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Watch TV on your Iyonix

By Chris Williams. Published: 6th Jul 2003, 23:28:11 | Permalink | Printable

Castle's machine gets further PCI headstart

Iyonix user Simon Wilson has this weekend revealed details of his PCI TV Card project for the Castle Iyonix. Simon hopes to freely release a driver for TV cards that employ either of the Conexant BT848/849/879 chips and he suggests the Pinnacle PCTV Rave as a suitable card.

TV Cards, funnily enough, allow you to tune in and pick up TV stations and watch them on your computer and record the broadcast onto your harddisc. You can also hook up your camcorder or VCR as an alternative signal source.

Simon's TV card project is interesting for a few reasons, which is why it's getting an article to itself despite not being complete (although we'd rather avoid having another Cineroma case on our hands).

First, the TV card works by solely communicating with the Iyonix video system so it can plot received images directly to the screen. All this occurs with little intevention by the main XScale processor, leaving it free to do other tasks like run desktop applications. This isn't to say that this sort of hardware based activity is a first for RISC OS, it's just that the TV card's overlay system is a good demonstration of using dedicated hardware to do specific and intensive processing.

Secondly, it's nice to see a third party developer turning out a driver for some PCI based hardware. It's all well and good finally having a PCI enabled RISC OS computer but now's the time to start getting available cards supported.
Simon's driver is a port of the bttv linux driver.

Now this could be us being typically cynical but it's just occured to us that the Castle PCI software interface is most probably going to be different to the PCI software interface that MicroDigital will employ in their Omega. This means we'll hit a driver split like we faced with USB. Just like drivers for the Simtec USB solution won't work with the Castle USB solutions and vice versa, we expect PCI drivers for the Iyonix to be incompatible with the Omega and vice versa.

Will such a driver split be a big factor in helping people decide which machine to purchase? If so, the Iyonix already has an immediate headstart with Simon's PCI TV card work and the PCI cards supported by Castle.

Finally, Simon's work means we can watch and record TV on our RISC OS machines, which is ace. Simon's driver is in testing at the moment, so stay tuned for more details when the software is released.


Iyonix PCI TV Card project Also, Simon's Iyonix vs. RiscPC speed tests and Netlights app.

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Nice one. Lets hope this is the first of many :-)

Oh almost forgot...

First post

-- Steve Knutson

 is a RISC OS Userknutson on 7/7/03 5:25AM
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This news has many implications, using your RISC OS box as a security system is just one.

I look forward to a driver for digital TV cards so we can watch Freeview under RISC OS.

 is a RISC OS Userjonix on 7/7/03 9:28AM
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Does anybody know how much a PCI TV card of this sort costs?


 is a RISC OS UserMartyn Fox on 7/7/03 9:49AM
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From 30.

 is a RISC OS Usermoss on 7/7/03 9:50AM
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I sold precisely one of these cards for 15UKP to a friend a few weeks ago (I have a real telly in my office). But I'm sure you can find plenty on eBay.

In any case, this card demonstrates a few things:

- That you can buy off-the-shelf PCI cards (3.3V or universally keyed of course) and make drivers for them for the Iyonix.

- That the PCI layer in the Iyonix is quite usable to people outside Castle.

- That one of the last advantages of the Omega (hardware MPEG), is easily also done in the Iyonix with a suitable card (Yes, I realise that this doesn't apply fully to the Rave cards)

-- Peter, drobe.co.uk

 is a RISC OS Usermrchocky on 7/7/03 10:02AM
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MrChocky, You forgot to mention the first advantage of the Iyonix over the Omega - one is widely availablie, the other is widely talked about but not available as of yet. -- Paul Stewart, Bletchley, Milton Keynes

 is a RISC OS Usersa110 on 7/7/03 12:25PM
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That's a bit off topic, and it's been thrashed to death. My point was about Omega advantages, not Iyonix ones, so no, I didn't forget it.

The point is, available or not, the reasons for getting an Omega over an Iyonix are quickly vanishing.

-- Peter, drobe.co.uk

 is a RISC OS Usermrchocky on 7/7/03 12:44PM
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Yes, but don't forget that you only have four PCI slots and every one of these cards will use one of them, whereas the Omega uses its FPGAs for most of these features, leaving the PCI slots for expansion wich needs connectiors to the outside of the computer.

-- Julian G. F. Zimmerle

 is a RISC OS UserJGZimmerle on 7/7/03 12:53PM
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No, sorry Julian. I don't agree with what you're saying there at all. Explain how I hook up my SCSI card to the FPGA, or Composite signal from my TV tuner into the FPGA then? If anything it'll need some connector, and assuming the sun does shine out of MD's arse and they manage to turn the FPGA into a TV decoder (which I would like to point out is about as likely as managing to get a knob of butter up a porcupines arse, with a red-hot knitting needle) will be a PCI slot, and will need to be mounted somewhere (PCI slots being the ideal here, suprise).

But of course, this is the real world.

 is a RISC OS Userpiemmm on 7/7/03 1:02PM
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I am very pleased to hear about this project. There are a lot of interesting video/TV related things available as open source. The one thing I don't quite understand is the reason why a mono card was chosen instead of a stereo one - is this a problem of PCI card availability for the Iyonix PCI restrictions, or a software problem?

 is a RISC OS Userhubersn on 7/7/03 1:24PM
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While I really don't like this business of making an Iyonix good news story into an Omega bad news story, the advantages which Julian states are only advantages if they work, and as I understand it, the MPEG and OpenGL stuff does not work. Having free PCI slots is obviously a good thing, but most Macs sold these days do not have *any* PCI slots, and most people cope OK, so it's not really a big whoop IMHO.

g0tai: What a very colourful analogy.

On the MD note, I watched the MPEG on MD at Wakefield (thanks to Drobe and g0tai's hosting) and I've got a bit more time for them now, but *still* we await shipping!.

 is a RISC OS Userthegman on 7/7/03 1:28PM
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As I said on TIB, I thoroughly recommend watching (or now, listenting to) the ROL presentation.

Steffen: I understand that that's just what was available. These cards are widespread (they are even made in Germany), and more advanced models have Stereo.

The availability of more slots on the Omega is all very well, but guess which machines most RISC OS developers now have, or are planning to get? Castle are keen to have pepople write drivers and profit from doing so. Unless MD plan to write a wealth or drivers themselves, or conform to Castle's interface, it doesn't seem like there will be many options for PCI expanison on Omega.

-- Peter, drobe.co.uk

 is a RISC OS Usermrchocky on 7/7/03 1:47PM
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I probably download the ROL tonight, give it a look.

with regard to the Iyonix/Omega PCI card thing, maybe Simon will let us know what changes he had to make to the Linux driver, if the changes were not that much, then maybe it would not be a big deal to port to the Omega (insert standard disclaimer about non-ability to buy one...)

 is a RISC OS Userthegman on 7/7/03 1:54PM
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BTW, my G4 Mac has 5 PCI slots.

 is a RISC OS Userpiemmm on 7/7/03 2:07PM
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You are just bragging now! but most Macs do not have any, I think about %30 - %40 of Apple sales are laptops, and loads of the remainder are iMacs and eMacs.

The only reason I've ever bought PCI cards is to replace parts of a PC which don't work under Linux, I had a PC a few years back, which did not have a NIC, and neither the sound nor video worked :-(

I bought a NIC and USB for my RiscPC, but obviously not required with Iyonix.

I just think that arguments surrounding number of PCI slots are pretty spurious as most people never use them anyway. If it gets to the point that you actually run out of slots, then you've got a valid beef.

 is a RISC OS Userthegman on 7/7/03 2:37PM
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Steffen - I chose a mono card simply because I doubt my efforts to get stereo sound working in the USA would be useful. Europe uses the Nicam standard for stereo sound, AFAIK. If someone does choose to get a stereo card then I would be more than happy to help them add to the driver.

Garry - I will be writing an article soon on how I was able to produce the driver. -- Simon Wilson, Boulder, Colorado

 is a RISC OS Userksattic on 7/7/03 3:41PM
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Simon: Should be very interesting, as will the release of your WIMP app.

 is a RISC OS Userthegman on 7/7/03 3:47PM
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I am not sure which parts of Europe use NICAM, but Germany certainly does not. Plain FM analogue stereo.

I did a bit of searching, but haven't found a card that would ideally suit my needs. Pinnacle PCTV Pro is ok however, given that we will get Iyonix Sound In soon...

Does anyone know whether the Pinnacle PCTV Sat comes with an integrated MPEG2 decoder? Or, alternativly, a DVB card based on the usual TechnoTrend design, but with universal/3,3V signalling?

 is a RISC OS Userhubersn on 7/7/03 5:41PM
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Steffen - thanks for the info about Germany's stereo sound. Make sure that the card you buy to use in your IYONIX has the BT8xx video processor. It should not be too difficult to get a Satellite (digital?) card working as long as it supports image overlay. Presumably it would just need a new tuner driver. Perhaps the Linux DVB (digital video broadcasting) project would be a help. -- Simon Wilson, Boulder, Colorado

 is a RISC OS Userksattic on 7/7/03 5:53PM
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This sounds a tres bien idea, can't wait for one...:)

Damn forgot i don't have an Iyonix yet - noooooooooooooo!!!! :(

Still all the best, and as soon as i buy an iyonix, i will definitely buy one of these cards!

 is a RISC OS UserTimothy609 on 7/7/03 6:18PM
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The Hauppauge DVB-T card (which I own) has no hardware MPEG2 decompression -- the card merely provides the raw MPEG transport stream which must be demultiplexed and decoded in software. Iyonix should be capable, though, but probably little left over for other things mind you.

 is a RISC OS Userimj on 7/7/03 9:02PM
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Anyone know what the newest ATi All-In-Wonder card is that uses PCI? The R128 AIW was PCI, but can you get PCI versions of, say, the Radeon 8500?

Drew -- Andrew Hill,

 is a RISC OS Usermd0u80c9 on 8/7/03 6:15AM
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I also own the Hauppauge DVB-T card, would love to see support for this on the Iyonix.

 is a RISC OS Userjonix on 8/7/03 9:58AM
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I think that one of the most valuable things about this project is that it is providing the Iyonix with something that you simply cannot do with older RISC OS hardware (1).

It's stuff like this that makes people, in their heart, want a new computer. The mind says, 'It's faster, greater capacity for X and Y, etc' but it's the heart that says, 'Woah, gotta get one of these, it can do really cool stuff!'.

-- Spriteman.

1. Yes, there have been a few tv cards in the past but they were pretty poor compared to this and pretty expensive. And try getting one these days :-)

 is a RISC OS UserSpriteman on 8/7/03 10:49AM
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Too right, this is the advantage the Iyonix has over the older hardware.

 is a RISC OS Userjonix on 8/7/03 1:47PM
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I just did a quick search through various dealers and of course eBay.

It looks like while the Pinnacle PCTV Rave is indeed suitable for the Iyonix (being an universal 5V/3,3V card), the Studio PCTV Rave is a 5V only card. The PCTV Pro (the stereo one which I had in mind) exists both as a 5V only and a universal one. The same is true for the PCTV Sat.

Seems a bit like a minefield really...

The interesting DVB-C/T/S cards based on the TechnoTrend Premium design which incorporate a hardware MPEG2 decoder are 5V only, unfortunately.

 is a RISC OS Userhubersn on 8/7/03 2:29PM
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There are various software based DVB cards . The obvious one from Hauppauge [link] and Nebula Electronics [link] This could be combined with a separate hardware decoder such as the Sigma Designs one [link] (I believe Sigma Designs also offer a board which can offer hardware decoding of MPEG 4 streams).

 is a RISC OS Userjonix on 8/7/03 2:51PM
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All the cards you referenced are 5V signalling only and therefore not suitable for the Iyonix.

But I have tracked down yet another suitable (analogue) card: the Zoltrix GenieTV, also sold under their retail name "Z-Cyber".

 is a RISC OS Userhubersn on 8/7/03 3:05PM
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I could find no information on whether they were 5V signalling or not, where did you find that information out from.

 is a RISC OS Userjonix on 8/7/03 3:28PM
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You just have to look at the picture of the card, or more precisely at the PCI connector of the card. A 5V only card has only one notch, to the back of the card. A universal card has two notches, one to the front of the card and one to the back. A 3,3V only card has only one notch, to the front of the card.

Have a look at [link] for some nice pictures ;-)

 is a RISC OS Userhubersn on 8/7/03 4:11PM
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OK, the information I gave previously was wrong. I have just found an offer on eBay for a Studio PCTV Rave which is an universal card.

The old miro cards seem to be 5V only.

So, we now have the following cards available with BT8xx chips where universal 3,3V/5V versions exist:

Pinnacle PCTV Rave Pinnacle Studio PCTV Rave Pinnacle PCTV Pro Pinnacle Studio PCTV Pro Zoltrix/Z-Cyber Genie TV

 is a RISC OS Userhubersn on 08/07/03 4:36PM
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Great, I'll put the list on the TV card project website - reminding people to check the card specs before they part with cash.

 is a RISC OS Userksattic on 08/07/03 7:10PM
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I've updated the project website with a screenshot. Don't worry about the poor image quality, I haven't got the fine tuning on the tuner working yet so the signal isn't locked on. I'll post a screenshot from a DVD player source soon so you can judge the capture quality.

The picture is perfectly fluid, just like watching a real TV. No horrible jerkiness, no matter what you put the computer through.

 is a RISC OS Userksattic on 09/07/03 07:23AM
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