Microsoft’s Windows Media Center TV Pack explored

In July, Microsoft released an update for Windows Vista’s Media Center software. The company currently restricts this Windows Media Center TV Pack to PC vendors, but you can grab the software from a few third-party sites—and it apparently has much to offer home-theater-PC enthusiasts. PC Magazine has written a long article on the subject, complete with tips on how to install the update and use the new features.

Why should you install this on your media-center PC? For folks with HDTVs, that’s a no-brainer: the TV Pack introduces support for Clear QAM unencrypted digital cable. That means you should be able to pipe digital (and potentially high-definition) broadcasts from ABC, CBS, NBC, other basic channels, and perhaps stations like MTV and TNT into your PC—something PC Magazine says was impossible with the previous version of Windows Media Center.

The TV Pack also brings other perks, like support for up to four tuners, tuner pooling (so you can select different tuners for viewing or recording a given channel), and a handful of user-interface and usability improvements. For instance, the update helps users keep listings up to date, sort content types, and rename or renumber channels.

PC Magazine claims the TV Pack still has a few bugs lurking around, though. "Many people" allegedly have problems detecting QAM channels, and users with CableCARDs similarly have had trouble tuning into channels they "ought to receive." Still, if you don’t mind living slightly on the edge, the TV Pack looks promising—just make sure your tuner card(s) actually have Clear QAM support if you want to try the HDTV stuff.

Comments closed
    • adisor19
    • 11 years ago

    Ford the love of GOD, why isn’t this update available to everyone with MCE instead of only to PC manufactures ??!?!


      • eitje
      • 11 years ago

      monay monay monay mon-ay….


      • stmok
      • 11 years ago

      To get you to pay. The point has always been about cornering and herding users into paying. Once you become acutely aware of this simple concept, maybe…just maybe, you’ll think twice about the way things are.

      Not happy? Do something about. Invest in a third party solution (if one is available). Vote with your wallet.

    • Forge
    • 11 years ago

    Yeah, I have Fiji installed. ClearQAM = nice, but I get 12 channels only, all 480p, and all available OTA as well. Thanks for nothing Cocmast!

    It is nice to pool/assign tuners, but that should have been in the default MCE. The stupid ‘update listings now?’ tray icon is yet another POS clogging my system tray.

    Still no support for h264 OTA HDTV. There are an increasing number of stations switching from MPEG2 to h264, and Vista MCE misses out on all of them. GO MS!

      • videobits
      • 11 years ago

      Can you point to any specific station actually transmitting an over the air bitstream that includes h264?

      I ask because the ATSC standard for this type of transmission was just approved less than two weeks ago. I’m curious who has actually implemented something that quickly.

        • Forge
        • 11 years ago

        I’m sorry, I was unclear. Re-reading my comment I see what you saw.

        I meant ‘increasing number of stations switching from MPEG2 to h264’ as in ‘they’ve said they are going there’ not as in ‘most of my stations have switched’.

        As for why it’s not widely available:

        MS decided to make it OEM-only because it can have a ton of issues if installed on a pre-existing MCE setup. Towards the middle/end of the testing, MS set it up so that a reset of all the MCE settings is required before any of the Fiji stuff activates. That helped a lot, but MS was gun-shy about adding ‘reset all your MCE crap to default’ to the installation instructions.

        It’s been pretty clearly indicated by MS employees that they *want* you and I to grab it and use it. They just can’t officially offer it, nor can they support it.

      • amphibem
      • 11 years ago

      Lack of H.264 support is definitely a pain for NZ users, we have had Free To Air HD broadcast using MPEG4 since July, and very limited software support. The only two options currently are Mediaportal and GB-PVR, or as of recently MythTV (if you have a fast CPU and are willing to live on the edge).

      Seems ridiculous these free and mostly open-source PVR packages can support something Microsoft, for all its resources,cannot.

    • sotti
    • 11 years ago

    media center is a cluster f***

      • computron9000
      • 11 years ago

      That’s probably the most apt description I’ve seen about MC.

      • burntham77
      • 11 years ago

      Media Center always felt slow and clunky even though it looks very pretty. I use Beyond Media and Beyond TV for all my PC TV and Movie needs. Beyond Media handles a lot more codecs than Media Center.

      • MattMojo
      • 11 years ago

      Please explain….

      /[<"media center is a cluster f***"<]/ I use Vista Ultimate on a 1.9Ghz AMD X2, 2gig ram, 690G board, Haupauge tuner card, BFG 8600GT and topped it off with a blu-ray drive --- everything runs as smooth as warm butter - including my blu-ray movies. This computer stays on 24/7 and has never once given me an ounce of trouble. The menu system is very fluid and since it is connected to the internet 24/7 it receives constant updates to online media and features... heck on morning I turn on my TV and BAM, I now have an integrated online radio streaming plugin to MCE that automatically showed my local stations... among other things..... nice! It is the media center extenders that need to be vamped up.

    • Usacomp2k3
    • 11 years ago

    Still dragging their heels on Blu-Ray support. *grumble grumble*

      • FroBozz_Inc
      • 11 years ago

      For real. No reason for it other then MS bing bitter after loosing w/ HD-DVD and this is their way of taking the ball and going home instead of playing nice. People would pay for real BR support inside media center.

        • MattMojo
        • 11 years ago

        you can “add” support for Blu-Ray. I found it by using google. Basically you create a XML file detailing the auto-run event for MCE when a blu-ray disc is inserted and it loads the program that will play it.

        When I plot in a disc it auto-loads that program and starts full screen playback.

        It’s not the most ideal but it still works.

      • jamesnorman93
      • 11 years ago

      Windows Vista Service Pack 2 will have Blu-ray support 😉

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