Peter Near (a former Media Center MVP) as come up with another workaround for ATSC in Canada.
Peter’s original article below from The Green Button
I’ve been testing a new method for working around the ATSC limitation in Windows 7 Media Center. While this method still needs some tweaking, which I’m working with the utility developers to do, I thought it would be useful to get an early version of this tutorial out into the wild since the HDHomerun hack has stopped working in Windows 7 Build 7068. Basically, in this workaround we will configure Media Center as a US-based system and then re-import the Canadian Media Center guide data back into the system. It makes me feel better to point out that this would be absolutely unnecessary if Microsoft would just turn on ATSC reception in the Canadian region. Moving on.
Step 1 – Configure Media Center in Windows 7 for the United States region
Run through the TV Signal Setup wizard and set up all of your tuners as if you were a resident of the United States. You will make life easier on yourself if you choose a zip code near your location (for example 14072 will automatically set up all of the Buffalo and Toronto ATSC channels). Upon completion, you should be able to navigate to the guide and tune in all of your channels whether they be ATSC, analog cable, satellite STB, whatever. You will notice that most if not all of the guide data is wrong for your channels, that’s expected at this point.
Step 2 – Download the Canadian listings for your area to a local file
Download the utility MC2XML from http://mc2xml.110mb.com/ and copy it to a directory on your computer. In this example I’ve copied it to C:\mc2xml\. Double-click to run mc2xml.exe, which will launch the configuration page.
After a minute or so, you’ll notice that MC2XML writes two new files out to the hard drive and then closes itself. The first file, mc2xml.dat is a configuration file that stores your postal code, lineup selection, etc. so that you don’t need to enter it again. The second is the actual Electronic Program Guide listings stored in the XMLTV format.
Step 3 – Import the listings into Media Center
Download the utility "Big Screen EPG" and copy it to a directory on your computer. I use the directory c:\bse\. Since Big Screen EPG is currently in beta, you’ll need to request access from the author by sending an email to [email protected] with the title "EPG Beta Request" and some information about your region and TV sources.
In order to configure the beta version of BSE, you’ll need to launch a command window.
Click on Start, then type in the word cmd then hit enter. The type into the black command prompt window c:\bse\bsetool.exe -config and hit enter.
On the next screen, simply click Next to accept the defaults for now as I haven’t done any playing with this logic to see how it impacts the Canadian market. I suspect that affiliate will be less useful for us given that any one unique program may be broadcast on both Canadian affiliates (Global) and US affiliates (Fox).
Your guide provider is now set up, and all that’s left here is to import it into Media Center. Click on Generate MXF and Import to Media Center, which will take a few minutes to complete and given the size of the listings for digital cable providers here in Canada it may look like it’s hanging but it’s all good.
Once the data is successfully loaded into Media Center, you can safely close Big Screen EPG. Note that there are alot of other cool things you can do with Big Screen EPG. The utility is well documented, and I encourage you to read the included guide (the XPS files in the same directory as bsetool.exe) to tweak your EPG’s usefulness.
Step 4 – Assign the new guide data to your channels
Now that we’ve imported all the correct listings into Media Center, it’s time to tell Media Center "No really, I know I said I live in the United States and you think you pulled up the correct listings for my area but the sad truth is that I lied. Let me teach you which listings REALLY go with every channel. I’m sorry if this upsets you Mister Media Center, but you really shouldn’t be angry with me. Your rage is much more appropriately directed at your makers. Yes, I understand that this is a really stupid way to get a perfectly supportable function to work. It’s not my fault." Or something along those lines. 🙂
Next, it’s probably easiest to go through the list of channels and disable the channels that you don’t have access to. You can do this by selecting Show Preview on the left-hand menu which will attempt to show you the video of each channel as you navigate to it in the channel list. If you don’t get it (due to your subscription, or reception), then clear the checkbox so that Media Center ignores the channel.
Because I chose a zip code close to me, all of my digital channels are actually correct already. I’ll use the listings for my area from Zap2It.com to determine the correct mapping. The first channel in my example that is mislabelled is channel 3, which according to Zap2It should really be CICA. Click on
the name next to channel 3 to change the settings for that channel.
Next, click on on Edit Listings, and once on that screen you can scroll down to the listings for CICA and click OK to select. If you have a keyboard, it’s much quicker to simply type in the callsign letters (CICA in this case) which will then jump to the correct listing. Another hint is that you can see a description of what’s supposed to be on right now on that channel and compare it to what’s playing in the background to verify accuracy.
Step 5 – Set up an automation schedule
While it might be fun to run through those steps every day or so, it’s probably much better to schedule things so that it "just works" automatically. I’ve exported my settings to make it easier for you (assuming you used the directory names c:\bse and c:\mc2xml from above). Click here to download. This will set your system up to download the listings every day at 3am, and update media center every day at 4am.
Import the file "Get listings via MC2XML" in the same manner.
Congratulations, you now have restored free high-definition over the air reception to your Canadian Media Center!
- This guide will supplement your listings with one data source only, which in my case is fine since my ATSC listings from Buffalo contain all the data I need. If you need to import more than one data source (for example, you need both cable and satellite listings) you have two options which I haven’t yet tested.
- Free Option: Set up two different instances of MC2XML in different directories. Configure each one to download a different guide, and then configure Big Screen EPG to use two sources with each source pointing to a different MC2XML directory.
- Less Free Option: Get an account with SchedulesDirect for $20 a year. Through their web interface you can set up which listings are relevent to you, manage the stations you get, and use MC2XML to download all of the lineups at once using its "Schedules Direct" option.
- I’m working with both the MC2XML and Big Screen EPG authors to tweak this, the methods and tools are likely to change before RTM of Windows 7.
- I’m hopeful, albeit sceptical, that Microsoft will come to their senses and simply allow ATSC in Canada out of the box.
I’m also hopeful that someone, maybe even me, will come up with an easier hack in the event that Microsoft lets us down.