Installing a DVB-T stick : a comparison

Dvb-T Receiver

Dvb-T Receiver (patent pending)

I recently bought a Pinnacle PCTV DVB-T Stick Solo 72e (bonus points for Pinnacle’s over-the-top naming scheme), because the public TV services in Belgium switched to digital broadcasting. It was the €40 pricetag which turned me. The box contains the USB 2.0 stick and an antenna. I advise on attaching this antenna to a metal object (the attach point is magnetic).  I attached it to my desk lamp. I can’t light it and watch TV, but that’s a setback I can live with. No issue.

What’s the real issue then? More behind the cut.

As expected, the box listed only Windows XP/Vista as supported operating systems. I’m no raving Linux nerd going berserk over this. That’s fine. I chose to buy this. I read the requirements, and I didn’t expect it to work at all on an unsupported system.

I however did expect it to work on a supported system. Let’s do a comparison on my ventures into installing this product on my two main OS’es:

(Please note that this is not a comparison of the operating systems themselves. My point is that vendor-bundled software and shady installation dialogues are problematic for a good user experience.)

Me TV Ubuntu 8.10Ubuntu 8.10 (Unsupported OS)

  • Plugged in stick and set up antenna
  • dmesg notifies me that the hardware is found and installed
  • I look in the add/remove program sections for a good digital tv viewer. I choose to install Me TV, a client for the Gnome desktop.
  • I start Me TV, it looks for channels and starts playing.

0 reboots later, the only thing I had to install was a viewer supporting DVB-T.

Windows XP MCE (Supported OS)

  • Following the printed quickstart guide, I plugged in the stick and set up the antenna
  • Windows notifies me of new hardware found, I tell it to look for drivers. It finds supported drivers and installs them.
  • I popped in the supplied CD to install Pinnacle TV Center Pro, an application to view digital TV streams
  • The installer loads, and allows me to choose between standard and custom installation. Well-experienced with these vendor installers, I pick custom.
  • A list of software I was about to install appears. I disable the following: DivX Bundle (oh come on …), Pinnacle VideoSpin (video editing software). A lot of the options in the list have no explanation at all. Do I want to install things like tvtv ? TitanTV ? NDIS ?. I though I was installing Pinnacle TV Center Pro?
  • Install continues, fails to detect that I have already installed newer driver versions and overwrites the newer drivers with old ones.
  • Reboot
  • After the reboot, two new programs have been added to my taskbar: TV Center Pro Quicklauncher and TV Streaming server. Quicklauncher ? What’s the purpose? If every program I installed came with a quicklauncher, it would render the whole system pointless. TV Streaming Server? A service which was started without my confirmation to stream incoming TV streams to a port on my system. Ditch this crap.
  • I try to launch the TV Center Pro application. After being bugged with ‘Register Your Product‘-dialogs, I enter the first-time setup wizard.
  • Although I selected English as my main language, some descriptive texts are in Danish. My Scandinavian languages are a little rusty, but I manage to scan for channels and set up the program.
  • When I click finish, the main program launches.
  • Popup: CNDSkinProblem: ChameleonPalette not found in Program Files/Pinnacle/TVCenter/Skins/./Chameleon/Palettes/ToolbarDescriptionPallet.xml
  • (7 more popups of this genre follow)
  • Final popup notifies me that due to an unknown problem, the program cannot be started. Note that this is vendor-supplied software.
  • I thought I might have screwed up the install real bad. Maybe I deselected ‘Skins’ in the custom install. Bad design option to not supply your program with a standard skin.
  • Uninstall, reinstall with standard options
  • Reboot
  • Shivering at the sight of crap like DivX Bundle Pro, VideoSpin and others on my desktop, I try to load TvCenter Pro again. Same error messages.
  • I start to dig in the folder structure, and find the XML files the program is looking for. I place them one directory up.
  • Quicklauncher starts to complain, asks me to reboot
  • Reboot
  • Works okay now.

So here I am, 3 reboots later, my desktop bloated with crap I don’t need and a half-baked TV viewer I had to fix myself.

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