Recently, I have been spending a lot time with Windows Media Center. There are a few reasons why. I am *finally* getting around to trying out the media-related WHS add-ins in preparation for WGS reviews. I just finished Recorded TV Manager and I am working on the Recorded TV add-in. And more to follow.
Plus, I am now using Windows 7, which means I like to check out the new features and other enhancements in Microsoft’s latest OS. Windows Media Center is obviously one of programs that I wanted to check out. Which leads me to the reason I am writing this article today.
In prior releases of WMC, I have been unable to receive much in the way of digital programming from my cable provider. Even when I had the TV Pack installed on Vista MC. Whether this was/is a WMC problem or a cable provider problem, I cannot say. Me thinks that it is a little bit of both, but that is just a guess. All that has changed. I now get just about every Clear QAM channel that my cable provider broadcasts and a few more to boot!
This is fantastic simply because digital broadcasts looks better on digital hardware. It does not matter whether that hardware is a LCD computer screen or a LCD television screen. Analog looks great when the signal (from beginning to end) is analog. Digital looks even better when the signal (from beginning to end) is digital. When a conversion process is used (digital –> analog or vice-versa) in that signal path, the result looks bad (to me) when viewed on a digital screen. I really believe that is why analog computer tuners, in general, produce mediocre results at best.
While the Holy Grail of television viewing from WMC is closer, it still requires some manipulation by the end user to get all the channels set up for viewing, and make use of the Channel Guide. At least it does for me. Perhaps in different areas and with different cable companies, the hoops I have to jump through are not required. Simply take this as “My WMC Story”.
Initial Hardware Setup
Short section here. I am going to assume that you have Windows 7, TV tuner, and all drivers already installed. For what it’s worth, Windows 7 recognized and automatically installed the necessary drivers for my AverMedia M780 combo tuner.
The very simple/easy part.
Windows 7 Media Center Channel Setup
As I stated previously, in prior releases of WMC I have been unable to receive much in the way of digital channels from my cable provider. The digital capabilities of WMC have improved substantially, however, going from Vista to Windows 7. In addition, I think the rules changed somewhat once the U.S. went digital, as I have seen a major ramp-up in digital availability since the switch occurred.
It was not until very recently, however, that my cable company changed their channel lineup dramatically. All digital programming used to be 82.xx and above. Recently, the cable company vacated the analog channels in the 51 to 56 range. While there is still a sprinkling of channels in the upper range, most of the digital programming that is broadcast by the cable company is now in the 52.xx to 56.xx range.
That is all well and good, but the cable company remaps all these channels from, for example, 59.19 to 838 in their PVRs and other cable-provided tuners. As the channel guide is based upon the later set of numbers, WMC users are left out in the cold when it comes to automatically having their complete channel lineup show up in WMC. All those digital channels have to be remapped by hand. If one gets all the way through that and you rescan for some reason, be ready to redo all that hard work.
So, what hoops does one have to jump through to get everything setup for use with the TV Guide in Windows 7 Media Center? Here goes.
- Open Media Center and go to Tasks –> Settings.
- Go to TV –> TV Signal –> Set Up TV Signal. Go through the various analog and digital tuner screens. Scan for your channels.
I really like the “This process may take several minutes.” message. Not… I think that this is the only time that I have ever found this message to be really true. Several minutes later…
- You are done. Click through the remaining screens and head back to Tasks –> Settings –>TV –> Guide –> Edit Channels. This brings you to the following screen.
- Uncheck the 1.1 channel and start paging down. When you get to a section where the box is not checked and no padlock exists, check the box!
- Once you are through the channel listing, be sure to hit the Save button, or you will lose all your hard work. Which is actually the easy part. The next task is the very time consuming, very tedious part.
- Go to TV –> Guide. Scroll through the listings until you come across the ones which have “No data available”. Clicking on the “No data available” will take you to that live TV channel. Most broadcasters (in the U.S. at least) will have their logo in the lower right of the screen.
- If it is a channel you recognize, simply go back to the channel guide and click in the channel area, then click on Edit Channel. Click on Edit Listings which brings you to a list of all the channels that your cable provider has in the Guide. Simply scroll through the listings until you find the one specific to the channel you are searching for. Click on that one, click on save and you have associated that channel with the appropriate Guide listing.
- If you come across a channel that is a digital equivalent of the analog version (no separate Guide listing), you are asked the following.
I am not exactly sure how or why, but it seems that there are channels that the cable company receives but has not incorporated into their broadcasted digital channel lineup. Not yet, anyway.
If you have many channels that fall into the unlisted Guide range, this is a laborious task and quite time consuming. Somehow, the cable companies and Microsoft need to find common ground to automate the Guide to the physical channels.
Anyway, that’s all there is to it! 12 hours and 50 channels later, you may have all those digital channels associated with their respective guide listing. Just be careful about rescanning your channels. Rescan and you will have to redo all that hard work you went through.
Media Center in Windows 7 is much better (in my opinion) than the Vista version. The digital lineup from my cable provider today is much improved over last year’s lineup. Perhaps by Windows 12, Microsoft and your cable (or dish) provider will be on the same sheet of music. Perhaps your provider and Microsoft already are. If so, consider yourself blessed.
However, if you are like me and get those “No data available” guide listings, what is detailed above is what you need to do to get from “No data available” to “Data available”. Now, if you have this problem and have come across a better solution to get everything synced, let me know!