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Computers and Technology Discussion

UPDATEDTV Tuner Hell (or: Why MCE's and QAM/ATSC/the cableco's limitations suck) - Page 1

UPDATEDTV Tuner Hell (or: Why MCE's and QAM/ATSC/the cableco's limitations suck)

Posted by: MissingNo
Date: 2009-12-26 19:59:17
As I sit here listening to Royksopp's Happy Up Here to calm my nerves down, I might as well share my displeasure with Windows Media Center and the fun of Live TV setup gone awry.

To start out: My Media setup consists of an XBox 360 Elite used as an extender (the primary interface for the entire setup) and a Dell Optiplex GX270 running Windows XP Media Center Edition. I'm trying to get the Dell set up in such a way to serve media to the 360 along with live TV to view from the bedside LCD panel designated for the 360.

I've gone through three capture devices with a forth on the way - that I made a mistake in ordering and has to go back after I receive it - and then a fifth receiver.

To go in order of why they don't work…

Pinnacle DVD "Recorder", aka a regular old capture card - verdict: NO
This is a simple device I had connected to my VCR with an IR blaster to hope to use it as a Media Center tuner. "TUNER NOT RECOGNIZED", the magical box said. I'm sure Linux might have better support for IR blasting + manual capture devices, but they don't work with the Extender functionality I need.

eBay Special: the $13 TV tuner from China - verdict: NO
With the included application, it doesn't even lock onto the proper cable frequencies. Media Center testing not worth it nor would it probably work.

Hauppauge WinTV 878 series tuner - verdict: NO
This took me over 5 hours to set up. Why? Media Center expects to see a hardware encoded TV capture device, not a software-based one as most Hauppauge products are. Media Center was a massive kludge: install drivers, manually extract some "SoftPVR" application and register a module manually, hook it all up and hope it works.

It did.

Audio? What audio? I had to connect speakers directly to the tuner card for audio output when using my Extender. Changing channels? What a joke - it locked up both ends.

But with WinTV2000? Sure, it works. But on the PC, not my Extender.

HDHomeRun single-tuner networked receiver - verdict: HDFoulBall (no.)
THIS is the greatest @#$@ up I've made so far buying this $98.99 pile of heaping crap. Why? ATSC and QAM tuning only - no NTSC analog TV tuning, which I need.

Because the ever-so-lovely cable companies do not like unencrypted QAM - or any form of user freedoms, I cannot use this tuner that I've ordered - unless I want two CBS channels and 4 PBS channels. And 7 OnDemand channels that don't work with the box anyways.

Although, if you have a lot of OTA HD channels and such, I do recommend picking up one of these or a dual-tuner model: they're designed for multiple Media Center machines to use the tuners at the same time - since it IS operated over the network. 15Mb/s a stream, take note of that.

Yep, no warning from RadioShack that it doesn't pick up *every* channel I normally would get - and I can't cancel the order because it's already pulled in the warehouse.

Meaning… I've got to wait up to a week for it to get here, another few days returning it, and then finally going in the store to buy another tuner.

Update: Yep. Just as I expected. Lots of encrypted QAM channels (thanks TWC) and only 14 available unencrypted. AKA… PBS and WWNY/CBS/FOX.

Still waiting on my RadioShack refund.

Hauppauge (ugh) WinTV 850 USB Tuner - verdict: UNKNOWN
I'm going to end up returning the HDFailRun for this tuner - again, from Radioshack.

I have no idea if it'll work properly for the needs, but I sure hell hope it does - I'm getting sick of setting this damn thing up as it stands.