Windows MCE 2005 and Dish Pro 311
May 22, 2005
As mentioned earlier, there are a few issues regarding using MCE 2005 and Dish Network receivers.
Having run through all of that, I had the privilege of adding a DishPro 311 (actually two of them) to my MCE 2005 installation this weekend.
Here are some notes on how to make the process fairly painless.
As mentioned earlier, the DishPro 311 receiver (this is the updated version of the 301 receiver) makes a good candidate for use with MCE. It uses an IR remote, does not have a built-in screen saver, and has S-Video out.
I set up mine on a Hauppauge PVR-500 MCE dual-tuner card, with the add-on Hauppauge AV Cable Set to add S-Video and audio inputs for the second tuner. Both were obtained from PC Alchemy.
I purchased a pair of DishPro 311 receivers, new-in-box on E-Bay, for around $90. I had Dish install two additional drops to accomodate these. They charged me around $60 apiece to add the drops, which was actually probably cheaper than it sounds, as they also installed a second cascaded satellite switch in order to accomodate them that might have cost me more than the entire install cost had I done it myself.
One of the two IR Blasters from a Microsoft Digital Remote was attached to the IR window of each receiver, and covered with a bit of duct tape to block interference.
Running through the TV Signal Setup, I went through a few combinations before I hit on one that works well with the 311s.
The first “gotcha” I ran into was that even though the receiver has several 4-digit channel numbers (mostly for Sirius Audio), it will not tune properly if you tell MCE that you have 4-digit channel numbers. Setting it to three digits works fine however, and frankly you probably didn’t want to record the audio-only channels on your MCE anyway.
Second, the automatic setup did not recognize the Dish remote. MCE then offers to learn the remote codes for each of the number buttons, and channel-up channel-down, which worked fine.
Just on general principles, I told MCE that channel-up channel-down failed on Fast and Medium settings in order to force it to the Slow setting. You may want to try the faster settings to see if you get a reliable response; I just decided to leave that out of the equation for the time being.
Once this was done, and I verified that the Dish receivers were working fine, I needed to edit the program guide.
One little Gotcha that Dish has had forever (I recall having this issue with a first-generation Tivo, in fact) is that if you tune to a channel that’s not in your package, it puts up a dialog requiring you to hit channel-up or channel-down in order to continue, leaving the PVR essentially “stuck”.
The fix for this is to aggressively remove any channel that you do not receive from your channel guide. This prevents the situation from occuring.
Note — If you do end up getting stuck in this position, and have (like I did) covered the IR window making it difficult to use the remote, simply switching the receiver off and then back on will clear the condition.
I did get one really pleasant surprise — going from a (single tuner) DirecTV receiver to the DishNetwork receivers, I expected that I’d have to re-do all of my scheduled recordings to pick the right channel. Once I’d removed the extra channels, however (there were some duplicates of channels in my “do not receives”), a quick scan through my scheduled recordings showed that MCE had figured out properly that HBO, BBC America, etc. all had new channel numbers, and the appropriate channels were selected.