Today, I created a YouTube video of the interview I did with FOX23 investigative reporter Janna Clark about our neighborhood Leake Park pond going green, but not in a good way. (Incidentally, the park was named for James C. Leake, longtime owner of KTUL, Channel 8.)
The making of the video offers an opportunity to introduce two cord-cutting topics, Windows Media Center, and the Raspberry Pi computer.
My mom recently acquired a laptop computer and had no further use for her Windows 7 machine. I thought I might be able to use it, so she gave it to me. How right I was. Thanks, Mom!
Windows 7 includes Windows Media Server software for free. This allows you to attach an antenna to a USB TV tuner, which plugs into the computer. You can then watch local stations on the computer, use an interactive program guide, and even record shows with WMC’s DVR capability. You can also plug the computer directly into your TV’s HDMI input for viewing. Sadly, my mom’s low-end PC did not have an HDMI jack. Yes, you can add an HDMI card (and a tuner card, for that matter), but I found another way.
That way was the Raspberry Pi computer, already hooked into our entertainment system as a way to stream music from other computers in the house. The Grace Digital Radio I had previously used for the purpose was pitiful, forgetting its network credentials at the drop of a hat and causing eye strain, trying to read its tiny LEDs from across the room.
But the Pi, a $35 card with a CPU plus a GPU chip for graphics, did a much better job at its music task. I had noted that it could support live TV, videos and movies as well, but didn’t have the incentive to look into it until I got that whopping cable bill last spring.
(More about the Raspberry Pi in the TTM Amazon Store)
First, I had tried Tvheadend, the minimal streaming server software included with the Raspberry Pi’s operating system, Raspbmc. I didn’t have much luck, possibly due to extreme ignorance and lack of experience, or an incompatible tuner (though I think it was the former).
That’s where the Windows 7 computer came in. I installed free ServerWMC software to let Windows Media Center talk to Raspbmc (I had seen that as an option within the menus). I connected the Win7 with the Pi via a gigabit Ethernet switch I already had. Things started going well. I was able to select channels, watch broadcast programming, and set the DVR function via the Raspbmc interface on the big screen.
I also use a smartphone app, My Media Center, to look at the guide and set up recordings, just like the cable company’s product.
There is much more to say about all this, but the upshot is that I was able to DVR the FOX23 News, and edit the resulting perfect HD file into a YouTube video that is as good as anything on FOX23’s website. Of course, I got permission.
Here it is: