Get TV from your PC, anytime, anywhere
Watching TV using the Internet is nothing new, but sometimes you can’t access the channel you’d like to view from where you are. The simplest way to watch any form of television on your computer is with a TV tuner --whether it’s cable, satellite or terrestrial, it gives you access to the widest possible range of channels, including those you subscribe to.
Now, imagine being able to take that TV signal and watch it from anywhere you like: another computer on your network perhaps, a DLNA-certified device like your PS3 maybe, or even your mobile phone or tablet. The good news is there are a number of options, ranging from free (MediaPortal) to paid-for (DVBLink TV Source), which you can test for free for up to 20 days.
DVBLink TV Source allows you to take your TV signal, then -- with a fair bit of tweaking and setting up via its configuration tool in your browser (see the wiki for full instructions) -- you can marry it up with Windows Media Center. Ostensibly it can be used on its own to make older TV cards compatible with Windows Media Center, so long as they come with BDA drivers, it’ll allow you to control them through Windows rather than a proprietary third-party app.
Of more interest to most though, is the fact that once configured, you can make your TV tuner accessible to other devices on your network and the wider Internet using the bundled DVBLink Connect! Server package. This is simple to configure -- once installed, it’ll run automatically with no additional configuration required.
Once in place, you can access your TV tuner from over your network using a range of devices, including DLNA-certified kit, mobile devices and other computers. The Windows 7 client is included in the DVBLink TV Source download, while Mac and Linux users should first install the free Boxee client before accessing http://www.dvblogic.com/boxee/ in their Boxee repository browser.
The mobile app works with iOS, Android and Windows Phone, and is a completely free download. Configuration is straightforward: enter your PC’s IP address, or your home public IP address if you’re connecting from outside your home network (again, see the wiki for details), and then log in with the username and password you used to configure DVBLink in the first place – it’s “user” and “admin” by default.
If we’re honest, it’s all a little too complicated considering you’re expected to part with $60-plus for the privilege of using it to stream media across your network. If the cost is too rich, then the good news is that you can get similar functionality for free.
Stream with MediaPortal
MediaPortal is an open-source alternative to Windows Media Center. Aside from the fact it’s free, it also works with a wider range of Windows PCs, from XP all the way up to Windows 7. Once your TV server is set up following the advice in the program wiki you need to download the free iPiMP plug-in – this does all the hard work of transcoding and streaming your TV signal to just about any mobile device, including iOS, Android and Windows Phone, with a web browser.
Like DVBLink, you can also schedule recordings through your mobile’s browser, plus even use it as a remote control in place of your PC’s keyboard or mouse. The end result isn’t quite as polished as DVBLink’s solution, but it’s completely free and the setup procedure is, if anything, slightly easier, although not quite as straightforward as we’d like it to be.
If you want to stream TV from your PC to mobile device for free, you’ll find both MediaPortal and iPiMP are available as free, open-source downloads for PCs running Windows XP SP3 or later. If you’re happy to pay for a solution that uses Windows Media Center, and which supports a wider number of client devices, you can download a 20-day trial of DVBLink TV Source for Windows 7 PCs, plus DVBLink for Mobile, which runs on iOS, Android and Windows Phone.