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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Aug 2005
    Ubuntu 10.04 Lucid Lynx

    HOWTO: Watch digital TV (Freeview)

    Watching Digital TV (Freeview) in Ubuntu

    Introduction - PLEASE READ
    I haven't tried this since 8.04 (I no longer have a Freeview tuner), so some steps may no longer be necessary. It should still work though (on 8.10 or 9.04).

    This guide is aimed towards the UK, but it may work in other countries too.

    There are now two ways to watch TV:
    (1) If you have a digital tuner continue reading the post below.
    (2) If you don't have a tuner (or you can't be bothered to set it up) you can now watch most digital channels over the internet using Zattoo. Simply go to the website, download and install.

    What is required?
    Most of what you need to watch digital TV in Ubuntu is installed by default. There are three things required:
    1. A tuner
    2. The right modules
    3. The right firmware
    4. And a program to watch TV with

    Go through each heading in this guide and after each section check if the TV is working yet by using Kaffeine (see below). Hopefully, by the end of the page you will have installed everything you need to enjoy digital TV in Ubuntu.

    TV App and Codecs
    The best program by far for watching TV is Kaffeine. It is installed by default in Kubuntu but not in Ubuntu, so that's the first thing we need to do. Launch the terminal and enter the following. This will install Kaffeine and the necessary codecs. If you feel more comfortable doing this in Synaptic then by all means, go ahead.
    sudo apt-get install kaffeine libxine1-ffmpeg
    It is also important to make sure that the user who is trying to watch TV is in the "video" group. To add them launch the terminal and add the following (replacing "tom" with the name of the user you want to add to the group).
    sudo usermod -G video -a tom
    Kernel modules are a tricky business and outside the scope of this HOWTO. Suffice it to say that modules are to Linux what drivers are to Windows. The right modules are already installed by default and are usually loaded automatically when needed. There are a few digital TV devices that aren't always autodetected. Bugs are filed against these so this should be fixed soon*. Try loading these modules then see if Kaffeine works. Try only one module at a time.
    sudo modprobe em28xx
    sudo modprobe cx88-dvb
    sudo modprobe dvb-bt8xx
    If that works then you need to set the module to be loaded each boot. enter the following in the terminal. Replace the module name (i.e. "cx88_dvb") with whichever of the above it was that worked.
    sudo sh -c "echo "cx88_dvb" >> /etc/modules"
    * As of March 19th 2008 there seem to be no bugs filed - maybe these have been fixed?

    As well as the module, Ubuntu needs the firmware for the device so that the two know how to talk to eachother. Firmwares are stored in /lib/firmware/ in folders by kernel version (take a look at /lib/firmware/ to see what I mean). These are installed by the package linux-restricted-modules. However the package doesn't always contain all the firmware files available. Therefore I have produced a collection of extra firmware files (attached). Install this package then reboot your TV tuner (by unplugging and plugging in or by rebooting the computer) and then launch Kaffeine. To install simply download the attachment then double-click it to install.



    Januray 11 2009
    • Added info about Zattoo.

    April 19 2008
    • Updated with new package (see changelog below). I've kept the old package in case the new one breaks something.
    • Removed list of old changes. Does anyone care?

    Changelog for Firmware Bundle

    April 2008 - 1.5.5-0ubuntu1


    For more information on digital TV in Linux, visit
    If this tutorial fails, and I don't respond to your cries for help within 2 weeks, give this page a try -

    I will try and keep the firmware package updated every few months or as requested.

    Post any questions/problems you have and I'll do my best to answer
    Please run dmesg|tail then plug in your device and post the output in your question.
    Attached Files Attached Files
    Last edited by tom56; January 11th, 2009 at 03:50 PM.


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