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Chronos TV Card in Ubuntu

Posted by on January 2, 2009

Getting the Chronos TV Card (Phillips SAA7130HL) to work in Ubuntu (8.04):

There are several generic TV Cards based on the SAA713x that do not have an eeprom with product ID. This causes the card to be detected as generic and most of the features are not enabled. In order to get these cheaper TV cards to work, you have to pull a few tricks out the sleeve. The first thing to do is to identify the features on the card.

The card I have has a Composite in, S-Video in, Line-in and Line-out, IR Remote control port, and a Tuner Unit with Radio and UHF (Analogue TV).

Now when you first install the card and boot Ubuntu, dmesg has a fat rant and lists all the possible options for you. The first thing is to google some of the cards and find one that has the same features as your card.

You will see that after the name of each card in the list is a subsystem ID in the format of xxxx:xxxx, and below the list, your cards subsystem id will also be listed something like:

saa7130[0]: subsystem: 1131:0000, board: UNKNOWN/GENERIC [card=0,autodetected]

From this you can focus on only those with subsystem id starting in 1131:xxxx or without a subsystem ID listed after the name. This will cut down the list quite nicely. In my case, the black philips chip had saa7130 and NOT saa7134 printed on it, so I started with cards that had saa7130 in the description.

After a little googlin, I found a site selling “Sabrent SBT-TVFM” which from the pics matched my card 100% (except for the stickers of course). So my card choice is number 42.

So we try it first by unloading the on-boot modules:

sudo modprobe -vr saa7134_dvb
sudo modprobe -vr saa7134_alsa
sudo modprobe -vr saa7134

and then re-inserting the modules with card option specified:

sudo modprobe -v saa7134 card=42

We can test the card with tvtime (sudo apt-get install tvtime). Press “i” to switch between tv, composite, s-video etc. and “q” to quit.

Now the Composite in was working, but still no TV. tvtime kept complaining about no signal. This is because the tuner module is mostly country specific. In South Africa we use PAL-I, so they obviously can’t sell us a NTSC tuner unit. All we need to do now is find the correct tuner.

This was more challenging as dmesg doesn’t provide you a convienient list to choose and experiment from. However, the kernel docs are fairly good place to look for these lists. Now most installs of Ubuntu won’t have the kernel docs installed by default so grab a google again and look for “CARDLIST.tuner” and within the first link or 2 you’ll have what you need. (Ref: http://ubuntuforums.org/showthread.php?t=850160)

From here it was a simple matter of trying each of the Philips PAL tuners until I found the right one.

So unload everything again:

sudo modprobe -vr saa7134_dvb
sudo modprobe -vr saa7134_alsa
sudo modprobe -vr saa7134

and then load up with the card and the tuner options set:

sudo modprobe -v saa7134 card=42 tuner=38

rinse and repeat until you find the tuner that works, and keep testing with tvtime. Once you have all the settings you need and your tvtime is happy, we need make it persistent.

I created a new file: /etc/modprobe.d/saa7134 and added the following:

options saa7134 card=42 tuner=38
options tuner show_i2c=1 pal=I

Save, reboot and test to make sure everything is still in order. Check dmesg again to make sure no errors or complaints, and we are good to go.

PS: For sound to work while watching tv on the localhost, I had to run a dummy cable from the line-out of the tv card to the line-in on my sound card. Whats wierd though, is that I could record directly from the alsa device of the tv card. If anyone has any ideas or good resources for making alsa play nice, feel free to leave a comment. To be honest it works like this, making me too lazy to try find a fix. I bet its something silly like a switch in the mixer panel.

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