HDTV working using GadgetGeek USB tuner and BlazeDTV

In a follow up to my earlier post on HDTV, I’m pleased to report that HDTV is now working. My previous attempts to get this working resulted in the conclusion that my antenna was, politely, end of life (or in other words a heap of rubbish). So, I popped in to see the guys at Hi Gain Antennas, and brought some photos with me.

They confirmed my suspicions – the antenna was old, unable to pick up the frequency range required to receive digital broadcast signal, and was positioned too low to be effective (my house in on the downside of a hill). So, a new setup was installed which has two antennas (so that the signals can be combined to get good signal strength), which is positioned higher on the roof and affixed with guidewires. This goes into an amplifier which further boosts the signal.

Part two of the installation involved re-cabling the existing TV points with shielded coaxial cable. The old cable was not shielded, and is subject to electrical interference. While the blokes were there, I also got them add another point in my bedroom. They also provided some fly leads for me which was a great bonus.

To get HDTV working on the computer, I needed a HDTV tuner. Because my computer is a laptop (and let’s face it, laptops are going to outsell desktop models very shortly), I didn’t want to put in a tuner card. The alternative is a USB HDTV tuner, and I was able to get a Gadget Geek USB DTV model from Dick Smith for under $100 which is quite reasonable. Allegedly the USB models are not as fast at processing as the cards, but so far so good – and I only really got it to prove whether or not I could get HDTV on the computer anyway.

This comes with Blaze HDTV software to allow you to record your programs. I set Blaze to scan for channels – and voila! All the digital channels available came through – and now I have HDTV on my computer 🙂

My Linux platform (Fedora 9) doesn’t recognise the USB HDTV tuner, so I can’t run MythTV as planned – but I suppose now I have at least one reason to boot into Windows 🙂

HDTV – myth or reality?

Being a geek, it is no surprise that my monitor (an Acer X223W) is bigger than my (Teac analogue) television. It therefore made sense that rather than upgrading my TV with a set top box, to investigate what’s on the market to receive HDTV on the computer.

The weapon of choice was a Gadget Geek USB HDTV tuner, purchased from Dick Smith for under $AUD 100. Not bad. Under Windows XP, it installed quickly and easily. The unit came with a mobile antenna and Blaze HD TV software, and on the first scan for channels, it found absolutely, yep you guessed it, nothing. So, out came the coax cable, and I plugged the USB HDTV tuner into the outlet in the wall (straight from the antenna – it was previously hooked into my stereo to receive FM radio). The coax cable only fared slightly better – receiving only the digital SBS channels. Just to be absolutely sure, I repeated the process on the other two coax outlets (yep, small unit and three phone lines and three coax outlets. I <3 my house. It will be even better when it’s CAT 6 wired). At most, I could receive 10% signal strength for one other digital channel.

Not to be deterred, I booted into my other operating system (Fedora Core 9) to see whether MythTV would fare any better. MythTV was a nightmare to install – it is not for Linux newbies. After spending four hours resolving dependencies in yum, I finally got the software to install… only to find that there are no Linux drivers for the USB HDTV tuner. Bummer.

Conclusion: I need a new antenna that can pick up HDTV signals. Well, it beats socks as an Xmas pressie 🙂

Remember me when I’m gone – memory book project

Juliette Reinders-Folmer, a colleague of mine from PHPWomen, is currently involved in a project which is both heartbreaking and heartwarming at once. It’s the ‘Remember me when I’m gone’ project – which provides parents who know that they will die while their children are young an opportunity to record a memory book. The memory book helps children foster a sense of identity after losing a parent, through being able to understand the messages and images left to them.

From their website;

Request for your help from the Remember me when I’m gone project The Remember me when I’m gone project is a world-wide, no-budget, non-profit initiative which aims to inspire, motivate and help parents who expect to die before their child(ren) have grown up, to make a memory book about their own life for their child / each of their children. Though the concept of memory books is valid in all situations where the early death of a parent is imminent, memory books have so far mainly been used in AIDS-related projects where the concept has more than proven its worth. The Remember me when I’m gone project opens up access to the memory book concept to all by providing a generic Memory Book template through the website www.remembermewhenimgone.org. We realize there are numerous projects in the field which already work with memory books, however with this project we hope to fill the gap for people who are not in these projects. This template can be downloaded free of charge and is currently available in over a 100 languages. Distribution of the template is freely allowed providing the document is distributed as is and without charge.