How to watch TV on your PC
PC as PVR
Feature Watching TV used to be a passive affair: you sat back and watched whatever happened to be on. These days, passivity is passé. Digital Video Recorder (DVR) set-top boxes can pick up programmes beamed out from a terrestrial transmitter, sent via satellite or pumped down a cable and save them on a hard drive so you begin watching five minutes after the show started or at any other time.
You can do all this on a PC too. Getting TV on a PC is just a matter of plugging in one or more TV tuners, either as an internal add-in card or a USB clip-on, and running the control software. While your computer's screen might not be a sharp or as big as the telly in your living room, having TV on your PC does mean you can keep an eye on what's happening in the world while you're at work or at play. It's a doddle to archive recorded shows to DVD, and network connectivity means you can watch on any computer in any room in the house.
Taking this a step further, there's no reason why you shouldn’t watch it in the location of your choice so you can watch the latest episode of The Sopranos while you're on holiday in France.
Picking a TV tuner for your PC can be a confusing task as you'll be faced with a stack of choices and a host of acronyms and abbreviations. The first choice: analogue, digital or both - the so-called hybrid tuner? When we reviewed HP's IQ770 PC, which uses Windows Vista, we found that the analogue TV tuner provided a handful of fuzzy TV stations that were unwatchable. To our mind, the appeal of analogue TV is past, particularly with the upcoming end of analogue broadcasts here in the UK.
TerraTec's USB Cinergy Hybrid tuner
But here's a thought. TV tuner specialist Hauppauge told us: "Analogue provides two key features: the ability to capture from analogue sources, such as VCRs, and flexibility. USB tuners are often used in more than one place, and digital signals may not be available in all of them."
Indeed, we've used Elgato's EyeTV Hybrid tuner to digitise old VHS tapes that aren't available on DVD.
If you want to watch one digital channel while you record another then you need two tuners. However, there's nothing to stop you going multiple tuners. Windows Media Center is designed to run two tuners. However, we're told that you can hack it to run at least six tuners, should you feel the need. Multi-channel, multi-monitor display system, anyone?
TV on a Mac
Don't feel left out, Mac users. You can do all this TV-on-a-PC stuff on a Mac too. We'll be covering Mac-specific products and procedures in a separate feature soon.
RE: Why all the mucking about?
Mmm..there are people who can't get SKY+ as they are on a communal feed, ie no personal dish
RE: Vista Media Center 64 Woes pt. 2
Well one thing to check when searching for Vista hardware is that it has the MS Vista Compatible Logo not the MS Vista Capable logo. What's the difference? Well only Vista Compatible hardware is guaranteed to work in 32 bit and 64 bit versions! Even with the logo present there is not guarantee that it works with Vista MCE. (thanks a bunch MS)
Last time I checked Hauppauge's Nova T-500 Dual Tuner card did not support Vista 64 bit and they had no plans to support Vista 64 bit either.
So to all the eye-sayers please tell me of a TV card that has dual tuners and with Vista 64 MCE supports DVB-T subtitles, MHEG-5 digital teletext and Freeview playback?
Why all the mucking around someone asked when you can just get Sky+ or a Humax PVR-9200TS? Well I'd like a one box does it all solution for CD, DVD, blu-ray, Photos, TV (Freeview), web surfing and the odd occasional letter to the rellies. Whether or not that's achievable at all is another matter entirely!
I suspect by Christmas I'll be buying a PVR-9200TS and consigning the Media PC to the back room.
Vista still has really stupid problems
I just spent the weekend trying to get Vista media center to play video files.
For some unfathomable reason, Microsoft have arranged it so the media player component of Media Center does not use the same codecs as the stand-alone Windows Media Player 11...
After many hours of searching & trying various 'solutions', Media Center still does not recognise any files beyond the built-in types.
Media player handles them all.
Vista Media Center 64 Woes
I'm not sure if this applies to the 32-bit version of Vista MC, but I tried it with the "Vista Compatible" Compro E700 PCI-E Dual DVB-T tuner and MC found the card, found all the channels, but would not display any of them when you tried to watch them! Apparently more than this card is affected by the problem.
Also be prepared for a lack of Freeview now/next, 7-Day and Freeview playback EPG support in both MC and the cards own software. Most TV cards collect the EPG fro mthe internet and not from the broadcast EPG. Without Freeview Playback EPG support the likelihood of "Sky+" style series link and PDC recording is but a pipe dream.
Also, despite having album art defined for my music collection (i.e. folder.jpg) album art is often missing! It usually appears in the album views and for the first track on album playback, but all subsequent tracks have the artwork missing! Media Player does not have this problem at all though?!?!?
My opinion is that creating a Vista Media Centre PC is not for the faint hearted and it is not ready for mass market.
RE: Virgin Media Transmission
That is indeed true.
Apparently, You can get "hacked" cards that will allow you to receive all channels. But my question is, Would VM know?
VM make contact with the card as well. If you change your TV Service package from the S package to a L package, you don't get a new card (AFAIK)...