June 4, 2007 5:27 AM   Subscribe

How can my parents get English TV in Italy?

Now that my parents have retired, they're going to be spending more time dual-basing between Italy and the UK, probably a couple of months at a time in each place. They'd like the ability to watch english TV in Italy, and being the family's tech-head I've been tapped for potential solutions.

-------- Longish explanation, skip to bottom for actual questions ---------

The most obvious answer is British satellite TV, ideally via the Astra constellation - the problem is, they're too far south to get a signal without a huge dish (2.4m, according to this page), which is not feasible.

Next up is TV streaming using e.g. a Slingbox, streaming from my parent's home in the UK to Italy. Luckily, I own one that I use on my home LAN, and we were able to conduct a proper test at a friends' place there. The quality was OK, but only for a small window on the computer in question - ideally they'd like to watch on a full size TV.

Torrents are not an option, as the type of TV they'd want to watch will not be torrented (british TV, some soaps).

Due to the small upload bandwidth available, the best solution I can think of is to record in the UK with a DVR of some description, then download (after recordings, i.e. non-real time) from said DVR to my parent's computer in Italy. This would allow better quality than streaming, albeit with slower download times.

So, how to do it?

I figure the following components:
- Server machine with TV card, based in the UK and hooked to a UK TV source and the UK broadbanc connection
- Client machine, laptop with media centre software, taken to Italy and hooked to italian broadband connection, connected to TV
- Server software capable of being controlled via web interface

Ideal, but not required, would be the option of automated (e.g. overnight) downloads from the server to the client. My parents are somewhat technophobic but can do basic operations in Windows (e.g. go to website, click TV shows you want to download, leave the laptop on overnight, watch shows the next day via Media Centre).

--------- Questions: -----------

- Server software:
I'm looking for a recommendation for software running on a media PC (actually, a media server) that can:
- record from TV
- be controlled via a web-type interface (as opposed to VNC)
- can appropriately compress TV show files e.g. using XviD, H264, etc
- can be remotely administered (administration being a separate function to merely "using", ie setting recordings and aquiring TV shows)

- Client software
Windows MCE should provide the majority of user-side interaction, but an automated method of logging in to the above server and downloading e.g. all files in a selected folder structure would be useful.

- For those who have read the lengthy speil above, any comments on feasibility? Any better ideas would be welcome.

Sorry about the length, if any more details are required, please ask.
posted by Nice Guy Mike to Technology (10 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
slingbox works pretty good for me
posted by gadha at 5:30 AM on June 4, 2007

It may be worth noting that a small handful of UK stations are offering/trialling download services (BBC's iMP, Channel 4's 4OD (although it is limited to UK for the time being), and Channel 5's Download. Only good if you'd want to catch up on EastEnders and (shiver) Hollyoaks, I suppose, but it might be worth keeping an eye on these services, or perhaps send them an email to lask them the same question - they may sign you up for a trial? Wishful thinking, eh...

Even though you mentioned torrents are not an option, I thought I might point out that there are sites dedicated to British TV out there.
posted by jim.christian at 5:57 AM on June 4, 2007

If it's a few specific, popular shows then the UK-based torrent site UKNova is fantastic. They definately have the major soaps.

Azureus with an rss feed reader could do the major shows pretty easily, and you wouldn't have to capture them at this end.
posted by OldMansHands at 6:41 AM on June 4, 2007

what jim said
posted by doublesix at 6:41 AM on June 4, 2007

It may be worth noting that a small handful of UK stations are offering/trialling download services (BBC's iMP, Channel 4's 4OD (although it is limited to UK for the time being), and Channel 5's Download.

In my opinion, 4OD is more difficult to deal with than torrents. Unless they improve it drastically, don't bother. I'm not sure about the others.
posted by liquidindian at 7:55 AM on June 4, 2007

Since you say you are looking for options, would they have the ability to get digital cable? I have it here in Switzerland and get BBC 1 and 2, ITV 1 and 2, BBC Prime, BBC World and Film 4. I'm not sure Cable is as widespread there as it is here.
posted by sebas at 9:42 AM on June 4, 2007

Response by poster: Thanks for the responses so far.

Gahdi, thanks, but we've tried the Slingbox - I just don't think the bandwidth is good enough. It may become more feasible with a wider-bandwidth connection, but given that they'll be springing for a connection in the UK and another in Italy, I don't know if they'll be willing to pay for one.

(I should note at this point that I can assemble a server machine from parts I've got lying around, so there's no huge expense there)

Those of you who mentioned Torrents - hadn't realised british TV was quite so well served. I'll bear it in mind. I don't know what my parents wil make of the legality of it, but it's certainly a backup option.

Sebas - maybe in a reasonable-sized town/city then cable might be an option, but they'll be living in a little village in the middle of nowhere, and they won't be in the village centre, either. I think cable will be a non-starter.
posted by Nice Guy Mike at 10:10 AM on June 4, 2007

Response by poster: And I completely mis-spelled your username. My apologies, Gadha.
posted by Nice Guy Mike at 10:12 AM on June 4, 2007

Torrents & UKNova - UKNova doesn't allow anything that's been released on DVD on the site, or anything that's due for imminent release. It's not technically legal, but the broadcasters don't seem to mind.
posted by liquidindian at 11:54 AM on June 4, 2007

When it comes to ease of operation, I would go for the 2,4m dish :-(

I mean, streaming and torrents are really beautiful and personally I would love it, even embrace it because its cool, but anybody who is not a technophile will run into problems using it and thus will stop using it or phone you all the time to fix problems.

If the neighbors have no problems with it an the price is alright, a 2,4m dish could be not too much of an eyesore. Down south it should even be possible to hide it behind plants or a blind since the angle of the satellite signal is steeper than in the north.

Doesn't Astra also have an Italian beam? At least BBC world should be available for current news with a normal 60cm dish. For soaps and movies they could give you a list of their favorite programs and you can record them with a DVD recorder and mail them the disk. With a windows machine and TV schedules on the web it might even be possible for your parents to program the DVD writer via remote desktop, so that you just have to mail the disks. (Or they can copy it over the net, this seems more convenient than torrents.)

It is not as convenient as watching TV, but at least it works!

Parents and computer technology that has to be tweaked and maintained are not a good combination in my experience.

Different parents might give different results, though :-)
posted by mmkhd at 2:25 PM on June 4, 2007

« Older Magical thinking not so magical.   |   good physics lectures Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.