I have been running the Windows 7 since some of the earlier builds became available and I am have been a proud user of the official RC build for a little while now. I was delighted when I heard dvb-s support had been added to Windows 7 and it was the main reason I switched to it as my main Media Center. Using a Nova-HD-S2 dvb-s card to receive satellite TV transmissions via ‘FreeSat’, no longer did I need to mess about with a bulky Sky box attached to my PC and I had no issues at all with this great card.
Being a tinkerer and enthusiast I knew it wouldn’t be long before I would want to try and expand my options when it came to live and recorded TV so I began to consider a dvb-t solution to augment my setup. My home has an old TV aerial on the roof that I haven’t used for 10 years and I had no idea if it would be suitable to receive ‘Freeview’ over dvb-t, so for this reason I didn’t want to spend a fortune on tuner cards. Popping into my local Maplins I spotted a cheap USB stick dual tuner device ‘KWorld Plus 399U’ for £24.99. I noticed that it was Vista and Media Center certified so I took a chance on it.
Before installing the tuner I decided to take a look at my aerial socket since my recollection of the quality of reception I used to receive through it was pretty poor. The socket was very old and as I had suspected the coaxial cable was badly installed in it. Since I needed to extend the cabling into a diferent room anyway I decided to cleanup and replace the socket first.
Time to install the USB tuner! Of course I ignored the included instructions completely, including the driver disc as I wanted to see it Windows 7 would recognise and install drivers itself. To my delight both tuners were recognised straight away (as dvb-t2 tuners no less!) and drivers were found and installed in no time. I started Media Center and was told that new tuners had been found and to get them working I would need to setup ALL tuners again. Not a major problem, if a little annoying as I had got my dvb-s tuner setup perfected by then. Setup was pretty quick and it was great to see channel after channel being added to the setup!
To my surprise I was getting pretty good reception from my old antenna and it picked up most channels in 100% quality. I was lucky as I doubt I could justify (to my wife!) the cost of replacing the antenna. The only issue I did notice was occasional pixellation in the transmissions but this didn’t happen very often and from observation it seemed to occur when I could hear a gust of wind coming from the chimney so I guess the old antenna was moving slightly in strong wind.
Now I had a guide full of TV channels and radio stations and of course a lot of replication. I had read previous posts on channel source merging which I found to be a fantastic idea. It is a pretty tedious process to do but it is very worth while. At first I was struggling to get it to work as each individual channel did not seem to recognise that there was another channel of the same name from a different source. After a while I stumbled on how to get this working:
For example BBC ONE on dvb-t is channel 1 and on dvb-s it is 101.
Select channel 101 BBC ONE and ‘edit channel’.
Then ‘edit listings’ and choose the listing for channel 1 BBC ONE.
Center will then see they are the same channel and offer to merge them into
channel 1, deleting the guide entry for channel 101. Do this.
select channel 1 and ‘edit channel’ and go to ‘edit sources’ and you
will see both your dvb-t and dvb-s tuners are available.
Now you can
set the tuner priority by moving your prefered tuner up or down the
list. This is very useful if as in my case the dvb-s tuner is slightly more reliable reception wise so I can set that to be the main ‘recording’ tuner and have the dvb-t tuners kick in when there is a recording conflict and for live TV when recording another channel. Unfortunately Media Center doesn’t give you a ‘universal’ way of setting tuner priorities as far as I know, so you need to do this for every channel manually.
I have now cleared out most duplicate channels and I am now in the process of disabling channels that I simply won’t ever watch just to simplify the guide a little. As well as now being able to record up to 3 channels at once I now have access to channels only availabe via ‘FreeView’ and not on ‘FreeSat’ and vise versa!
To summarise all I can say is that Windows 7 continues to surprise me with how easy it is to add and changes things. It’s driver support is beyond belief for beta / RC software. If you are looking for a cheap way to expand your TV recording options I would hestitate to recommend these tuners.