Geek TV: software

OK, so I mentioned that I was not completely thrilled with the Hauppauge bundled software. I won’t get into why:

  • one part of the install failed, “MPEG SW decoders”. Not knowing the architecture of this system as I now do, and seeing that it was an optional component, I figured, not a big deal. Well, knowing what I know now, I’d change the label to “You don’t need this, except if you want any of the other software to work, like to watch TV or record it or something. Good luck installing it!”. Turns out that the sub-installer just doesn’t work if you have a TMP envvar set (only took an hour with ProcMon to figure that out), and, well, that’s bad.
  • the TV app isn’t too great
  • scheduling recordings is… I did I say I wasn’t going to get into this.

I went off in search of some other options. Luckily, the market is rife with options. Let’s see:

  • Beyond TV: not bad. If I hadn’t found a cheaper solution, I might have dropped the $60 on this. Critically, it provided the confirmation that the hardware and drivers actually work.
  • Power Cinema: didn’t actually look past the $100-$120 price tag, but I have had reasonable success with Cyberlink products in the past.
  • Windows MCE: not gonna go get a new OS to watch TV, if that’s even possible outside of pre-built computers. I accidentally have it on my laptop, but that doesn’t do me much good.
  • Meedio: already gone.
  • MeediOS: not here yet.

Well, it goes on, but I don’t seem to have links to many others. Anyway, none of that matters, because I finally found MediaPortal. Wicked-cool! Open source (even if in C# and tied tightly to Windows), pretty, very active community, lots of plugins, lots of builtins, PVR, DVD, EPG, all the good stuff you expect, and free. Granted, it was unstable while I was setting it up, and it didn’t support my card initially. But my patience was not exceeded and was rewarded: I got it working on my card according to the developers’ instructions (and submitted my work so y’all HVR-1600 people don’t have to do it after the next release), and it just started stabilizing after a while.

Not to say that it’s everything a person could want or bug-free, but I’ve gotten a lot farther with it than with any other free solution, and as far as with Beyond TV, so I’m quite happy.

That gets me to the point of basic end-user functionality, which is good. My hardware works, I think the drivers are actually stable, and I don’t have to wretch my back working around bugs in the software.

In the process of figuring all these things out, I also found some tools that are kinda nice. This is where things get fun, right?

  • VideoReDo, despite its somewhat odd interface, is a quite capable cut/join MPEG editor, with support for all the sorts of MPEG that get thrown around (.mpg, .ts, .dvr-ms, res up to and beyond full HD), surprisingly capable automatic ad-cutting, etc. Possibly worth the $50, but I’m keeping my eye out for an OSS solution of similar quality, that, yeah, runs on Windows.
  • Speaking of cutting commercials, a neat OSS tool is Comskip. Good cleaning fun.
  • This is bleeding into my next post a bit, but TSReader is a very in-depth tool for looking at DTV streams and being very impressed with all the numbers and stuff. From $0 to $400.

Speaking of my next post, see ya then.

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