Tuesday, May 26, 2009


TV and Radio Cards

One of the great things about Linux and FOSS (Free Open Source Software) is that you can download the source code not only of programs but of modules. Modules under Linux are also known as LKMs or Loadable Kernel Modules. One very interesting example is the bttv module and you can download the source here. The bttv module is the module I used to get an old TV tuner card to work under Fedora.

The WinTV-GO-FM is a PCI card which can receive analog television and FM radio. With the pending switch-over to digital television these cards can be purchased on ebay for very little money. You might be thinking analog TV is on the way out but there are still channels like TV Ontario which are still analog only. Even with the change to digital it is still nice to have the ability to receive FM radio.

Linux applications which can be used with this card include gnomeradio for GNOME and kradio for KDE and the console radio program from the xawtv package. I prefer to use gnomeradio. The console radio program can only have 8 presets which is rather limiting.

The main thing is that you can learn a lot about your cards by looking at the source code of modules like bttv. I know my WinTV-GO-FM card is kind of limited, it can only do mono audio and can't do any mpeg2 compression in the hardware. It can act as a composite video input for a VCR which is nice to have. One could conceivably modify the bttv module to add features or even port it to another operating system. One might even learn enough from looking at the module to write their own module for hardware not yet supported!

Saturday, May 23, 2009


Thoughts on Fedora 10

Starting in the year 2009 I have been asked to replace Windows installs with Linux installs. Before this I had to coax people to try Linux. Over time this process has become easier and easier. My Linux distribution of choice nowadays is Fedora 10.

My experience with Fedora 10 has been mostly positive. I have installed it successfully on a Dell D610 laptop and also a Panasonic CF-48. I prefer using GNOME over KDE for a windows manager. I used to like KDE 3.4.2 over GNOME but Fedora 10 uses KDE 4.2.1 which to me just seems overly complex.

Some software seems to have become abandoned such as the scanner program Kooka. On one of my older systems I run Kooka 0.44 on Fedora Core 1 (using my old HP 5200C which runs like a tank) and I still prefer it to xsane. Of course both programs do mostly the same job. The thing is developers will usually stop working on older versions of software, so if you want your yum updates then you are pretty much forced to use latest and greatest.

All is not perfect with Fedora 10. One of the things it does which I don't like is auto-logout. Basically Fedora 10 is emulating what Windows XP does: after a period of time you are send back to the user login screen. There doesn't seem to be any way of disabling it which is annoying. It seems to perform software updates often which is good, but I'd rather it buffered all the updates and did it once a week. Doing updates every day seems like overkill.

Still all in all I was able to make Fedora 10 work well, which is important. Java, Flash, etc all worked correctly. One must still exercise some care in choosing your cards and peripherals but for the most part this newest Fedora was painless and even enjoyable. One may order Fedora Discs here.

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