Installation of Hauppauge WinTV-PVR 350
The Hauppauge WinTV-PVR 350 is a PCI card that gives x86-based computers the ability to receive, display, record, play back, and edit TV broadcasts. It has connections for a TV antenna, FM radio antenna, S-video input, audio input, and A/V output. It comes with infrared remote control, FM antenna, plug-in IR sensor, and a composite to S-video adapter. Two slightly cheaper cards, the PVR-150 and PVR-250, lack the A/V output and FM radio antenna jacks. This means they also lack a hardware MPEG2 decoder, and therefore cannot send video signals to a TV or VCR. According to the Linux TV website (www.linuxtv.org), the Hauppauge PVR 350 and PVR 250 are currently the best-supported TV cards in Linux. The PVR-350 supports NTSC M (525 lines per frame, 640x480 pixels per image) and PAL B/G, PAL I, PAL M, and PAL N up to 720x576. It is an analog-only card and does not accept digital RF or baseband digital video signals. In fact, there are only a few cards that handle the American "high definition" digital TV standard (ATSC); most current digital TV cards are designed for the European market, which uses the lower resolution DVB-T standard, which is basically digitized PAL. ( Note: since this page was written, several HDTV (ATSC) cards have come on the market.)
The hardware MPEG decoder and encoder are very desirable features, because they greatly reduce the CPU load and make configuration easier. The PVR-350 handles the following video formats:
- MPEG1 VCD (0.65 GB/hr)
- MPEG2 2 Mbits/sec Full D1 (0.9 GB/hr)
- MPEG2 2 Mbits/sec Half D1 (0.9 GB/hr)
- MPEG2 12 Mbits/sec Full D1 (5.4 GB/hr)
- MPEG2 12 Mbits/sec (CBR) (5.4 GB/hr)
- DVD Standard play 8Mbits/sec (3.1 GB/hr)
- DVD Long play 6.2Mbits/sec (2.4 GB/hr)
- DVD Extra long play 2.5Mbits/sec (1.2 GB/hr)
- SVCD Standard play 2.5Mbits/sec (0.8 GB/hr)
Clearly, editing such large files would require a lot of patience. Just writing the finished file to disk would be a very time-consuming step. New thinking will be needed to create a generation of editors that can deal with video files efficiently. The card can also capture single images. Click here for some sample images (1525K).
Now that the courts in this country (USA) have finally overruled the "broadcast flag" promoted by the FCC and Hollywood, which had threatened to kill off the digital home recording industry, it is feasible to consider retiring your old, unreliable VCRs and replacing them with new, unreliable PCs. The only restraining factor is the impending switch to all-digital broadcast TV. The date of the switch changes frequently. Currently, it's set for February 17, 2009. If this deadline is enforced, after that date the Hauppauge card will no longer be able to handle signals from an antenna. However, cable TV signals are apparently exempt from the switch and some cable channels may still continue in analog format for a few more years.
The only problem still remaining is the complete lack of good TV programming. Of course, this is just a minor detail. The important thing is the gadget itself.
Installation in Windows 2000
Before trying to get the card working in Linux, I installed it in an old PC running Windows 2000 (W2K) in order to make sure it works and to become familiar with it. The computer was a Sony PCV-RX280DS with an Intel 1.0 GHz processor, 128 MB RAM, and 49 GB free disk space. This computer has only 3 PCI slots plus an AGP slot that contains an ASUS 7100 NVIDIA card.
Here is the procedure I used:
- Installed board in slot 1.
- Windows detected new hardware, installed drivers, then rebooted.
- Used 'My Computer' to run 'setup' on the Hauppauge CD.
- Setup installed an updated driver, then presented the following
error message along with a message recommending to abort the installation.
This error message caused a lot of trouble. I tried moving the card to slot 2, clearing the hardware settings with a program called 'hwclear.exe' on the Hauppauge CD (which forces Windows to re-detect the card), and rebooting the PC several times, which normally makes Windows very happy. The Hauppauge website had no useful information on this problem. The Windows Device Manager claimed that a driver was present and the device was working properly. I finally realized that the error message was bogus and ignored it, and finished installing the software.
wintv board not found: gethdl failed
- After rebooting, Windows hung on "Preparing Network Connections". It was necessary to pull the power plug to reboot. Somewhat surprisingly, Windows did not trash itself at this point and rebooted successfully.
- WinTV2000 started, found the correct TV channels, but the display was black, there was no sound, and the remote control didn't work. Installing IR32.exe from the CD got the remote control working. As for the black picture, this is apparently a common problem. The Hauppauge website suggested to run Start>Programs>Hauppauge>Primary and select "Force Primary". This had no effect.
- Upon checking Control Panel>Add/Remove Programs, I discovered that the Intervideo Filter SDK was not listed. After installing hcwSM02.exe, hcwSM03.exe, hcwSM04.exe, and hcwSM05.exe from the SMD folder on the CD, there was finally picture and sound.
- The TV window hung when changing channels in TV mode. It was necessary to kill it with the Task Manager. At this point, WinTV would not restart and the PC would not reboot. Yanked the power cable out again. After rebooting, it was fine.
- The WinTV Radio also had not been installed and had to be set up manually. It's a fairly rudimentary radio application that resembles xmcd in appearance. It only picks up the FM broadcast band, but works reasonably well.
The picture is not as sharp as a regular TV, and changing channels is slower. MPEG artifacts are minimal, but MPEG blockiness becomes very noticeable if the signal is weak. The RF sensitivity is slightly less than a regular TV. There is no closed captioning or XDS. On a 1.0 GHz computer, the CPU usage remained at around 50% while it was running, with spikes up to 55% during a scene change. This makes frequent jerkiness and pauses inevitable. The window turned completely black when the task manager was opened.
Another problem was that the CD appears to copy-protected, making it inconvenient to make backup copies of the software.
The radio also works in Windows. With the supplied dipole antenna, it picks up cool computer sounds on most frequencies as well as a few broadcast signals. It only tunes the standard FM broadcast band (from 87 to 108 MHz), unlike some other real radios like the Sony ICF-SW100, which tunes down to 76 MHz.
Even though there's no tuning knob, you can still tune the radio stepwise. For some reason, many "real" radios no longer have a way of tuning them other than "scanning" to the next big signal. My guess is this is an attempt to get people to abandon listening to the radio altogether. Perhaps utilities like the WinTV Radio will help revitalize the dying radio industry. The WinTV Radio should not be confused with the WinRadio, which is a sophisticated shortwave receiver made by an Australian company.
The radio antenna that comes with the WinTV also picks up hash from the computer and conducts it to the TV signal, creating interference on some channels. This makes the WinTV RF sensitivity falsely appear to be worse than it really is. If you use the radio, be sure to connect a coaxial cable to an external antenna and place the antenna far away from the computer and any other source of interference. The same applies if you use a TV antenna.
The picture is delayed by about two seconds compared to a real TV. The sound and picture frequently become out of sync when using the Windows software. The program crashes if it's left running for more than about 24 hours.
No blue screen
The WinTV-PVR 350 has one feature that deserves high praise: when an external video source is attached, the picture does not switch to a blue screen if the signal is too weak to display. This puts the 350 in a class above many other televisions made today. Some TV manufacturers these days seem to have decided that everyone is getting their signal from a strong source like a cable or DVD player, and when the signal is below a certain level the audio and video are muted. This makes them useless for rural users, ham ATV operators, and for TV DXing.
I tested the ability of the PVR 350 to handle weak signals by connecting the video output of an Icom R3 UHF receiver to the S-video jack (using an S-video to RCA adapter), or through an RF modulator to the PVR's antenna F-connector. Of course, the picture quality under weak signal conditions was inferior to the signal quality on an old-fashioned analogue TV like the Sony KV-13M10 (which works perfectly with the Icom R3). But the PVR 350 continued to produce both a picture and sound, struggling mightily to keep up with the real-time picture without once muting the sound or producing a blue screen. And unlike an analog TV, the PVR-350 could capture signals to a disk file. Well done, Hauppauge.
Installation in Linux
To be continued ... I'll get to it later ... Bonanza is on ...