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Channel Data

Wednesday, September 26th, 2007

I have a computer I built that is connected to my home theater. It has audio and video outputs connected to the receiver and the TV, cable TV inputs for recording television and a network connection to my LAN for interfacing with it over the internet. What I don’t have anymore is free channel data.

A company called DataDirect used to provide free channel data once you register with their website. My home theater pc (htpc) used to contact this site periodically and download all the listings so it knew what was on, where and when. So I could tell it to record “Southpark”, and it would figure out what channel and when, and even re-adjust the recording schedule if I were to add another show to record that conflicted with a pre-existing schedule. DataDirect discontinued its free service as of early September, 2007. This posed a problem because it effectively booted my DVR back 20 years. I would have to schedule all shows to be recorded by hand like we did with our VCR so many years go.

A few companies have stepped up and licensed the data from the big networks, but they all want monthly or quarterly fees for access to it. I pay enough money for our cable TV; I don’t want to pay more just for the convenience of being able to record it, with my own equipment.

You may be thinking to yourself, what about or the website of your cable provider? Sure I can load up Time Warner Cable’s website and see their channel listings, but they are organized and displayed in a way that is meaningful to humans, not computer programs.

I called TWC today and spoke with an enthusiastic customer support professional named Caitlyn. She had some trouble understanding what I was talking about. First she tried to explain to me that I need digital cable (which I have) with a digital set-top box (which I have 2 of) to get the guide data. Then she told me about going to their website to view the data. She just couldn’t wrap her head around the concept that I didn’t want to look at the data, I wanted to be able to interface with it. I guess even if you spend $150 per month on cable and related services, you shouldn’t expect to be able to use data provided for your service in a means other than how they specify.

Comments (4) Subscribe

#1 - Sep 28, 2007 at 7:27 AM
Maybe you should get a job with them programming their equipment up to speed. I guess they don't have too many computer geeks doing what you're doing.
#2 - Sep 28, 2007 at 12:36 PM
Well they probably wouldn't want me doing anyway. They could sell me a DVR set-top box that would do what I want to do for like $10 a month extra, I just want to do it for free.
#3 - Sep 28, 2007 at 4:54 PM
You're your father's son!
#4 - Oct 9, 2007 at 8:45 AM
Windows Media Center gets all that data for me :-)

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