Most digital tuners will work with the DVB-T (Digital Video Broadcasting - Terrestrial) system that's the backbone of the UK's terrestrially transmitted Freeview free-to-air network. But they're not exclusively Freeview - as there are a small number of tuners capable of grabbing cable and satellite sent content.
TerraTec's Cinergy 1200 DVB-C cable TV card
Cable looks straightforward: simply install a DVB-C (Digital Video Broadcasting - Cable) tuner such as Terratec's Cinergy 1200 DVB-C PCI card and connect the cable. Your cable company - Virgin Media, here in the UK - only feeds you the channels that you pay for so it probably doesn't much care whether you watch your TV via its own set-top box or through your PC. And you can use your Media Center PC to record content, burn it to CD/DVD, strip out the adverts and stream TV to other PCs around the house.
Across the network
There are a couple of interesting gadgets that you ought to consider as a means of distributing TV around your home - or even across the internet - to a PC. Sony has its LocationFree system, which connects to your home network and uses a wired and wireless transmitter, the LF-PK1, to distribute media around your home and beyond. The base unit is listed at £229 although you’ll find it discounted to less than £100, and you have to pay £20 for the software to register each additional receiver, which seems a bit steep. It also contradicts the LocationFree name as it’s not free at all.
Sling Media's Slingbox: TV for the network
Slingbox from Sling Media incorporates its own digital TV tuner and redirects a selected TV channel to your PC where you view it with the bundled SlingPlayer software. It can take feeds and control other sources too. The trick is that your PC or laptop can be connected via broadband and can therefore be located almost anywhere on the planet. The only downside: only one remote client can connect to a single Slingbox at a given time. However, SlingPlayer also runs on a variety of mobile phones and handhelds, though you have to pay extra for this privilege.
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)...