Just wanted to knowledge-share my setup experiences with MediaPortal, which overall, has been very positive. If you don't mind spending time tweeking, and going through a bit of a learning curve, this product really does deliver on the promice. I realise that for some people this is probably very old ground, but may nevertheless provide 1 or 2 new insights. I guess I'm aiming this mainly at new users who might be interested in trying it out, and are interested in a bit of background before they get started.
In my case I recently had a UHF arial installed specifically for Freeview|HD. This was kindly and competently done by "brunzy" (of Scotts TV fame) -one of our forum members. I totally recommend him if you live anywhere in or near the Hutt area. Very friendly guy and he uses quad-shielded cables (for minimum interference). Just pm him and I'm sure he will respond in short notice!
Initially I used Powercinema for Freeview|HD which worked fine, but it simply lacked the functionality I needed -primarily the ability to set up live streaming over a network.
Enter MediaPortal: www.team-mediaportal.com/
I'm using Version 1 RC2.
Note MediaPortal is actually two products that work together. TV Server and MediaPortal.
You would install TV Server on the PC that has your TV Card(s) and you would install MediaPortal on all the PC's you wish to use to watch TV; Play Videos/Music etc with.
How to setup TV Server/MediaPortal?
Enter Cranz (another geekzone member): http://cranznz.googlepages.com/
This guide is an excellent way to get you going, but I will add a few comments about setup issues I had, which were not fully covered in his guide.
First of all, because I wanted to watch TV on all PC's on my network (including the TV that the TV tuner cards are installed on) I chose the advanced setup. You will get 3 options, and I chose option 1 (singleseat) which would seem to imply you will not be sharing over a network. However, I wanted to watch TV on the same PC that TV server was running on, as well as PC's connected to my network, so this was actually the correct option. You then install MediaPortal again on all your other PC's selecting Advanced options again. Choose option 3 -Install the mediaPortal client only. However, before installing the client on all the other PC's on your network, please make sure you get everything running on the TV Server PC first!
Next up, is the issue of an EPG. Cranz's guide describes using XML as a solution. This is sensible and practical, given we lack a software solution for extracting the EPG data directly off the live feed.
Enter Reven: www.reven.co.nz/
(Update: There is an alternative free epg service available.
See thread http://www.geekzone.co.nz/forums.asp?ForumId=83&TopicId=20400&page_no=8 for details)
What is XML? Just a file format that is used by many software applications (including PVR apps like MediaPortal). Reven has developed an application that will pull NZ TV guides off the internet (from various sites) and format them into an XML file so it can then be loaded into any application that supports XML based TV guides.
Do yourself a favour, and donate 10 bucks (or more if you are of a mind to) and gain access to the beta. I have to say, Reven has been promicing for a very long time to release a "final" version of his XML builder free to the public. The rational is that people pay to gain access to the beta, which will become a free product once it is ready to go live. We are at RC3 now, and this is suppossed to be the last version prior to the final version going live -but I do wonder how long he is going to drag this out for until he makes it free to the public. I wouldn't be surprised if there is an RC4, and quite frankly, I think he should consider whether this is actually freeware; shareware or a commercial product -because it seems to be stuck in limbo-land as a free application that you need to pay for to gain access to. A lot of people might think "why pay now for the beta now when I can just wait for the final version and get it free?" Certainly that was my rationale, but a few months down the track I decided to change my tune. Anyway, bottom line: It's worth the money, and in my opinion should be released as shareware.
How to set this up? Cranz suggests you create a shortcut to revens XML application and then include a command line argument to download all the TV channels you want included in the guide. I suggest you actually create a batch file to do the same job (eg GETGUIDE.BAT), and then attach the batch job to a scheduled task. This means the TV downloads can be automated to happen once a day at a specific time. Solid guides for setting this up are available on revens website (for both XP and Vista).
Once you have successfully run Revens XMLTVNZ application I discovered a slight issue:
1) Load the new XML gude data into TV Server (as per cranz's instructions)
2) Map the TV Guides to each channel (as per cranz's instructions)
3) Reload the new gude data into TV server AGAIN!!!
The reason you need to do this 3rd step is that the first time you load the guide data, it does not know what TV channels the programs are supposed to be mapped to. As far as I can tell, it therefore only loads the channel details -not the actual program data. Only after you have mapped the channels will the download into TV server add all the programs listings as well. Since TV Server has default values to auto-load the gude data (I think every 240 minutes) then step 3) will actually sort itself out eventually anyway -if you don't do it, but it did cause me a little frustration at first.
I'm using a Nova T 500 for Freeview|HD which is great because it hs dual digital tuners, meaning you can record one station while watching the other. But wait, there's more. I also have a WinTV MCE 150 which can be used for analog. Why is this useful? For two reasons: Freeview|HD does not get you Prime, and I I found if I split the UHF cable into two, I could feed one connection into the analog tuner. It turns out my brand new UHF arial is also doing a great job of picking up analog channels -specifically Prime. The other reason is that the 150 supports hardware MPEG-2 -My understanding is that MediaPortal requires this for analog channels (ie it does not work with Tv cards that use software encoders).
Tuning analog channels in MediaPortal turned out to be a bit confusing. You would think you should select Antenna as the input method -but No. You need to select Cable. Other than that, it was very easy. I did not get many extra channels out of this, but I did get TV3; Triangle; Maori; and of course Prime. That means I now potenitally have the ability to record two stations while watching another.
Last but certainly not least, is streaming. This is what I needed to do to get it working:
Crucially, I needed to configure TV Server to nominate an IP address for streaming. That IP address should simply be the IP address of the PC. When you make this selection (which sould be available via a pull down list) the TV Server name will change from the Host name of your PC to it's allocated IP address. I strongly recommend you configure your router to reserve this IP address as a permanent value for the nominated PC, so that it never changes.
Next, for each MediaPortal client, configure the client to address the Host Name (not the IP address) as the location of the TV Server, and you should be golden. My experience with streaming has been better than expected. I was suprised to discover I am actually able to wirelessly stream h.264 content. Note I am using a D-link dir 655 xtreme-N router which has very good 802.11n performance. I tried streaming with a linksys 160n (also 802.11n) and it just didn't cut the mustard, so YMMV.
That's it! The last step for me is to dump Sky -I just need to convince my partner that she doesn't really need to watch MTV..