I’ve got a buddy who has a TiVo, which is a Digital Video Recorder (DVR) for recording TV Shows. He’s got a special module that allows him to copy his recordings over to his PC, upon which he can edit out the commercials and archive the video or burn it to a DVD. I was always envious of him, since he could easily search for and select what he wanted to record very, very easily (while I had to fumble with the awkward method of defining recording times and dates for my DVD recorder). I never got a TiVo, since they require a monthly subscription service that I didn’t want to pay (because I didn’t watch a lot of TV at that time). Well, a few years has gone by and I find myself watching more TV Shows these days, but I still didn’t want to pay for a TiVo and monthly subscription. Thus, I was able to resolve my dilemma by purchasing a PVR-150 TV Tuner card and using Vista Media Center to drive it on my Desktop PC. So for the price of $70 US, I was able to have the same TiVo-like experience as my friend (and maybe better).
One feature that the TiVo has, is the ability to be connected to the Internet where by my friend can program it via a web-browser utility remotely. So, if he forgot to set his TiVo to record a TV show one evening, he could log into his TiVo from his work computer via the Internet, and make the necessary recording settings. A very handy feature if you’re on the road on a business trip and forget to set your PVR to record the season finale of Lost.
Also, there’s another device called the SlingBox which allows you to remotely control your Cable TV box so you can stream live TV to any web browser connected via the Internet. SlingBox isn’t a DVR (as it doesn’t record TV Shows), but it can stream a live TV Show currently being aired at your home location to a web browser. Very nice if you don’t want to miss a TV episode and you can’t wait to get home to watch it!
Well, I had a feeling that both of these cool features could be done using Vista Media Center with some 3rd party plugin or utility, and sure enough I was right. It’s a program called WebGuide which can actually stream a recorded video or live video from your home PC through the Internet to a web browser for viewing. So technically, I could be in a hotel room 2000 miles from home, and via a high-speed Internet connection be able to watch any recorded TV show or live TV show on my home PC.
So I downloaded and installed WebGuide and it worked fantastically. The software is essentially a lite-server running on your home PC acting as a media streaming server. It can not only stream video recordings, but also music and pictures. Once you’ve set up WebGuide to have proper access through your internet router’s ports (which was done automatically on my system), you can use any web browser to login into the media server and remote control Vista Media Center or watch recorded and live video. By the way, did I mention that this software is free?
In addition, you can also stream video to a handheld Pocket PC device or Smartphone if they have a web browser. I tested my Motorola Q Windows Mobile 5 OS smartphone, and it did work (using a lower bit rate video profile), but the video was choppy at times. It’s probably my slow network connection to the Internet on my phone, but it was interesting to see that it could work on a phone with higher connect speeds.
So this means that if I’m out of town on a business trip and have a late dinner with a customer, I can always watch my favorite TV show later that evening from the comfort of my hotel room (so long as the Internet connect is fast). So guess what? I’m not envious of my buddy any more!