Creating a Home Media Web Server

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!


7 thoughts on “Creating a Home Media Web Server

  1. Laura says:

    OK so how much do you charge to come over and set this up for me ( HAHA) I have a gateway we got a few months ago, it says right on the sticker TV TUNER. SO I am guessing I am all set up already. In your best opinion for for someone who has a moderate problem with understanding the “NEW” techno stuff.. how complicated is this whole process, and did you run into any unexpected pot holes along the way that you didnt metion here.
    BTW it was information on your blogs that got me able to get podcasts to our zunes.. and it only took me 3 months.

    Thanks, and keep up the great info.

  2. zunetips says:

    I’m glad the info I posted helped you get your podcasts working.

    Does your Gateway computer have Windows Vista Home Premium or Ultimate loaded? If so, do you have “Windows Media Center” in your start menu? If you do, then that’s half the battle!

  3. Laura says:

    Yes I have Vista home Premium, and windows meadia center is in my start menu.

  4. zunetips says:

    Laura: If you launch Windows Media Center, it should either already be setup to use your TV Tuner card, or it will initiate the setup procedure (which will ask a few basic questions then search for valid TV channels). Of course, you’ll need to connect a cable line to your Tuner card to receive cable channels. Give it a try and let me know what you see!

  5. Laura says:

    It was set up already like you said. Bummer for us tho,we killed cable not to long ago because of customer service issues,will this work if we get a dish? Its just a matter of hooking up the lines right.
    I am just as bummed out about CBS always canceling shows they dont know a good thing when they have it.

  6. zunetips says:

    laura: Your TV Tuner card should work with a cable or satellite signal (although you might need a set-top box like you do with your normal TV). You also might be able to connect up a standard antenna if your Tuner card as a plugin in for it (to get over-the-air local channels).

  7. Laura says:

    Thanks for your help.. as soon as we are connected I will play with it awhile and see were it takes me. I will have to whip out the hard copy and read up on my computer.. isn’t it stange how we buy new upgraded computers and most of us can’t even use half of whats on the system., but it sounds great when your standing in the store looking to buy it.
    Thanks again

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