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You’ll recall from New and Improved EPG that Big Screen has just released a final (not a beta) version of their Big Screen EPG program that grabs program guides from the internet, prepares them, and loads their data into Windows Media Center’s Program Guide to use in conjunction with the WMC Live TV function. We ran through a basic setup of the program in part I, in part II we’ll cover the setup process in more detail, examining the options and perhaps arriving at a transparent process that will provide you with the best EPG for the New Zealand broadcast area.

Did you miss the previous post in this series?

Not for newbies

My original plan was to pore over the documentation and write the perfect beginner’s manual that would allow everyone to take advantage of this excellent package. But as the night wore on, and I became more frustrated with the number of options a user could try, I fired off a heated note to Niall Ginsbourg, author of the program and head of the Big Screen company, going on about how poor the documentation was, and how confusing it was going to be for the end user.

Niall very pleasantly and politely replied to inform me that the target market for EPG wasn’t new users, but rather the more advanced users, technical people, and other users in need of a “tool kit” for investigating EPG. IN the words of Homer Simpson DOH! I fired back an apology and kept my head down for the next couple of days.

The lesson from that embarrassing encounter is that unless you are fairly conversant in this stuff, or have the time and patience to get up to speed on it – stick with the steps outlined here and you will most likely achieve the results we’ve promised (in this case, a data-rich EPG).

In the coming weeks we will look at some of the other great features in this package – like logos for the stations, and organizing genres to fit your personal tastes.

Two Step Process:

In part 1 we took a quick look at the basic “One Step” process using an existing provider selected from within Big Screen.

In this session we will examine a “Two Step” process that relies on EPG Collector to pull the program information out of the broadcast signals, along with our familiar
Big Screen EPG which, in this instance, is used to pump the data from EPG Collector into Windows Media Center.

If you’d like more background information on this technology, Mauricio Freitas has written an excellent overview of the field in Geekzone – the web site he also administers.

The installation process is fairly standard, but there is an interesting story behind the data collection.

As we’ve mentioned, Big Screen doesn’t provide the data, it simply collects, reformats, and passes through the data found from sources around the internet, and they have been kind enough to provide a list of some of these providers.

such that when it comes time to set the source of the data you’ll see this screen

that names two such providers.

What’s up with SKY?

Around the world, many broadcasters offer their program guides freely to anyone (the proof of this is to “goggle” EPG images). But here in New Zealand, Sky has chosen to keep this information to themselves.

And to be clear, using these packages do not provide Sky TV channels on your PC, this is only the program guide. If you want Sky TV you have to subscribe to their service. And if you want Sky TV on your PC, you have to bring the feed in from your Sky Decoder Box, which, unfortunately, does not provide you with an EPG that you can use to schedule recordings. A big advantage to having the Sky EPG on your PC is that it allows you to record single tv shows, and multiple shows in a series.

But why withhold the EPG? You’d think that it would be a great marketing tool to show non-subscribers all the shows that are available.

I did a bit of digging and came up with a quote from their web site:

We license our EPG data to other Web sites for a fixed monthly fee. If you are interested in receiving and using our data, please contact Kirsty Way () with your company information as well as your intended use of the data, including the technical platforms in which the data would appear and the expected audience projections. Currently we provide our data via an access-controlled Web Service, any other collection or use of SKY TV EPG data is strictly prohibited.

I’ve heard that Sky takes this matter so seriously that they have obtained “take down” orders for sites they believe are violating their policy.

I’ve sent a note off to Kirsty asking to use their data on my web site. Kirsty was kind enough to reply the next day, and when pressed, told me that the price for their EPG was around $3,000 per month, so I guess Sky figures they would make less money from new subscribers who join because they had seen the EPG, than if they kept the information private and sold the EPG as a product.

… But returning to our story:

Somehow using the process above, Sky channels make it through:

and this screen hints at the complexity awaiting the unwary hacker wannabe. What are these check-boxes and “-1” indicators? I’ve got no idea – but one thing I have learned is that it’s best to stay well clear of them until you’ve got a good idea of what you’re doing.

And keeping with that sentiment, simply accept the defaults on all the remaining screens and your new data will appear in the Windows Media Center guide transforming your old screens peppered with “No data available” tags

into fully populated masterpieces like this:

The process of getting the data into your Windows Media Center guide is one we will look at in more detail in our next post. Along with putting this procedure into a scheduled task if time and space allow.


Got another take on this subject? There’s probably a better way to do pretty much everything, so drop us a line.

About Deck Hazen

A computer user since 1976, Deck enjoys testing new software and reconfiguring his equipment to squeeze the most out of it. "Computing has come a long way since those early days" Deck recalls "I get a real kick out of watching the industry grow - getting paid to write about it is just icing on the cake!"

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