Keeping a Tuner Free


I have another feature request about making it easier to release a used tuner so that a live show can be watched.

This feature request is related to that one, but takes a different approach to the problem.

Suppose you have a 4-tuner Tablo. Also suppose that you want to ensure a member of your family (your wife) can watch live television anytime she wants without seeing the dreaded “No Tuner Available” message. Well, there is one drastic but really practical solution here: allow the Tablo to be configured so that it will NEVER use more than three tuners for scheduled recordings! One tuner is always left free.

It may seem counter-intuitive to keep a tuner in reserve like this, but it makes perfect sense if you have a situation like mine (and I suspect my situation is quite common!). My wife has no understanding of tuners or the fact they are finite resources, nor she is interested in learning about tuners. She just wants the darn device to work, just like TV on cable used to work for her.

So a very simple but practical solution is to simply limit the tuners that can be used for scheduled recordings!!

If this is done, it guarantees that there is always one tuner in reserve, and this tuner in reserve can always be available for watching a live show. It is important to realize, as my wife has told me, that she does not what to have to plan in advance what show she watches. She didn’t have to do that with our previous cable provider. So why should she have to be plan what she watches in advances? To her, that is absolutely ridiculous.

And I agree. It is a huge downgrade in customer experience when you have to plan in advance what you want to watch, all because of the fact that tuners are a finite resource and can be exhausted, so that none are available, and so no show can be watched live dynamically.

But if a consumer can configure their 4-tuner Tablo to use only 3 tuners max, then the problem is solved!
There is ALWAYS a tuner free, and my wife’s problem is solved.

She will NEVER see the dreaded “No Tuner Available” message ever again.

I want to make it clear that my wife is right. Any device that is so complicated to understand has serious problem. It should just work.

I do have sympathy with the engineers and product managers at Tablo that have had to develop a new kind of DVR, and deal with all these unexpected practical issues. But I do want to emphasize that this “No Tuner Available” message is a real sign of device failure. Everytime it shows up, it really means that something really bad has happened. And it doesn’t matter that it can be “explained” by explaining how tuners are a finite resource.

The very fact that this has to be explained is just the first sign that this technology is still in serious Beta.

I really think that Tablo needs to do some very serious thinking about how occurrences of the “No Tuner Available” message can be reduced or eliminated in the future. For non-technical users, that message is really the kiss of user experience death.



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There is already a free tuner in your TV.

If you plug an antenna in the antenna input on your TV, your wife should be able to watch any shows she wants when she wants to watch them.


You could buy a second Tablo and name it “Live TV”. Name the first one “recorded TV”. Then you would have 2 tuners always available and almost nothing to explain.

EDIT: The second Tablo doesn’t require a second subscription. Up to 10 Tablos per subscription


Obviously if you want fast channel switching you need more then one free tuner - at least 2

It would have made more sense to buy your wife a dual lite when they were on sale for $99 and turn it into her very own private live TV system. With DVR capabilities.

Of course there are other solutions to your problem but the PC police probably wouldn’t find them acceptable.

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You are right, that the right solution would have been to buy a dual lite and a separate 4-tuner.
But I had no proper understanding of this whole “No Tuner Available” problem until after I had my dual-tuner Tablo. By then, it was too late.

So yes, in retrospect, if I knew then what I knew now, I would have bought a light dual Tablo and a 4-tuner, and reserved the lite Tablo for dynamic TV watching only, and never for recordings.

(mindless ramble follows)

So, in the “olden” days, before VCR, you had TVs. If you wanted to watch more than one thing, you had more than one TV. You could say, “more than one tuner”. Back in those days only the very rich had more than one TV. But it was easy. You could “see” what tuners were available for use. No mystery.

Then comes the VCR (the general type). This added an extra tuner that could be used to record. While you might be able to use the VCR’s tuner for “watching”, viewing while recording at best allowed you to view the station being recorded. No way to fast forward or rewind while recording was happening. Because the end viewing device was likely a TV, in general, you were either using the TV’s tuner, or you were using the VCR’s tuner to “watch”… and when watching a recording, while the VCR’s tuner was “free” it couldn’t be used to record while a recording was being watched (just one tape slot). So, while nice, didn’t really get rid of the need for extra TVs if you wanted to watch different shows and required multiple VCRs if you wanted to record more than one thing or playback recordings at the same time. Again, noting you could both record and watch on any VCR (again, just one tape slot). Because of the inherent limitation of how a VCR did its thing, number of tuners at least for live TV was still pretty obvious.

Tuner sources:
TVs (one each)
VCRs (one each, recording requires the tuner, recording playback doesn’t use the tuner, but limited since output was limited to just one end device (TV).

Then comes the “set top box” age… well we’ll jump there anyhow. Now you have distribution set top boxes for display. Depending on implementation, you might have one central box handling distribution, or you might have a tuner in every set top. The medium is cable, satellite and/or IP TV (U-verse). Regardless of distribution, one set top (though you could sometimes have more than one) was special and used for recording. Without “apps” and such (yet), you could still figure out how many live tuner places were available. But multiple sources in one “TV” (picture in picture, U-verse) and lots more flexibility recording wise.

Tuner sources:
(TV’s have tuners, but they aren’t used and aren’t compatible)
Set Top box tuner
Special Set top box capable of a fixed number of simultaneous recordings (usually something like 4).

side note on U-verse In many ways this was amazing technology. You have really a streaming (though not streaming) like experience in that channels are pumped via IP TV. This allowed for more simultaneous viewing (picture in picture) and simultananous recording that was really limited by the infrastructure (bandwidth) in house and from the provider. This technology was so amazing that ATT ditched it to go back in time to satellite technology (??) with the purchase of Direct TV. My point is people that never experienced U-verse have a radically different view of what was possible back in that day… it was really ahead of its time.

Now we have the age of streaming. The idea is to have all media content streamed from a source (e.g. Internet, or local media server) to your end device. Noting that the end device had to be “smart” to handle a streaming application. At first, limited to PCs, tablet, smart phones, and streaming appliances (e.g. Roku) but now all TVs are “smart” and have some sort of network connectivity and apps for streaming.

Tuner sources:
What’s a tuner?

Cord cutting, the OTA edition. One way to get content that is HD (higher than what was even streaming at the time) and avoid cable, satellite or even U-verse TV (which again ATT killed so they could use 70’s technology) was to use a good ole antenna and a TV (assumed to have a tuner).

Tuner sources:
TV (1 per TV)

We’re saving money, but perhaps a bit too “stone age”. My goodness, there’s not even a VCR. So we “stream” (no recording at the time, well, without some PC work usually) and we watch HD OTA. We’re happy, but limited with regards to streaming sources (Netflix). Plex and XMBC offer the opportunity to house our own media server for streaming… we’re still saving money (apart from sweat equity of ripping our old media DVDs and such… or using the Internet to obtain media content without actually paying for it (via copyright violation). The age of copyright infringement… plus OTA plus ripping (CDs ok, DVDs a federal crime in the good ole USA).

Content sources:
Illegal downloads
(both perhaps landing on your own media server)
Limited streaming sites
OTA (still a lesser known option)
And of course, back to cable, satellite, etc… (the option of keeping the cord, but we’re still doing one or more of the above anyway, except maybe OTA)

I sort of skipped over Tivo, Replay-Tv and such. And probably shouldn’t have.

Enter the Tablo. Rather than a device per TV (end user viewing device)… why not take TV tuners and make them streamable things. Like a local Plex server streaming live TV content, but always recording so you could pause and rewind live TV and you could also schedule and record TV. Provide more than one tuner so that more than live TV and or more than one recording could be done. How many tuners to you want? Probably 12… but that’s a bit too expensive for most, so Tablo came out with 2-tuner and 4-tuner units, noting that under their EPG subscription (optional) it can support up to 10 devices (40 tuners anyone?).

Time has passed, long dead are our parents (well, not dead, we just don’t understand them) and their parents… we don’t remember the “TV age”. so we’re not used the “fighting over what is going to be watched on TV” problem. Tablo’s model makes it possible to avoid some of that, but still has the same limitation with regards to number of tuners, just more flexible with regards to end viewing devices.

Maybe what we want is a 12 tuners with 4 tuners dedicated to live TV watching (can’t be used for recording). Of course, many use the fact that most TVs still have a tuner and use that to avoid some of the “watching” problem with regards to tuners leveraging the extra tuner there instead of leaning solely on the Tablo. It’s not a bad idea at all. But obviously that limits somewhat the end viewing device of choice in that it favors old-school TV’s with tuners for Live TV watching.

Regardless of approach, either buying more Tablos (possibly dedicating some for just Live TV watching) or leveraging TV’s to help (a TV always has a tuner… sorry Vizio), there are “ways” to “keep a tuner free”. With that said, and like I said, and since we’re spoiled, I’m not opposed to a Tablo 12 tuner model (perhaps called an 8) with 4 tuners dedicated for Live TV. :slight_smile: And of course I want it for less than $500 and in time for Christmas. But maybe more realistically, buy another Tablo while the price is low (?).

I see that @sfgower has said this likely better and in a much more succinct way.


If all you are interested is a just a bunch of TV tuners for Live TV and never want to use them for DVR why just purchase a hdhomerun duo or quantro.

They were on sale during Black Friday. As long as silicondust has an app for your device they are fine. I have one that I use to use for plex but since I didn’t like plex it’s now my all stations tuner. I have set to tune all available channels. Even those I would never DVR.

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I know it’s off topic but I’d like to here why you didn’t like the Plex DVR?

I am a big Plex user and it’s great for media libraries. But I also love my Tablo.

I’m not the target of your question but for me it’s a stability issue. I’ve tried Plex DVR several times, although I will admit the most recent was several months ago, and it was never as stable as Tablo. Having said that, we DO use Plex for almost all our playback because I really like the unified look and Sync functionality.

It’s been a while since I used a cable DVR, I moved to TiVo many years ago and then moved to Tablo, but I would think you would encounter the exact same situation with any DVR. Granted, I think in TiVo land they used to display the message ‘all tuners in use’ vs Tablo displaying ‘no tuner available’ but the intent of the message is exactly the same. How do cable DVRs deal with situation?

If there is really that much live viewing going on, having an antenna feed directly into the TV as suggested above would be preferable anyway I would think since it would be quicker channel switching then Tablo.

Good call on the HD Homerun as a “watching” device. I use one (and my Stream +) for times when I’m just watching, they are both great for that. And though I don’t like the Homerun’s GUI, using it with the Channels app makes it excellent.

This is an excellent “ramble”! I read it twice.

I’m now the proud owner of a lifetime plex pass and an idle powered off Nvidia Shield.

I’m not a digital hoarder. Once the program is watched it’s deleted. I’m not into remote connect. If I travel and think I might get bored I take my Roku Stick+ and use SlingTV blue. Livestream and NewsOn have the local news just in case space aliens have landed on my street and eaten my neighbors.

The only Tablo options I use are no dups and extend live.

So I don’t need a product with a thousand different options I will never use. And the DVR function of tablo always seemed more stable/reliable.

But I did repurpose my hdhomerun into a Live TV device that tunes all available channels.

Agreed. My coax is split between the Tablo and the coax TV input so live TV is only an an input selection away. It just means you can not pause the game to go to the bathroom, get a snack or goto the bathroom

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This is in response to sgadeau.

Well, the interface for OTA television on my particular TV is very poor.
The Tablo user interface is much, much better. Otherwise, yes, I’d agree with you.

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I am really a cordcutting newby and I am learning as I go.
Right now, I have Tablo and plex.

Frankly, since I started using Tablo for OTA, and Tablo is stable and has real tech support. I just wouldn’t want to move everything to Plex. Tablo works and is stable, and I just want to stay with it.

Plex has its own strengths and I am no critic of Plex.

Using both Tablo and Plex seems to work out pretty well, with some hiccups.

My only big complaint is that Tablo (and maybe the other DVRs) haven’t realized the obvious: they need to make things so simple that non-tech users don’t get stumped by the “No Available Tuner” message. Rather than wait for users to become more informed, Tablo should find ways to work with less technical users, so this kind of problem doesn’t ruin their user experience.

I really like your analysis!

I just don’t think that this problem has to be solved by having a huge number of tuners.
One approach is to ensure that there is always an available tuner. And I think that feature would be really helpful.
But some folks might not want to reserve a tuner for this purpose.

So another approach is to simply make it simpler for a user to free 1 on the N tuners that are busy.
That is, if a user wants to watch a show, and N tuners are busy, the user is asked if they want to free up a tuner to watch their show. If the user indicates “yes”, then Tablo shows a list of all the currently recorded shows and allows the user to select one of these currently recorded shows. Then the user can select and confirm that one recording to be halted. That tuner is freed up, and then the show that the user originally wanted to watch just starts up, using the newly freed up tuner.

Of course, the steps I described above are the steps that any Tablo user can do themselves, but they have to figure it out. On this forum, readers will know how to do this. I am not addressing them. I am thinking of people like my wife that need a bit of help in doing this, so it is almost frictionless.

So frankly, it would be good to have both the reserve-a-tuner option AND the release-a-tuner-so-I-can-watch-the-show-I-want-to-watch. Both features handle the same problem in different ways.

Personally, if I had a 4-tuner, I would just reserve a tuner and know that my wife would never see the dreaded No Tuner Available message again.

Enjoyed your incite-


The only issue I see with that is his wife wants simple. Getting something other then a Tablo means learning a new device. That’s why I think another Tablo is best. Keep everything consistent.

I think the idea that tablo or other DVR providers are going to building a box with n-number of tuners, where “n” seems unlimited, is dead.

And since tablo uses two different xcode processors their current max number of support tuners is 4. I don’t think you will see a tablo with more then 4 tuners.

I would buy another tablo instead of a different device. I already have multiple tablos.

But moving between tablos is not seamless.