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Modern chipsets move more and more functionality from fixed-function implementations in silicon to firmware or software. The chip becomes a more generic microcontroller or DSP that executes the Firmware and does the same jobs.

Drawbacks are that this solution may consume more power than an optimized fixed-function design and that different firmware revisions can cause completely different behaviour of the chips.

The fact that the Firmware can 'fix' bugs later has at some vendors the effect that early firmware revisions are rarely useable -- fixed-function hardware is usually more carefully designed.

Firmware auto-loading

Most people would like their system to load their DVB firmware at boot time/when the module is loaded.
This can be done easily using hotplug

First, do the following where xxxxx is one of sp8870/sp887x/tda10045/tda10046/av7110/dec2000t/dec2540t/dec3000s/vp7041/dibusb :
perl /usr/src/linux/Documentation/dvb/get_dvb_firmware xxxxx
(script distributed along with kernel source)

It would download the wanted firmware to current directory.
Then, copy the firmware file to /lib/firmware or /usr/lib/hotplug/firmware/ (depends of your hotplug version)

When the appropriate module is loaded, it would automatically load the firmware.

Gentoo users: A fresh minimal install of Gentoo installs the sys-apps/hotplug-base package. However to actually get the firmware loading, you will need to install sys-apps/hotplug, as well.

it would be nice to have some words explaining the linux firmware loader stuff. contributors?

Firmware repository

The following site can used searching the firwmare needed by your device: