Thursday, July 26, 2012

Getting DVB-C to work well

Anysee E7TC and Windows, the horror...

I bought the Anysee E7TC Plus some time ago because I wanted to record some programs from DVB-C. Since the Anysee was one of the few cards which works for a lot of people having Ziggo (Netherlands) as A cable company I bought one as well. The nice thing about this card is that it has a softcam so I could insert the smartcard (which is needed for all Dutch cable companies if you want digital television) directly and should work on Windows quite well. 

Well my experience was different, I tried three different drivers to get all channels working on Windows 7 and when I finally got all the channels working I found out that the recording software was really unstable. I tried several alternatives like MediaPortal and ForTheRecord. ForTheRecord was actually quite nice but I couldn't get the smartcard reader to work. 

Using the Anysee on Linux, with a separate cardreader

I gave up on Windows and read if the card was supported in Linux, luckily it was. Only the SoftCam was not supported (yet?) so I bought a generic cardreader by the name of Smargo SmartReader Pro. It costs around EUR 30,-. I set it up with OSCam, there are enough tutorials around to help you out but I found out that installation is quite a trial-and-error process. If someone is interested in my configuration just ask me and I will post it here. 


Then I had to decide which program to use, I already used TVHeadend in a IPTV environment. The only alternative I heard/read about for Linux was MythTV. It didn't have to be working really quick so I decided to make a temporary switch to MythTV in the IPTV environment to try it out. 

The setup was quite a pain. The server I used it on was headless and the configuration program needed X to configure. The only solution for me was to use X11 forwarding over SSH. It was a disaster. Slow as hell and not very intuitive but after three hours I finally managed to get it working.

I used MythWeb as frontend, this was quite nice. It offers a lot of options and does not look bad. The problem is it ate a lot of resources and after a while it just hangs after a recording. I didn't optimize the MySQL database behind it but I think that should not be needed for something like this.


So back to tvheadend it was then. The webinterface is not perfect but good enough for simple recording  and TV watching. The light footprint of tvheadend makes up for the sometimes in-intuitive way of setting up things. For example in the IPTV environment I had to add each channel one-by-one by hand.

I think tvheadend is more focussed on using it in DVB-C/T/S environments since this part is more user-friendly. They already provide some muxes for a lot of DVB providers in different countries. The Dutch companies like Ziggo and UPC add a lot of channels lately so it didn't surprise me the muxlist was incomplete.
Tvheadend does have an option for automatically finding frequencies (muxes) but that didn't work very well for me. I found a frequency list on the Gathering of Tweakers-forum which I used to add the multiplexes by hand. This worked quite well, sometimes I had to re-add muxes to get all the channels but after a while I got all channels. The EPG worked automatically (I was used to needing a separate XMLTV source). Connecting tvheadend and OSCam was really easy and worked directly. 

Problem frequency

Problems arose when I wanted to record something from channels on the frequency 626,750 MHz, this was a frequency I also had problems with on Windows. After checking the DVB-C signal which showed excellent signal quality on other devices on the same outlet I came to the conclusion I had to get another card.

Getting another card, the Terratec Cinergy T Dual PCIe

Since I already got stuff working without using the built-in cardreader I decided to go for a card without cardreader. I also wanted to be able to record two programs at the same time so I looked on the LinuxTV wiki which dual-tuner was supported and not too expensive. I decided to go with the Terratec Cinergy T Dual PCIe. A card almost at 1/3rd of the price of the Anysee E7. The wiki stated that it was supported in the LinuxTV drivers somewhere in 2011 or that I needed to use a recent kernel (3.3 or 3.4), since I have gained quite some *nix experience both would not be a problem for me.

Installing the kernel was the hardest part, initramfs gave me some problems but after those where solved and booted into 3.4.7 it worked directly in tvheadend. Also the 626,750 MHz channels now work without any problems, so it turned out the Anysee card was indeed the problem.

I also solved the problem of the not-so-intuitive interface of tvheadend by using XBMC PVR and it's TV add-on. It's like a match made in heaven ;) I will post some screenshots later

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