Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Jolly PC goes low-tech with multimedia

So last year sometime, I bought a TV tuner. For the technically unintiated, this basically adds the inputs from the back of a TV, to the back of your computer. There are more advanced ones (some come with remotes, for example; mine does not) but I got mine for a fair price. Around $80 if I remember right. It didn't do all that it said, but we were able to hook up a VCR to it and copy over some tapes. Didn't like the results so we just left it alone, figured it would be better in Windows Media Center, when we go to Vista, which will be whenever Micro$oft work all the bugs out.

The other day, Jen called the local rock station with a funny story, and I thought of the TV tuner. Not only does it have an FM tuner, it came with an antenna, which was currently connected! So I scrambled looking for a program that would receive a radio signal. Now you want to hear something sad? 2007 and the only "radio program" I could find was $30 and lets you jack a radio in through the sound card. Now what in the blue hell will that do? Great, you still gotta tune it the old fashioned way, all you're doing is importing sound, which has been possible for free for years. Hell, it's built into Windows, Windows 95 and newer. I don't know who that company thought they were fooling, but not me.

I checked on the CD, but it was nothing but drivers.

So I wrote to the company that makes my TV tuner card. I noticed on the web page it said the device could play FM Radio. That about set me off. So I email them, and I ask them just how I'm supposed to play FM radio on it. They tell me there's a new version of the CD, and I can download its contents. 52MB but Jen and I were stepping out for a bit anyway, so I started the download. This installed, among other things, a radio program. We open it up, and it plays perfectly. We configure half (5) of the presets to local stations we know, and I teach Jen how to record from the radio using the free audio editor Audacity. I mean, sure we can download music, but if the radio station comes in perfectly clear, we can record what should be a near-perfect quality Mp3 in the time it takes to listen to the song, crop the recording down, and save it in the appropriate directory.

So yes, we have working FM radio on our already so-badass-it-kicks-your-computer's-ass PC. That really hit home when I was channelsurfing looking for more presets (added a classical station, a lite rock station, and a rap station just to fill presets) and the Delilah program came on. It reminded me how much I hated hearing that corny program whenever it came on - and how much I hate the "Hey There Delilah" song (even though it's apparently about a completely different Delilah). But, sanity is returning. Metallica's on, on the rock station, and not that new "hey let's impress teenagers" new stuff they got, I'm talkin "For Whom the Bell Tolls" from 1984. From back when they still had heart. "Take a look to the sky before you die, it's the last time you will." (Lyrics say "he will" but if you listen to it, it's "you will". Guess they changed it at the last minute.) I wouldn't put this song on if it were me. I'd probably play something I play a lot, so sometimes it's nice to pass the controls over to somewhere else. They pick something really annoying, I can just change the station.

There's a button on the radio for CD. This closes the radio and opens Winamp. Stupid. It probably just calls whatever program Windows uses for Audio CDs. At least it didn't open Windows Media Player, that thing takes longer than Windows itself to start up. OK, so I go back to it, and click the TV button. It doesn't work, as it can't find any channels. OK, what can I do about that? We can get a few channels in the bedroom - due to another antenna. So I take that and hook it up to the computer. I try the TV program again, and it can pick up six channels over the antenna. Judge Mathis, Montel's show, and some other crap. I didn't expect anything great, but hey, I'm happy as a pig in shit, I got my computer to watch TV.

Now, down the road, when we get satellite (or cable, if we can get Suddenlink to serve our area) we can hook the box right up to the TV and switch from computer to DVD player to satellite (or cable) to computer... OR I can run it through the TV Tuner (maybe I can do both?) and pull it in through the computer. Fullscreen, it'd be the same thing - I can still control it from the couch with the remote - but with the added option of being able to record. Yep, DVR for free. I could and record
WWE Monday Night RAW and be doing something else, like playing my DS, or watching it as it records, and then watch it again with Jen when she gets home.

Heh... Pearl Jam on the radio now.

No comments: