Musings of a PC

Thoughts about Windows, TV and technology in general

Watching TV on my PC

The thought of watching TV on your PC might seem a bit strange. Originally conceived as a way for students to get their computers to double up as TVs in their small rooms, Windows Media Center brings TV, video, music, photos and loads more together into a single place that can readily be used either on a computer monitor or on a television.

In fact, it is difficult to adequately describe how powerful and flexible Media Center is in just one sentence. If you’ve got the Home Premium, Ultimate, Professional or Enterprise edition of Windows 7, you’ve got Media Center hiding away, just two menu clicks away from being discovered.

If you aren’t near a source of live TV, you can still use Media Center for so much else, but let’s focus on the live TV bit for a while longer. Apart from a computer and a copy of the appropriate version of Windows, what else do you need? Fundamentally, you need a source of the live TV signal. There are a very wide range of products available, be they analogue TV tuners, digital TV tuners, cable tuners, satellite tuners, or a mixture thereof. These days, digital TV tuners are probably the commonest type in use, possibly due to the fact that they are easy to find, cheap to buy and then really easy to set up. Install the software that comes with it, plug it into the computer – typically into a USB port although some fit inside the computer in a PCI slot, start up Media Center and off we go.

For the rest of this blog, I’ll take you through the steps of getting Media Center to use your brand new tuner so that you can see for yourself just how easy it is. In future blog entries, I’ll look at some of the features of Media Center and some of the customisation that is possible.

To ease writing the blog, I’ve taken screenshots of Media Center while it is running in a window. The best way to experience Media Center is full screen. Without further ado, let’s get started.

Since Windows is a global product, the first thing you need to do after selecting TV Setup is to confirm that Windows has selected the right region in the world – in my case, the United Kingdom:

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For UK users, you then need to enter your postal code so that the program listings that get downloaded are correct for your part of the country.

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Next come a couple of agreements that you have to accept otherwise you won’t be able to use it …

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followed by the installation of the PlayReady components.

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After that, Setup proceeds to download the information it needs for your TV signals.

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followed by figuring out what it can find:

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On my computer, I had a USB tuner that was capable of both analogue and digital TV signals. Media Center therefore sees this as two tuners:

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After confirming that Media Center has got it right so far, setup continues with the initial download of the TV Program Guide, otherwise known as the EPG (electronic program guide):

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followed by scanning the airwaves to see what channels can be found …

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Finally, job done! 97 channels found. Your own experience may differ depending on your region, what sort of tuners you’ve got, etc.

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And this is the confirmation that it is all done.

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With that, I quickly select Live TV and go to BBC 2 just as a new programme is starting:

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Next time … I’ll look at the EPG in more detail and some of the things you can do while you are watching TV.

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