Are there any TV Tuner Cards that work Well with Linux?

Tony Baechler tony at
Sat Sep 26 09:35:55 UTC 2015

I didn't see any replies to this, so here are my two cents, for whatever 
they're worth.  I'm assuming you're in the US for purposes of this 
discussion.  If you are not in the US, my apologies, but I am not familiar 
with international television systems.  As it turns out, I just did some 
research on this very subject.

On 9/23/2015 6:16 AM, Martin McCormick wrote:
> That's the whole message in the subject line. I want to come up
> with a DVR solution for us that is accessible. My wife is
> sighted so I hope to put together a system that will schedule
> recordings and have speakup available so I can tell what is going
> on.

Well, according to the 21st Century Video and Accessibility Act, (CVAA) the 
FCC has required all set top boxes to be accessible fairly soon.  I think by 
the end of 2016, but I'm not positive.  Therefore, a better option might be 
to wait and buy an actual DVR, like TiVo.  Comcast already has a very 
accessible option from what I here.  That said, there are Linux solutions, 
but they don't work with Speakup.  Specifically, they require X and may or 
may not work with Orca.  There is a screen reader in early development, but 
it doesn't seem to be officially packaged.  The two packages are:


If you go with Kodi, it's recommended to install it on a dedicated machine, 
but not necessary.  Kodi does let you schedule programs and has a screen 
reader in early development.  I recommend, as does upstream, to add their 
official repository to Ubuntu rather than relying on the shipped Debian and 
Ubuntu packages.

> 	A lot of what makes a tuner card work or not is whether
> or not the drivers exist in Linux. If they exist, then everything
> can be made to work. If not, you've just got another expensive
> warm brick.

Yes, there are definitely USB tuners, so that shouldn't be a problem, but it 
is no longer that simple.  See below.

> 	Our cable system went totally digital in August so in
> order to make our old Zenith VCR work, one must put an
> analog-to-digital converter ahead of it and this effectively
> renders the VCR's ability to select a channel useless since there
> is only one channel in it's world, now and that's whatever the
> output of the converter box is set to.

Ah, well that's the rub.  The problem is that you must have a special tuning 
adaptor provided by your cable company and you must have a PCI card which 
goes in your set top box.  I've done extensive research on this and can 
provide links proving my point if necessary.  In short, the standard is 
called Switched Digital Video or SDV.  You can read the Wikipedia article 
for the details.  Basically, it's another form of DRM.  The digital channels 
have some form of encryption which must be decoded by the provided tuning 
adaptor.  Your cablecard talks to the tuning adaptor telling it what channel 
you're currently watching.  Therefore, don't buy a card because it won't 
work.  It needs to be a two-way card which can send (to the tuning adaptor) 
and receive the decrypted signal.  Even if you found a USB tuner that works 
with Linux, you would still need the PCI card and tuning adaptor.  The 
tuning adaptor is also USB, but it's anyone's guess if it works with Linux 
or not.  The same goes for the PCI card.  I'm sure your cable company won't 
help you; at least that seems to be the common experience on the forums. 
I'm afraid I don't have any good answers for you except what I said above. 
Either get the Comcast solution or buy a DVR in a couple of years after the 
law is supposed to be enforced.

> 	If there is a DVR that does talk, I am interested in that
> but, failing that, I want a tuner card that works with Linux and
> that should get us going. Many thanks.

The only two I know of are Kodi and Comcast with the X1 (X-1?) operating 
system.  If you do figure out a better solution, I would also be very 
interested.  The other option, probably not to your liking, is to grab as 
much as possible online.  Lots of TV shows are available online and aren't 
too hard to grab with programs like youtube-dl.

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