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Summary:

I like Vista. Really, I do. In fact, I’m very impressed with the latest build as I’ve used it all day on my desktop. I guess where I’m struggling is in the decision-making we sometimes see from Microsoft on the new operating system. See, on the […]

NtscI like Vista. Really, I do. In fact, I’m very impressed with the latest build as I’ve used it all day on my desktop. I guess where I’m struggling is in the decision-making we sometimes see from Microsoft on the new operating system. See, on the original partition of the desktop, I’m running Microsoft Windows Media Center Edition 2005. With WMCE, I watch free HDTV via an over-the-air ATSC tuner card; I even stream that HDTV signal via WiFi to another HDTV by using an Xbox 360 as a Window Media Extender. That configuration works great but there was one issue with it: in order for me to configure the digital TV, or ATSC, tuner in WMCE 2005, I had to have an analog, or NTSC, tuner card. This is a requirement in the 2005 edition of WMCE and I sullenly complied, even though I haven’t watched analog television in my home since November of 2001. So what’s my beef with Vista and it’s Media Center functions? The analog tuner requirement is still there.

I’m really hoping that this requirement is just in there for the beta and that the final product doesn’t have this silly limitation. And it is silly from a end-user point of view, although I can’t speak to the technical reason it’s required.

It’s silly because Vista will have a life-cycle of four or five years, minimum. Does Microsoft know when analog television signals will be shut down by law? Maybe not, but I do, and this shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone who wants to provide the means for digital entertainment to our family rooms. On February 17th, 2009, all analog television signals in the United States will be gone. Not all at one time on that day, mind you, since stations have been transitioning their analog systems to digital for some time.

Perhaps there’s a technical reason for the requirement, although I would find that hard to believe since I don’t think third party DVR apps like BeyondTV, Sage TV or Myth have the same requirement. Perhaps this is just a beta requirement as I said (and hope). Worst of all: perhaps this is just poor decision-making that will force consumers to buy an NTSC hardware card that will become obsolete. Thoughts?

-kct

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  1. Kevin,
    I’ve inquired about this requirement before and Microsoft has stated that they key the guide data off of the analog tuner–so it’s required.

  2. Kevin C. Tofel Thursday, May 18, 2006

    That could be Shahn, but I’ve used the other DTV PVR software I’ve mentioned and I can get guide data without an NTSC card. I don’t doubt what you’ve been told, but I do question why that’s a requirement for Microsoft when other software companies can do it without that requirement.

  3. Oh, I agree! I think it’s a glaring item that needs to be addressed. I doubt it will be addressed in Vista by RTM. However, the MCE team does have a good record of releasing close to yearly updates. So let’s hope they resolve this issue in the next iteration.

  4. I almost forgot–one “trick” is that you can setup the TV part of Media Center with an analog tuner, then remove it and you can continue to watch tv etc. This “trick” works much better in the current build of Vista than it did in MCE 2005. However, it’s still a pain to remove my only analog tuner from my main media center down stairs and install it in my office computer which has the HD tuner in it.

  5. Kevin C. Tofel Thursday, May 18, 2006

    Shahn, I’m with you on the updates. The rollups and patches get delivered as promised. You’re spot-on with the “trick” to WMCE. I figured this out the hard way last year and keep an external USB NTSC tuner in my home office solely for this purpose. See: http://www.hdbeat.com/2005/11/29/sub-grand-wmce-4/ :)

  6. Don’t be surprised if that deadline get’s moved. That deadline has moved many times ALREADY. The FCC is the unknown component here. The broadcasters also are a HUGE unknown. If the broadcasters decide to put up a fight, they have enough control to move this date.

  7. Kevin C. Tofel Friday, May 19, 2006

    That’s highly unlikely. Check my links as the DTV transition was approved by both the House and Senate and then ratified into law by George W. early this year. The emergency public services need the analog spectrum and the gov’t needs the several billions of dollars estimated as a result of auctioning off the analog spectrum; that “revenue” is already in the federal budget.

  8. Richard Kuo Friday, May 19, 2006

    Hi, Richard from SnapStream here. It’s definitely not any sort of implicitly technical requirement, as you might have guessed just by thinking about it.

    Usually there’s a legacy assumption in the code that would require changing a lot of cod to fix it.

    Just guessing, since we don’t write MCE…but there’s likely an assumption in their product that the guide will always be referring to an analog tuner. (which was valid in 2002, but not now)

  9. William C Bonner Sunday, May 21, 2006

    The interesting thing is to wonder how many people use NTSC off the air vs from cable. There is no reason the cable companies won’t continue to broadcast via NTSC long after 2009. The air broadcasters have to stop analog broadcasts on 2/17/2009, but since cable doesn’t use broadcast spectrum, they are fine to use whatever standard they want. (They could use PAL if they wanted to distribute the cable boxes)

    I’m in a mode right now of trying to decide if I want to keep paying the cable company, or just make do with the Samsung ATSC tuner and Terk55 antenna I’ve got. If I could easily get my TiVo working with the HDTV Tuner, I’d make the move right now.

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