how stupid someone at NBC is. MS is trying to force their unwanted OS on users, and I can understand that motive. NBC, however, must be stupid to believe that there will be any significant market penetration for the “on the Go” service.

It’s obvious that I, as a Linux user, will not be able to use the service. However, there are three Windows boxes which I administer in my house which will also not be able to use the service! (You can also add my work Windows machine to increase the insult to users.)

Had NBC not thrown in with MS on this but had used Flash instead, all my machines would have been able to view content. Shame on you NBC!

It finally happened. My wife got some MS Office 2007 .docx files in e-mail. For any readers who have been under a rock, the .docx file is Microsoft’s zipped xml file format. This is similar to the format that Microsoft appear to have shoved through the International Standards Organization (ISO) fast-track process after being established as a European Computing Manufacturers Association (ECMA) standard.

I suspect the sender doesn’t even know she created a .docx file. If she left the Microsoft standard of hiding known extensions, she likely assumes it’s a normal word document file. (By the way, hiding the filename extensions makes Microsoft complicit in a lot of phishing exploits.)

One of the e-mails was sent at least three times with no apparent changes to the attachments. I suspect one (or more) recipients of the e-mail sent the sender a reply that one of the attachments couldn’t be opened.

For users who have Microsoft Office (or don’t mind Microsoft Office-related software) on their machines, there are updates which add the ability to read .docx files. For people who, like me, eschew the Microsoft Office route for an open alternative like OpenOffice finding out how to open these files can be a challenging experience, especially in Windows.

I was lucky in that I found odf-converter-integrator. Installing this in Windows gives an option to open Word 2007 files. The program performs the conversion in the temporary files area and then passes the new .odt file to OpenOffice. Other options which I found required multiple steps for the user.

In my reading, I found references that in Ubuntu 8.04, the .docx can be opened by OpenOffice. I forwarded the e-mail to an account that I use on Ubuntu 8.04. Sure enough, I had an option in Evolution to open the file in OpenOffice, and it displayed identically to the versions in Windows.

I’ve now upgraded three of my four machines to (k)Ubuntu 8.04. My print server / desktop upgraded flawlessly. My daughter’s laptop, however, had one issue.

We have been using a Linksys WPC54G wireless card in this machine. Upon reboot, the wireless did not work. Plugging into the wired network didn’t seem to work as I tried different cables. After I pulled the wire from another laptop and plugged it in, the wired connection worked as it should.

I found help on the Ubuntu Forums. All I needed to do was

sudo apt-get install b43-fwcutter

which obtained the firmware for the card from the web. This turned out to not be a major issue, but I would have hated to be where I couldn’t get to a wired connection.

This post is labeled as Part One because it only discusses the upgrade of my desktop/web server/ file server. If I run into other issues on my other machines, I’ll post related parts.

The machine in question is a desktop which I had built for me while I lived in Indonesia. The motherboard is an Asus P4P800E-Deluxe with an Intel P4 HT processor. The graphics card is based on the Nvidia 7600GT.

My first issue was that, after the update, the nvidia driver wouldn’t work. The good news is there is now a failsafe X-server configuration that allows one to modify the parameters in the /etc/X11/xorg.conf file using a GUI which doesn’t expose the workings of the file. I was able to get up and running, but the way this works wouldn’t be obvious to a newbie :-( .

I finally discovered that the restricted modules for the generic kernel I had weren’t installed! I manually installed the restricted modules, manually modified my xorg.conf file to point to the nvidia driver and did
sudo modprobe nvidia
I then logged out, restarted the x-server with ctrl-alt-backspace, and I was using the nvidia driver. (A side note, somehow I had kdm in a configuration where it was eating up resources, but a reboot took care of this.)

My second issue so far is that the Ubuntu distribution upgrade decided to use the gcj iced-tea java plugin instead of the sun plugin that I prefer to use. After I found this, I removed the plugin using adept and manually creating a symbolic link to the plugin I wanted in ~/.mozilla/plugins folder.

Both of these issues will cause newbies headaches (or they won’t realize they could have it better). Fortunately, the fixes really aren’t that hard. I consider the situation I faced both a weakness in the upgrade scripts and a strength in the configurability of Linux.

(P.S., I’ll also be happy when Deepest Sender is working with FF 3. I hate WordPress’ writing interface and prefer to hand code the html, but I can no longer find the setting to edit in html mode :-( .)

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