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Watching TV on your PC

or some reason, there is a fascination with making expensive things do inexpensive tasks. Personal Digital Assistants, like a $200 Palm Pilot for example, are often used to replace a $10 day calendar. Let’s look at turning your personal computer into a television.

There are a number of reasons to watch television on your PC. Your computer room or office may not have a television and the season finale of your favourite show could be airing as you finish that report that’s due first thing in the morning. Maybe you don’t watch television often enough to warrant a subscription service, but every once in awhile you like to indulge. Perhaps your satellite has been knocked out due to inclement weather, or maybe you just want to watch TV on your PC because you can.

If you don’t have cable or satellite you can actually watch live broadcasts that are transmitted over the Internet. As long as you have a broadband connection and some free software you have all that is needed. World Wide Internet TV (http://www.wwitv.com) gives you access to over 900 channels from around the world. Culturally, this site is a gem because you can watch channels as they are from countries like Italy, Germany, and China. The quality does vary and a good Internet connection is a must as the channel is streamed to your computer, but it is better than nothing. This site also includes some extras like movie trailers and even streaming radio.

If you have a cable feed near your computer, you may want to look into a TV Tuner Card. It’s quite possible that your computer might even have this capability built in. This special add-on to your video card usually has a cable connector (like your TV) and video inputs that accept signals from a VCR or DVD player. You would connect your cable to this card at the back of your computer and then use the included software to watch television and start channel surfing. The benefit here is that most of these applications will allow you watch TV in a small window and if you have two monitors connected to your machine you could work on one screen and have the television portion on the other. Some TV tuner cards even have the capability of allowing you to record television programs right onto your computer’s hard drive. No need for blank tapes anymore, just record the program to your hard drive and you can watch the show as many times as you like. If you have the know-how and hardware, you could even create a DVD from this that could be used anywhere. TV Tuner cards vary greatly in performance and price, so make sure you do your research before making a purchase. TV-Cards.com gives unbiased reviews and even includes links to help you download online TV guides and software that allows you to watch media files located on your PC from a remote location like work. I see global productivity declining rapidly.

If you are a satellite subscriber you have fewer choices (because of the complexities involved with authenticating you as a subscriber) but I can personally recommend the Hauppauge WinTV Nexus-S card (http://www.hauppauge.com/Pages/products/data_nexus.html). At the very least, you can watch any free channels in the stream and the quality is unsurpassed.

Another option that may be more suitable for you (and does not requiring opening your PC or installing any software) is something like StarTech’s TV Jockey. This device will accept a cable or video feed and connects directly to your computer monitor. A switch will toggle back and forth between your computer and television and allows you to use your computer’s speakers for sound. This device could even be used to connect a video game console to your PC monitor. If you have been out shopping for one of those new thin LCD televisions, why not considering saving yourself some money by buying a computer screen (usually $300-$400 cheaper for the same size) and adding this device? It even includes a remote control.

The convergence of computers and televisions grows greater every day. Whether you are trying to save some money by combining devices or a media junkie that needs a television in yet another room, your PC could be just the ticket.

Article Copyright ©2005 by Syd Bolton. Original publication date: 5/21/2005.
Reproduction requires permission, please e-mail for more information.

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