Sunday, January 26, 2014

Win7 XBMC with TV Tuner Capabilities

Aaah Microsoft.

You brought PCs to the world and then screwed yourselves over.

For a long time I've been a fan of Windows Media Center thanks to its use of Windows Media Player as the backend and the seamless integration of codecs etc.

But somewhere along the line, Microsoft pushed an update which has kicked off a problem which has not gone away and is causing lots of grief amongst many Media Center devotees.

My reasoning for putting this down to a failed update is that this problem never existed until about a year ago.

The failed update in question involves "Windows Media Center Receiver Service" which is  responsible for handling TV tuner operations (including recordings).
Since the mysterious update this process has continually killed the CPU which renders the system unusable while it is losing it's shit.

Other videos will not play back without horrible stuttering and input devices freeze up for about 5 seconds while in use.

Not acceptable at all.

So, where to now?

XBMC has been great as a front end for media playback (tv, movies, music) but has never really had a place in PVR management.

Well - there is some progress being made here.

I wouldn't say it's ready for the masses but it is more than acceptable to use for those that are technical.

My setup all resides on the one box in that it's running Win7 Home Premium with a local PCI Express tuner.

In theory with XBMC the tuner can be on a different DVB-T server (or a homerun device).

I simply followed this guide over on YouTube that basically says:

  • Install Next PVR
  • Set Next PVR settings to use tuners
  • Scan channels in Next PVR
  • Install XBMC
  • Install XBMC NextPVR client plugin
  • Point to server ( obviously if same box)
  • Give it a minute
  • Bam - it works.
I have to admit - I didn't think it was going to work - but it did!

I'm using an Avermedia 188 PCI Express Tuner and it works quite nicely.

I get the odd glitch but that's mainly due to the channels not having good enough signal strength.
My next trick is to see if Next PVR supports a threshold for signal strength in it's discovery and update the channel list.

The EPG isn't as polished as WMC but it is more than good enough.

Recording support also seems good but it might need a bit of work in terms of understanding re-scheduled time etc.

This all does look very promising however given that WMC seems to be abandonware from Microsoft...

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