In the quest for an ever more perfect media center, our focus now turns to the EPG – the Electronic Program Guide – the data that comes with our programs, but is not a part of our programs. When you stand at the back of the room farthest from the TV, they look like this:
We’ve had SKY in our house for a few years and to be honest, I’ll only look at the guide toward the end of the show I’m watching at the moment. I tried “My Sky” for a while (DVR combined with enhanced EPG for those who speak jargon)- being able to record all of the episodes of a given show was great – but a bit too expensive for me, and I could really justify that AND the new DVR, so I gave it back.
With the release of Big Screen EPG from mobilewares another check-box on our list of components required for the perfect media center can finally be ticked. The program can be downloaded from the Big Screen site . You get a 30-day free trial of the full product after which the product reverts to the free version, with all the basics (according to Niall Ginsbourg of Big Screen).
Niall took some time to chat with me recently about BigScreen EPG, and Big Screen Remote which is like the EPG product but lets you control your program guide from a modern mobile phone located pretty much anywhere. Big Screen have a number of products that deserve our attention, so watch this space.
Down to business:
We had a look at the basics of setting up a TV Tuner card in your PC which provides a live TV signal that can be played through Windows Media Center (TV Setup). We had a quick look at the TV guide that comes free of charge with the basic TV signal and today we will examine the features in Big Screen EPG that make your program guide sing.
We won’t go through setup processes any more – there’s nothing tricky about them. For the very new folks who may be in attendance, please remember you have nothing to fear from a standard setup process. The trick is in knowing which ones aren’t standard.
So you’ve signed up, given all your details, downloaded and un-zipped the software and executed the setup or install program.
For your effort you’re rewarded with an icon:
and you now face the first screen.
I won’t bore you with how much harder this was in the old days, but believe me, this is much nicer. Quite simply you start with the “Actions” in the upper left corner. For your first attempt it would be wise to run the test option, “Test MXF Generation” just to see if you can get the data.
The test initiation screen appears and invites us to begin.
One little gripe I have with this window is that once you press the “Begin” button, the process begins, but the button remains unchanged – if you shoot off to make a cuppa while the process is going and come back having forgotten what you’ve been doing for the last half hour (don’t laugh!), you might be tempted to click the “Begin” button again. In my view, once the process has started the “Begin” button should either “grey out” (become inactive) or just go away and the lines about “Waiting for Input” and”(Press Begin to Start the Processing)” should go likewise.
The program closes and the stats are impressive – the 18 channels captured by the Windows Media Center guide pale by comparison –Big Screen came up with 104 channels, 22,062 programs and 3120 series.
Once your first test is run successfully you can then advance to the real deal by clicking on “Generate Data and Import into Media Cente”r. The same process ensues, but when you open up the WMC Guide — whamo – what a difference:
Pretty much everything that can be populated has been populated. And this is just the start – there’s a lot more in store for us, so jump to Big Screen EPG Puts the “E” in Electronic Program Guide [Part 2 of 3].