My Media Center History

My Media Center History

Well, for my second post, I thought I’d give a little bit of background about what I was trying to achieve, when we first started using Media Center.

Prior to using Media Center, like a good number of people, we were using a good old VHS recorder, attached to a Sky Digibox.  This worked well, so long as you remembered to set a scheduled program to view, and the video recorder to record the correct channel at the correct time.  I came across a little device that sat between the video recorder and the digibox (autoview.tv), that noticed when the digibox came out of standby, and this triggered the video recorder to start recording.  It was a very nifty little device, and made life much simpler – however the biggest problem at this point, was keeping track of how much of the tape was already used, so when the video recorder started chewing tapes, we had to find a more agreeable approach. Sky+ was released, however I was wanting to reduce the amount of clutter under our TV, so separate DVD player, Sky+ etc was out.

This was before Windows XP MCE was released, but I managed to find a couple of reviews for Windows Media Center 2002 and 2004, and thought this looked like an excellent alternative, since hard discs are much easier to keep an eye on for an approximate amount of recording space left.  So following a nice bonus from work, I set out on my first media pc setup.

It consisted of an AMD 64 3800+, 2 GB Ram, MSI motherboard, ATI x600SE graphics card, Hauppauge 150MCE and 250Gb hard drive.  Fortunately by this time, XP MCE was released as an OEM product.  Set up was fairly simple, the Sky Digibox would be attached to the 150MCE via an svideo>SCART adaptor, and setup was going well until it came to getting the IRBlasters working correctly with the Sky Digibox remote control.  I just couldn’t get the two communicating well or consistently, as channel changes had problems with double digits, eg 112 would be sent as 12, or sometimes even as 1112.  This resulted in a downward spiral for the WAF.

Doing some more research around, I found a product created by Joseph Heenan, which linked the Sky box via its RF socket, to the USB connector on the HTPC – suddenly all recordings were happening as expected, and things were looking good.  At this time, there were 2 concerns that I wanted to overcome:

1) widescreen recordings and 4:3 recordings were taking place in the same format
2) only 1 tuner was available (a second would be possible with Sky+ or a second Sky box, but we held off)

So, at this point, I continued my searches to improve the setup, looking to get programs recorded directly within media center natively, rather than the analogue>digital conversion that was taking place – this would improve tv picture and sound quality back to the levels that the Sky Digibox gave.

I stumbled across a product released by Digital Everywhere, which when combined with a hardware CAM, would natively decode Sky encrypted channels, and provide the channels as if they were DVB-T channels, which were supported in MC, whereas at the time, DVB-S channels were not possible.  This worked really well and kept us going until Vista was released.

With the release of TV Pack, we finally had nirvana, heterogeneous tuners were usable, DVB-S tuners supported natively and things were looking good…

 

 

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