Archive for the ‘Media Center’ Category

Missing Guide Data from Windows Media Center–Workaround

January 16, 2013 22 comments

It appears that there is a widespread issue causing certain channels to have no guide data in Windows Media Center.  The ball is pretty clearly in Microsoft’s court, but as far as I can tell there are no more players on team Media Center so I expect this one to take a while to fix.


Like me, many Canadians set up Media Center using a nearby US zip code to enable all of the high-definition TV features.  Unfortunately it seems that the zip code closest to Toronto has been particularly hard hit by this bug.

I’ve updated my Media Center hack to help work around this issue by running a single batch file.  Full updated instructions and zip file are located at the Windows Experts wiki here.

Essentially, this will supplement your buggy US listings with additional listings from Canadian cable and satellite providers.  Canadian providers tend to carry lots of US stations as well, so this may also be a decent workaround for some of our friends to the south.

Early reports from users at Digital Home Canada indicate that this workaround has been successful for everyone who has implemented it.

Finally, I’ve logged the bug with Microsoft (click here).  Please vote it up and mark “I can too” stating that you are able to reproduce the bug as well.  This might help to speed up the official fix.

Categories: Canada, Media Center

Cutting the cable in Canada–Conclusion (Part 8)

January 4, 2012 13 comments

This is the conclusion of a blog series on cutting the cable in Canada.

Back in the spring, I began to look at options for cutting the cable in Canada, including IPTV, Apple iTunes, Netflix, TV Websites, Boxee, and a brief look to see if the grass is any greener south of the border. 

The ground rules were as follows:

  • My family must accept the solution, this is not a geeks-only endeavour
  • The content creators must be compensated, no stealing from the artists
  • The quality must generally match what I get today, which means high definition
  • Costs must fit within our existing budget, I’m only allowed to spend what I save elsewhere

I’ll admit that after the initial review I got somewhat dismayed because the conclusion was leaning to “not possible in Canada”.  The biggest sticking point was content for my kids, six and eight year old girls who enjoy watching Teletoon and some other kid-oriented cable channels on a little TV in the basement.  I decided to throw in the towel.  Cable had won.

However, this summer my cable provider gave me an extra push by removing all of the kids channels from their analog tier which meant that cartoons would no longer work on the little TV downstairs without additional investment.  This was the time to strike!

After a bit of trial and error, I did end up with a solution that works for my family and we are now 100% free of cable in our household.  Here’s what the Near household looks like:

Over-The-Air High Definition Everywhere

4221HDA small antenna in the attic drives the majority of what we watch in the house.  I ran the coax cable from my antenna down into my basement, literally unplugged the cable feed from the road and instead plugged the antenna into the splitter, and now every room in the house how has HD antenna.  Plug in an HDTV, and about 35 channels come in crystal-clear.

Whole-Home PVR

So now I had all the TVs in the house running free and legal live TV, but what I really wanted to do is record that TV to a PVR so I can watch it anywhere in the house.  To do this, I activated the free Windows Media Center program that comes with Windows 7 to turn my Windows PC into a fully functional PVR.  I plugged my antenna into an HDHomerun tuner, which allowed my Windows PC to record two HDTV channels at the same time.  To get everything working in the Toronto area, I simply told Media Center that I live in the United States at Zipcode 14174 (for other areas of Canada the setup is a bit more involved).

The steps above turn the PC into a PVR that’s quite frankly better than any PVR from the cable company.  When you have both an XBox 360 and a Windows Media Center PC in the same house, it turns the XBox into a PVR too!  Microsoft calls this a Media Center Extender, I  have three extenders in my house which means that every TV in the house is a high definition PVR.

For The Kids

netflix_logoSurprisingly, there is very little content on broadcast television for kids these days.  However, kids programming is an area where Netflix really shines.  I picked up an Apple TV 2 for about one hundred dollars and plugged it in to the TV in the basement.  I taught my eight-year old how to use it in about ten minutes, my six-year old still needs a bit of help getting it going.

Netflix is now the kids’ primary source of content, and since they’re using my account I can monitor everything that they watch.

Some Extras:

So there we have it, Cable TV has been completely replaced in our household!  Flush with an extra $60 per month in cash, I find myself a bit more liberal with the entertainment dollar.  I spent an extra $30 to buy, which takes everything from my PVR and syncs it to my iPod for business trips.  I bought the entire Scooby Doo box set for about $60 and added it to our DVD collection.  We rent HD movies on the XBox for family movie nights.  My daughter watches Netflix in her room on an iPod Touch.  Overall I’m spending less and getting more for my entertainment dollar.  I count that as a win!

Is it right for you?

This setup works well for my family, but there’s one key difference between my house and most other Canadian households… we don’t really care too much about live sports.  I get all the games I care about including the Stanley Cup, Superbowl (with US commercials!), World Series, and the Olympics.  However if you spend most of your time on TSN or Sportsnet then what I’ve done probably won’t work for you.  I am not aware of any legal way to get those live sports other than cable or satellite.

Where to get more information:

The Digital Home Canada forums are a great place to ask questions and dig in to some more options for cutting the cable.

Over The Air forum

Home Theater PC forum

The Shopping List:

While I would recommend doing a little research to see what’s best for you, I know the reality is that many will just want to know what I’ve got so they can go buy the same thing.  Here’s the full list of what is involved in my setup.

Antenna Installation

Windows Media Center PVR

Media Center Extenders

  • Xbox 360 ($200)
  • Linksys DMA-2100 (discontinued, find on Kijiji or eBay)
  • Linksys DMA-2200 (discontinued, find on Kijiji or eBay)


Installing an attic antenna for free HDTV in Canada

August 11, 2011 26 comments

On August 31 2011, the Canadian airwaves will light up with new free HDTV signals from your local television stations.  In order to take advantage of these signals you’ll want a good quality antenna to pull in the signals.

The best option is to install an antenna on your roof, but if you’re like me then there are a few reasons why this might not happen:

  1. My wife (and likely neighbours) doesn’t want an ugly antenna sticking out of my roof
  2. I’m not comfortable working on the roof myself
  3. I’m too cheap to pay someone to do it for me (about $250 labour to install)
    The next best thing to an outdoor antenna is to install an antenna in your attic, which is actually quite easy to do.  I’ll walk you through the basics.

    What you’ll need (expect to spend about $150):

    A good-quality antenna:

    • See the chart over at Digital Home Canada for the latest recommendations
    • The CM4221 was my choice because it can grab fringe channels from Buffalo and will fit through my attic hatch
    • Note that you’ll need to match the antenna to the channels you plan to receive and there are a few odd ducks out there that will be tough to match to an attic-sized antenna (I’m lookin’ at you Global TV on channel 6 in Paris, Ontario)

    A pole to mount it to:

    • Personally I used some cheap PVC conduit from Home Depot

    A pre-amplifier:

    • This is only necessary if you plan to split the signal to multiple TVs, but a pre-amp is a good investment as it amplifies the signal right at the antenna before any signal gets lost in the cable or splitters
    • See the chart over at Digital Home Canada for the latest recommendations. 
    • The Winegard AP-4700 was my choice as I didn’t want to over-amplify the signal and at the time I only needed UHF channels 14 and up.

    Coax cable:

    • RG6 grade is the way to go here, which is available at Home Depot in bulk
    • You’ll also need a way to put screw-ends on the coax, which usually involves a special cutter and crimper which is also available at Home Depot (I’m happy to lend my compression crimpers out to local friends and colleagues)
    • Look in the telecom section for good quality stuff, not the TV cables section which is where Home Depot puts the cheap junk

    Step 1 – Mount the antenna

    Find a spot in the attic that is relatively easy to access.  Use conduit clamps (also at Home Depot) to mount the pole vertically between rafters.  Use a level to ensure the pole is straight.

    Mount the antenna to the pole following the manufacturer’s instructions, as high as is possible.  The CM4221 is a simple U-bolt that you loosen via a couple of nuts.

    Step 2 – Run the cable

    Figure out how you’re going to run a cable from your antenna to its ultimate destination (likely the TV).

    Here’s how I did it:

    • Found a cold-air return duct that ran from the ceiling of the top floor all the way down to the basement. 
    • Popped off the cover from the vent, and drilled a hole upwards into the attic
    • Stuck a coat hanger through the hole so that I could find it through the insulation
    • In the attic, use electrical tape to attach the coax cable to the coat hanger, then pulled it through into the duct.
    • Pull the cable through until I felt it hit bottom in the basement
    • Asked a buddy to jiggle the cable while I located it by sound in the basement
    • Cut a relatively large opening into the cold air return duct with tin snips to locate the cable, then pulled it through into the basement
    • Stapled the cable into place in the basement, ultimately ending near where the rest of the coax comes into the house (generally near your electrical box)
    • Closed up the cold air vent with the sheet metal I had cut out and some aluminum tape
    • Sealed all the holes with caulk
      Step 3 – Connect the antenna

    • Connect the balun (the little adapter the converts two wires into coax) to the antenna
    • Using a small piece of coax, connect the balun to the antenna side of the preamp
    • Connect the long piece of coax to the power supply side of the preamp
    • Back in the basement, connect the long coax to the power supply that came with the preamp.
    • Connect another length of coax from the preamp power supply to a splitter, and ultimately to the TVs you wish to connect (you can probably re-use the cables already in your home that were put there for Cable TV).

    Step 4 – Adjust the antenna

    • Using maps on TVFool, figure out in which direction the TV stations are broadcasting from, and point your antenna in that general direction.
    • The next set of steps is mostly trial and error, and you’ll likely need a helper. 
    • Pick one of the channels from your TVFool report that is relatively low on the list, we’re going to try to point the antenna optimally to bring in that hard-to-get channel. 
    • Tune your HDTV to that channel (you may have to run a channel scan first), and set the TV to signal strength mode. 
    • Try adjusting the antenna left or right until you get the best signal strength. 
    • Once you’ve got that hard-to-get channel working, check the signal strength on the other channels to ensure they’re coming in strong.  If not, you may have to keep tweaking until you find a happy medium for all the channels.
    • Nerd tip: If you’re using the HDHomerun3 network tuner (highly recommended), there is an iPad app called Signal GH that makes quick work of pointing the antenna.  Maps, compass, and signal strength all on your iPad
      Step 5 – Enjoy!
      That’s about it, you should now have access to all of the free HDTV signals that are flying through the air here in Canada.
      I’ve included a couple photos below of my setup to help you visualize.  You may notice that I actually chose to stack two Channel Master 4221 antennas in the attic, which helps me to pull in some of the more challenging channels from Buffalo.

      Stacked 4221 antennas in the attic Stacked 4221 antennas in the attic

      Additional Resources: More help and info on over-the-air antennas and reception in Canada Tools to help you figure out the channels available in your area

      Save ‘n Replay: Canadian online retailer that sells over-the-air supplies

      Media Center and HDTV: Instructions to set up Windows 7 as a HDTV PVR

      Free HDTV across Canada starting August 31

      August 11, 2011 16 comments

      Following years of dutifully paying our cable and satellite bills, most Canadians have forgotten that TV in this country used to be free.  Back in the good-old-days you’d pick up that nice wooden-cabinet television from Sears, extend the rabbit ears, and be good to go.

      6RABBITEARS2-articleLargeWell those old TV signals are still flying around in the airwaves, but come the end of this month they’re all about to get a shot of 21st-century steroids that actually leapfrogs the HD quality that you’re getting from your cable company.

      Here’s a quick FAQ that will help you get started with the free digital TV in your area.

      What channels will I get?

      The number of channels varies by your location, but there’s a great website that will let you know what you’ll be able to receive at your home.  Click here and enter your address into TVFool, and on the next page choose “pending” to see what the world will look like on August 31.  Everything in green you’ll get with rabbit ears, everything in yellow by putting an antenna in your attic, and if you’ve got an old antenna tower from the 70s still attached to the outside of your house then you can expect to get pretty much every channel on the list.

      A few sample locations that I know at least a few of my readers will find interesting…

      Toronto-Area Free HDTV

      Waterloo Free HDTV

      Ottawa Free HDTV

      image image image

      Will it be all staticky like when I was a kid?

      No.  With the switch to digital you either get the channel in full high-definition dolby digital glory, or you don’t get it at all.

      Why would I use an antenna instead of cable?

      The financial factor: Cable bills continue to rise, and many people will see this as an opportunity to re-evaluate whether you really need to pay $100 a month for TV service.  In many cases you’ll get all the content you’d normally watch without a monthly fee.

      Picture quality: Cable and satellite companies compress the high-definition channels so that they can fit more channels into their lineup.  Antenna channels are compressed as well, but not nearly as much and the quality is noticeable.

      Portability: The HD you get through your cable company is encrypted, and only works when connected to your cable box.  Antenna channels are not encrypted, and can be recorded to a PVR , streamed around your house, or copied to your iPad to watch on the train.

      Is this legal?

      Yes.  Television has been broadcast over the air for years, and this transition to free, over-the-air digital TV is mandated by the Canadian government.

      Ok I’m sold, what do I need?

      Pretty much every HDTV sold since 2005 has included a digital tuner (called an ATSC tuner), so all you need to do is plug an antenna into your TV.  To try things out, you could get a small indoor antenna like this one and see what you get.  Personally, I put a slightly larger antenna (about the size of a pizza-pizza box) in my attic.  If you’re feeling handy, you can even build an excellent-quality antenna yourself.

      Really, is that what you do Pete?

      Well no, because I’m a bit nerdy things in my house are somewhat more sophisticated.  I have that antenna in the attic plugged in to a tuner that’s connected to my network.  I then use a free program in Windows 7 called media center as my PVR.  I have little media center extenders (or an Xbox) attached to all of the TVs in the house so that the PVR works on any and every TV.  Finally, I sync all of my TV shows to my iPod and iPad for when I travel.  (You can do something similar on the Mac using a program called EyeTV)

      In Conclusion…

      It really is as simple as plugging some rabbit ears into your HDTV, but as you probably gathered from that last answer there’s a ton of cool stuff you can do with this if you’re so inclined.  If you want to learn more about how the sausage is made, I’d recommend checking out the OTA forums or the Home Theater PC forums at Digital Home Canada.  If you just want to enjoy the tasty free sausage, there’s nothing to lose by picking up a little antenna from your local electronics store and plugging it in to your TV.  Keep the receipt, you can always take it back if it’s not for you.

      Adding Multiple Guide Listings to Windows 7 Media Center

      April 29, 2011 9 comments

      Posted here temporarily while undergoes an upgrade.

      There are some situations where you would like to manually add more guide listing data to Media Center.  Most notably for those of us who live in Canada near the United States border, it is incredibly useful to add in guide listings that include the broadcast channels that you can receive but are not part of the Canadian antenna guide info.

      Step 1a – Easy Instructions for Major Canadian Cities

      For those of you who live near major Canadian cities, I’ve prepared a batch file to take care of adding US OTA listings to your media center.  Simply download the zip file (click here), extract the files wherever you like, and run the file “USGuide.bat” with administrator privileges (Right click and select “Run as administrator”).  This will instruct Media Center to add the guide listings for the digital over-the-air channels in the zip code nearest to that city, and add a scheduled task to Windows to download a guide update every morning.  See, I told you that was easy, now you can skip right down to step 2 and assign your guide channels.


      Step 1b – Custom Instructions for Other Locales

      If you don’t live near a major city, or for whatever reason you want to add some other guide information into Media Center, you’ll need to customize the batch file a bit.  We need to get a key piece of information from Media Center, the guide id, for the guide you wish to add.  To find this, you’ll first need to set up Media Center to work natively in that geography.  Navigate to Tasks, Settings, TV, TV Signal, Set Up TV Signal.  Set up Media Center to use the guide that is most appropriate for your needs (for example, I selected the Rogers Mississauga lineup which has all of the OTA digital channels listed).  Next, navigate to Tasks, Settings, TV, Guide, About Guide Listings and take note of the nine-digit ID number.

      Before continuing, you’ll want to get Media Center set up again for your “real” geography.

      Now that Media Center is back to normal, we’ll want to instruct Media Center to use the additional guide information that we want.  Because you’ve decided to use a custom location you’ll need to modify the custom MXF file to include the guide ID that you just selected.  In the folder you extracted earlier, navigate into the MXF folder and open the file “CustomGuide.mxf” with notepad.  You’ll notice that in three separate areas I’ve used the Guide ID “189833220”.  Replace that number in all three places with the guide ID that you noted from the “About Guide Listings” page.  Save the file and close notepad.

      Assuming that the guide you inserted above is in the same country as your primary Media Center setup, MC will take care of updating the listings every night.  However, if your guide lineup is in a different country (for example, I choose to use guide listings from Buffalo New York) then Media Center will fail when it tries to download on its normal schedule.  We need to add in a scheduled task that will change a registry key fake MC into thinking it’s located in the US, download the listings, then set the registry key back to Canada.  This is all captured in the XMLTask\ImportATSCCustom.xml file, which you can edit pretty quickly using notepad.  Similar to what you did above, replace the number “189833220” with the Guide ID that you noted from the “About Guide Listings” page.  Save the file and close notepad.

      Navigate back up a level and run the batch file “USGuide.bat” with administrator privileges (Right click and select “Run as administrator”).  Select option 7 if you’re adding US guide listings (the batch file will set up nightly downloading), option 8 if you’re just adding Canadian listings (we’ll just add the custom lineup to Media Center).


      Step 2 – Assign Guide Listings to Channel

      Now we want to map any channels that previously had no guide data to the new guide information that we just added to Media Center.

      First, navigate to Settings, TV, Guide, Edit Channels.

      Select the channel that you want to work with by clicking on the callsign of the station. In this example, we’ll pick some an over-the-air digital antenna channel 5.1.

      In the settings page for the channel, click on “Edit Listings”

      You’ll now be taken to a list of all the channels that your Media Center is aware of (including the guide data that we just added manually).  This list is organized alphabetically, and you can type in letters to skip to the appropriate point in the list.  Assuming that you’re setting up a digital antenna channel, be sure to select a guide data with HD listings.


      If you select a channel that also comes in via some other source (for example you get CBC Toronto on both cable and antenna) you will be presented with the option to merge the guide listings or to copy the listings.  I’d suggest “copy” so that you can manage the ATSC channel independently and take advantage of the HD guide logic for that channel.  Once you’ve selected the correct listings, you’ll now see that the listings are associated with the ATSC channel.  Click Save.

      Click on save, and at this point you can keep assigning channels or you may choose to go to the guide and test things out before continuing.  Once you assign guide listings to all of your ATSC channels, you’re done the setup and should be able to enjoy pristine high-definition recordings on your computer and throughout your home on your extenders.



      Questions and Answers

      I’ve noticed some errors in the mcupdate logs, should I worry?
      No.  Due to the nature of this setup, Media Center will try to download US listings daily using the normal update.  Since you’re located in Canada, it will fail and throw an error that the headend ID is invalid.  No worries, that US guide will get updated by another scheduled task at 5am every morning.

      Where can I get some help if I’m having trouble?
      I’ve set up a forum here at TGB where you can post your questions and I’ll try to help you out. Fair warning – my day job is pretty demanding so it can be a challenge sometimes to keep up with Q&A. I take no offense to you asking multiple times if you haven’t gotten an answer to your question.  Click here for the forum.

      Enabling ATSC & QAM in Canada for Windows 7 RTM

      April 29, 2011 23 comments

      Posted here temporarily while undergoes an upgrade.

      I’m thrilled to see so many people have taken up the challenge to get ATSC working in Canada with Windows 7 since the untimely demise of the Vista hack.  Alas, as time marches on some of the holes that made new hacks possible were plugged and more capabilities were removed from Canadians (notably QAM).  I’m pleased to present this new method to enable ATSC and QAM here in Canada with the release version of Windows 7.

      First, some background.  Like the United States, Canada has decided to transition all television broadcasts from analog to digital.  These new digital signals have greater effective range, provide a crystal-clear high definition picture, and as with all over the air network TV broadcasts are free and legal to access.  It’s worth noting that over the air signals represent the best high-definition picture quality you can get for network television – better than cable and much better than satellite.  While high definition is available for a fee via cable and satellite, those high definition channels are subject to ever-increasing compression and picture quality degradation as they try to squeeze more and more content into your subscription.  And unlike cable and satellite, over the air broadcasts are not encrypted and can be easily incorporated into a Media Center setup, copied over to your iPod, and are generally easy to use.  The United States has nearly completed their digital transition, and will be shutting down the analog broadcasts in February 2009.  Canada is well into its transition, with most major markets now broadcasting in digital and 100% of the country switching over to digital by 2011 before we shut down our analog transmitters.  Here in Toronto, I can get access to every major US and Canadian network in full high-definition glory using a $40 antenna that I put in my attic.

      QAM is very similar except that instead of getting the signals over-the-air using an antenna, the signals travel over your cable company’s network.  However in most of Canada this isn’t useful, as Canadian cable companies tend to encrypt or scramble their signal making it completely useless without buying their cable box.  There are some lucky regions in the country however who do get access to unencrypted QAM, and for those people it’s a virtual nerdvana of digital TV.

      Here’s how to get digital high-definition broadcasts into Media Center.

      If you’re using Media Center in Windows XP or Windows Vista, follow this link for detailed instructions.

      If you’re using Media Center in Windows 7 or Vista with TV Pack 2008, continue reading below.  I’ve tried to provide excruciating detail, but don’t get scared.  It’s not difficult, I’m just going a bit overboard with screenshots and explanation.


      • For ATSC, you should get a good quality UHF antenna.  In most cases I’ve read about it comes down to a Channel Master 4221 or Channel Master 4228 depending on your distance from the transmitters.  Consult this handy chart (PDF) to select the right antenna for your area.  I personally have a 4221 in my attic which was both easy to do and very neighbour-friendly.
      • For ATSC, you will need an ATSC tuner for your Media Center PC.  Any tuner that is supported in Windows Media Center will do.
      • For QAM, you will need a QAM tuner for your Media Center PC.  Any tuner that is supported in Windows Media Center will do.
      • None of these items are the sort of thing you can walk into WalMart and find on the shelves, but there are several online vendors including eBay sellers who carry these items.  I personally have purchased from Sensuz, a Toronto-area HTPC dealer, and have been very happy with their service.

      Step 1 – Force Media Center to allow ATSC and QAM in Canada

      I’ve prepared some files that will automate the process for you.  Simply download and extract the provided zip file (click here) to your desktop or any location on your desktop.  Double-click on the file “EnableATSCandQAM.bat” which will insert some configuration information into the Media Center database that forces ATSC and QAM tuners to be recognized.

      Step 2 – Configure Media Center to use your tuners

      I’ll walk you through the setup of the tuner in Media Center, although this isn’t any different than what would normally occur out of the box.  Launch Media Center and navigate to Settings, TV, Setup TV Signal.  We want to set up Media Center using the correct region, Canada.  If Media Center doesn’t automatically detect that you’re in Canada, be sure to select a different region and choose “Canada”.
      tv1 tv2

      Enter your postal code, and agree to the terms of service (assuming you do indeed agree to the legaleze).
      tv3 tv4 tv5

      At this point, Media Center will configure all of the signal types that were detected.  For any cable or satellite tuners, it will automatically link to the guide data for the region.  For digital antenna (ATSC) it won’t find any guide data since it’s not officially supported.  No worries, we can add in guide listings later.

      Next, Media Center will scan for ATSC and QAM channels.  This process took awhile for me, up to fifteen minutes.
      tv9   tv10 tv11

      Congratulations, your tuners are now set up!  However at this point, you likely won’t have any guide listings associated with the channels that were detected via the scan.

      Step 3 – Map guide listings to your ATSC channels

      For those of you who have used the Vista hack, you may like me be pleasantly surprised by the way the guide works now.  For each channel on each tuner you can specify which guide listings should be used, which is incredibly flexible.  Media Center also now has some much-welcomed logic in the Advanced Record Settings that allows you to specify that any given recording should be recorded in HD Only, HD Preferred, SD Only, or SD Preferred.  Because of this feature, I personally would recommend that you always attempt to associate your high-definition digital channels with listings from your cable company’s high-definition channel lineup or the US over-the-air listings so that the recording logic works properly.  I’ll walk you through how to set that up.

      First, navigate to Settings, TV, Guide, Edit Channels.

      Select the channel that you want to work with by clicking on the callsign of the station.

      In the settings page for the channel, click on “Edit Listings”

      You’ll  now be taken to a list of all the channels that your Media Center is aware of (including channels that were set up via other sources, such as Analog Antenna, Satellite, or my multiple guide listings hack).  This list is organized alphabetically, and you can type in letters to skip to the appropriate point in the list.
      Select a channel with HD listings.

      If you select a channel that also comes in via some other source (for example you get CBC Toronto on both cable and antenna) you will be presented with the option to merge the guide listings or to copy the listings.  Select “copy” so that you can manage the high definition channel independently.  Once you’ve selected the correct listings, you’ll now see that the listings are associated with the digital ATSC or QAM channel.  Click Save.

      Click on save, and at this point you can keep assigning channels or you may choose to go to the guide and test things out before continuing.  Once you assign guide listings to all of your ATSC channels, you’re done the setup and should be able to enjoy pristine high-definition recordings on your computer and throughout your home on your extenders.


      Questions and Answers

      I’ll try to capture some key answers that come in over time here in this section.  To kick things off, here are some things that came to mind for me.

      What happens if I select “Merge” instead of “Copy”?
      I’ve found that by selecting merge, Media Center assumes that all sources for a given channel are standard definition.

      Doesn’t Media Center support Analog Antenna in Canada, and can’t I use those guide listings?
      Yes analog antenna is supported and you’ll get the listings for your local channels, but because it’s analog Media Center will assume that all channels that use these guide listings are standard definition.

      But isn’t it incredibly stupid for Microsoft to support Analog Antenna but not Digital Antenna, given that analog channels are all shutting down and digital is the government-mandated standard for all of North America?

      Media Center didn’t automatically detect all of the ATSC channels that I’m able to receive, is there any way I can manually add them?
      One of the users at maintains a list of all the channels that you should be able to receive in major centers of Canada.  You can use these lists to manually add stations to media center using the functions in Settings, TV, Guide, Add Missing Channels, Add DTV Channel.
      Southwestern Ontario
      Niagara Region
      Toronto & Hamilton Areas
      Montreal & Surrounding Areas
      Ottawa & Surrounding Areas
      Vancouver & Surrounding Areas


















      I’m not able to find guide data for all of my over the air channels, is there any way for me to get guide data for more channels?
      Yes, you can force Media Center to load in guide information from any region using my multiple guide listings hack.  For example, my cable provider Cogeco doesn’t list many of the Buffalo-area over the air stations since they source their high definition content from Detroit instead.  I added the listings for Buffalo over-the-air digital antenna to Media Center using the multiple guide listings hack, and used those to complete the mapping of my channels.

      Where can I get some help if I’m having trouble?
      I’ve set up a forum here at TGB where you can post your questions and I’ll try to help you out. Fair warning – my day job is pretty demanding so it can be a challenge sometimes to keep up with Q&A. I take no offense to you asking multiple times if you haven’t gotten an answer to your question.  Click here for the forum.

      OTA HDTV in Canada on Vista betas

      August 25, 2006 9 comments

      These instructions have been superceded, please click on this link for the newer and more complete instructions

      During my testing of Windows Vista Media Center, it appeared that the off-the-air registry hack to get your ATSC tuners working in Canada was now defunct.  I’ve been doing some playing in the registry and have come up with a new method that does seem to work well in Canada.  I’d appreciate it if someone can test this out and confirm it in the comments.  If it is proven to work for others as well, I’ll publish this with screenshots as a more official looking FAQ.


      1. You have a working analog tuner, with MCE drivers installed
      2. You have a working ATSC tuner, with MCE drivers installed

      Steps to enable the ATSC tuner in Canada

      1. Configure your Media Center as if you lived in the US, preferably using a zip code somewhere near your location.  I used Buffalo ZIP 14201.  Let Media Center auto-configure your tuners.
      2. Confirm that it’s all working properly (obviously the guide data will be wrong at this point).
      3. Open up the registry editor by typing regedit [enter] into the start search box.  Note that you can really mess things up in the registry, so be careful and if you’re not comfortable in the registry then you might want to stop here.
      4. Locate the following key in the registry: HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Media Center\Service\Video\Tuners\{71985F48-1CA1-11D3-9CC8-00C04F7971E0}.  This is the tuning space for the digital tuner(s) and at this point it should be properly set up for ATSC tuning.
      5. Right-click on the above branch and select “Export…”, save it with a filename like “ATSC_Tuners_Working.reg”.
      6. Navigate in Media Center back to the TV Settings menu and set up your TV signal.  This time make sure that you select Canada and get everything set up properly for your provider.  Note that when you run through the setup this time MCE will not detect the ATSC tuner, which is normal.
      7. Verify that everything is working as you would expect, albeit with no high-definition content yet.
      8. Close media center
      9. Find the registry file that you saved earlier in USA mode, double-click to import it back into the registry.
      10. Locate the registry key HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Media Center\Service\EPG\ATSC and modify its value from “0” to “1”.
      11. Reboot the computer *or* simply restart the Microsoft Media Center Receiver service using the services control panel.
      12. Start up MCE, navigate to the TV Settings Guide Setup and manually add the channels you would like to receive.  This page is a good resource for the Toronto area.  The format you want to enter, using the Fox Network on the RemoteCentral page as a reference, is 29-1 for the channel designation (page one of the add missing DTV channel wizard) and 14 for the frequency (page two).
      13. For any channels that don’t automatically get guide information (most likely Canadian channels like CTV) you can associate them with another channel in your guide using the edit guide setup tools.

      Works well for me, please point out any inconsistencies or errors for me before I publish this more official-like.  This guide was done primarily by memory so I’m sure I’ve messed up a few references.

      Categories: Media Center

      Matt Goyer leaving Microsoft

      August 23, 2006 Leave a comment

      Well boo!  I really like Matt and what he’s contributed to both the media center product and the media center community through his blog.  Matt is a Waterloo grad who went to work at Microsoft right out of university and now it appears that he’s looking for something with more room to grow.
      For those who don’t know, Matt’s most visible work is that done on the DVD player in Media Center including support for DVD changers and upcoming support for HD-DVD.
      Good luck Matt, and thanks for everything you did!

      Categories: Media Center

      Vista photo tags to use XMP

      August 22, 2006 1 comment

      Matt Goyer points out that Windows Vista photo tags will use XMP as the metadata layer.  The topic of tagging was recently discussed in the Pix Blog, with the following statements:

      There are a number of competing standards for imaging metadata. That is, different ways of reading and writing metadata for photos. One of the biggest standards, EXIF, is commonly written to photos by most cameras, but has many limitations. It’s somewhat antiquated, fragile, not very flexible, and doesn’t support international languages like Japanese very well. IPTC is a standard that is used pretty widely in journalism applications, but is undergoing a transformation towards an XMP-based system.

      XMP is an extensible framework for embedding metadata in files that was developed by Adobe, and is the foundation for our “truth is in the file” goal. All metadata written to photos by Windows Vista will be written to XMP (always directly to the file itself, never to a ‘sidecar’ file). When reading metadata from photos on Windows Vista, we will first look for XMP metadata, but if we don’t find any, we’ll also look for legacy EXIF and IPTC metadata as well. If we find legacy metadata, we’ll write future changes back to both XMP and the legacy metadata blocks (to improve compatibility with legacy applications).

      I just tried to test this on my vista box, and surprisingly can’t get any metadata to stick at all so I’ll assume that either my version is buggy or this is a to-be-released feature.  I did do quite a bit of testing early on and the metadata was definintely not in any standard format (at least that’s what my sometimes foggy memory is telling me).  I also came across an older discussion at Scoble’s blog that would seem to prove my memory correct.
      I’m thrilled to see this change in direction, it’s something I’ve been pounding my chest about quite a bit over the last year.  My only other thoughts/concerns that hopefully I’ll get to test soon:

      • Will there be a way for me to force the compatibility mode?  Until the world changes a bit more, I may still need to write out IPTC tags.  I plan to dump my current tagging tools if the Microsoft Gallery serves my needs, so legacy data won’t be in my new files to trigger the writing of IPTC tags.  I will however still want IPTC information in there at least until the rest of the world completes its move to XMP (for sharing my files).
      • Is this only in the gallery application, or will tags I add via explorer also get this treatment?  I’m hoping that this extends to all of Windows and not just the gallery app.

      Thank you to Microsoft, very much, for listening to the community on this one.  I sincerely appreciate this functionality.

      Categories: Media Center

      Apparently my world is about to be rocked

      August 21, 2006 Leave a comment

      Well I haven’t seen it yet, but another tester Robert McLaws has seen a sneak peak of the Vista RC1 Candidate build that is coming our way soon.  Apparently my world is about to be rocked.  When I look around at my little world, there is far too little rocking.  There is barely even a waltz in my world now, more of a ballad with a white man’s overbite.  If there were ever a world in need of rocking it is mine.  I (and my world) await said rockage with great anticipation.
      All kidding aside, I’m happy to see someone excited about Vista.  I personally can’t wait until I get a build that is stable enough to re-foist upon my wife and kids.  As it stands we’re back on MCE2005, and god help me now that Prison Break is back on the air if I move back to Vista and Media Center misses an episode.

      Categories: Media Center