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Customer Review

on November 23, 2012
This thing produces amazing picture and sound quality even with weak signals. Of course, if the signals are really weak in your area (see TVfool), you'll need an antenna placed where it can detect the signals, and with enough gain to boost them to a level suitable for an antenna preamp. Once that's done, you should have no problems getting amazing video and audio from this overpriced project box with a couple of silicon tuner ICs and leds inside. If anyone else made a similar product, they'd have to compete and the price would drop to about $30.

You'd think that SiliconDust would spend some of their obscene profits on documentation for Linux. Windows installation is automatic, so no Windows documentation is required.

After flailing about for a couple of days, I discovered that the necessary software (hdhomerun-config and hdhomerun-config_gui) can be installed automatically on a computer running Ubuntu, via the Synaptic Package Manager, which itself might first have to be installed via the Ubuntu Software Center. Ubuntu Software Center installs only the GUI, which oddly doesn't facilitate recording - just tuning, essentially. However, I'm not certain that Synaptic Package Manager installs the VLC player, which is one of the few players that can play the HDHomeRun's output directly. So I suggest installing all of the software first via Synaptic, and then checking for the VLC player. If it's not present, then install the GUI software via Ubuntu Software Center - it will install only what Synaptic didn't. Or you could get a degree in programming, and do it manually.

Then, by entering some simple commands (outlined below) into command-lines in terminal windows, you can save the HDHomeRun's output directly to your hard drive with no conversion to another format, so the recordings are also amazing, but they consume a lot of disk space. (By the way, the xfs format is the most efficient for recording and deleting those potentially vast ts files, so you might want to create a partition for your Videos directory and give it the xfs format.)

The HDHomeRun can be connected directly to PC's, and this paragraph describes how this is done with a computer running Ubuntu 12.04. (Connecting the HDHR to a router would be simpler, if you had a router.) In Windows, this setup is totally automatic, but in Ubuntu, it's only partly automatic. In Ubuntu (as with Windows), you have to first connect the signal and power to the HDHomerun, and connect it to your PC. Then you open the System Settings ("gear" icon on left of screen) and select Network, select Wired, and then set the on/off button to On. Then, you click on Options, then IPv4 Settings. Then, in the Method box, select Link-Local Only, and Ubuntu will automatically establish a connection to the HDHomeRun. The exact procedure will vary between some versions of Ubuntu, but I assume there will be some resemblance. If the HDHR and your computer ever have difficulty establishing a connection, after having established connections previously, go into System Settings/Network/Wired and verify that the port is turned on. Sometime clicking on Rescan in the HDHR control panel helps.

At this point, you should be able to fire up the HDHomeRun GUI by clicking on its icon on the left side of the screen (assuming you let the Ubuntu Software Center and Synaptic Package Manager install the HDHomeRun software, as described above). You should also be able to find channels and view them via the VLC player. (If scenes with motion appear "smeared," this could be due to the VLC player's difficulty with de-compressing the amount of compression used by that station. One fix is to record it and convert it to another format before viewing.) YOU CAN ALSO SAVE THE PROGRAM YOU'RE WATCHING to Downloads by clicking on the Record button, which can be made to appear by clicking on View in the main menu, and selecting Advanced Controls.

The VLC player produces smeared/pixelated video when playing some programs, because some high-definition programs are difficult to decode "on the fly" due to the amount of compression used in encoding them. Although I can't rule out other solutions, one solution that works very well for me is to save the program to disk, and convert it to a format which is easier to play. A "transcoder" program called Handbrake performs such conversions very simply, and with excellent results. You just need enough space on your drive for the source file and the output file.

As far as I know, VLC doesn't facilitate recording both tuners' outputs simultaneously. Its documentation doesn't say anything about recording, and there's nothing about recording with VLC on the internet either (or at least there wasn't until this was published), other than a passing remark about the hidden Record button.

However, there is a way to record the outputs of both tuners simultaneously without installing any more software. It requires typing (or copying/pasting) text into the Linux command-line, which is accessed by pressing Ctrl-Alt-t. Pasting into the command line in done with Ctrl-Shift-v.

First, set each tuner to the desired channel, and note that each tuner has the same ID#, followed by -0 or -1 (displayed in the GUI). Then open two terminal-windows, because once you start a recording process in one window, you won't be able to enter any more commands into it.

Then decide where you want to put the recordings (.ts files) and change the directory (folder) to that directory by typing cd Downloads or cd Videos (or whatever folder you want to use) into the command line, and pressing Enter. (Note: the cd command is case-sensitive, so that "videos" is not the same directory as "Videos.") Then decide what you want to name the files. In the first, terminal, enter the following command:

hdhomerun_confg ID# save /tunerN filename.ts,

where ID# is the tuner's ID#, N is 0 or 1, and filename is the file where you want to save that tuner's output. (These commands can be found in the HDHomeRun Development Guide, which can be found by Googling the title.)

That should start the recording process for that tuner, and the terminal-window will start filling up with dots to indicate recording in progress.

To record the other tuner's output, do the same thing in another terminal-window.

To stop EACH recording, click on the ID# of the associated tuner in the GUI "control panel," click on Stop, and then close the associated terminal-window.

Once you're done recording, you can close the terminal windows, open the VLC player, and open the recording you want to watch.

Those who want to automate recording to a degree similar to that of programming a VCR should consider HDHomeRun Recorder. The official page can be found by Googling "hdhomerun_recorder" (with the quotation marks and the underscore). As of this writing (12/12), the best set of instructions I've seen on installing and using it is contained in the Michigan Telephone blog, also evidently written by a programmer.
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