Cheap ATSC tuner card for Mythbuntu?
March 19, 2009 2:46 PM   Subscribe

Recommended HDTV tuner cards for Linux? Preferably inexpensive? And where to find them?

I just recently obtained an old work pc on the cheap and am wanting to configure it to be an HD DVR. It's a Pentium 4, 2.4 GHz with 2GB of RAM -- I haven't cracked the case open or installed an OS yet, so I have no idea what the graphics card is. I'm planning to make this into a Mythbuntu DVR, and the only hardware I'm hoping to need is an HD tuner card.

What can I get that will work well, on a budget? MythTV's site recommends a pcHDTV HD-5500 ($115 US, I'd prefer much cheaper if I can get it), and a Technisat Airstar HD-5000 (which I can't find for sale anywhere, not even on ebay).

I just need this for ATSC -- I don't have cable. Are there thrifty options out there that will work well?
posted by middleclasstool to Computers & Internet (12 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Get the HD-5500. Almost all the other cards use proprietary drivers and thus will not work 100% with Linux, plus they're more expensive. $115 is pretty cheap for a quality computer peripheral, anything cheaper is likely to suck (even if it did exist, which in this case it doesn't). The HD-5500 works great and setting it up to work with MythTV is a snap. If you're going to use MythTV, you really need to use the cards that the most work has been done for, and for OTA HD, that's the HD-5500.

Tangentially, the Hauppauge HD-PVR is a better device since it can record component video HD from a set-top box, but that requires A. cable or satellite service and B. an SVN build of MythTV. Plus it's kinda expensive. This doesn't apply to you, but I'm throwing it out there anyway for someone who might find this in a search.
posted by DecemberBoy at 2:53 PM on March 19, 2009

Oh, I forgot to mention: the pcHDTV cards are specifically designed to work with Linux and MythTV. I don't even think they have Windows drivers. Most other capture cards are designed to work with some Windows-based monstrosity and only have hacked drivers at best for Linux (due to the companies that make them keeping the information needed to make them work a secret, not due to any technical limitation).
posted by DecemberBoy at 2:55 PM on March 19, 2009

Best answer: Also also: Look into using LinHES (formerly KnoppMyth) instead of MythBuntu. MythBuntu is a generic Ubuntu distro with MythTV bolted on. LinHES is a modified version of ArchLinux specifically developed to turn a computer into a video appliance. I've been using it for years and have been contributing to the open beta-testing of the newest version.
posted by DecemberBoy at 2:58 PM on March 19, 2009

Response by poster: Okay, awesome, but two questions. I have only basic *nix skills. So:

1) Is LinHES going to be the same easy live cd install as mythbuntu? I'd rather go painless as possible on this.

2) If I do go for the hd-5500 card, and if I also spring for a wireless card, I might as well just suck it up and by a cheap off-the-shelf DVR, because I'd be most of the way there on expense. However, right next to the Linux box will go is a WinXP box with a wireless card in it. Would it be possible to share the XP box's wifi connection (I'd only be actively using one box at a time) by running a network cable from one PC to the other? I've never tried sharing a connection that way.
posted by middleclasstool at 4:25 PM on March 19, 2009

Does Myth support Hauppauge? I just bought one of these, and it works flawlessly.
posted by gjc at 4:53 PM on March 19, 2009

A developer is currently working on an HVR-2250 driver. We'll see whether I curse my optimism, but I've both sent him a donation and ordered an HVR-2250 (currently at New Egg for $109, not what I'd call cheap.)

Currently I'm using a Hauppauge PVR-250 with an IR blaster to change channels on a DTV box. It was a small pain to set up (mostly because most of the easily google-able tutorials dated back to when it was a much bigger pain) but has worked flawlessly since. If you don't mind tinkering and have a DTV box to spare, this could be cheap if you found a used PVR-250 on Ebay.
posted by Zed at 5:04 PM on March 19, 2009

Best answer: The PVR250 doesn't do HD. Standard definition only. However, it is very well supported by MythTV, and is pretty much the standard capture card for SD, the pcHDTV cards being the standard for HD. My system has both a PVR250 and a PC-HDTV 5500, in fact, which is a pretty common configuration. All I use the PVR250 for these days is its IR receiver, though, and the last time I used the PC-HDTV for anything was to record Obama's inauguration. I use the machine almost entirely for playing videos.

Yes, LinHES has an extremely easy, graphical install. It's geared entirely towards being as easy to install and use as possible. The newest release, R6, is still in open beta, but I'd suggest installing it anyway as there are few bugs (no show-stoppers) and the final release is coming out any day now. The previous releases (R5.5 and below) were all based on Knoppix (hence the old name KnoppMyth), and the new R6 is based on a heavily modified ArchLinux, which is a simplified distro in the same vein as Slackware or Gentoo if you're not familiar with it.

I'd recommend it to anyone over MythBuntu, newbies and experienced Linux users alike. There's just a lot more care put into it with the goal of making it a purpose-specific distro. MythBuntu and the others are much more general-purpose, which is fine if that's what you want, but if you're building a dedicated video box that's probably not what you want.
posted by DecemberBoy at 6:05 PM on March 19, 2009

Response by poster: Awesome, thanks.

I had an Ubuntu disc lying around and got it installed just to make sure my hardware plays nicely with linux. It does, thank Christ.

My only problem now is getting my XP box to share its wifi connection. I set up connection sharing, but the Linux box isn't getting a network address.
posted by middleclasstool at 6:59 PM on March 19, 2009

You might look into the HDHomeRun which will give you two ATSC tuners. It's also a network attached device so you don't even need to crack the case if you want to go for a very small HTPC.

I've used this with Windows Media Center and it works great, I would expect it works well with MythTV as well, you can use VLC to watch the content streaming off the device.
posted by mge at 7:27 PM on March 19, 2009

I second the HDhomerun.
I currently use this with an Ubuntu Mythtv distro called Mythbuntu
It was really easy to setup.
posted by scottabing at 10:03 PM on March 19, 2009

$109 is cheap for what you get- dual tuners that can do either digital or analog. Especially cheap when you consider what cards like this cost a year ago. A couple years ago, the similar analog only, single tuner card was about that price.
posted by gjc at 3:24 AM on March 20, 2009

Response by poster: Thanks for all the help, everyone. I do have one lingering issue and then I think I can get this thing set up:

I managed to configure my WinXP box to share its wifi connection via ethernet cable. It works great, except no DNS. I followed the instructions on this forum post to guide me in getting it set up. The only thing I'm lacking is the nameserver information (Step 4 on that page). I can't find it on XP -- everything seems to be set to autoconfigure IP addresses.

I'm a code monkey, not a system config guy -- where can I look up the info I need to make DNS work?
posted by middleclasstool at 11:12 AM on March 20, 2009

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