Sunday, March 7, 2021

Free 4K Using an Antenna: HDHomeRun vs. ZapperBox

ATSC 3.0 will make 4K content reception using an antenna possible, and it continues to be deployed across the United States.  In addition to a higher resolution, the new standard will make other visual and audio improvements possible.  Baltimore, Syracuse, and Buffalo are the latest cities as of the writing of this blog post to be making final preparations to have ATSC 3.0 services.  With the addition of these three cities, approximately 25% of United States viewers will have access to ATSC 3.0 according to Advanced Television Systems Committee, Inc.  The areas that currently have ATSC 3.0 available and those that will have it soon are shown below. 

ATSC 3.0 USA Deployment Map
ATSC 3.0 United States Deployment Map

ATSC 3.0 Tuner Options

A compatible tuner is required to receive ATSC 3.0 broadcasts.  One option is to purchase a new TV with an internal ATSC 3.0 tuner.  A better option may be to purchase an external ATSC 3.0 tuner box for those who want to use DVR software to record TV content.  SiliconDust's HDHomeRun Connect 4K can be purchased now, and the ZapperBox can be preordered now.  The ZapperBox M1 will be available around September 2021 according to the manufacturer.    

HDHomeRun Connect 4K

The table below summarizes the key features and differences between these two products.  The table includes the features of the ZapperBox that are reported by the manufacturer to be included when the first model ships and future software updates.  The ZapperBox manufacturer indicates that software updates after the product is first available may expand its capabilities. 

Feature Connect 4K   ZapperBox M1  
Compatible with DVR software using IP connected storage Yes Eventually
HDMI direct connection to TV No Yes
Stream to devices on the network Yes Eventually
Ethernet port Yes Yes
Connection to network required for displaying content Yes No
Compatible with ATSC 1.0 and ATSC 3.0 Yes Yes
Direct IR remote control of external tuner No Yes
Dolby AC-4 audio pass-through Yes Yes
Optional direct Dolby AC-3 and AAC audio output No Yes
Simultaneous onboard ATSC 3.0 tuners 2 1
Simultaneous onboard ATSC tuners 4 1
Manufacturer's listed price $199.99 $329.00

Audio Considerations

The HDHomeRun Connect 4K requires additional hardware that supports Dolby AC-4 audio in order to use the ATSC 3.0 tuners.  A sound system that supports Dolby AC-4 is not required if a product such as an NVIDIA Shield which can decode Dolby AC-4 internally is used with the Connect 4K.


Thursday, December 24, 2020

Fire TV Stick DVR Viewer Using MythTV Leanfront Example Installation Steps

This blog post explains how to install MythTV DVR software on a Fire TV Stick and shows it being used to view live TV and a recording.  In this setup, I am using a CableCARD tuner which generally allows MythTV to be used to view and record encrypted Comcast cable channels other than premium channels such as HBO.  As explained in the video, another computer is also needed to run MythTV Backend.  The video editing software I use causes the video to appear slightly jerky, and the actual video on the TV from the Fire TV Stick is smooth without the skips shown.  This Fire TV Stick is compatible with HD content, but it is not compatible with 4K Ultra HD content.

Fire TV Stick 3rd Generation (2020) on Amazon:

Fire TV Stick DVR Compatible with Comcast Cable TV Using MythTV Leanfront

Example Installation Steps

I used the steps shown below to install Android MythTV Leanfront on the Fire TV Stick.
  1. Install Downloader on the Fire TV Stick.
  2. Allow Downloader to install unknown apps in the Fire TV Stick settings.
  3. On a computer or other device, download the Android MythTV Leanfront apk file, and save it to Google Drive or another similar service.
  4. Enter a shareable link to the saved apk file at with the word “shorten” and a blank space before the link to create a short link.
  5. Start Downloader on the Fire TV Stick, enter the short link, download, and install the apk file.
  6. Start MythTV Leanfront, and enter the IP address of your MythTV backend in the app’s settings.

Additional Helpful Information

Saturday, October 17, 2020

One Last Chance to Buy a New HDHomeRun Prime

SiliconDust, the manufacturer of the of the HDHomeRun Prime will be providing new three-tuner Primes for a limited time after it was decided to discontinue the development of the six-tuner Prime 6.  It was previously reported by SiliconDust that the three-tuner Prime has not been available new due to some of the hardware components not being available to produce the device.  At that time, it was decided to not develop new hardware for the three-tuner Prime and have a gap in time in which no Prime device would be available from SiliconDust.  The six-tuner Prime 6 was discontinued after some development setbacks and after the Federal Communications Commission announced there is no longer a mandate that requires cable television companies to provide CableCARDs.  The new three-tuner Prime is currently in production according the SiliconDust as of the date of this blog post, and since it is the same as the original Prime, it has already gone through the required costly certification process.   

SiliconDust indicated that support will continue for the Prime, which includes guide data and DVR software from SiliconDust.  Until the new three-tuner Primes are available, used three-tuner Primes are sometimes available on Amazon here.  An alternative device by Hauppauge with two tuners is available new on Amazon here.

HDHomeRun Prime Description

The Prime is a device that connects to a home network instead of connecting directly to a television as is done with some other DVR solutions.  It allows the user to eliminate the cable boxes and DVRs that are available from the cable television company, and it allows the user to stream the content to multiple devices in the user's home.  Software that allows the user to view and record content is available from SiliconDust and was previously available from Microsoft.  Additionally, the Prime is compatible with open-source DVR software such as MythTV.  With MythTV and currently with SiliconDust's DVR software, the cable television content can be encrypted, but it cannot be copy restricted.  

The History of the HDHomeRun Prime

The three-tuner Prime became available in 2011, and it remained available to purchase new until approximately 2018.  It is difficult to identify the date when the Prime ceased to be available new because some smaller resellers continued to sell them after the larger providers depleted their stock.  In September 2020, the Federal Communications Commission ended the CableCARD mandate.  Shortly after this FCC rule change, SiliconDust announced the six-tuner Prime 6 would not be produced.  In October 2020, SiliconDust announced the three-tuner Prime will once again be available for a limited time, and SiliconDust indicated the production is possible due to the discovery and procurement of a limited supply of hardware components needed to produce the device.