I use the Hauppauge Win/TV pci card for grabbing TV frames and teletext pages. I bought this from Simply Computers for £99 plus VAT (*). The card was delivered next day, about 20 hours after ordering.
Installing the card is quite simple, it fits into a PCI slot and requires no internal connectors, although there is an option to daisychain the audio output to the soundcard internally in the same way that a CD ROM drive does.
Externally, there are connectors for RF in (the TV aerial) composite video in, audio in and audio out.
The device is plug and play, and with the supplied software disks, installed quickly on my Gateway Pentium 133. Unfortunately my machine is rather well populated with SCSI controller, internal modem, sound card, video. Installing the Hauppauge card grabbed the interrupt 9 which was in use by the sound card, an Ensoniq Soundscape which is not Plug and Play compatible. All efforts to persuade Windows 95 to sort out the problem failed, and after half a days tweaking I used the BIOS to reserve interrupt 9 for the sound card. After this, the Win/TV automatically changed to interrupt 10, which it now shares successfully with my video card, an MGA Matrox Millenium.
The software supplied was buggy and did not work. The tuner refused to show a decent picture, although the sound and teletext worked fine. A call to the Hauppauge support desk was answered promptly and the advice was to download the latest drivers which were on their web site. These new drivers were only three days old when I downloaded them, so it was nice to know that I was getting fresh software. Hauppauge UK have a bulletin board system which although only running 14.4Kbps modems is very quick for downloading software. Unfortunately this is updated less often than the web site, so for UK users I would recommend checking that the latest software is available first. The BBS is much quicker than the web page, which is very slow to download the 1mb of software required.
The card will only work under Windows 95, and requires a graphics card that supports Direct Draw. The benefit of this restriction is that it doesn't require a feature connector and is very fast! My card is the Matrox Millenium and it works well with this. The Hauppauge web site gives a list of other compatible cards, do check before you buy!
The card comes with disks containing updated driver software for supported graphics cards. I found that installing this gave me video problems, and obtained the very latest software from Matrox web site, which was a week old and this solved that problem.
The Win/TV software, once working is very good. It allows TV in a variable sized window, automatically adjusts the image proportions to 4:3 or if you wish can stretch to any size you require. When running in the background it will lose all menus and window borders and just show the TV image whilst you work. I personally found this rather distracting! A full screen mode is easily selected from the toolbar and turns your monitor into a TV screen. The quality is almost as good as a normal TV and is perfectly watchable from a normal TV viewing distance.
The software allows freeze frame and edit copy to transfer the screen image you your favourite graphics software for manipulation. Audio mute is provided and if correctly set up volume control is also available.
The card supports most TV standards around the world and can take directly UK PAL, UK Cable, Western Europe standard and cable, French, Japanese Australian and of course the USA. An auto scan facility tunes in as many channels as there are available and each can be named. Manual tuning and fine tuning are also available. The card also accepts direct video input, from a camcorder or video with the correct cable.
The manual supplied is 40 pages of A5 bound and concentrates on the installation, which is the most likely area to be problematic. The WIN/TV software is described and there is good online help.
The teletext software is not mentioned in the manual, this is supplied on a separate disk. VT Plus is the software, and is German in origin. It has plenty of facilities allowing an unlimited number of pages on screen at once, as long as memory allows. The software allows direct entry of page numbers, hot jumping to a page by double clicking on the page number on screen or via fastext buttons. Images can be copied or exported in either text or BMP format. For text export/copy all of the subpages can be exported at once. A filter system is provided, including a filter editor. This allows separate sections of a page to be taken, reformatted and exported. It is possible for example to convert the share prices into a comma delimited form for reading by a spreadsheet.
A basic scripting language is provided allowing scripts to be built to automatically fetch multiple pages on separate channels, export them to text or graphic files, if necessary using one of the filters defined above. VT Plus can be started from the command line to automatically run a script, and this can be used with the Win95 System Agent to automate data extraction. Support for DDE is also provided, I am currently working on a link between Microsoft Access and VT Plus.
The software can run in two modes. Background memory mode records all pages as they are transmitted and greatly speeds up page access. The cache can be saved at the end of each session and reloaded. When in background mode, a text search facility can be used to find a word in any teletext page. However in background mode only one TV channel is available at any one time.
In multi-channel mode, the software will automatically switch between channels as required, and will keep several pages from different channels constantly updated.
The VT Plus software had a bug which prevented reception of pages with hexadecimal numbers. This affected some of the hidden pages and the Bamboozle quiz on Channel 4. A fixed version of this software is now available.
Additional software, available from the Hauppauge web site allows you to construct AVI files from TV broadcasts. I haven't tried this out yet, but you need a fair amount of memory and disk space.
The card is hardware compatible with the Wincast specification which some American TV stations are using to broadcast web pages. There are no plans to extend this to Europe.
So, the bottom line, do I recommend it?
The answer is yes. If you have a compatible graphics card, use Windows 95 and are prepared to download the latest software then I don't think you'll find a better TV card in this price range. Hopefully the latest software will be supplied on disk with the card by now. The image quality is excellent and the teletext features very good.
For more information, look at the Hauppauge web site http://www.hauppauge.com/ or email firstname.lastname@example.org
When looking at the web site, the card is known under it's American name as the Wincast TV.
Simply Computers are on the web at http://www.simply.co.uk/ or alternatively you can phone them on 0181 498 2100
(*) The current price of the Win/TV is £89.00 + VAT (Jan 1997)
Last Updated 29 Mar 2000