Windows 7 and RiksTV
Windows 7 RC has already been out for some time, but I have only recently started discovering the changes since the public beta. I wrote a longer introduction to Windows 7 when I got the hands on the beta. The introduction is still worth reading. Also information about DVB-T and HDTV seems to be some of the topics that are most interesting for my readers.
Get yourself a cup of coffee and read the rest of this article.
For Windows 7 Microsoft has really focused on getting the best TV experience possible for PC users, and my god have they succeeded. With the Media Center in Win 7, they are miles a head of Apple. Since Vista with the implementation of Integrated Services Digital Broadcasting Terrestrial (ISDB-T) Digital television standard for Japan, Digital Video Broadcasting Satellite (DVB-S) free-to-air satellite standards in Europe, Digital Video Broadcasting Terrestrial (DVB-T) digital television with improved user experience in Europe, ClearQAM (Unencrypted Digital Cable) in the United States, Interactive television with integrated Broadcast Markup Language (BML) in Japan and Multimedia and Hypermedia information coding Expert Group (MHEG) (MHEG5) in Europe, they have included native support for subscription-based satellite tuners and the H.264 video standard (which we use here in Norway). Sorry for giving you the world’s longest sentence, but the list of implemented standards show that Windows 7 is the only OS that you should consider if you plan to use a computer with your home cinema system and TV! Another very exciting enhancement of the Media Center is the support of IPTV , with well integrated TV guides, standard and hi-def content.
Microsoft hasn’t only focused on implementing the various standards used for TV across the world, but of course also written drivers for the most commonly used digital TV cards. I have bought myself a quite cheap standard DVB-T USB stick, the Pinnacle PCTV 73e. When plugging it in, you see the true beauty of Plug & Play, within seconds Windows 7 starts downloading and installing the needed drivers for the USB stick and it’s remote control. There is no longer any need to find the CD and install the drivers together with the horrible, cluttered TV application that comes with most TV cards (read: Terratec, Hauppague and Pinnacle). From now on, you only need a version of Windows 7 with the inbuilt Media Center. So make sure you buy the right version of Windows!
After you have installed the drivers, start Media Center and if you haven’t used it before, just choose the simplified setup. The Media Center will guide you through the setup of your DVB-T card. The whole setup with scanning of channels should be done in less then 5 minutes (depending on the speed of your broadband).
Windows 7 starts the setup process with automatically detecting what region / country you are living in, so for me it was only to accept that it had chosen Norway and continue with adding my current postal code. Why on Earth does Microsoft need my postal code here? There is an simple answer to that, the postal code determines what version of the EPG (Electronic Program Guide) should be installed for you. In other words, the EPG will include regional and local TV stations that are not available through out the country. One example for Oslo would be NRK Østlandssendingen, which isn’t available for people living on the west coast.
An Electronic Program Guide (EPG) is a digital guide to scheduled broadcast television or radio programs, typically displayed on-screen with functions allowing a viewer to navigate, select, and discover content by time, title, channel, genre, etc. by use of a remote control, a keyboard, or other input devices such as a phone keypad. The content can also be scheduled for future recording by a digital video recorder (DVR) (or personal video recorder (PVR).
When clicking next, Windows 7 starts downloading your version of the EPG. It can show you up to 14 days in advance what shows will be running and let you record the show or if it is a TV series record them all.
Then accept to license agreements and let Microsoft download and install additional software, in this case PlayReady. PlayReady is a Digital Rights Management (DRM) product from Microsoft for portable devices, so it will let you transfer a digital copy of a TV recording to your portable device (but is today incompatible with ZUNE).
PlayReady is a Digital Rights Management (DRM) product from Microsoft for portable devices. It was announced in February 2007 and is oriented primarily to the mobile market. PlayReady is a pure proprietary solution and therefore will not be compatible with any non-Microsoft restriction systems. The technology enables a broad spectrum of business models such as subscription, rental, pay-per-view, preview and super-distribution, which can be applied to many digital content types and a wide range of audio and video formats. Content types supported include music, video, games, ring tones and images. Audio/video formats supported include Windows Media Audio (WMA), AAC/AAC+/HE-AAC, Windows Media Video (WMV), and H.264.
After having installed PlayReady, Windows 7 detects what kind of TV card you have connected with your computer. There is no more analogue TV in Norway, so don’t ask me about those cards … As you can see from the screenshot below Windows 7 correctly finds that I have a DVB-T card connected to my laptop:
By clicking next hear, Windows 7 will start scanning for available TV and Radio channels. This can take a few minutes and is the last thing you need to do when setting up your computer to show TV.
I mentioned that you also have radio channels available, and I can only say that quality seems to be great. I have only tested one channel, NRK Jazz, and quality seems to be on the level of DAB or better. The player also shows you when you started listening to the radio show and much is left of it. Also the radio shows can be recorded.
I can only receive the three NRK channels with my DVB-T card. The reason is that you need a subscription card to see the rest of the TV Channels. TV2 is for instance free, but only available through this card. RiksTV is currently the only way to get access to TV2 HD.