Thursday, April 02, 2009

Windows Media Extenders for your TV and Tuner Cards

This is pretty cool stuff. I was reading about Windows Media Extenders tonight - they are devices which connect to your wired or wireless (wireless-N, ideally) network, and give you access to the Vista Media Center software from your TV with a handy Windows-branded remote.

Why is this awesome? Well, it's pretty fiercely cool... because it allows you to use your computer as a TiVO-like DVR, which has essentially unlimited space (I have a pretty darn reasonable 1.25 Terrabytes of HD space), and it's FREE. You buy a $50 TV Tuner Card for your computer (which I need to do anyway to convert a bunch of old VHS tapes to Digital), and then plug your cable into your computer's TV Tuner card. Then you have to leave your computer on more often... but the computer essentially becomes your new, high-tech VCR. I believe it can also buffer Live TV (I think) so you can pause Live TV just as you would with TiVO, but it's FREE because your own computer is doing all the work. And the menu/UI in Vista's Media Center is just beautiful, and I can imagine it being very easy to use and useful for this kinda setup. Pretty frickin' cool.

So the thing is you can use an XBox 360 as a Media Center Extender - but I don't have one and it's pretty expensive if I'm never going to buy games for it. Seems like it probably makes a lot more sense just to get one of these external company Media Center Extenders and hook it up. This actually is a lot slicker than doing this with a MacMini because I can easily use my beefy Dell XPS 4-proc machine to be a TiVO for me, and I get much more capabilities than just being able to rent and watch movies from iTunes. This is a really cool idea.

So first things first, I need to get a TV Tuner card for my computer and hook it up so I am actually using Vista Media Center to record live TV (as I would have used a VCR in the past). From there, I can then get one of these Media Center Extenders to hook up to my new TV. This will let me watch pre-recorded shows (even in HD), and I can even set it to record while I am out. Pretty awesome stuff! I thought it would be super cool to be able to stream media content to my TV, but I figured it was gonna be pretty tough to pull this off and I was going to have to plug in my laptop or something. Looks like this is an even better solution and very slick as you get the Vista menu system when you hook this all up. Pretty cool!

A few links with more details:
I was planning on getting an Hauppage TV Tuner anyway for my computer, and so I might upgrade this whole setup later on to allow streaming access of this media to my TV, too! Oh, technology!!

The Hauppage WinTV-HVR 1800 MCE Kit seems to be a reasonable card, and is compatible with Windows Media Center as well as having RCA and S-Video inputs for my old VCR so I can transfer old tapes to digital format. Pretty sweet!

1 comment:

Brian D. Moffet said...

Or you can do that with MythTV and Linux which is what I have. (A mini-itx embedded motherboard and HD TV Tuner)