Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Windows 7 RC, Media Center, and ClearQAM. FINALLY!!

well, i finally broke down and decided to upgrade my vista ultimate installation to windows 7 rc.  i thought i'd help out microsoft and send my installation logs (option when you install) and also do a straight upgrade from Vista Ultimate vs doing a clean install (which i would normally do).

the upgrade went almost too easy and i already found a reason to love Windows 7 and Media Center.  ClearQAM support!  Keep reading for the rest of my initial impressions and see windows 7 media center w/some ClearQAM in action!

My Windows 7 upgrade from Vista took about 30 minutes.  My machine is an HP DV6700T laptop w/a 2.5gh c2d, 4gb ddr2, 500gb harddrive (dual booting osx of course)

The only thing that was not compatible was the HP Quick Launch button software.  I had to remove that prior to upgrading.

My Vista setup included all of the HP Drivers including the biometric scanner and software.  So far all software is working in Windows 7 also (including fingerprint software and cyberlink youcam).  I have noticed a weird/quirky behavior of the fingerprint login at times (like the fingerprint reader doesn't read my finger, hehe)

I'll be honest and admit that I readdy don't mind Vista.  Most of the hardware I run it on is powerful enough to run it w/o problems.  So for me, Windows 7 is mainly about adding more multimedia based functionality and usuability/ease-of-use.  One thing that OSX Leopard has taught me is that Spotlight / Windows Search can make your life VERY EASY! finding apps/settings is just as searching for them.

However Windows 7 shocked my eyes open with ClearQAM compatibility in Media Center!! HOLY CRAP!!!  Microsoft promised ClearQAM (or so i've told myself, hehe) in Vista but never delivered initially ( however there are hacks to add it in). What is ClearQAM? ClearQAM tv tuners will let your computer/tv read any unencrypted HD/Digital signals over your coaxal connection (ie cable in your apt/home, not antenna based).  With a ClearQAM tuner you do not need to use a CableCard since the signals are not encrypted to start with.  So you can get all of the local, basic HD stations over a cable connection for free and in near perfect quality vs antenna OTA HD.  you may also get other unencrypted channels and even pay-per-view if your neighbors are watching/ordered. no ClearQAM support was my biggest gripe about Vista and SP1 for it.

Sadly though, us Bluray users are still left in to third party solutions (hopefully) for native bluray playback in Windows 7.  I purchased PowerDVD9 just recently for this reason alone.  however, it crashes Media Center in Windows 7 everytime i try to use it.  So again, no bluray support at all in Media Center.

so far i've noticed a few quirks w/my Media Center remote, i can no longer use the Media Center button to launch Media Center, rather i have to hit Guide or My Recorded TV.  i'd also prefer more recording options; let me be able to choose to record One Show a Day on Any Channel option! I'd rather have too many recording options than too few. its called an advanced menu for a reason!

HD channel quality is great. I usually will hook up my laptop to my hdtv via hdmi (also, why can't windows 7 automatically change my default audio device to HDMI when i plug in my hdmi cable??) and it looks just as good as my cable hd dvr  box did.

So just my quick thoughts on Windows 7 RC1 after a week of using.  Come on Microsoft, give us native bluray playback! we know hd-dvd didn't win but throw us bluray owners a bone. :P

Oh yea, video demo of clearqam and powerdvd bluray media center addon below:

[youtube srdpJwh8ly8]