Commentary

HDHomeRun offers high-quality TV on your computer once it’s setup

I recently bought Silicon Dust’s HDHomeRun. This nifty little device has two television tuners in it and streams the live content over a computer network, allowing one to watch live television programming on their computer.  It’s awesome. The fact that the unit features two tuners means that two computers on the network can stream shows at the same time. The device I got cost around $100. A cable version is also available.

Overall, I am very happy with the HDHomeRun. The device is small, yet very powerful. It can stream full 1080i programming from a rooftop antenna, which looks great. The picture quality rivals a television.

HDHomeRun on a Mac

That being said, I did encounter some difficulty setting up the HDHomeRun on a Mac. When I went to pick it up at MicroCenter, I saw a Mac logo, so I figured setup would be a snap. I was surprised the find that there were not any kind of directions for Mac setup in the box or on the company’s website. The box featured a small pamphlet explaining how to connect the device to the network, but no instructions for setting up the computer end of things. An 80mm mini CD was provided, but these discs do not fit into Mac slot loading drives. The company’s website did provide a software download for Macs, but again no instructions. There are more instructions available from on the manufacturer’s website for Windows machines.

Before we get to far, I will note that there are programs that work with the HDHomeRun besides the official program. Namely, for Mac, I found that EyeTV 3 from Elgato is a great solution. I ended up purchasing this program, as it is much easier to use and has everything you could possibly need in one interface. If you will watch a great deal of television on your computer, this sub-$100 program is certainly worth the cost. If you are an infrequent television watcher, the official software might suit your needs.

Setting Up the HDHomeRun Software

HDHomeRunI setup the HDHomeRun software before purchasing EyeTV 3. Because there is not a lot of documentation on the program available, I want to show others how to use it. First, I grabbed a copy of the installer file and installed it. After a bit of reading on various forums, I found the software (pictured on the right) allows one to select a channel, and then open it in VLC. So, I downloaded VLC. I launched the HDHomeRun program and found it would not display channels available for viewing, despite recognizing the tuner device. After more reading online, I found the HDHomeRun needed to scan for channels before I could watch TV.

Scanning for Channels

Remember scanning your digital TV for channels? Yes, I needed to do this on the HDHomeRun. This is not as simple as it sounds, however, as the HDHomeRun Mac program does not (to the best of my knowledge) currently have a way to scan for channels. Luckily, command-line utilities are included with the software downloads. A development guide from the manufacturer explains how to use them. Command-line utilities are not for the faint of heart – they can screw up your computer if you mistype in Terminal. That being said, I was able to tune my tuners by running the following commands:

hdhomerun_config scan /tuner0 tuner0.txt
hdhomerun_config scan /tuner1 tuner1.txt

All of the sudden, with these two commands, the device worked! The command also outputted a list of channels to my current directory, which was helpful, especially as the program does not map virtual channels. Some of my channels were not on the channels where I would normally view them, as they are actually broadcast on one channel, and then remapped to the channel you usually find them on.

Many stations have moved from the VHF frequency (channels 2-13) to the UHF frequency (channels 14-51) in recent years. Many of these stations were originally VHF stations, with a number in that range (2-13) that they don’t want to give up, but they want to provide signals to the city requiring shorter antennas, afforded by UHF. This is one major reason stations broadcast on one channel and remap to another.

Using the HDHomeRun

Once you have this software setup, simply select the show you want to watch, and a VLC window will appear.  Click the link that appears in VLC, and your show should appear.

Additional Notes

I should note that this device’s ability to send high-quality streams can put a strain on your network and computer. In my experience, this device works best on a wired network or a very high quality wireless n network.

Again, I am very happy with the HDHomeRun. The small device provides a high quality television signal anywhere on the user’s network. While it took a bit of work to get setup and didn’t come with detailed instructions, HDHomeRun’s ability to send high-quality television signals to a computer make it a great product.