SHCC WYSIWYG Article from May 2015

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This article was written by Don VanSyckel, the club president, as a part of "The President's Pen".  This article appeared in the May 2015 WYSIWYG newsletter.

PC TV Tuners

by Don VanSyckel

With an internet connection you have many options to access video content, TV shows, and movies. I thought about how we used to use a VCR to record TV. VCR's no longer work with the digital signals now on most cable systems. The new recording devices are DVRs (Digital Video Recorders). A few years ago when digital on cable was just coming out, I checked on getting a DVR and at the time was told the technology was locked up via patents and the cable companies were holding the technology captive. At that time I could not locate any VCRs to purchase and all the cable companies offered a DVR as a feature of signing up with them. I never checked on DVRs again since the cable companies are still offering a DVR as incentive to sign up for their service.

I checked around on line and found that there are a number of options available for recording digital video. I didn't find any VCRs that just connect in the cable going to the TV in the manner that the VCRs did. If you know of any, let me know the manufacturer and model and where to get it. What is available fall into roughly two categories, PC based and stand alone streamers.

The PC based devices are available as cards for PCs and USB devices. I purchased one of each. I have installed the card in my Win7 desktop. When I opened the box, it was hard to believe how little was on the card. After looking at the card it was evident how the USB device was possible. The USB device is about the size of a deck of playing cards with a USB connector on one end and a coaxial cable connector on the other end. I put a spliter in the cable going to the TV and connected the card to cable. Everything went smoothly. I turned on the PC and to start things, you have to select what type of signals to receive with the card. This card will handle 1) analog cable (old style cable and antenna signals), 2) digital cable (called clear QAM), and 3) encoded digital (generally premium cable channels and you need a decoder from the cable company). I selected digital (clear QAM).

Next you run the channel scan. I was surprised the range to search was 2 - 159. This didn't seem like enough range but it could not be set larger to I clicked OK to scan and away it went. Again I was surprised by the program finding channels like "12273" and "12274". As I sat and watched I figured out the "122" in the before mentioned examples is 122 in the 2 - 159 channel range so the rage is sort of 200 - 15999. The program reported that it found 379 channels.

The issue is the channels numbers have no relationship to the channel numbers on the TV. 379 channels sound great until you try to find a channel by clicking the up channel button 378 times. The software install did deliver a URL shortcut to a web site with cable channel listings. The web site did know I am in the Detroit area but it was displaying the list for the other cable company (the one I don't have). There was a button for changing the set up for the web site but to do this you needed an account, offered for free. However when I tried to set up an account, the web site went nowhere and then I noticed the site was trying to do ads from doubleclick. I have configured all my PCs to short circuit doubleclick for years and have no intention of enabling the doubleclick plague just to get TV channel listings.

I looked for another solution to find channels. I found the channel list in the program and the program allows you to move entries in the list up and down. I arranged the list in alphabetical order by call sign (CBS, NBC, etc). So to change channel I right click, select find channel, drag down to the channel I want, and double click. If you know the channel number and the TV program is the active window, you can type the channel number desired. This could work for a few channels but how many five digit channel numbers can you remember. There is also a remote control that came with the card. There is a receiver the size of a dime you double-sided tape to the front of the PC. It has a cable that plugs into the card. At this time the remote hasn't changed the channel. The same problem of the five digit channel numbers though. At this point I'm not sure how I'm going to trouble shoot the remote. I don't foresee using the remote as a primary control so this is not a high priority. I'll try another battery first. After that I'm open for suggestions.

I have watched a few shows and recorded a few shows. Both live TV and recorded shows look really good on the PC. I have to determine if the format the recordings are in can be used by any other software. Both my desktop and laptop have HDMI outputs so I'm thinking I can take the laptop to the TV in the family room and play a movie on the TV using the HDMI connection.

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