Watching Gilligan's Island on Android phone Emby app. (Click each pic to enlarge.)
A nice benefit of knowledge gained through cord-cutting:
Watching our own over-the-air (OTA) TV and DVR recordings on Roku at home, or on a phone or tablet anywhere in the world.
I recently upgraded a quad-core Windows 7 PC in our home office to Windows 10, then added back the now-unsupported Windows Media Center. (See previous post Add Windows Media Center to Win 10!).
We had an extra USB TV tuner from a past attempt to give Gaye the ability to watch OTA TV on her work PC. It proved too big a hassle for her to both do work on the PC and have the TV window up. The tuner had been unemployed for a few years. (She has a now-cheap LCD TV in her business office.)
Over-the-door antenna, attached to USB TV tuner plugged into PC (click to enlarge)
To test Windows Media Center on the Win 10 PC, I had attached an unamplified Winegard antenna to the USB TV tuner, placed the antenna on top of our home office door, then plugged the tuner into the PC.
I first set up Windows Media Center, then ServerWMC, free software that allows other computers and apps to see program listings, live TV and recordings from the WMC PC.
(I have been doing this for the last two years in our theater room with another PC; see previous post Windows Media Center & Raspberry Pi.)
Seven local stations (including MeTV, Gaye’s go-to) came in strongly with this hastily improvised setup.
I didn’t diddle around with placing the antenna for better reception of the other channels. Maybe later.
WMC disappeared when my PC received the Anniversary Update for Windows 10 on 9/24/2016. I was able to get WMC working again; see my notes added to previous post Add Windows Media Center to Win 10!.
However, the driver for the old USB TV tuner is no longer supported, so I just ordered a $20 Hauppauge WinTV-HVR-950 from eBay to replace it. In the meantime, I can still see and play any shows I had previously recorded with Emby.
(Update 10/17/2016: The Hauppauge tuner worked great for all local channels! See the comment I added for this post.)
As long as you have WMC on any version of Windows, you should be able to get Emby working with WMC as follows.
Emby (formerly known as MediaBrowser) is a free media center program with its own Roku channel and smartphone app.
I remembered that Emby was supposed to serve up live TV, unlike its otherwise similar competitor, Plex. I had previously installed Emby as well as Plex on the PC (they don’t interfere with each other).
With all the pieces in place, it was a good time to give live TV a try.
Using the Emby server’s browser interface on the PC, I activated Emby’s own ServerWMC plugin. It enabled the Emby server to talk to ServerWMC on that PC.
(Nice setup guide: Stream Live TV with Emby and ServerWMC)
Thanks to my previous experience with both ServerWMC and Emby, it was not difficult to get all this working.
I went to the Emby channel on one of our Rokus, and found that the seven stations looked so good, you couldn’t tell they weren’t coming in via direct antenna. Likewise with WMC DVR recordings: perfect.
The secret of this perfection is in Emby’s transcoding.
Broadcast TV is in the MPEG-2 format, which is bulky and unforgiving of internet streaming. Emby automatically transcodes (converts) the video to .MP4, which Roku and most apps of all kinds have no trouble dealing with. That’s where the powerful quad-core PC shines; it has the processing power to do this conversion on the fly. (Our theater room PC has a weak though adequate-for-its-purpose Celeron 450 processor.)
I tried the Emby app on my wifi-only smartphone. Worked great. I ultimately restricted Windows Media Center to only the seven good stations, since trying to stream the poor reception channels tended to hang ServerWMC (and bad channels are no fun to watch anyway).
I set up WMC to DVR “The Bob Newhart Show” on MeTV, and “The Man From U.N.C.L.E.” on Heroes and Icons, so we would have something to watch on the bedroom Roku if nothing good was on.
Then I wondered how it would work on a smartphone outside the range of our wifi router.
At a party last Friday, I tried it on Gaye’s iPhone. It failed, due to not being able to reach the server on our home PC.
To fix this, I set up port forwarding on our router to allow external connectivity to our Emby server.
“…you’ll need to open the web interface for your router, and forward TCP Port 8096 on your router to port 8096 on the Emby Server machine.” (see Emby Setup Port Forwarding note).
After I texted Gaye this week to give it a try when she had a chance, she reported that she was watching “Gunsmoke” while driving!
Obviously, watching TV while driving is not a good practice, even though we once played “Terminator 2: Judgment Day” (downloaded to phone via Plex) during a round trip to OSU to visit a nephew.
Our timing was great; as the final credit rolled, we pulled back into our garage.