Watch the 2008 Olympics with Windows Media Center

If you have Windows Vista Home Premium or Ultimate and are a US Resident, you can watch the 2008 Olympics in a really slick way through streaming/downloaded video.  This is particularly useful if you can’t follow Olympics coverage live, or if you’re like me and don’t have cable at home.

The best part is that this scenario enabled for FREE.  When I first heard about this integration and support for Windows Media Center, I was skeptical that it would be better than just watching it streaming through the silverlight player on the NBC Olympics site.  I couldn’t have been more wrong.  After trying it out last night, I can say that this is freakin’ amazing.

The easiest way to get going, is just just go through the Windows Media Center menu to the new NBC Olympics option in Online Media:

image

Once you select it, you’ll be given a prompt to install components to get going where you’re given 2 choices – easy or advanced installation.

The only reason to choose the Advanced installation is if you want to change the installation location of the components, since configuration of everything else happens afterwards:

image

image

(An alternate way of installing the components, is to install direct from the TVTonic website: http://www.tvtonic.com/olympics/install/)

Once the installation is finished, you’ll be prompted to “activate” your installation from the WMC UI:

image

After you activate, to start your olympics experience, just select Launch Now:

image

The first thing you’ll see is a slick looking UI with a video of the olympics torch.  Easy schmeasy

image

First thing you should do is browse the “guide” and select your favorite “channels”, which is just specific Olympic events:

image

By selecting specific channels, the TV Tonic components will then start downloading and caching event coverage using a specific amount of disk space.  The first one I selected was “Swimming” – how  can anyone resist watching Michael Phelps in action?!

image

After selecting all your channels, you can then, optionally, tweak the amount of diskspace used for the caching of the downloads.  I increased the cache sizes for those channels that I wanted to store more coverage for:

image

image

image

After you tweak all the cache sizes, you don’t really have to do anything else.  Once the events starts, content will begin to download for time-shifted viewing. Sweet!

You’ll notice that for certain channels, that there might be a message that says the “Channel is pending”.  This just means that your machine hasn’t sync’d with the servers yet:

image

To fix this, you can go into the channel and select Refresh:

image

What might not be obvious, is that there is also a bit more information and control you can get by looking at the “TVTonic control panel” which can be found in your Start Menu, or launching it from the system tray.  Through this control panel, you can see the progress of downloads, channel refreshes as well as controlling bandwidth usage or even disabling automatic downloads altogether.

image

image

If you’re having any trouble getting this working, I suggest you check out the TV Tonic support site.  You can read official info on the Microsoft Olympics site.