I can control what I watch of the Olympics? Any event? Anytime I want?

NBC's coverage of the 2008 Summer Olympics I’m not sure if I’ve said this on my blog before, but I and my family are huge fans of Windows Media Center.  I’ve got a dedicated (and actually pretty old and under-powered) Compaq desktop computer that’s running Windows Vista Ultimate edition, and has a TV-tuner card with two analog tuners, plus a HD USB tuner connected to a powered antenna for over-the-air HD.  It’s connected to my Gb LAN, onto which I’ve also connected two XBOX 360s (one for my boys and their games, and another in the family room).  Both of the 360s, in addition to playing games, are very capable extenders for the Media Center… so we can schedule, record, and watch recorded TV, browse the family’s collection of photos and home movies, and serve up every bit of music we own; all using the remote.

One of the additionally useful features of the Media Center is that it is an Internet-connected machine.. so online content is also available.  And depending on what country you live in, there can be quite a lot of it. 

Here in the USA, the official broadcaster of the upcoming Beijing Olympics is NBC.  And yesterday, while flipping around the menus on my Media Center (through the extender in the family room), I saw yet another update available in the Online Media area:

TVTonic Software Install Page


When I clicked on it, I saw that I needed to download some software to the PC that was running Media Center.  I couldn’t do the install from the extender (which makes sense).  So I went to my PC, and this time was given the option to install the TVTonic software.

“So.. how does it work, Kevin?  What’s the experience like?”

Very nice! 

“Can you share a screen-shot?”

No.  My aforementioned underpowered PC doesn’t have video capabilities enough to actually show the interface or play the video – so I can’t take a screen-capture.  (to increase performance, I took out the nice video adapter I had been using and went back to using the onboard video, since everything pretty is going to be done through the extenders anyway)  From my extenders, the experience is very slick.  It’s easy to select “channels” like Gymnastics, Volleyball, Basketball, etc.. and then you are shown if there are any items available to download.  Once downloaded, you can view and then remove or mark unread.. etc.  Of the channels I selected, there are currently only a few Track and Field and Swimming items from the Olympic trials available for viewing.. but of course the channels will fill up once the main event begins.  I can’t wait!

“Any downsides?”

The only complaint I have about it so far is that the TVTonic Software is 32-bit only.  I was hoping that, if it was entirely Internet served (meaning, no TV Tuner required), that I could install it on any Vista machine that has Media Center (Home Premium or Ultimate) and watch the Olympic events from one of my laptops.  But the laptops I’m currently using are both 64-bit.  So I guess it’s a good thing that my family Media Center PC is older hardware.  (Don’t tell my wife that, though… I’m still hoping to convince her that we should get a newer machine for even better HD performance. <shh!>)

I’m not sure yet what I’m getting myself into as far as disk space required.  Give me HD quality, on-demand viewing!… I’ll worry about the space later.

“But.. what if I don’t have a Media Center, Kevin?”

Then you’re still in luck.  You can view Silverlight video streams and on-demand viewing of recorded events at http://www.nbcolympics.com/ (Now.. I like that they’re using Silverlight in such a cool application.. but I really want to be able to see the videos full-screen!  So far I haven’t found a way to do that.)

What new and exciting ways will you be watching the Olympics in this year?

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