Linux users with Intel HD Graphics 5000, here’s how to view smooth streaming video in a web browser

Some satellite backend systems and advanced receivers offer a web interface, where you can connect using a web browser to perform various administrative tasks, but in some cases there is also an option to view live streams or recorded content. If you click on that, often it will attempt to launch an external player (typically VLC) but in a few cases it may attempt to send the video right to the browser. If that happens and you are running Linux (as some of us do on our media center computers), and your system has an Intel HD Graphics 5000 GPU, you may find that the video is rather jerky or pixelated. The same thing may happen if you attempt to play videos directly from online sites, such as YouTube. The reason is that the Linux versions of web browsers, such as usual default Firefox browser, typically don’t utilize the hardware acceleration of the GPU.

However, it appears that recent stable versions of the Google Chrome browser (version 40.0.2214.91 or later) do support hardware acceleration on Linux-based systems “out of the box”, with no settings to change. This is great news for those of us with systems that have the newer Intel graphics. The hardware acceleration in Chrome may also support other GPU’s, but I cannot be certain of that.  It’s worth a try if you are experiencing this issue, though.

To install Google Chrome in Linux, use your current browser and go to the download page and make sure it is offering a Linux version (if not, click on the link “Download Chrome for another platform”). Select your version of Linux from the list and click the install button. If you are using Ubuntu, it should download a file with a .deb extension and offer to open it in Ubuntu Software center. Allow it to do so and let the install proceed. You may have to type in your user password, and don’t worry if the progress bar appears to freeze up for a minute or so, eventually it should finish.

When it is finished it may say that Chrome needs to be run by typing a command line in a terminal window but at least in Ubuntu, that is not true – you can use the Ubuntu Launcher, just as you would with any other program. Just start typing “Chrome” or “Google” (without the quotes) in the search window and it should appear, like this:

Chrome in Ubuntu

Once you have launched Chrome you can right-click on its icon in the Launcher menu bar and select “Lock to Launcher” from the dropdown, then move the icon to whatever position you like (such as just above or below Firefox) so it will always be instantly available.

If you are running an older version of Chrome and for some reason are adamantly opposed to upgrading (why???) then the information in this thread on the Ubuntu forum may be of some assistance.

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A few Linux utilities that are useful for manipulating XMLTV schedule files

In my previous article, Some hints for getting free-to-air satellite channels into the Electronic Program Guide in Kodi or XBMC (or another frontend), I mentioned that schedule “grabber” programs save their files in XMLTV File format. So let’s say you have one or more XMLTV type files, but you want to do some additional manipulation on them before feeding them to your backend software.  Here are a few tools that run under Linux that I have found that may be useful, under certain circumstances.  These are in addition to zap2xml, which I mentioned in my previous article.

NOTE:  To find out if you have a particular program installed on your system, try entering the word which followed by a space and the program name at a Linux command prompt.  If the program is installed on your system, it should show you the path to the file.  Note that you will probably need to use the full path and filename if you are attempting to run the program from a shell script or a cron job!

  • tv_cat – Concatenate XMLTV listings files. The man page description says, “Read one or more XMLTV files and write a file to standard ouput whose programmes are the concatenation of the programmes in the input files, and whose channels are the union of the channels in the input files.”  Or in simple terms, it merges XMLTV format files together.  This program may already be on your backend system but if it’s not, you can typically install it on a Ubuntu/Debian-based system (and possibly in some other Linux distros) by installing the xmltv package.  tv_cat is a bit picky about the format of the files it will combine, so check the output carefully to make sure it is including all the channels.  I had some issues using tv_cat with TVHeadEnd, and wound up using a small quick-and-dirty Perl script to combine XMLTV listings files instead.
  • sed – Stream EDitor. This is a utility built into just about EVERY Unix/Linux system out there, and it’s probably available for Windows in some form also. sed is more or less a one-trick pony – it searches for text and replaces it with something else.  You can use it to resolve duplicate channel ID’s in two different XMLTV files by changing them in one of the files, using a command of the form sed -i ‘s/original text/replacement text/’ filename but note that there are some potential “gotchas”, so read the documentation first.  For example, if either the search or replace string contains a / character, it mush be “escaped” with a backward slash, so as not to be confused with the / delimiter character.  So if, for example, your search or replace string included the closing tag </display-name> you’d use <\/display-name> instead. (EDIT: You can also change the delimiter character to avoid this issue – see the first comment below).

    I will note that there are some “purists” out there that will say that you should never use sed to manipulate an XML file, even though it’s easy and (if you are careful to use unique strings that don’t appear anyplace that you don’t want to change) fairly foolproof, so I suppose I had better mention a tool that is specifically intended for manipulating XML files…

  • xmlstarlet – command line XML toolkit. According to the description, “XMLStarlet is a set of command line utilities (tools) which can be used to transform, query, validate, and edit XML documents and files using simple set of shell commands in similar way it is done for plain text files using UNIX grep, sed, awk, diff, patch, join, etc commands.” This is another one that you will likely find in your Linux distribution’s repository, at least if you are running a version of Ubuntu or Debian.  This one offers you a lot more flexibility in manipulating XML files, but at the expense of being somewhat more complicated to use.

Since xmlstarlet is a bit difficult for some users to wrap their heads around, I will give here some actual examples of how it could be used on an XMLTV format file, but please note that I am no expert with this so if you have a different proposed usage, please try to figure it out for yourself using the handy documentation, available as a web page or in PDF format.  No offense, but better you should spend a couple hours trying to figure out the correct syntax to achieve whatever results you want than me! 🙂

1. Remove all “Local Programming” entries from an XMLTV file named xmltv.xml and save to newfile.xml:
xmlstarlet ed --delete "//programme[title='Local Programming']" xmltv.xml >newfile.xml
2. Same as above but only for one specific channel:
xmlstarlet ed --delete "//programme[title='Local Programming'][@channel='someid.someaddress.com']" xmltv.xml >newfile.xml
3. To change the value of @channel wherever it appears in the file:
xmlstarlet ed -u "//programme[@channel='someid.someaddress.com']/@channel" -v 'newid.newaddress.com' xmltv.xml
4. To extract all entries for a specific channel to a separate file (non-destructive – does not change the original file):
xmlstarlet sel -t -m "//programme[@channel='someid.someaddress.com']" -c . -n oldfile.xml >newfile.xml

Note that I am not saying that any of the above are the best example of how to do something.  As you can see, especially from the last example given, this program has some rather non-intuitive syntax for its command line arguments (to put it mildly).  If you have any additional – or better – examples of using xmlstarlet to manipulate XMLTV files, please leave them in a comment and I will consider adding them here.

That said, if you need to do an operation on an XMLTV file and don’t want to write a program or script to do it yourself, xmlstarlet could be your salvation – IF you can figure out how to use it!

Do you run one or more TBS PCIe cards under Linux? Check your IRQs…

The other night I happened to have a ssh session open to a TVHeadEnd backend system (running Debian Linux) when this message appeared:

Message from syslogd@backend at Nov 6 23:03:02 …
kernel:[452276.219160] Disabling IRQ #16

And then the satellite card essentially stopped working – it would act like it was receiving signals, but they were all complete garbage until I rebooted the system.

It turns out that the system was putting several things on IRQ #16, as revealed by cat /proc/interrupts

 16:    1669004          0          0          0  IR-IO-APIC-fasteoi   ehci_hcd:usb1, SAA716x Core, SAA716x Core, snd_hda_intel

In searching for a solution to this, I came across this thread (and also this thread), which informed me that the TBS cards were using the old style of interrupts, and that it would be a good idea to change that so they use the newer PCI-MSI-edge type. The procedure for doing that is simple, and easily reversible if it doesn’t work.

First do this from a Linux command prompt:

lsmod | grep -i SAA716

You should see several lines containing a string such as saa716x_tbs_dvb – assuming this is the string you see, then do this:

sudo touch /etc/modprobe.d/tbs.conf
sudo echo options saa716x_tbs_dvb int_type=1 > /etc/modprobe.d/tbs.conf

If you prefer you can use a text editor such as nano to insert the single line options saa716x_tbs_dvb int_type=1 into the /etc/modprobe.d/tbs.conf file (this might be safer, since it will allow you to first verify that this file is currently empty rather than blindly overwriting it as shown above). Note that the center part of that string (saa716x_tbs_dvb) should match the string(s) you saw in the previous step.

EDIT:  As noted in cband’s comment on this article:

If you have a newer TBS card such as a TBS6905, or a mix of older and newer ones, then you need TWO lines in /etc/modprobe.d/tbs.conf:

options tbs_pcie-dvb tbs_int_type=1
options saa716x_tbs-dvb int_type=1

Next, reboot the system. When it comes back up, do cat /proc/interrupts again. You should now find the TBS cards on separate interrupts, indicated as IR-PCI-MSI-edge instead of IR-IO-APIC-fasteoi or whatever they were before. In this case…

 16:         29          0          0          0  IR-IO-APIC-fasteoi   ehci_hcd:usb3, snd_hda_intel

…..

 46:       7973          0          0          0  IR-PCI-MSI-edge      SAA716x Core

…..

 48:       3914          0          0          0  IR-PCI-MSI-edge      SAA716x Core

There are two TBS cards in this particular backend, which is why two interrupts are being used (and why SAA716x Core appeared twice on the IRQ 16 line prior to the change). Just FYI, you can get a more much more detailed report on what is is routed to each IRQ by running lspci -vv from the Linux command prompt, though that may be too much information for most regular users.

If it doesn’t work for any reason, just delete the /etc/modprobe.d/tbs.conf file and reboot, and you will be back to the way it was before.

My suspicion is that doing this will fix some weirdness that may very occasionally occur when using TBS cards with TVHeadEnd. Why no one tells you to do this as part of the driver installation instructions, particularly on Debian-based systems, is anyone’s guess, but if you are running TBS cards under Linux it might be worth your time to check this, assuming you want a more reliable system.

By the way, I am NOT a Linux guru by any stretch of the imagination, so please don’t ask me how any of the above Linux commands work – save those types of questions for your favorite Linux forum, please!

If you found this article useful you may also like:
A bash script to rebuild the TBS tuner drivers after Linux kernel updates