Frequently asked questions

These are some of the most frequently asked questions about the Freeview VDR:

Q: Is the Freeview VDR as difficult to use as it is to build?
A: Building the Freeview VDR is actually not that difficult. Once put together, it is as easy to use as your average set-top box.

Q: How do I connect the Freeview VDR to my TV?
A: The Freeview VDR connects to your TV using standard audio and video cabling.

Q: It records radio, right?
A: Yes. The Freeview VDR records all the programmes transmitted free-to-air, and that includes radio.

Q: Can I store my recordings forever?
A: Certainly. However, bear in mind that a one hour recording takes about 1.5 GB of space on the Freeview VDR’s hard drive.

Q: What size hard drive should I use to build the Freeview VDR?
A: The larger the better. Hard drives of around 250 GB currently afford the best value for money, enough space for approximately 160 hours of your favourite TV programme.

Q: How do I get the Freeview VDR to record the programme I am watching?
A: Just one button press on the remote and the Freeview VDR will start recording immediately. It really is that simple.

Q: Why should I get excited about time-shifting?
A: Time-shifting here means that you start watching a programme while it is still being recorded. If you allow the Freeview VDR to record the first few minutes of a broadcast, you could then begin watching the recording and use it as a buffer to fast-forward your way through any advertising.

Q: I’ve heard about live pause. Can the Freeview VDR do that as well?
A: Yes. Press pause at any time to halt the programme you’re watching. Go make yourself a cup of tea. Come back and press play to continue where you left off.

Q: Can I get rid of the advertising on my recordings?
A: Yes. You can use the Freeview VDR to edit your recordings. Get rid of any advertising or compile your own programme highlights with ease.

Q: How are picture and sound quality affected by my editing the recordings?
A: They are not affected in any way. Because everything is done digitally, the quality of your edits is always the same as that of the original recordings.

Q: All this Freeview VDR business sounds interesting, but wouldn’t it be easier to just buy one of those PVRs instead?
A: The Freeview VDR is a Personal Video Recorder. However, because it is based on a full Linux distribution, there are many more things it can do. There are many ways in which you can expand the Freeview VDR’s capabilities.

Q: Can I get network access to my recordings?
A: Yes. This is easily configured.

Q: Do I need a subscription and how much does it cost?
A: No, just be sure your TV license is paid…

Q: I only want to watch digital terrestial television. Why do I need a satellite card?
A: The satellite card generates the Freeview VDR’s output signal to the television. You need the DVB-S premium card to be able to watch what the DVB-T budget card receives.

Q: How many programmes can the Freeview VDR record simultaneously?
A: It depends. For every DVB card, the Freeview VDR is able to record a minimum of two programmes at any given time. Use two cards and record, say, BBC One, Two, Three and Four all at the same time.

Q: Does the Freeview VDR work reliably?
A: Yes. If there is ever a need to reload the drivers for the DVB-T card(s), the Freeview VDR will handle this automatically and in a matter of seconds. Unlike other PVRs, the Freeview VDR does not have a tendency to freeze and therefore rarely requires manual intervention to get going again.

Q: What does the Freeview VDR actually look like?
A: There are endless possibilites…

w_scan

w_scan is an application that greatly simplifies the task of scanning for DVB-T, DVB-C and ATSC channel information. Winfried Köhler’s w_scan is special because it does not require any region-specific initial transponder data for operation. It will create configuration files for VDR and Kaffeine and Xine.
wirbel.htpc-forum.de

Installing w_scan

Begin by downloading the source for the w_scan application and unpacking the tarball:

root@ubuntu:~# wget "http://wirbel.htpc-forum.de/w_scan/w_scan-20091230.tar.bz2"
root@ubuntu:~# tar xfvj w_scan-20091230.tar.bz2

A pre-compiled version of w_scan is included in the tarball.

Compiling from Source

Please note that successful compilation of w_scan requires current DVB-S(S2) header files at /usr/include/linux/dvb

If you want to compile w_scan from source, move the directory w_scan-20091230 to /usr/local/src/ and create a symbolic link:

root@ubuntu:~# mv w_scan-20091230/ /usr/local/src/
root@ubuntu:~# cd /usr/local/src/
root@ubuntu:/usr/local/src# ln -s w_scan-20091230/ w_scan

Build the application with the following two commands:

root@ubuntu:/usr/local/src# cd w_scan
root@ubuntu:/usr/local/src/w_scan# make

Continue by copying w_scan to /usr/local/bin/:

root@ubuntu:/usr/local/src/w_scan# cp w_scan /usr/local/bin/

Examples for Using w_scan

DVB-T for VDR 1.6.x (Germany)

root@ubuntu:~# w_scan -ft -c DE >> /etc/vdr/channels.conf

DVB-T for VDR 1.6.x (United Kingdom)

root@ubuntu:~# w_scan -ft -c GB >> /etc/vdr/channels.conf

DVB-C for VDR 1.6.x (Germany)

root@ubuntu:~# w_scan -fc -c DE >> /etc/vdr/channels.conf

DVB-T and DVB-C for VDR 1.4.x (Germany)

root@ubuntu:~# w_scan -ft -c DE >> /etc/vdr/channels.conf && w_scan -fc -c DE >> /etc/vdr/channels.conf

DVB-S, HDTV for VDR 1.7 (Astra S19.2E)

root@ubuntu:~# w_scan -fs -s S19E2 -o7 >> /etc/vdr/channels.conf

DVB-S, HDTV for VDR 1.6 and earlier (Hotbird S13.0E)

root@ubuntu:~# w_scan -fs -s S13E0 >> /etc/vdr/channels.conf

Create DVB-T Initial Tuning Data (Germany)

root@ubuntu:~# w_scan -ft -c DE -x >> initial-tuning-data.txt

Create DVB-C Initial Tuning Data (Germany)

root@ubuntu:~# w_scan -fc -c DE -x >> initial-tuning-data.txt

Create DVB-S Initial Tuning Data (Astra S19.2E)

root@ubuntu:~# w_scan -fs -s S19E2 -x >> initial-tuning-data.txt

DVB-T Channels for Kaffeine (Germany)

root@ubuntu:~# w_scan -k -c DE >> channels.dvb

DVB-C Channels for Kaffeine

root@ubuntu:~# w_scan -fc -k >> channels.dvb

DVB-T for Czap/Tzap/Xine (United Kingdom)

root@ubuntu:~# w_scan -ft -c GB -X >> channels.conf

DVB-C for Czap/Tzap/Xine (Germany)

w_scan -fc -c DE -X >> channels.conf

ATSC Terrestial (VSB)

root@ubuntu:~# w_scan -fa >> channels.conf

ATSC Cable (US QAM Annex-B)

root@ubuntu:~# w_scan -A2 >> channels.conf

ATSC Terrestial (VSB) and Cable (US QAM Annex-B)

root@ubuntu:~# w_scan -A3 >> channels.conf

Display Options

Get a list of available options by calling w_scan with the option -h:

root@ubuntu:~# w_scan -h

Get an extended list of options by calling w_scan with the option -H:

root@ubuntu:~# w_scan -H

Create Log file

Generate a log file with the following command:

root@ubuntu:~# w_scan -v -v 2>&1 | tee w_scan.log

Start script

Run the w_scan start script with the following command:

root@ubuntu:~# ./w_scan_start.sh

VDR

VDR stands for Video Disk Recorder, the outstanding software project by Klaus Schmidinger. VDR turns a PC equipped with suitable hardware into a digital receiver and timer-controlled video disk recorder. Its features include time-shifting and on-disk editing of the recordings. Support for the different types of DVB standard is dependent on the hardware employed to receive the broadcast signal(s). This means that, given the right kind of receiver card(s), VDR will work with cable, satellite and terrestial television.
www.tvdr.de

Building the Freeview VDR

These instructions are intended to help you build a system that will receive both digital terrestial and satellite transmissions. Personally, I use a setup that enables me to watch and record broadcasts on Freeview, the terrestial service here in the United Kingdom, and Astra 19.2° East, a satellite transmitting to the whole of Europe. Some of the most frequently asked questions about the Freeview VDR are answered on a separate page.
In addition to an aerial and a satellite dish, you require a PC equipped with a large enough hard drive to store your recordings. Keep in mind that a one hour recording will take up approximately 1.5 GB of disk space.
You also need one DVB-S card of the type TechnoTrend Premium S, one DVB-T card of the type TechnoTrend Budget T and the ATI Remote Wonder remote control. You should also have a working broadband connection accessed from behind a router/firewall.

Installing Slackware

Slackware Linux is ideal for the purpose: It is easy to install and very dependable. Download the file slackware-10.2-install-d1.iso from one of the Slackware mirrors and burn the ISO image to disk. Alternatively, you can help support Slackware and the effort that goes into it by ordering your set of CDs from The Slackware Store.
Install Slackware with: a) a swap partition that is equal in size to that of the installed RAM, b) a root partition of 3 GB, and c) a /video partition taking up all of the remaining disk space. Select the software sets a, ap, d, k, l and n for installation. Configure a network interface with access to the internet. Set the system time to synchronise with NTP. Add the user vdr, with the default group video and a home directrory located at /etc/vdr. Finish by changing the owner and group of /video:

darkstar:~# chown -R vdr.video /video/

Installing the Drivers

The Linux driver for the DVB-S card requires that the file Sc_main.mc, which is distributed as part of the TechnoTrend driver for Windows, be located in /usr/lib/DVB/driver/frontends. Start by downloading the driver for the TechnoTrend Premium S card and unzipping the archive file:

darkstar:~# lftp -c "get http://www.technotrend.de/new/217g/tt_Premium_217g.zip"
darkstar:~# unzip tt_Premium_217g.zip

Use the following set of commands to place a copy of SC_MAIN.MC in /usr/lib/DVB/driver/frontends:

darkstar:~# mkdir -p /usr/lib/DVB/driver/frontends
darkstar:~# cp software/OEM/HE/App/boot/SC_MAIN.MC /usr/lib/DVB/driver/frontends/Sc_main.mc

If you are using the TechnoTrend Budget T card, download the required firmware and place a copy in /etc/dvb:

darkstar:~# lftp -c "get http://www.edafe.org/vdr/firmware/tda1004x.mc"
darkstar:~# mkdir /etc/dvb
darkstar:~# cp tda1004x.mc /etc/dvb/

Continue by downloading the Linux-DVB driver source and unpacking the tarball:

darkstar:~# lftp -c "get http://linuxtv.org/downloads/linuxtv-dvb-1.0.1.tar.gz"
darkstar:~# tar -zxvf linuxtv-dvb-1.0.1.tar.gz

Move the resulting directory to /usr/local/src/, renaming it to DVB:

darkstar:~# mv linuxtv-dvb-1.0.1 /usr/local/src/DVB

Change to the DVB directory, build the drivers and then run the makedev.napi script:

darkstar:~# cd /usr/local/src/DVB/
darkstar:/usr/local/src/DVB# make
darkstar:/usr/local/src/DVB# driver/makedev.napi

Change to the driver directory and run the command make insmod while observing the TV-output of your DVB-S card:

darkstar:/usr/local/src/DVB# cd driver/
darkstar:/usr/local/src/DVB/driver# make insmod

If the driver installed successfully, this message will appear and then fade:

(C) 2001 Convergence integrated media

Scanning for Satellite Channels

Check the dvb-s directory to see what configuration files are available and determine which one to use:

darkstar:~# ls /usr/local/src/DVB/apps/scan/dvb-s/

Run the following set of commands, replacing Astra-19.E as necessary:

darkstar:~# cd /usr/local/src/DVB/apps/scan/
darkstar:/usr/local/src/DVB/apps/scan# ./scan -o vdr dvb-s/Astra-19.E > /etc/vdr/sat.conf

Scanning for Terrestial Channels

Download the source for Winfried Köhler’s w_scan application and unpack the tarball:

darkstar:/usr/local/src/DVB/apps/scan# cd ~
darkstar:~# lftp -c "get http://free.pages.at/wirbel4vdr/w_scan/w_scan-20060729.tar.bz2"
darkstar:~# tar -xjf w_scan-20060729.tar.bz2

Move the resulting directory to /usr/local/src/, renaming it to WSCAN:

darkstar:~# mv w_scan-20060729 /usr/local/src/WSCAN

Use the pre-compiled version of w_scan that is included in the tarball to scan for available DVB-T channels:

darkstar:~# /usr/local/src/WSCAN/w_scan -o2 ›› /etc/vdr/ter.conf

Generating Channels.conf

Employ cat to create a single channels.conf file:

darkstar:~# cd /etc/vdr/


darkstar:/etc/vdr/# cat sat.conf ter.conf › channels.conf
If you are only using a single input source, rename either sat.conf or ter.conf to channels.conf.

Installing VDR

Continue by downloading the VDR source and unpacking the contents of the tarball:

darkstar:/usr/local/src/DVB/apps/scan# cd ~
darkstar:~# lftp -c "get ftp://ftp.cadsoft.de/vdr/vdr-1.2.6.tar.bz2"
darkstar:~# tar -xjf vdr-1.2.6.tar.bz2

Move the resulting directory to /usr/local/src/, renaming it to VDR:

darkstar:~# mv vdr-1.2.6 /usr/local/src/VDR

Change to the VDR directory and copy the configuration files to /etc/vdr/:

darkstar:~# cd /usr/local/src/VDR/
darkstar:/usr/local/src/VDR# cp keymacros.conf sources.conf svdrphosts.conf svdrpsend.pl /etc/vdr/
darkstar:/usr/local/src/VDR# chown vdr.video /etc/vdr/*

Build the VDR application with support for Linux Infrared Remote Control:

darkstar:/usr/local/src/VDR# make REMOTE=LIRC VFAT=1 NO_KBD=1

Download this version of runvdr, preconfigured to work with your installation:

darkstar:/usr/local/src/VDR# lftp -c "get http://www.edafe.org/vdr/sh/runvdr"
darkstar:/usr/local/src/VDR# chmod +x runvdr

Download rc.vdr and move it to /etc/rc.d/:

darkstar:/usr/local/src/VDR# cd ~
darkstar:~# lftp -c "get http://www.edafe.org/vdr/sh/rc.vdr"
darkstar:~# chmod +x rc.vdr
darkstar:~# mv rc.vdr /etc/rc.d/

Add the following lines to the end of /etc/rc.d/rc.local for VDR to start at boot:

# Starting VDR
if [ -x /etc/rc.d/rc.vdr ]; then
echo "Starting VDR"
/etc/rc.d/rc.vdr &
fi

Restart your computer and observe the TV-output of your DVB-S card. You should now be viewing the first channel listed in your channels.conf file.

Installing LIRC

Connect the USB receiver for the ATI Remote Wonder to your VDR. Download lircd.conf, preconfigured with the settings for the ATI Remote Wonder, and place it into /etc/.

darkstar:~# lftp -c "get http://www.edafe.org/vdr/conf/lircd.conf"
darkstar:~# mv lircd.conf /etc/

Continue by downloading LIRC source and unpacking the contents of the tarball:

darkstar:~# lftp -c "get http://www.edafe.org/vdr/tar/lirc-0.7.2.tar.bz2"
darkstar:~# tar -xjf lirc-0.7.2.tar.bz2

Move the resulting directory to /usr/local/src/, renaming it to LIRC:

darkstar:~# mv lirc-0.7.2 /usr/local/src/LIRC

Change to the LIRC directory and launch the LIRC installer with:

darkstar:~# cd /usr/local/src/LIRC/
darkstar:/usr/local/src/LIRC# ./setup.sh && make install

Choose the following options:
1 Driver configuration > 8 USB devices > 1 ATI RF Remote
2 Software configuration > no selection
3 Save configuration & run configure

Set the permissions for the device /dev/lircd with:

darkstar:/usr/local/src/LIRC# chmod 666 /dev/lircd

Add the following lines to /etc/rc.d/rc.local, before the entry for VDR, to start LIRC at boot:


# Starting LIRC daemon
if [ -x /usr/local/sbin/lircd ]; then
echo "Starting LIRC"
/usr/local/sbin/lircd
fi

Restart your computer and observe the TV-output of your DVB-S card. You should now see the following message:

Learning Remote Control Keys (LIRC)
Phase 1: Detecting RC code Type
Press any key on the RC unit

Follow the instructions of the OSD to define the keys for the remote control.