Yes, I know that it's a bit early for a Christmas "wish list." But right at the top of my wish list is something that I've been wishing for during my entire time as a Linux user. And the bad thing about it is that I'm not sure who is to blame for its absence.
This month pretty much wraps up our article series on Kodi, the home theater, multimedia mega-program. The end comes without me having found a simple way to view and record live TV, by way of an accessory TV tuner, with Kodi. I know it's possible, but at the same time, it really shouldn't be THIS difficult. Windows wins this race, hands down.
What I have longed for is better support for TV tuners in Linux. First of all, it's not as if TV -- and TV tuners -- are new things. TV tuners have been around for, well, as long as there have been TVs. It really shouldn't require coexisting degrees in astrophysics and rocket science to get them to work under Linux.
Actually, I think the blame for the abysmal state of TV tuners on Linux has to be shared. First, the equipment manufacturers -- those making the TV tuners -- make them dedicated to work with Windows, using procedures and processes that ONLY work under Windows. The icing on the cake is that they keep the key parts of the hardware and software "closed source" so no one can possibly get them working on anything but Windows. Second, there hasn't been a concerted effort by the open source community to get TV tuners working under Linux. Sure, there are small pockets of people working on the problem, but it hasn't received nearly enough attention to make a significant impact. To really make users frustrated, some programs will see a particular TV tuner and others won't. All this tells me is that the groups working on this problem really aren't talking to one another or comparing notes, or that their egos are creating an insurmountable obstacle to the solution.
I bought a USB TV tuner that had positive reports of users getting it running under Linux. The results, should we say, are lackluster. Some applications -- such as SMPlayer -- can see the TV tuner and display the TV programming. Most others, such as VLC, MPlayer and Kodi ... well, not so much. To date, the ONLY Linux program that works consistently is SMPlayer, and it's marginal (as in barely watchable) at best. And this is after spending HOURS pouring over obscure forums and mailing list posts, in attempts to get the other programs to see and display the output from the TV tuner.
This was not my first attempt with a TV tuner under Linux, either. A few years back, when I built my desktop computer (which I chronicled here in the pages of The PCLinuxOS Magazine), I installed a TV tuner card -- one that, once again, had positive comments on Newegg of users getting it up and running under Linux. The ONLY thing that can see this particular TV tuner card is MythTV, which I've abandoned long ago due to it being way, overly complicated. Literally no other program can see, use or display images from this TV tuner card.
New users coming to Linux will want to do the things with their computers that they have done previously with the commercially available operating system ... namely, Windows. When they are faced with such a daunting task as getting their TV tuner working under Linux, that even someone (me) with a fairly extensive and long history with Linux can't get working, they will run back to their old proprietary operating system (Windows) with their tail between their legs, like the proverbial whipped puppy. Upon their return, they will regale their comrades with tales of how Linux is not yet ready for "prime time," and about how challenging it was to (not) get their TV tuner card recognized.
Eight years after joining the "Linux Revolution," I'm still waiting for proper support for TV tuner cards and devices. While I'm not running back to Windows ... or any other operating system ... my exercise in futility with TV tuners has left me frustrated and somewhat discouraged.
Occasionally, I'll drag it (the USB TV tuner) back out of the drawer or off the shelf I've banished it to out of frustration, and give it another try (which usually ends in yet another round of frustration and another subsequent banishment of the TV tuner). Each new Linux kernel release causes hope to spring eternal, with hopes that maybe THIS new kernel will finally allow my device(s) to work as they should. I have yet to experience the euphoria of my device(s) working as they should. Like I mentioned earlier, it really shouldn't be THIS difficult.
If I EVER get either of the TV tuners to work, and work well and consistently under Linux, you all will be the first to know. I'm sure there's a process to undertake that won't be for the faint of heart. I'll do my best to detail that process, step by step, if I ever arrive at a solution myself.
Until next month, I bid you peace, happiness, serenity and prosperity.