Over the years, I have tried different operating systems (Windows 3.1, 98, 2000, XP, Vista), newer & faster CPUs, different hardware brands (WinTV, Pinnacle, Aver), and newer interfaces (PCI, USB) but I was never successful in getting a stable working setup of TV playing in a PC. At one point, it looked like I was having a curse against getting a TV Tuner working on my PC. In all cases, my hardware exceeded the manufacturer’s minimum required specification. So in the last two years, I have put TV Tuner in my list of technology “hypes” whose time hasn’t arrived yet.
With this background, I tried again and I bought a Pinnacle Hybrid TV Tuner Kit (USB) for Vista during my Singapore trip. The minimum specification said Vista Home Premium/Ultimate (32bit) and it was Certified for Vista, this meant they have drivers for Vista. When I came back to my office, I tried to install it on my Windows Vista x64 Enterprise OS machine with 8GB RAM. I got the beta driver for Vista x64 from the Pinnacle Support site, the card got installed but there was no Media Application to play the TV signal.
Windows Vista Enterprise x64 to Ultimate x64
After some search, I realized that I needed either Vista Home Premium or Ultimate because only those two Vista Editions include Windows Media Center that was needed to play the TV signal from the Pinnacle tuner. I thought this should be simple, since Vista allows easy upgrades between editions, but it turns out officially you cannot upgrade Vista Enterprise to anything else. I found a hack here to do it, by tricking the setup to treat Enterprise as Business edition. Instead, I decided to reinstall Windows Vista. I did that and got Windows Vista x64 Ultimate working.
Pinnacle x64 Driver from Windows Update
When I now connected the TV Tuner USB Device, Windows Update detected the device, installed the correct driver for Pinnacle PCTV 330e and got initialised. I followed the instructions given in the Pinnacle manual, connected the IR Blaster (this sticks in front of your set-top box and replays the IR instructions of the set-top box remote) to IR Receiver and then the IR Receiver to a free USB port. (IR Receiver / Remote sensor receives the signal from the Media Center remote control and relays it to the Media Center PC. When you plug the IR blaster/ control cable into the remote sensor and the set-top box, then the remote sensor also relays the signal from the PC to the set-top box)
Windows Media Center shows only TV Tuner as a Signal source
I connected the Tata Sky DTH satellite set-top box’s composite video/audio (RCA jack) output to Pinnacle Tuner. I ran Windows Media Center software, unfortunately, it detected only the TV Tuner as an input source and refused to recognize the Satellite (Composite) as an available input source. Taking the suggestion from documentation for setting a set-top box from the Microsoft site I ensured the IR blaster was connected. Still, it didn’t detect my composite video signal. For strange reasoning best known only to Microsoft, Media Center doesn’t enable input sources other than TV Tuner unless it detects the IR blaster. But in my case even with IR Blaster installed correctly, it didn’t show up.
I tried the TV Tuner on two other Vista 32bit (x86) machines:
- Dell Vostro with 4GB RAM where I had the same problem of not being able to select the composite signal source (Dell support said they don’t support Media Center with Vostro series)
- Lenovo Desktop (with 1GB RAM) where it worked perfectly. Windows Media Center on the first start automatically detected the IR Blaster (allowed me to even control the Tata Sky set-top box successfully) and let me select composite as a signal source.
It looks like Windows Media Center/Pinnacle Hybrid tuner doesn’t support more than 1GB RAM for Satellite input. Strange!
I wrote to Pinnacle Support asking them how to get the product working with Vista x64 Media Center. They said this is an MCE question so you should write to Microsoft. Filled a case with Microsoft PSS which they refused to take as it is a how-to question and also it is a device capability issue. Writing back to Pinnacle, they promptly replied that the product is not supported in Vista x64 – The tuner kit for Windows Media Center will only work on a 32-bit version. There is no update for a 64-bit version yet. We are sorry for any inconvenience the product has brought you“. This was surprising as Windows Update has a driver for the product and Pinnacle themselves have a beta driver.
So it was time to ditch Windows Media Center and do it on our own. After some research, I found out Nero has a TV Tuner Player software – I am a big fan and loyal user of Nero for years. I downloaded the trial of Nero 8 and after a few configuration steps, I got the device working.
Nero 8.0 configuration with Satellite Signal and Pinnacle Hybrid Tuner
The step to configure involves the following four steps:
Step 1: Launch Nero MediaHome software and then the “TV Wizard”
Step 2: “Pinnacle 330e/880e Device” as Video Device (you will see two entries, the other one is for TV Tuner Signal) and “Composite” as Video Input
Step 3: Launch Nero Home, select Video in Video and TV applet
Step 4: Scroll down and select Composite as the video to play
Finally, you will see this player with the signal from Tata Sky working fine:
Note: If you are planning a TV Tuner card for Vista x64 before you buy it please visit the Microsoft HCL site to ensure you buy hardware that is certified for x64.