Zap To The Future (Part 2)

3/23/2013 9:26:40 AM

Alternatives to WMC

As we mentioned, WMC isn’t the only TV-friendly media-playing application on the block. If you installed Boxee earlier then start it now. It requires a free account (a verified email is all that is needed), which can be created during installation or beforehand via the website. Once signed in, it runs as a full-screen application and can be navigated with a mouse and keyboard. Pressing the Escape (Esc) key on the keyboard shows the navigation menu from any screen.

Before starting, set your location by clicking the cog-wheel icon at the top left, choose Look and Feel, click Location and type in your nearest city.

Boxee includes access to movie content via Mubi ( and Openfilm ( All MUBI films are pay per view, while Openfilm is free for all to access.

MSN Video Player has dozens of free old TV programmes

MSN Video Player has dozens of free old TV programs

Fortunately, you aren’t limited to what’s in the preset categories. Click on the Apps icon in the main menu, then select Apps Library to browse dozens of free video, photo and music applications, including online video sites such as Youtube, Vimeo and music-video service Vevo, photo sites such as Flickr and Picasa, and educational services such as the educational resources like the Open University’s podcasts.

There is also a web browser built in (the Boxee Browser) but this is clunky to use and it’s best to exit to Windows and instead use a normal browser such as Internet Explorer or Firefox.

To play content from your PC or home network, click Files in the main menu and browse for content. DVDs and CDs can be played, too, but currently Boxee does not support Blu-ray playback. Finally, while we think most people’s TV-viewing needs will be well-served by either WMC or Boxee, the aforementioned XBMC is at least worth a look especially if you are intending mainly to use media files that are stored on your PC or home network. It also works on Linux PCs or Apple Macintosh computers, if either of those are your preference.

Back to Windows

With a PC connected to the TV, there is nothing to stop you using Windows as normal. The only problem is that the menus can be small on a large TV but there is a remedy. In Windows 7, right-click an empty part of the Desktop and choose Screen Resolution. Click the link labeled ‘Make text and other items larger or smaller’, then choose the Medium or Large radio button (try both to see which works best). Click Apply, then log off and log on to Windows again. All text and menu items should now be larger and more legible.

The Tuner Free MCE add-on for Windows Media Center has live andcatch-upTV

The Tuner Free MCE add-on for Windows Media Center has live and catch-up TV

Vista users should right-click the Desktop, choose Personalize, then click Adjust font size (DPI)’. Click Larger scale followed by Apply, then restart the PC.

In XP, right-click the Desktop, choose Properties, then click the Settings tab. Click Advanced, and on the General tab choose ‘Large size (120 DPI)’ from the dropdown menu. Click OK, then click Yes if prompted then click Close to restart the PC.

As well, some online video services have websites optimized for use on TVs you may decide that using or installing additional media-playing software is unnecessary. See Youtube XL { and iPlayer Bigscreen (, for starters. These use bigger buttons and menus, making them easier to navigate.

Remotes and keyboards

Of course, the whole idea of connecting a computer to a TV is so that it can be used from the sofa. We’d suggest that a wireless keyboard is good idea: compact models with media playback keys, such as the Microsoft Wireless Desktop 3000 (www.snipca.c0m/X4509), are best. If you can afford it, a device like Gyration’s Air Mouse is worth considering, as it makes it much easier to control Windows from a distance.

A wireless keyboard is a good way to control your internet TV from the sofa

A wireless keyboard is a good way to control your internet TV from the sofa

However, a remote control is the most comfortable method for navigating the likes of WMC, Boxee and XBMC.

If you decide to add a TV tuner card to your PC (see box headed Add a TV tuner’ at the end of this article), these typically come with their own remote control that’s likely to be compatible with WMC, Boxee and XBMC. And for those who own a suitable Apple gadget, such as an iPhone or iPad, there is a free Boxee Remote app ( which controls the Boxee via your router.

Smarter than the average TV

We hope that our advice shows that there’s really no need to spend hundreds of pounds in order to get a smarter TV.

Really, the entire setup can be summarized like this: attach a basic PC to your TV, connect it to the internet and away you go. Obviously, customizing the system so it works just the way you takes effort but it is worthwhile: a homemade smart TV will be better than anything you can currently buy in the shops.

Making the connection

HDMI is the best choice for connecting the computer to a TV as both graphics and audio can be sent down the same cable. Many newer PCs have an HDMI port built in but, if not, ask the manufacturer if an adapter is available that supports both audio and video.

If not, buy a DVI to HDMI converter and a separate cable to connect the PC's audio output to the TV. A more expensive option is the Q-Waves HD (www.snipca. com/X4502), which provides a wireless HDMI connection (including audio) from the PC to the TV and needs only a USB port on the PC.

For PCs with a 15-pin VGA connector, a VGA to HDMI converter box can be bought the PC's audio output can also be connected to this.

If your TV has a DVI or VGA input, these can also be used instead of HDMI, but again the PC's audio output needs to be connected separately. Blinkbox, the online video service, has a useful guide to identifying and using the various connectors.

Finally, if your PC has an S-Video connector and the TV has a Scart or S-Video connector, a combination adapter cable with both types of connector plus audio Phono connectors.

Add a TV tuner

You might think that as the PC is connected to a TV, adding a TV tuner is a bit pointless. But fitting a TV tuner means the PC’s hard disk can be used as digital video recorder, even while you are watching the main TV.

There are many Freeview tuners, both as internal cards for a desktop PC, or external USB models for laptops or those who don’t want to open up the PC. Windows Media Center on Windows 7 supports up to three separate tuners (Vista supports two), so it’s possible to record three channels at once, or watch one live while recording two others.

Tuner cards also come with their own playback software, which is useful for XP users, although it is not needed in Vista or 7.

The AverTVTwinstarA825 is a twin-tuner USB model. Analogue tuners are also still available, but bear in mind that these will be effectively useless when the switchover to digital TV is completed.

In all cases, using an external aerial will give the best results, so you may need a splitter for an existing aerial if it is in use and possibly a signal booster.

Video tutorials
- How To Install Windows 8

- How To Install Windows Server 2012

- How To Install Windows Server 2012 On VirtualBox

- How To Disable Windows 8 Metro UI

- How To Install Windows Store Apps From Windows 8 Classic Desktop

- How To Disable Windows Update in Windows 8

- How To Disable Windows 8 Metro UI

- How To Add Widgets To Windows 8 Lock Screen

- How to create your first Swimlane Diagram or Cross-Functional Flowchart Diagram by using Microsoft Visio 2010
programming4us programming4us
Top 10
Free Mobile And Desktop Apps For Accessing Restricted Websites
TOYOTA CAMRY 2; 2.5 : Camry now more comely
KIA SORENTO 2.2CRDi : Fuel-sipping slugger
How To Setup, Password Protect & Encrypt Wireless Internet Connection
Emulate And Run iPad Apps On Windows, Mac OS X & Linux With iPadian
Backup & Restore Game Progress From Any Game With SaveGameProgress
Generate A Facebook Timeline Cover Using A Free App
New App for Women ‘Remix’ Offers Fashion Advice & Style Tips
SG50 Ferrari F12berlinetta : Prancing Horse for Lion City's 50th
Popular Tags
Video Tutorail Microsoft Access Microsoft Excel Microsoft OneNote Microsoft PowerPoint Microsoft Project Microsoft Visio Microsoft Word Active Directory Exchange Server Sharepoint Sql Server Windows Server 2008 Windows Server 2012 Windows 7 Windows 8 Adobe Flash Professional Dreamweaver Adobe Illustrator Adobe Photoshop CorelDRAW X5 CorelDraw 10 windows Phone 7 windows Phone 8 Iphone