Musings of a PC

Thoughts about Windows, TV and technology in general

Starting to watch TV on my PC

Once you’ve set up Media Center to use your tuner, surely the next thing you’ll want to do with it is to watch TV using it!

There are two ways of watching TV – you can either go straight in through the Live TV option or you can go first to the guide, browse the channels and the listings and then find something interesting.

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I’m going to start with the guide …

In common with a programme guide found on a cable set-top box, satellite receiver or Freeview receiver, the Media Center guide lists the channels down the left side, with programme listings running from left to right. As you move around the guide, a programme becomes highlighted and the lower portion of the screen provides a synopsis of the selected programme.

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Selecting a programme switches Media Center into Live TV mode, so if you’d gone straight to that option instead of the guide, you’ll end up in the same place.

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This screenshot shows TV playing with all of the Media Center paraphernalia around the video. Just to reassure you – they don’t stay there for long! The main controls are across the bottom of the picture, starting with a timeline for the programme that shows when it started, when it ends and where you are in the programme. Below that are the four Text buttons and controls to record the programme, bring up the guide information, change channel, move backwards and forwards in the programme and control the volume.

Did you spot the fact that you can record the programme? Yup – Media Center isn’t just about watching TV on your PC. It is so much more than that as you’ll discover.

Selecting the guide information button initially displays a smaller version giving you just a couple of lines from the guide:

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If you want more, you can select the guide button again and you’ll be back in the full guide screen.

One of the features new to Media Center in Windows 7 is what happens when you drag the position bar – you now get a thumbnail that aids you in deciding where you are in the programme.

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In the screenshot, you might be able to make out that, below the thumbnail, the timeline is mostly black with a white bar and a grey bar. The white and grey bar together are the Live Pause buffer. For a given point in time, the white bar is that bit of the buffer that is behind that point and the grey bar is that bit of the buffer that is ahead of that point. So, if you were just watching a live programme from beginning to end, you’d see the white bar grow as the buffer fills up, but you wouldn’t see any grey. If you paused it, or rewound the playback, you’d start to see the grey bar to grow in size.

So that’s how to watch TV on your PC! In future blogs, I’ll write about the guide in a bit more detail and start looking at setting up recordings.

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