This was like a Simpsons episode: it started out to be about one thing and ended up about another.
I bought a used ThinkPad last month and it’s been double plus good so far. I’m very happy with my decision. But it is used gear and one of its quirks is that the case squeaks where I rest my left wrist while I type. Yes, I rest my wrists while I type. Shut up.
That’s where the PCMCIA(ee i ee i o) card slots are. I figured, it’s just an empty hole, it lacks structural thingamabob, I’ll buy some sort of card to go there. I don’t need a wifi card, so my choices were basically a serial port (bo-ring) or a TV tuner (ah!). Frankly, a TV tuner isn’t much use to me, but hey…TV! On a computer!
I did a rigorous five minutes of research on eBay and turned up someone selling a bunch of them on auction individually, one of which was ending soon grievously underbid. I nipped in and got it, inclusive of shipping, for $25. Yeah, I’ll pay that for a wrist shim.
It came in the mail yesterday, and turns it’s a much more interesting dingus than I expected. Yes, it’s a TV tuner (capable of all the international formats), but the antenna jack will also take a cable connection. As the box says, Wonderful TV programs are brought by Smart TV Card. Indeed. But it’s also got software for timing, recording, pausing and timeshifting — basically, turning my laptop into a TiVo. Neat.
But wait! It will also take s-video and composite signals — input from VCR’s, DVD players and camcorders. Hmmm…with an external hard drive and external DVD burner, this could be quite an interesting portable piracy…ummm…I mean mobile editing station.
But first I have to make it work.
The instructions start, “Drive the gearing of the procedure” and end “Drive the procedure gearing complete and can use also.” Uh huh. I gather I put the CD in and keep hitting next.
The bundled software is Intervideo WinDVR — the same Intervideo that make the DVD player bundled with every drive. I’m pleased to see I got a full version and it’s $79.95 to buy standalone. It is very slick. I like it. But it doesn’t work. It reads and records okay from the USB camera I plugged in, but it’s snubbing the TV tuner. After much installing and uninstalling and rebooting (why does this so often work?), I finally get it to scan and identify my local TV stations…and, eventually, pick up the audio. But no picture. I see a solid gray square. Not static: gray. Same when I plug the cable into it, so it’s not a signal strength problem. When I switch it between TV and S-Video modes, I get a glimpse of the picture for a fraction of a second. Interesting.
I give up when I realize the picture I’m trying desperately to bring in is American Idol.
Back at it this morning. I’m pretty sure it’s a driver or a codec or something. The Intervideo site is no help; they have an FAQ for video with no audio, but none for audio with no video. Google isn’t very good either…the first squillion hits are people trying to sell me one. I know my chipset but I keep getting stuck in those free driver popup ghetto hell sites.
So I decide to download other TVR programs in hope the correct driver happens to be bundled. Long shot, but hey. Next stop: ChrisTV. Or, as I prefer to call it, ChristV. Ol’ Christ writes some interesting software, actually. The free version doesn’t have the recording and timeshifting, but it works! I got a picture!
And no sound.
No, it didn’t fix WinDVR. And no, the two programs will NOT run at the same time. Smartass. Next stop: mother Russia and Fly2000TV. The one commenter on VideoHelp.com said it was a great program, pity it crashed too much to use. But the site has many drivers for me to try. I start pulling them down at the painful rate of half a K a second. I timeout frequently. I give up and go back to ChristV. This software has LOTS of things under options for me to try (unlike WinDVR), and one of them eventually gives me audio. Yesssss! Worship me, for I rule!
It’s…pretty cool. I haven’t tried recording anything. I don’t get many stations over air at home (WinDVR picked up about six, ChristV only two). I’ll see what I get from work. But hey…TV! On a computer!
But does it keep the case from squeaking? Kinda. If I put it in the top slot. It occasionally gets hot, but not all the time (odd). The business end sticks up pretty high above the edge of the computer case; it’s not real intrusive. I haven’t made up my mind if I’ll leave it in all the time.
But hey…TV! On a computer!