I’ve been using an amazing computer program from DVBlogic in my home for just over a year that has transformed the way we watch tv within our household. I have a very connected home and since 2007 all of my music, videos, dvds, blu-rays and photos have been stored on a central machine.
Now with DVBlogic DVBLink I’ve been able to add live and recorded tv to this equation, which are now shared not only within my home but also online, allowing me to watch any of my shows through a browser or on my iPad or iPhone 4.
Initially I had DVBlogic running on a Windows Home Server, but in the last year my ‘server’ machine has been running Windows 7 to reduce costs as I ditched WHS when I realised the new version would still not have Media Center integrated (I now have one machine storing the files and connected to my main TV, rather than one machine storing the files via WHS and a second running Windows 7 Media Center connected to a TV).
The diagram below best shows how DVBlogic works:
My ‘server’ is represented by the PC on the left, which is connected to my main TV. Within this machine I have 4x Hauppauge WinTV-Nova-HD-S2 TV cards each taking a feed from my Satellite. DVBLogic’s TVSource product uses these cards and makes both the SD and HD channels available within Windows Media Center with full support e.g. guide listings, live tv, pausing tv, scheduled recordings etc etc.
My Four TV cards allow me to watch or record up to four channels at once. There’s no limit on how many cards can be added and DVBLink TVSource even allows different types of cards to be mixed i.e. Satellite, Cable and Terrestrial TV channels can all be used together as DVBLink intelligently merges these channels. TV cards that aren’t directly supported by Media Center such as DVB-C cards can also be used via DVBLink TVSource.
The real power of TVSource is unlocked though, when it is combined with DVBLink Network Pack which is depicted by the right-hand side of the diagram above. Network Pack allows the tv cards on your PC to be shared with other devices including other Windows Media Centers. Without Network Pack if you wanted to watch live TV on other Media Centers, then each media center needed to have its own tv cards installed. Now, TV cards installed on one PC are shared with other PCs.
In my household for instance, we have 4 Media Centers each running W7MC. Network Pack serves up 4 virtual tuners for each of these machines, so across my home we can record and watch up to four shows at once. So in room 1 we could be watching BBC1 HD and recording Sky 1, in room 2 my daughter could be watching BabyTV and in room 3 I could be recording the football – i.e. up to four channels streamed from one PC to the others. Network Pack also manages tuner sharing so if two or more rooms are actually watching the same channel at the same time, only one tuner is used rather than two. Using Recorded TV Manager 3, any recordings made are copied over to the ‘server’ allowing them to be watched from any machine at a later date.
UPNP enabled clients such as Sony Playstation 3 and almost any internet connected device such as ipads and iphones are also supported. Streaming live tv requires a reasonably powered PC, but if you find your PC struggling then there are settings available to reduce the picture quality. The software is so fantastic that you can even use the online service to schedule recordings that you’ve realised you’ve forgotten or are going to miss because you are running late.
All of this costs just over 40 euros; an amazingly low price for such a great piece of software that is constantly being updated by the developers. If you have more than one PC in your home or just want to be able to watch your TV online then investing in DVBlink is a no-brainer. If you’re not sure if DVBLink is right for you, then you can try the product out free for 30 days.