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Installation of the Video Disk Recorder
Version 1.7
Compiling and running the program:
VDR requires the Linux-DVB driver header files to compile.
As of kernel 2.6 these are part of the official Linux kernel
distribution, and so they should be automatically found in
/usr/include/linux/dvb. If your DVB driver header files are
in a different location, you can rename the file Make.config.template
to Make.config and adjust the definition of DVBDIR in that file.
Refer to for more information about the Linux-DVB driver.
VDR requires the Linux-DVB driver version that supports the S2API interface.
You will also need to install the following libraries, as well as their
"devel" packages to get the necessary header files for compiling VDR:
fribidi (see "BiDi support" below)
If the "capability" module is not compiled into your kernel, you may
need to do "modprobe capability" before running VDR.
After extracting the package, change into the VDR directory
and type 'make'. This should produce an executable file
named 'vdr', which can be run after the DVB driver has been
IMPORTANT: See "Configuration files" below for information on how
========= to set up the configuration files at the proper location!
By default the 'vdr' program can be controlled via the PC keyboard.
If you want to disable control via the keyboard, you can add NO_KBD=1
to the 'make' call, or use the '--no-kbd' option at runtime.
If you have an infrared remote control unit you can define the REMOTE macro
to one of the following values in the 'make' call to make the respective control
the default:
REMOTE=LIRC control via the "Linux Infrared Remote Control"
Alternatively you can use the '--lirc' option at runtime.
This option accepts an optional path to the remote control device,
the default of which can be set via the LIRC_DEVICE macro.
If your video directory will be on a VFAT partition, you can call VDR with
the command line option '--vfat'.
When running, the 'vdr' program writes status information into the
system log file, which is usually /var/log/messages (or /var/log/user.log,
depending on your syslog configuration). You may want to watch these
messages (tail -f /var/log/messages) to see if there are any problems.
The program can be controlled via a network connection to its SVDRP
port ("Simple Video Disk Recorder Protocol"). By default, it listens
on port 6419 (use the --port=PORT option to change this). For details
about the SVDRP syntax see the source file 'svdrp.c'.
BY USING '--port=0'!
The file 'svdrphosts.conf' can be used to define which hosts are allowed
to access the SVDRP port. By default only localhost ( is granted
access. If you want to give other hosts access to your SVDRP port you need to
add their IP numbers to 'svdrphosts.conf'.
If the program shall run as a daemon, use the --daemon option. This
will completely detach it from the terminal and will continue as a
background process.
When starting the program through an entry in /etc/inittab, use the --terminal
option to set the controlling terminal, as in
vdr:123:respawn:/usr/local/bin/vdr --terminal=/dev/tty8 -w 60
See the man page vdr(1) for complete information about all command line options.
When presenting the list of recordings, VDR sorts the entries according to
the current "locale" settings. This makes sure that special characters (like
the German "umlauts") appear at the expected positions. In order to benefit
from this you may have to set the locale environment variable, for instance
export LANG=de_DE
for a German locale. If you don't want this to result in German error messages
in the log file, it is sufficient to just set
export LC_COLLATE=de_DE
which only influences the way strings are sorted and leaves error messages
in English.
Note that for VDR's internationalized texts to work, the LANG environment
variable must be set to a valid locale!
BiDi support
Some languages are written right-to-left. In order to display such languages
correctly, you need to build VDR with BIDI=1. This will link to the "fribidi"
library and implement a function that prepares bidirectional texts to be
displayed correctly. Since BiDi support adds some runtime overhead by requiring
additional memory allocation and copying, this feature is not compiled in
by default, so that users that have no need for this don't get any overhead.
Workaround for providers not encoding their EPG data correctly
According to "ETSI EN 300 468" the default character set fo SI data is
ISO6937. But unfortunately some broadcasters actually use ISO-8859-9 or
other encodings, but fail to correctly announce that.
Users who want to set the default character set to something different can
do this by setting the environment variable VDR_CHARSET_OVERRIDE to something
like ISO-8859-9.
Start script with automatic restart in case of hangups:
The VDR source directory contains a 'runvdr.template'. Just copy it as 'runvdr'
into your /usr/bin or /usr/local/bin directory and adjust it to your particular
requirements. (See the comments inside the script for more information.)
If you run VDR using the 'runvdr' shell script it will use the built-in
watchdog timer to restart the program in case something happens that
causes a program hangup. If you change the command line options for the
call to the VDR program, be sure to NOT use the '-d' option! Otherwise
VDR will go into 'daemon' mode and the initial program call will return
immediately! 'runvdr' needs to be started as user 'root'. Use the '-u'
option to run the actual 'vdr' program under a different user id.
Setting the system time:
If you want VDR to set the system time according to the data received
from the transponder, you need to start VDR as user 'root'. For security
reasons you should then use the '-u' option to define a lesser privileged
user id under which VDR should actually run. It will then only keep the
capability to set the system time, and set its user id to the given one.
You also need to enable the "EPG/Set system time" option in VDR's
Setup menu, and select a transponder from which you want to receive
the time in "Use time from transponder". Make sure you select a transponder
that has a reliable clock - some transponders are quite off.
Automatic shutdown:
If you define a shutdown command via the '-s' command line option, VDR
will call the given command if there is currently no recording or replay
active, the user has been inactive for at least MinUserInactivity minutes
and the next timer event is at least MinEventTimeout minutes in the future
(see the Setup parameters in MANUAL).
The command given in the '-s' option will be called with five parameters.
The first one is the time (in UTC) of the next timer event or plugin wakeup
time (as a time_t type number), and the second one is the number of
seconds from the current time until the next timer event. Your program can
choose which one to use for programming some sort of hardware device that
makes sure the computer will be restarted in time before the next timer
event. Your program must also initiate the actual shutdown procedure of the
computer. VDR will not automatically exit after calling the shutdown
program, but will rather continue normally until it receives a SIGTERM when
the computer is actually shut down. So in case the shutdown fails, or the
shutdown program for some reason decides not to perform a shutdown, VDR
will stay up and running and will call the shutdown program again after a
while. The command will be started in a separate background session, so it
can continue to run even after VDR has terminated.
If there are currently no timers active and there is no plugin wakeup
time, both parameters will be '0'. In that case the program shall not set
the hardware for automatic restart and only perform the system shutdown.
A program that uses the second parameter to set the hardware for restart
must therefore also check whether the first parameter is '0'.
If the wakeup time is given by a timer, the third parameter will be the
number of the channel that will be recorded, otherwise it will be 0. The
fourth parameter contains the file name of the recording as defined in the
timer, the name of the plugin that requested the wakeup time, or an empty
string if no wakeup time is present. These can be used by the shutdown
program to show that information on some display interface etc.
The fifth parameter indicates the reason why the shutdown was requested.
'0' means this is an automatic shutdown due to some timeout, while '1' means
that this is a user requested shutdown (resulting from pressing the "Power"
key). The shutdown program may use this information to decide whether or
not to actually perform the system shutdown.
If a timer is currently recording, or a recording would start within the
next 30 minutes (default for the "Min. event timeout" setup parameter), and
the user insists in shutting down now, the first and second parameter will
correspond to a time that is "Min. event timeout" minutes in the future.
Before the shutdown program is called, the user will be prompted to inform
him that the system is about to shut down. If any remote control key is
pressed while this prompt is visible, the shutdown will be cancelled (and
tried again later). The shutdown prompt will be displayed for 5 minutes, which
should be enough time for the user to react.
A sample shell script to be used with the '-s' option might look like this:
setRTCwakeup $(($1 - 300))
sudo halt
Here 'setRTCwakeup' would be some program that uses the first parameter
(which is the absolute time of the next timer event) to set the Real Time
Clock so that it wakes up the computer 5 minutes (i.e. 300 seconds) before
that event. The 'sudo halt' command then shuts down the computer.
You will have to substitute both commands with whatever applies to your
particular hard- and software environment.
If the '-s' option is present, the VDR machine can be turned off by pressing
the "Power" key on the remote control.
Executing commands before and after a recording:
You can use the '-r' option to define a program or script that gets called
before and after a recording is performed, and after an editing process
has finished.
The program will be called with two string parameters. The first parameter
is one of
before if this is *before* a recording starts
after if this is *after* a recording has finished
edited if this is after a recording has been *edited*
and the second parameter contains the full name of the recording's
directory (which may not yet exists at that moment in the "before" case).
In the "edited" case it will be the name of the edited version.
Within this program you can do anything you would like to do before and/or
after a recording or after an editing process. However, the program must return
as soon as possible, because otherwise it will block further execution of VDR.
Be especially careful to make sure the program returns before the watchdog
timeout you may have set up with the '-w' option! If the operation you want to
perform will take longer, you will have to run it as a background job.
An example script for use with the '-r' option could look like this:
case "$1" in
echo "Before recording $2"
echo "After recording $2"
echo "Edited recording $2"
echo "ERROR: unknown state: $1"
Command line options:
Use "vdr --help" for a list of available command line options.
Replaying Dolby Digital audio:
If you have a "full featured" DVB card with SPDIF output you can replay
Dolby Digital audio directly through the DVB card.
You can also use an external program that reads the DD data
from stdin and processes it in a way suitable for your audio hardware.
This program must be given to VDR with the '-a' option, as in
vdr -a ac3play
The video data directory:
All recordings are written into directories below "/video". Please
make sure this directory exists, and that the user who runs the 'vdr'
program has read and write access to that directory.
If you prefer a different location for your video files, you can use
the '-v' option to change that. Please make sure that the directory
name you use with '-v' is a clean and absolute path name (no '..' or
multiple slashes).
Note that the file system need not be 64-bit proof, since the 'vdr'
program splits video files into chunks of about 2GB. You should use
a disk with several gigabytes of free space. One GB can store roughly
half an hour of SD video data, or 10 minutes of HD video.
If you have more than one disk and don't want to combine them to form
one large logical volume, you can set up several video directories as
mount points for these disks. All of these directories must have the
same basic name and must end with a numeric part, which starts at 0 for
the main directory and has increasing values for the rest of the
directories. For example
would be a setup with three directories. You can use more than one
numeric digit, and the directories need not be directly under '/':
would set up twelve disks (wow, what a machine that would be!).
To use such a multi directory setup, you need to add the '-v' option
with the name of the basic directory when running 'vdr':
vdr -v /video0
Note that you should not copy any non-VDR files into the /videoX directories,
since this might cause a lot of unnecessary disk access when VDR cleans up those
directories and there is a large number of files and/or subdirectories in
there. If you have a large disk that you want to use for VDR's video data as
well as other stuff, you may want to create a subdirectory for VDR, as in
and put your other stuff into, say,
If your video directory is mounted via a Samba share, and you are experiencing
problems with replaying in fast forward mode, you can comment out the line
in the file tools.c, which may lead to better results.
Configuration files:
There are several configuration files that hold information about
channels, remote control keys, timers etc. By default these files are
assumed to be located in the video directory, but a different directory
can be used with the '-c' option. Plugins assume their configuration files
in a subdirectory called "plugins" of this directory.
For starters just copy all *.conf files from the VDR directory into your
video directory.
The configuration files can be edited with any text editor, or will be written
by the 'vdr' program if any changes are made inside the on-screen menus.
Take a look at man page vdr(5) for information about the file formats.
The files that come with this package contain the author's selections,
so please make sure you adapt these to your personal taste. Also make sure
that the channels defined in 'channels.conf' are correct before attempting
to record anything. Channel parameters may vary and not all of the channels
listed in the default 'channels.conf' file have been verified by the author.
As a starting point you can copy the 'channels.conf' file that comes with the
VDR archive into your video directory (or into your config directory,
respectively, in case you have redirected it with the -c option).
Setting up DiSEqC:
If you are using a DVB-S card with a satellite equipment that needs to be
accessed using DiSEqC, you have to go to the "Setup" menu and set the "DiSEqC"
parameter to "on". You also need to set up the file 'diseqc.conf' to properly
access your DiSEqC equipment (see man vdr(5) for details).
A special form of DiSEqC is used to connect several receivers to one signal
source using only a single cable. This method, known as "Satellite Channel Routing"
according to EN50494 (aka "Unicable(TM)", "OLT(TM)", "SatCR", "Single Cable
Distribution", "Channel Stacking System" or "Single Cable Interface") uses
the file "scr.conf" to specify which SCR channels use which user band frequency.
If DVB-S devices need to be connected to the same satellite cable, but no
"Satellite Channel Routing" is available, they can be set to be "bonded" in
the Setup/LNB menu. Bonded devices can only be tuned to the same polarization
and frequency band, which reduces the number of potentially receivable channels.
Note that it doesn't make sense to use "Satellite Channel Routing" and
"Device Bonding" at the same time with the same devices. If you use either
of these methods, it is necessary that your devices are always created in the
same sequence when the drivers are loaded. You may need to configure some
proper "udev" rules to make sure this happens.
Running VDR with DVB-C (cable) or DVB-T (terrestrial):
VDR automatically recognizes if the DVB card in use is a cable or a
terrestrial card. The only thing that needs to be different when using digital
cable or terrestrial reception is the 'channels.conf' file. The distribution
archive contains a default 'channels.conf.cable' and 'channels.conf.terr',
respectively, which users of such cards can rename or copy to 'channels.conf'
in order to receive digital cable or terrestrial channels. The format of these
files is mostly the same as for satellite channels, however, some fields have
different or extended meanings (see man vdr(5) for details).
You can even use a mixture of DVB-S, DVB-C and DVB-T cards in the same system.
All you need to do is to put all the channel definitions into one big
'channels.conf' file. VDR will automatically know which channels can be
received with which card(s) by evaluating the 'source' parameter.
Learning the remote control keys:
There is no default 'remote.conf' file, so you will have to go through a "teach-in"
session that allows the program to learn your remote control codes.
It will first attempt to determine the basic data transfer mode and
timing of your remote control unit, and then will ask you to press one
key after the other so that it can learn the various key codes. You will
at least need to provide an "Up" and a "Down" key, so that you can switch
channels. The rest of the key definitions is optional, but the more keys
you define, the more you will be able to navigate through the menus and
control recording/replaying. The program uses only a very small number
of keys which have multiple meanings in the various modes (see MANUAL
for a detailed description).
The recommended PC key assignments are:
Up, Down, Left, Right Crsr keys in numeric block
Menu 'Home' in numeric block
Ok 'Enter'
Back 'End' in numeric block
Red, Green, Yellow, Blue 'F1'..'F4'
0..9 '0'..'9' in top row
Power 'P'
Volume+/- '+', '-'
Mute 'm'
If you prefer different key assignments, or if the default doesn't work for
your keyboard, simply delete the file 'remote.conf' and restart 'vdr' to get
into learning mode.
Generating source code documentation:
You can do a 'make srcdoc' to generate source code documentation using the
Doxygen tool. To do so you need the Doxygen package from
and the Graphviz package from
After installing these two packages you can do 'make srcdoc' and then use your
HTML browser to read srcdoc/html/index.html.