Monday 4 July 2011


 The problem: I pay Sky a fortune a month (ok, not as much as some people do, but still), and feel that after I've had several Sky+ boxes fail and Sky really don't care, that there must be a better option.

In the house, we rarely watch sky1/2/3, Sky movies or all the other junk thats on there. We mainly watch the 4 terestrial channels (ignoring 5, who watches that anyway?), Dave and occasionally the other "UK" group of channels (gold, etc). So looking at this and since I already have a Sky minidish, I thought why not go with XBMC and some sort of free-sat backend decoder. Well doing a bit of research and thanks to Andy Newton at work, I was pointed in the direction of TV Headend. Ordering a single cheap satellite decoder PCI card for one of my servers and to get things moving along.

Installed the PCI card, installed a basic Ubuntu server and then TV Headend, and it was quite easy to get working. A few of the settings in TV Headend are complicated at first, until you know the magic sequence to do things in, so here we go:

  1. Install TV Headend and go to the web gui
  2. Choose Configuration tab, and TV Adapters
  3. In the drop-down choose your card (if none are listed, then linux hasn't found the card, or its not V4L2 compatible)
  4. Tick Idle scanning and Monitor signal quality
  5. Then click Add DVB by network, from the list that pops up Astra 28E, which is the standard Sky transponder/satellite
  6. That will have populated the Muxes for you, you now need to wait as it scans them and checks for signal and identification. (You can see this happening, on the GENERAL tab, you'll see Services, Muxes and awaiting initial scan. The initial scan number should keep going down as it detect them. Go to the Multiplexes tab and you'll see signal quality and the list that its found. Generally you should see a good percentage (over 40%) and the network field filled in. Give it 10-15 minutes and see how its got on. I had to delete a few that had errors and just never got values filled in.
  7. When Tv Headend is ready, and its identified all the muxes you can press the MAP services to channels button (if its not available, then there are still muxes awaiting initial scan, let it scan, or delete the faulty muxes)
  8. Leave TV Headend to map the services to channels - NOTE this generally disrupts watching TV if you're already watching on a different card, etc
  9. When done, click on the services tab and you'll see its done its work. Ignore invalid/empty entries, those will be tidied up later
  10. Now go to XMLTV and configure that (along with the command-line setup)
  11. Finally check under Channels and it should be looking good
  12. After XMLTV and TV Headend have sync'd up, go to EPG and you should see data. Then move onto the front-end config


That should get TV Headend running. Repeat for each of your decoders. I use a combination of DVB-S (Satellite) and DVB-T (Terestrial) receivers, that way I get the maximum number of channels (some channels are only available on Terestrial) and have the ability to record/playback/watch simultaneously too.

I'll post on next steps to get XBMC and your front-end up and running next time.

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