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Windows 7 Media Center in Canada

With the release of Windows 7 comes an updated version of the Media Center component of Windows.  There’s a bevvy of new functionality available, and you can find a good review of the new features by clicking here (link to Engadget).  In this post I’ll point you to some additional flavour that will make your Media Center experience north of the 49th parallel that much more interesting.

 

Over The Air HDTV
Did you know that all of the broadcast stations in Canada and the United States are switching to high-definition? Yep, pull out your old rabbit ears and prepare to be amazed by the eye-popping clarity of the free TV signals flying through our airwaves in Canada’s major cities.  Click here for instructions on how to get Media Center to pull in those signals and turn your PC into Canada’s best high-definition PVR.
In the Windows 7 version, you can now tell Media Center to give preference to high definition broadcasts and using my little hack you can get access to all of the subchannels coming across the US border as well.

 

Cable and Satellite HDTV
For years, you’ve likely heard me complain about the PVR options available from the big cable and satellite companies in Canada.  Once you’ve used Media Center it’s really hard to go back to using a cable company PVR, but until recently that’s been your only option for getting access to high definition cable channels like TSN and Discovery Channel.  With Windows 7, you now have some options for getting high definition cable into Media Center.  You’ll still need a set-top-box from your cable company, but you can opt for the lower-priced non-PVR version and connect it to Media Center using the HD-PVR from Hauppauge (currently requires DVBLink addon to work, I expect native support in a few months).

 

Channel Logos
A hidden feature that is easily exposed using a little program called My Channel Logos adds some nice sizzle to the Media Center interface.  Canadian channel logos are planned for the next release, but for the time being you can get a Canadian logo pack by clicking here.

 

Internet TV
Here’s where I bring you some sad news in the “cool stuff that’s happening but doesn’t work in Canada” category.  Windows 7 adds Internet TV functionality to Media Center, and Hulu desktop can be integrated as well to bring you on-demand access to high quality versions of all of the hottest shows on TV.  Unfortunately due to licensing constraints, Canadians are blocked from these services and all attempts to work around these barriers seem to be plugged very quickly so I can’t recommend anything right now that will make this viable in the long term for the Great White North.  For now, you can get some low-quality versions of your favourite TV shows from the CTV, Global, and CBC.

 

Windows 7 Media Center provides enough compelling new features (Photo Wall, HDTV Recording Priority, Subchannel support, h264 video streaming to XBox 360 Extenders) that I would strongly recommend the upgrade to my fellow Canadians.

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Categories: Uncategorized
  1. The Merovingian
    October 3, 2011 at 12:51 am

    I cannot wait for a WMC plugin that’ll do Spacecast, CTV, Global, and CBC directly in WMC via Internet streaming for us Canadians. 😐

    Is there no one doing this in Canada whatsoever?

    OMFGz digital backwater O-Noes 😦

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