TV on a Computer Near You

TV Clipart
Last year, I picked up an Elgato eyetv Hybrid for my MacBook. This is a great little unit that picks up not only analog TV signals, but the digital and HD channels as well. The eyetv software that comes with the Elgato is very easy to use and has helpful features such as importing your recordings to iTunes automatically.
When I connect the unit to my Mac, it’s attached to an antenna on the roof of the house. I’m about 20 miles from downtown Chicago, so I can pick up all of the local digital (and HD) content easily.
The challenge for me is the fact that the MacBook comes with me pretty much everywhere, so it’s rarely connected to the antenna.
I learned that the eyetv Hybrid is that same device as the Hauppauge HVR-980, a newer version of the HVR-950. This unit is marketed to Windows users with the appropriate Windows software. I downloaded the Windows drivers for the unit and all the related software, and voila— I now have an HD tuner card in my PC.
I used Hauppauge’s WinTV application but found it clunky. Then I used the built-in capabilities of Windows Media Center, which was much slicker and easier to use. The problem with Media Center is that I had to manually add the “secondary” channels (e.g. channel 26-2) and the media guide never updated with the correct program material. I have to say, though, that the timed-recording feature that’s built into Media Center worked very nicely.
Right now, I’m doing a trial of SnapStream’s BeyondTV and so far things are going well. The software found all the channels and updated the guide as it was supposed to. (One test is to see if I can record a program on the PC, have BeyondTV encode it for my iPod, and then transfer it over successfully.) If the coming weeks prove the software to be useful, I may spring for a license.
We’ve come a long way from VHS tapes…