How-to: When the TV Tuner Firmware is Wrong

At risk of going up a particularly geeky, Open Source software blind alley, I'm going to prove why certain technology isn't exactly consumer-friendly. You may have seen our previous articles on using the Freecom DVB-T (freeview) USB2 stick on Linux. I was going to try some different media players on my newly resurrected TV tuner on Ubuntu 12.10 when something strange happened.

Within 24 hours, I updated Ubuntu and the TV stick stopped working. Not just the Xine and Gxine players, which both crash with segmentation faults; they're old software. Worse than that, the TV tuner itself stopped working. Trying to tune anything from the command line resulted in:

FATAL: failed to open '/dev/dvb/adapter0/frontend0': 2 No such file or directory

The device is still listed when you run lsusb to probe for hardware. The firmware wasn't creating a hardware interface to the operating system, hence no adapter folder for the device. So the firmware version which had worked, must be incompatible, my dear Watson.

In search of the most up-to-date firmware (Windows users - read that as 'drivers') version for the Freecom (slash Hama, slash Yakumo) stick, I had installed version 03, by downloading and copying the firmware into the appropriate folder.

wget sudo cp dvb-usb-wt220u-fc03.fw /lib/firmware 

Inserted the USB stick and the LED lit up orange, so I went ahead and tuned it to watch the news. One day and one software update later - nothing. Diagnostics revealed nothing, all the firmware was in the right place; cables, USB ports all checked out.

Version 02's firmware is still available in this package:

So diving into the folder /lib/firmware, I cleared out all the old firmware files (anything with dvb in the title), dropped the version 2 firmware into it and restarted. Note you need root (admin) permissions to fiddle with that system folder.

What do you know, the LED on the TV-tuner comes back on!

My preferred player, VLC, throws an error the first time you change channel, but otherwise, we're back in business.

It's a curious and often opaque business how newer firmware and drivers can lose compatibility in favour of older (and presumably safer, standardised) ones. RC

Related: How-to: Freecom DVB-T Resurrected Again Pt2