Playing around with Windows 7 Media Center Part 2

So to continue on from my previous post about my first dabblings with Windows 7 Media Center I went ahead on Wednesday night and installed the ADS Tech Dual Mini TV dongle and a portable aerial onto my Windows 7 laptop, I scanned for channels and found quite a few and the setup was very workable but I did suffer from signal break up and pixilation with the portable aerial, not that surprising really although I do live pretty high up with an open south facing aspect.

My next mission was to try out the 20 day trial of DVB Logic and attach the USB stick to my Windows Home Server, I tried the XP drivers, and no channels were found, I then tried the Vista drivers, lots of channels were found but then it blue screened and I had to give up, the USB stick was not compatible with the Windows Home Server, that was that, what a shame. Thanks Garry Whittaker and Jason Coombes for the help with this one.

It looked like I needed two things to get a satisfactory service to my laptops, firstly for Freeview, a proper fixed aerial for a reliable reception and secondly a decent TV card, well to be honest if I was going to go to all that expense and then use DVB Logic on my Windows Home Server I might as well go the whole nine yards and get an HDHomeRun and have a bit of hardware to do the distribution and cut out the Windows Home Server completely as I am not keen on the idea of putting things into it that aren’t meant to be there and anyway from my experience it is always more robust to do things like this with hardware.

I did a quick search around on Wednesday night and found one of the UK suppliers of the product and low and behold they were based in Durham which is only about 20 miles from where I live, unfortunately they only accept online orders and delivery only, on the off chance as I am totally impatient when it comes to tech, I emailed them asking if I could pop down to their office the next day and pick one up, not really expecting a reply from past experience with other companies.

The next day I received a phone call from Helen from pcTVok and within 5 minutes she sorted one out for me arranged payment and I popped down and collected it, great service and very very helpful, thanks Helen!

I set up my new loft mounted aerial and checked to find the direction that the aerial should be facing based on my location, I found that it should be 154 Degrees from North for the best reception, luckily I had my trusty iPhone 3GS in my pocket with its digital compass lining it up was a synch.

Next I installed the HDHomeRun in the loft, plugged it into the mains supply, connected the aerial into a amplified splitter and got two outputs into the HDHomeRun.

The final piece was the network, here are the usual problems for me, too far away from the router, not possible to run in new Cat 6 cables so out came the trusty Home Plugs that I used to use with my Popcorn Hour, I plugged one in and connected the Ethernet to the HDHomeRun, two green lights came on to indicate a digital signal reception and then a network connection, all ready to go.

Next step was to download the latest HDHomeRun software from Silicon Dust and install it on my Windows 7 laptop, very straight forward and after a channel scan it found everything that I was expecting, once complete I closed the software and fired up Windows Media Center.

Following the guide to setup the TV Signal 10 minutes later it was all up and running, Media Center found all my channels, downloaded the guide data and thats that.

The performance is impeccable, it really is as fast as having a card in your PC, next to no delay when selecting a channel, all recordings have worked perfectly and as it has two tuners I can watch one channel and record another, this really is a fantastic bit of equipment and so far I cannot recommend it enough.

Every channel has a perfect picture, no break up or pixilation.

This is the first step to converting the home from a Sky home to a Freeview home and the plan is to save £70.00 a month, so far so good, very impressed, one disappointment though is that it can’t pick up any Freeview HD channels, apparently you need a DVB-T2 tuner and none are available yet, so not quite sure why the HDHomeRun is called HD and it clearly states that it can produce output at 1920 x 1080i, more investigation to come on this one.


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