HDTV on my PC

My pet project has finally come to fruition, as I now can watch HDTV on my Personal Computer, and record in high definition too, just like a PVR. This is due to my latest purchase, a Hauppauge WinTV-HVR-1250 (Model 1201) that I got today. This video card is a TV capture PCI Express bus type that can view both digital high definition, and regular old analogue signals. For my purposes, I am using the card for capturing off air HD TV from a old pair of rabbit ears that came with my old school CRT TV set of yesteryear.

I live close enough to the transmitters to receive between 8 and 10 signals from Canada and the US, so with that kind of selection, I thought I would invest in a card that would allow me to make my PC into a personal video recorder, (PVR). This is also why I can use an old pair of rabbit ears for my antenna.

I was worried that buying a capture video card was going to be a challenge becuase I wanted to record in HD, so that I could watch my programs in that format during playback. So I picked the hauppauge brand over a bunch of others becuase of the great reviews Hauppauge was getting. Then when I decided to go a hunt down a card, almost every store in the Lower Mainland had none in stock. I suspect that there is a run on them now that our off-air channels are strictly digital?

I found a card, which was not my first choice, but it had all the specification I needed. I originally wanted the WinTV-HVR-1600, or higher, but no one had any in stock. London Drug, in Langley City had this 1250, which was previous opened by another customer who probably did not know that this was for PCI Express X16 card slot, so I got for a discount price. Lucky me. My only worry was does this card capture in MPEG2 format. It does. In fact, whatever the station’s output, it captures in that format – 1080i, 720p, etc.

I run all my machines on Linux, using Ubuntu. The card is supported in Linux by Hauppauge. It works very well for digital capturing using Linux, and the best software that I have found so far for this card is ME-TV. It does the scan, and has a wonderful format for scheduling the recording of programs, and the interface is very user friendly too.

From start to finish, installing the capture card, downloading the software, and scanning the channels, it took me about ten minutes before I was watching HDTV goodness.

The major drawback that I found was the antenna placement was really critical. Fortunately, you can save all of your scanned channels, and then scan for more when you reposition the antenna, then save those too to your config file.

I am very happy with this card, and the whole off-air digital idea. I am almost ready to ditch cable altogether.

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