Watch recorded TV shows on your iPhone

If you use Windows Media Center as your DVR, you'll dig Remote Potato. The app can stream recorded shows to any iOS device. Too bad it's so buggy.

With Remote Potato, you can watch any TV show recorded on your Windows Media Center PC.
With Remote Potato, you can watch any TV show recorded on your Windows Media Center PC. Screenshot by Rick Broida

Lots of apps can stream music, photos, and video from a PC to an iOS device, but very few support TV shows recorded with Windows Media Center.

That's a shame, because WMC has been my DVR for years (and it's more awesome than ever now that it has a Ceton InfiniTV 4 CableCard adapter).

Enter Remote Potato ($6.99), a new app that streams just about anything stored on your PC: music, photos, videos, and, hallelujah, recorded TV. What's more, it provides access to your TV guide, meaning you can schedule recordings on the go.

Now for the bad news: the app's pretty buggy at this stage, and getting it connected to your PC can be a hassle.

The latter requires the Remote Potato server client (for Windows 7 only). It's easy enough to install, but doesn't offer any way to automatically connect to the iPhone app. Thus, you have to supply the PC's IP address. And if you want to use Remote Potato outside your home (i.e., outside your network), you'll need to sign up for a dynamic-DNS service (like DynDNS) and do some port-forwarding on your router.

Other media-server solutions don't force you to jump through these kinds of hoops, so I have to give Remote Potato a demerit on that.

Once I got everything set up, I tapped the app's Recordings button and was delighted to see all my recorded shows. I selected an episode of "The Colbert Report," chose a streaming quality (Remote Potato has five options, from Lowest to Top), and settled in to watch.

You can check the TV guide and schedule recordings right from your iPhone.
You can check the TV guide and schedule recordings right from your iPhone. Screenshot by Rick Broida

For the first 10 seconds, it was awesome. Then the playback paused for about 2 seconds. Then it resumed. This happened regardless of the streaming quality I chose. If I paused playback for a minute or two, that gave the app time to buffer more video, and the hiccups abated. Still, that shouldn't happen. (For the record, it didn't happen with other, non-TV videos in my library.)

Remote Potato doesn't let you scrub video, though it does have a 30-second replay button. Thus, you're pretty much stuck watching commercials.

The other problem I encountered was with the TV guide. It worked fine at first, but then every time I tried to view it, I got a blank "loading" screen. It took some troubleshooting with the developer to get that resolved.

On top of all that, the app crashed on me several times--usually when I was futzing with the server settings, but sometimes just when switching from one function to another.

Despite this considerable list of problems, I really like Remote Potato. Or, at least, I want to like it. It has the potential to be the killer app for the Windows Media Center set, of which I'm a proud member. And I suspect it will be, just as soon as the developer works out the kinks. Here's hoping that's soon.

In the meantime, check out PlayOn Mobile (which, to be fair, has problems of its own.)

 

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