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to watch what you're recording you should be able to just start playing the file. the recording volume can actually be turned right down, as it's the igain that sets the recording volume, not the actual line in volume, which is what you're hearing.
if you want to watch it BEFORE you record it, rather than the output, then you'll do well to get on to v4l2, standard in the 2.6 branch or the kernel.
as for tuning.. just read the mplayer manual. it's very well defined in there.
you just want to change the channel while watching? that's all covered in the MPlayer manpage
Set names for channels. Use _ for spaces in names (or play with
quoting ;-). The channel names will then be written using OSD,
and the commands tv_step_channel, tv_set_channel and tv_last_chan-
nel will then be usable using a remote (see lirc). Not compatible
with frequency parameter. Warning: The channel number will then
be the position in the 'channels' list, beginning with 1. Exam-
ple: use tv://1, tv://2, tv://TV1, tv_set_channel 1, tv_set_chan-
nel 2, tv_set_channel TV1, etc.
and where the hell the frequencies come then? point is to get proper frequencies in proper line and switch between them.
when i fire up mencoder as i do, and then mplayer, i get
Audio: no sound
v4l2: ioctl streamon failed: Device or resource busy
...which is expected to happen.
(mencoder gives the same if i first fire up mplayer)
if i understand correctly, to watch and encode at the same time, there has to be one application that reads data from tuner and then makes two things with it. there can't be 2 applications attached to one tuner at the same time.