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Thursday, September 09, 2010

Going 64bit (and adding a TV Tuner!)

I mentioned in my last post that I installed Windows 7 32bit simply because it was the most convenient operating system to install at the time. Upgrading it became a bit of a priority once Windows started complaining about not being registered, as the notice would break full-screen video, as well as lose application focus, making the remote not work.

Additionally, we purchased a tv tuner a while ago. You may notice that's not the same card I was initially considering, but after doing a bit of research I learned that since we're dealing almost exclusively with ATSC and QAM signals, having an onboard MPEG2 decoder is not any benefit at all. I then started looking for the cheapest internal digital dual tuner we could find.

Windows Install

This whole process was simple except for the fact that our PCI Wireless card (a Linksys WMP54Gv1--Yes, version 1) is not officially supported in Windows 7 to begin with--we had initially cheated by using Vista drivers--and we didn't have even a dream of it working 64bit (apparently version 4 of that card can use a different driver in 64bit and be fine, FYI). I wound up replacing it with a Netgear 311v3, and it worked without incident.

Once Windows was running again, I proceeded to replicate and improve our previous set up. I'll go into more detail with what plug-ins I installed in a later post, but for now I really want to focus on the--

TV Tuner Card

I really didn't know what to expect from WMC7 once we put this card in. I hoped it would be easy, but I was pleasantly surprised at just how easy it was. Once the card and its drivers were installed, it was as simple as running through the WMC7 wizard, giving it my zip code, and letting it detect my channels.

WMC will keep upwards of two weeks of channel listings available at any given time. Want to record a show? Search for it by name and it will list all instances of a show appearing within its listings. You've got all the basic DVR options available such as recording one off episodes, all new episodes, or all aired. You can chose to only record the episodes that appear on a single channel, or any instance the show appears. Finally, you have the ability to record the show in HD only, SD only, or HD Preferred, which will grab the SD only in the event that HD version isn't available.

You can also look at shows based on certain categories like Sports, Specials, Movies, etc. I took a moment last night and ran through all of the movies due to air in the next few weeks, and found a few gems like the entire Back to the Future series, as well as a few movies my wife has always wanted to see. Granted between Netflix and Redbox our movies needs are pretty much already met, and these shows being on broadcast television we may miss out on the full experience, but I was amazed at how easy it was to set up the recording.

The only thing I'm left wanting is for it to be possible to set up recording for a show that isn't currently listed on the guide, specifically some of the new shows that premier later in September. Assuming I remember to go in and schedule them once those show up in the guide, I'll be set. I don't expect this to be an issue very often.

Once I was all set up, I was amazed at how many of our 'clutch' TV Shows were actually now going to be handled by the TV tuner. Combined with a few plug-ins to eliminate commercial watching, and our reliance on Hulu has just significantly dropped. Of the top of my head, and I can only think of a few shows on FX that we will still be watching via Hulu.

What's Next?

I've been playing a little bit with remote access. My next primary goal is going to be setting up the ability to edit the recording schedule from our phones, and ideally being able to stream media to our phones as well. Our limited internet connection will prove to be a problem for some of this, but allowing the adjustment of the recording schedule should be easy enough.

Secondly, my wife is a big iTunes user, and while her collection is safely being stored on raided hard drives, having her computer keep the entire organization 'indexed' within iTunes seems to be a waste of resources. I'll start diving into some of the media sharing options that iTunes provides, ideally having our HTPC do all of the management while still ensuring her ability to sync iPods and rip CDs as necessary.

Check back for a list of add-ins that I've used, as well as a few tutorials for how to make some of them work.

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