Add-In Review: Recorded TV Manager Part 1

Today, I am taking a look at Rick Drasch’s Recorded TV Manager.  To get an idea of what Recorded TV Manager can do for you, I went to his website:

Recorded TV Manager is a collection of Microsoft Windows® applications and services designed specifically for home networks that include one or more Windows Media Center machines which record television programming for later viewing (“time shifting“).

  • Easily collect series episodes and watch them in original broadcast order.
  • Simplify management and viewing of large collections.
  • Automatically move recordings to a Home Server, NAS or any other location.
  • Automatically delete duplicate recordings and previously watched episodes.
  • Keep track of what you’ve watched, even after it’s deleted.

When discussing a WHS oriented program that deals with television programming, especially in light of recent enhancements that Microsoft has incorporated in their Power Packs, one must ask “What can this program do for me over the Microsoft enhancements?”

When I asked the author the above question, his answer was:

I find it difficult to explain sometimes, but the best explanation I can give my friends who ask, is that Recorded TV Manager is TiVo on Steroids.  It’s basically about “time shifting” which is to collect a series and then watch it when I want to, in original broadcast order.  There are hundreds of cable channels broadcasting stuff 24/7.  Myself, I have three Media Center machines recording all kinds of stuff and I use Recorded TV Manager to collect to numerous locations on the network.  When I’m ready I use the PlayNext functionality in Recorded TV Manager to watch the collections in original broadcast order.  While I’m collecting a series, it does not show up in Recorded TV in Media Center.

Before I start the process of checking out Rick’s claims, let’s find out a bit about Rick.

My name is Rick Drasch and I’ve been developing commercial software since 1974.  I have a Masters Degree in Computer Science, I’ve been developing for Windows since day one, and I love Media Center and Windows Home Server.

Rick’s Drasch Computer Software company is located in Ashford, CT USA.

When I first started looking at Recorded TV Manager, the resultant review write up quickly became mired down in trying to discuss the various components of Recorded TV Manager.  In order to make sense of what the various components can do, I decided it would be best to take a look at and discuss these components separately.

So here goes Part 1: the Recorded TV Manager 3 Client Application

Features

  • Install on any network client(s)
  • Series-centric Windows Explorer-style user interface
  • Local AutoMove Service
  • Works seamlessly with Recorded TV Manager Console
  • Works seamlessly with Recorded TV Manager Add-in for Windows Home Server
  • Free!

Software Installation 

Install the Recorded TV Manager 3 client application on any client computer

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That’s it!  A rather painless operation.

Configuration

Please note that the client application is free to use, if you so desire to make use of this component only.

The client software consists of 2 applications.

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The Configure Automove Application:

This is very simple to setup.  Execute the Configure program

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Locate where your TV recordings are on your MC machine,

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Which brings you to the actual Configure Automove program.

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Next, locate where you wish to move recorded programs (i.e., your WHS machine).  Click on each “Browse” option, and locate the appropriate folder.

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to add the required information.  Click on the Options tab

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decide whether you want to move or copy recordings, configure the appropriate intervals, and finally just turn on the Enable AutoMove option.

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You are done.  Almost.  In order to allow Recorded TV Manager to move/copy files to a network location, one must configure the Log On account for AutoMove.  Open up Control Panel –> Services

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–> Recording TV Manager

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Double-click on the item to bring up the service window.  Make the following changes from:

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to:

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Just put your account information in the appropriate boxes, not mine!  When you click on OK, you will reminded to

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Finally!  You have now configured Recorded TV Manager which leads to the following question: what do I do now.

Usage

First, there is no point in having this application if you do not use Media Center to record TV shows.  So, go ahead.  Record a few.  Or more.

Open up the Recorded TV Manager 3 client application, which will present you with something similar to the following.

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The 3 Folders on the left relate to the following.  “Recorded TV” refers to a folder on the client machine.  For some reason, this is not accessible and therefore X’d out.  This may be some changes made to Windows 7 RTM, but I am not certain of that.  Regardless, this does not affect shows residing on the client machine.

EDIT:  I found the problem.  Originally, I had the whole set of programs installed.  Between the time I started this review and finished it, I

  • Uninstalled the WHS add-in
  • Upgraded from Win 7 RC to Win 7 RTM

The RC install was named Jim-PC1, the RTM install is named Jim-PC_Win-7.  When I reinstalled the client application (to finish portions of this reivew), there were some remnants of the original install still on my WHS, which the client ap picked up.  Hence, there were a few strange looking entries  in the client application.

The net effect: problem solved and it is something that a first time user should see!

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Simply a listing of shows still on the client machine

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and shows that have been previously moved to the WHS Recorded TV folder.

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It is at this point where the fun begins.  Finally.  The Recoded TV Manager client application, once configured properly, is simply a database of programs you have recorded.

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And listed by Series and Original air date for the program.

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And the corresponding view from Windows Media Center.

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Obviously, there is a more graphics oriented view from WMC (it has pictures!), but  the Recorded TV Manager view is much more readable and easier to find the program/series you are looking for.  Simply highlight a program, click on the MC icon, MC opens, and you will find yourself viewing the program you highlighted.

The following series of pictures provides a quick listing of program options.  Most are self-explanatory, but some options must be explained by

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another picture!  Specifically, the program defaults to Folder View.  Changing to Series View provides you with this,

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which is the view I prefer.

If one highlights a particular series and clicks on the Series Info option, you will be presented with a screen similar to the following:

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Conclusions

And that is the Recorded TV Manager client application.  This particular software component is not a WHS add-in in itself.  It is one component of 3 that works together to provide a complete Recorded TV managing application.  The nice thing about the client application is that it provides a more concise database listing of recorded programming and it is free to use.

From a personal point of view, I have not been one to record much in the way of televised programming.  Too many other things to do (reviews!) and I have not been a great fan of PC-based analog television.  My cable company is now to the point where they provide the corresponding Clear QAM digital/HD signal of the old analog channels.  A much better signal and in full surround sound.  As a result, I may have to finally break down and start recording the programs that I might like to preserve in a library.

The software is not exactly a plug-n-play application.  It requires a bit of work to get the program working and configured properly.  Once configured, however, life is good.  And if you get stuck at any time, I found Rick’s on-line help system very well laid out, very concise, and easy to use.

So, is this something you might want to make use of?  It seems to have a few quirks here and there, of which I will discuss in the Part 2.  It does provide a very nice database of recorded programming, which is much better laid out than the WMC version.  If you record any televisied programming, you should definitely take a look at this application.

Next up, Part 2: the Recorded TV Manager Add-in for Windows Home Server and Recorded TV Manager Media Center Add-in.

Author: Rick Drasch
Version Reviewed: Build 4.3.1 – July 24, 2009
Cost: Free

1 comment

  1. Nice post Jim,
    i'm looking forward to more about Recorded TV Manager from a review perspective, i own the whs add-in and use it on my WMC in livingroom "but " had uninstalled it for almost a year now but decided to reinstall after your review and follow along

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