How To's & GuidesWindows Media Center Connector and Recording TV to Windows...

Windows Media Center Connector and Recording TV to Windows Home Server on a Friday night

-

- Advertisement -

Tonight I will be showing you some options for setting up TV signal, recording TV and storing TV programs with Windows Media Center (WMC) and your Windows Home Server. Since Friday TV sucks I will be using Sunday programming.

WHS TV Archive

Background

This article started out with one purpose: To show how to record TV programs on my Vista PC and then move the shows to WHS.

Thursday night is a great night for TV. We have Survivor on CBS, Flash Forward on ABC, and the NBC comedy shows. My problem is that my trusty MOXI cable DVR can only record two channels at once. Bummer.

Thursday Night TV

Don’t get me wrong, I love Charter and Moxi since I can set recordings and view the menu over the internet. The quality is top-notch too. I also added a 250 GB Seagate to expand the recording storage but I am still limited to only two channels recording at the same time!

In addition, my wife likes to record the Jade Channel and there is no way I can currently record FOUR channels at once. Love Exchange? Really dear? I am not recording that. Sorry.

Jade Channel. Really baby?

So herein lies the dilemma. How do I record three or even four channels all at the same time? I could get a second MOXI box for the office, and pay an extra $20 a month, but I would not be able to watch it on the 50”. If I record them somewhere else, how do I get the shows to view on the 50” Plasma in the living room? I have the Dell Studio Hybrid HTPC networked and connected via HDMI but I do not have a TV tuner on that PC. I do have WMC on the Hybrid so if I could get the show to the server then I could watch from there.

Mental note: Internet sites like Hulu sometimes have HD programming but between the delay in posting new shows and the commercials I would like to try and record in-house. In addition, a lot of the HD shows are not played in true HD.

My solution? Record HD signals over the AIR on my office WMC Vista PC and let Windows Home Server store the TV shows so I can watch them on any PC in the house!

Viva WHS. Seriously.

Equipment Needed

  • Windows Media Center PC
  • 2 Beers (optional as always)
  • Installed TV Tuner Card or USB TV Tuner (Mine is a Pinnacle HD Pro Stick)
  • Power Pack Three Beta WHS Upgrade

I wrote a few weeks ago about the upgrade to the WHS Power Pack Three Beta. You need the Power Pack Beta for the TV Archive function of WHS. You can find that article at:

https://moviesgamesandtech.com/2009/10/05/installing-power-pack-3-on-windows-home-server-on-a-friday-night/

I love WMC. I think eventually I will use it for all of my media. Back in May I wrote about how to add your DVDs to your Windows Media Center. If you do not already have your favorite DVDs stored on your server I would suggest reading it at:

https://moviesgamesandtech.com/2009/05/11/adding-your-dvd-library-to-a-windows-media-center-pc-with-windows-home-server-on-a-friday-night/

Enough of the links. Lets set this pig on fire.

Installation of the WHS WMC Connector

The installation of the WMC Connector is very simple. Find the file in your start menu.

Whats on the Menu?

Once you have clicked on the Windows Media Center Connector installation is quite simple. Click on Next.

WHS WMC Connector

Enter the password for your WHS and then click on Next.

WHS WMC Connector

Once the connector has been updated you just need to click on Done and restart your system.

WHS WMC Connector

Now that WHS is configured for TV archive and storage we need to figure out the best way to find TV signal!

Cable or Antenna?

I have done a lot of research over the last two weeks and I have been frustrated at the information that is out there regarding connecting your direct cable line to a Vista WMC PC. Most of us know that when you plug your cable coax directly to a TV you get the basic cable channels (usually 2-99) and NO HD signals. To get HD you need a HD cable box from your service provider. Your cable provider MIGHT be different but I doubt it. I use Charter and I love the HD signal but I can only get HD signals with their equipment. Of course their equipment is not made to interact with Windows. Crap.

I am  not going to go into any detail about the different signal types. There is ATSC and clear QAM and your TV Tuner should be able to read both. Also remember that Digital does not mean HD.

Cable to the PC TV Tuner

As a test for signal quality I will hook up the cable coax directly to the TV Tuner. The STB (set top box) I rent is a Explorer 4250HDC and has every channel including HD, a program guide and music channels. I will disconnect the coax from my Charter HD STB (currently connected to the hanging Dell 24” via HDMI as shown below) and plug it into the WMC Vista PC. I am going to skip the actual WMC setup screens for brevity.

Explorer 4250HDC STB

When you connect your cable coax to the TV Tuner of your PC, and set up is complete, you only get the basic 2-99 channels and only in standard definition.

You get a crappy picture like this:

Standard Def TV

I cropped but did not change the aspect ratio.

When you connect your PC TV Tuner to an HD antenna over the AIR (shown out of order below for comparison purposes) you get this picture:

HD TV

Look at what a difference HD makes!

Besides, when you use the cable coax connection and the Microsoft TV Guide they do not sync:

BH Cop

Does this look like Formula One Racing to you? I think NOT.

 

What do I do? Connect with my cable and get standard crappy picture or connect over AIR and get only a few network TV channels but in HD?

CABLECARD you ask?

Ah, the mysterious and all elusive CableCard. My service provider supports it (and will install it) but I cannot find any equipment for sale that uses it. I spent the better part of a week looking for any TV Tuner that can support a CableCard. I found out that ATI makes an external unit but I cannot find it for sale anywhere. I also see that Dell and HP both have it in system manuals but I cannot find any actual hardware for sale on their sites.

The CableCard would seem to solve my issue of HD on a PC with a cable coax connection. I would love to hear from anyone that has had any luck with a CableCard setup.

I have made my decision: Antenna and HD

I have decided to connect an antenna to my WMC Vista PC and get the HD over AIR signal. Since I want to record ABC Flash Forward, I want the best picture possible. Watching that show requires detailed pause screens. They better not screw it up like they did Lost. Anyway. Recording Flash Forward is the whole point of this project anyway.

Viva HD. Viva ABC. Viva MGD. Viva WHS. Seriously.

Antenna Selection

Good luck with this on your own. This is where the beer comes in. You may want to check with the following website before you spend a lot on an antenna:

http://www.antennaweb.org/aw/welcome.aspx

I am sorry but I did not include pictures of the unboxing of the antennas!

Antenna #1 – Came with the Pinnacle TV Tuner. Big magnet base. Does not work well.

Antenna One

Antenna #2 – $10 from Meritline. Works ok but flimsy and ugly.

Antenna Two

Antenna #3 – Bought from Home Depot for $56, mounted it outside, ran the cable inside and it worked for crap. Returned it. Flippers.

Antenna Three

Antenna #4 – Bought at Big Lots for $19 and it works the best but only when leaning against the window of the office.

Antenna Four

I live in Azusa up near the mountains so my signal in not line of sight. Your signal strength will vary and WMC has a nice interface to show you the signal strength of each station as you go through the AIR antenna set up process.

Again, I am going to skip the actual WMC setup for the antenna for brevity. If anyone really wants to see that process please post in the comments section and I will see if I have enough beer to do it again. Seriously.

So, the HD signal with antenna is a great picture. I only get CBS, NBC and KTLA (WB). All of the other channels have low signal strength. Looks like I am not recording Flash Forward. Crap. Seriously.

I must admit I am happy with the three stations I do get. Very nice.

HD Football on WMC

Dude, you should not get into a helicopter with Rabbit. Well ok, the pilot is pretty hot. She will make your eyes pop out. Or pop in.

HD Trauma on WMC

After you have determined your signal strength and connection you are ready to start recording. I use the Side Bar Web Guide for most of the scheduled recording. It is easy and does not require WMC to be open.

Web Guide

Once you have a few programs recorded you will start to see your menu fill up. This is the past week of my recorded shows.

WMC Screen Shot

John Juanda is great. SNL is kinda funny. Make it so Number One. Russell is hilarious. And is she gonna bang everyone on the show?

Remember that these are only the shows I am recording on the PC. MOXI still has the full HD menu so without a CableCard I will always have to use MOXI.

Windows Media Center storage on your PC

My Studio 540 Desktop main drive is only 500GB so although I have space for 38 hours of HD shows I want to get it to the server so I can watch it on the 50”.

How do I know I have 38 hours? Curious what space your PC has? Right mouse click and choose Settings.

WMC Screen Shot

Once in Settings select TV>Recorder>Recorder Storage

WMC Screen Shot

Mental note: I could only get WMC to record to local attached drives and NOT mapped drives.

Windows Media Center on Windows Home Server

Ok, so I am finally getting around to the WHS feature. From within WMC scroll to Home Server and select tv archive.

WMC Screen Shot

Mental note: The console view is pretty cool. Check it out. You can see info about your WHS without using the WHS Console.

Once in the WMC Home Server tv archive you can tell WHS which shows you want to have moved to the Recorded TV folder. I left one show unchecked since I watch that in the office and do not need it on the server.

WMC Screen Shot

Each night at midnight WHS transfers the recorded shows for that day into the Recorded TV folder on your WHS. You can see in the folder below that Poker After Dark was not moved. The latest SNL was not moved either since it was in the middle of recording when midnight rolled around.

Folder

Mental note: I changed my Backup time to 3:00 AM to avoid any issues.

On my PC the only shows in the local Recorded TV folder are the Poker After Dark programs. I was watching one while I was writing this article so it only shows one Poker program in the screen shot above.

Another Folder

There are other archive options in the WMC WHS so if you wanted to have WHS move only certain shows you could check the boxes of each show individually.

WMC Screen Shot

In addition, you can have WHS move ALL of the shows.

WMC Screen Shot

There is also a cool log that tells you what was moved and when.

WMC Screen Shot

Mental note: To any Microsoft people out there reading this; when I want to MUTE the WMC I just want to mute WMC and not the whole PC!

Stoopid MUTE

Conclusion

Overall I am very happy with WMC and the WHS Power Pack Beta update. Everything works as promised and the whole setup is very easy to use.

My only complaints are with the HD signal and with the lack of CableCard hardware. Even the best antenna still gets interrupted once in a while and in my area some channels signals are not even available. I would really like to hear from anyone successful with a CableCard hardware setup.

In addition I know there is a OEM TV version of WMC that some manufacturers ship so I would like to hear about that. Does Windows 7 incorporate the TV version?

See you next Friday night,

Timothy Daleo

Timothy Daleohttp://usingwindowshomeserver.com
Timothy Daleo is a Project Resource Analyst and Oracle Applications Trainer in Pasadena, California. In addition to financial analysis, Tim has been developing training materials since 2003 and supporting direct projects through various auxiliary databases since 2005.

23 COMMENTS

  1. Hi Tim, dont rush to setup a windows 7 with a ati 650 pci

    tuner card it requires a – 6pack- before you start

    The best tv tuner card for windows 7 goes to (?)

    but what does work great is (Recorded TV Manager )
    http://www.fjdrasch.com (priceless)

  2. Does the 650 have a CableCard slot?

    I doubt there is a "best" tuner card. I ran into quite a few issues with the specs the manufacturers put out. I plan on installing a dual tuner card on the new HTPC I am building. That still leaves me with signal issues.

    Priceless? Um, it says $24.95.

  3. sorry no cable card with ati 650 pci

    haha, Recorded tv manager has provon to be worth every penny collects shows then sends them back to WMC by original air date then just delete and it will send a new one, pretty cool

    Try this, i went directly from the coaxal at wall into spitter and the teresial antenna also into splitter then ran that into tv tuner card with great results (i know splitter was backwards but works great) card just sucks in Windows 7 due to driver issue

  4. o.k ATI forgive me, microsoft saved your butt.

    seems that the 650 works if you use the MS driver and not the ati 9.9 driver. now i just need 2 more

  5. I would recommend either a HDHomerun or a cablecard tuner. OTA HD is great but reception can be annoying. Cablecard is the best and is actually easy to set-up. contrary to popular belief. You can get a tuner off of ebay though dell and canon pc sell them incidivudally. You might want to wait for the new ceton cablecard tuner coming out first qurter 2010.

    I used to use OTA HD but the antenna thing was annoying. I then used a HDHomerun tuner, which is the best outside of cablecard. It is a network based clear qam tuner. You connect your cable line to it and it gets the unencrypted channels (i.e. same thing channels as the OTA ones but no antenna needed).

    • I would purchase a new CableCard tuner if I could find one. Do you have a link?

      The clear QAM channels from Charter are standard def so I am not going to go the Homerun route. I am about to start a HTPC build and would really like to go CableCard. Again, the trick is finding the unit.

  6. Oh yeah, definitely use windows 7. It incorporates Vista TV Pack, which was a debacle at the time.

    E-mail me if you have questions. I have a windows 7 machine set-up in my basement with a cablecard tuner. My only issue is getting my computer to go to sleep and wake up properly. I think my WHS is causing issues.

    • Will I need a special version of Vista if I get a CableCard tuner? I finally found that Compuvest has an ATI CableCard Tuner for $300 but I would not purchase it unless I knew for sure that it would be compatible with my regular Vista Premium OS.

      Thank you,

      Tim

  7. Just got clearance from Charter that I can have the CableCard. I also found the ATI Tuner available at Cannon PC for $250.

    My last issue is WILL Vista Premium OR WIndows 7 work? I have read that you need the Digital Cable Support version to get the OCUR to work. Looking for help from the readers about this.

    From Charter: "Based on the address you provided, the cable card option is available at your location.

    The cable card lease fee is $2 per month for each cable card. Due to the technical complexity associated with the pairing of the devices, all installations of a CableCARD MUST be completed by a Charter Technician. Self-installation of CableCARDs is NOT an option for customers and thus customers cannot pick up a CableCARD from a local office. Once installed, CableCARDs are addressable, meaning upgrades and changes to Cable Packages, as well as the addition of High Definition (HD) services, can be completed without a truck roll."

  8. There is a way to hack WMC to get the ATI tuners to work on a non "Digital Compatible PC"…looks like only a few beers.

    • The core hack on that link addressed the OCUR issue but not the PID issue for the WMC. There were no screen shots of the WMC setup in W7 RC that confirm CableCard is supported. Thank you for the link though.

      I already have the OCURCHECK program AND the CableCard availability confirmation from Charter. I am just waiting to order the ATI card from Cannon when I can confirm that WMC supports CableCard.

  9. Tim, thanks for asking all the right questions! I also planning to build a WMC in the next few weeks and could not locate any information on using a CableCard. It is by far my favorite option to ensure I get as much content in HD as possible. I'm going to pursue the ATI tuner!

    Thanks for a great blog!

    • I just got home from Costco with my $124.99 three pack of Windows 7. I have high hopes but have STILL not found confirmation that this general release will support CableCard.

      I know I can use the OCUR utility to adjust the BIOS but I am not going to spend $260 for the tuner unless I know for sure it will work!

      I also read that Hauppauge might release a CableCard tuner by the end of the year. Will it be as expensive?

      What ever shall we do?

  10. Charter should be also be passing through your locals in HD clear-QAM. We have Comcast and get some extra basic channels in clear-QAM (but not HD) though they will be getting around to encrypting those all shortly I'm sure. Cable co's are still required to pass the locals INCLUDING the HD broadcasts though.

    At least until their lobbyist dollars get that removed. In which case I take my HDHomerun out of the basement and pitch it at a politicians head. Or go back to antenna and the limitations there.

    • When the PC is connected to the coax I get SyFY, NBC, ABC, Discovery etc but none of the channels are in HD. It is the same signal when I connect the coax directly to my HD TV in the garage. No HD. I can only get HD channels with their receiver.

      HD with OTA signal is great!

      Tim

      Still waiting for someone to confirm that CableCard is supported in Windows 7 WMC so I can put all of this behind me and just splurge on the ATI tuner.

      • I think I read somewhere that you will need to go into the guide settings of WMC in Windows 7 (assuming you have that installed by now) in order to add the clear QAM channels. They may not appear automatically as the standard def channels do

        • Not all cable companies offer the channels in the same way. When I try and "Edit Channels" in the guide I only get 2-99 and 6 "9000" channels. I am adding the DCT today so hopefully I will be set!

  11. A generic PID for digital cable support does exist, just search for it. There are also motherboards with the OCUR tables built in. If you look at the green button forums there are instructions for rolling your own HD WMC PC. I have done it myself with two external ATI HD wonder cablecard tuners and can confirm it does in fact work.

    • Thank you for the comment. Since the release of Windows 7, the Digital Cable Advisor has since made the requirement for OCUR compliant computers obsolete for WMC.

      Check out some of my later articles for how Windows 7 opened up CableCARD.

      Do you have a multi-stream CableCARD in your ATI?

Comments are closed.

Stay connected

7,137FansLike
9,189FollowersFollow
27,500SubscribersSubscribe

LATEST REVIEWS

Review: Twogether: Project Indigos (Chapter 1)

The PlayStation Talents initiative has fostered some intriguing titles over the last few years - such as Ion Driver, Clid the Snail, Jade's Ascension...

Review: Night Lights

Review: Undungeon

You might also likeRELATED
Recommended to you