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HTPC / DVR - Options?

hondaf17

Senior member
Sep 25, 2005
757
6
81
I appreciate suggestions. Here is what I'm trying to accomplish.

I currently have internet only with Comcast. Will be adding either cable through Comcast or Satellite through DirectTV. Comcast their DVR is $9 per month (half off special, usually $17, yay) and DirectTV their DVR is an extra $15 per month.

Can I build a nice, compact, HTPC that can connect to DirectTV or Comcast and act as my DVR? I want to avoid the extra $9 or $15 per month. I can get standard (non-DVR) boxes from both companies for free. Would the HTPC connect to that and act as recorder?

I have plenty of experience with building computers, but haven't attempted a HTPC before, and know there is a little more to it.

Can this be done? If so, what would I need? I'd be grateful for advice or a suggested parts list.

EDIT: I live 5 minutes from a Microcenter.

TYIA,
 

BonzaiDuck

Lifer
Jun 30, 2004
14,523
939
126
I appreciate suggestions. Here is what I'm trying to accomplish.

I currently have internet only with Comcast. Will be adding either cable through Comcast or Satellite through DirectTV. Comcast their DVR is $9 per month (half off special, usually $17, yay) and DirectTV their DVR is an extra $15 per month.

Can I build a nice, compact, HTPC that can connect to DirectTV or Comcast and act as my DVR? I want to avoid the extra $9 or $15 per month. I can get standard (non-DVR) boxes from both companies for free. Would the HTPC connect to that and act as recorder?

I have plenty of experience with building computers, but haven't attempted a HTPC before, and know there is a little more to it.

Can this be done? If so, what would I need? I'd be grateful for advice or a suggested parts list.

EDIT: I live 5 minutes from a Microcenter.

TYIA,
Nice to consider the monthly DVR charges under Comcast, but you would still have to invest some money. I'm not familiar with the ups, downs or problems of doing this with Direct-TV.

Better I should just describe my own setup with my provider -- Charter.

The sig-computer has an Hauppauge HVR-2250 and wired to household LAN. The 2250 is only used for HD OTA broadcast. A SiliconDust HD Homerun Prime 3-tuner network device connects via USB + coax to a tuner-adapter provided with a cablecard from Charter ($2/mo). The Silly-Dust connects to the LAN with RJ-45/Ethernet patch. You can connect the Sillydust directly to an Ethernet port on your PC if you don't maintain a LAN, or simply if you want to try it that way, but the number of switches between the HomeRun and any/all computers has no impact on success and performance.

There is also a similar Ceton InfiniTV 6 device similar to the SillyDust per connection to your subscription cable.

Right now, you might find the HD HomeRun Prime at the Egg for as little as $110. Figure you cut your costs with the cable provider by $7/mo, figuring in the cost of a cablecard -- if similar to my monthly charges. I've been using the HomeRun now for three years. Don't know what DVR subscription would cost me, but in your case, you break even after 15 months.

If you have a large hard disk in the HTPC, you may have more expansive DVR storage capability than with the subscribed DVR. I think you'd be able to record three programs at once with the HomeRun: the one you're watching and two others -- unless you allocate tuner usage to other LAN PCs. That's where our discussion of the Ceton device (~$250+) arises in another thread here.
 

hondaf17

Senior member
Sep 25, 2005
757
6
81
Nice to consider the monthly DVR charges under Comcast, but you would still have to invest some money. I'm not familiar with the ups, downs or problems of doing this with Direct-TV.

Better I should just describe my own setup with my provider -- Charter.

The sig-computer has an Hauppauge HVR-2250 and wired to household LAN. The 2250 is only used for HD OTA broadcast. A SiliconDust HD Homerun Prime 3-tuner network device connects via USB + coax to a tuner-adapter provided with a cablecard from Charter ($2/mo). The Silly-Dust connects to the LAN with RJ-45/Ethernet patch. You can connect the Sillydust directly to an Ethernet port on your PC if you don't maintain a LAN, or simply if you want to try it that way, but the number of switches between the HomeRun and any/all computers has no impact on success and performance.

There is also a similar Ceton InfiniTV 6 device similar to the SillyDust per connection to your subscription cable.

Right now, you might find the HD HomeRun Prime at the Egg for as little as $110. Figure you cut your costs with the cable provider by $7/mo, figuring in the cost of a cablecard -- if similar to my monthly charges. I've been using the HomeRun now for three years. Don't know what DVR subscription would cost me, but in your case, you break even after 15 months.

If you have a large hard disk in the HTPC, you may have more expansive DVR storage capability than with the subscribed DVR. I think you'd be able to record three programs at once with the HomeRun: the one you're watching and two others -- unless you allocate tuner usage to other LAN PCs. That's where our discussion of the Ceton device (~$250+) arises in another thread here.
Thanks. That made sense. Couple clarification questions.

1) I don't have an HTPC yet, so would have to build one.
2) I can make everything wired to my LAN - no issue - I already have the Ethernet routes running to my TV area and PS3.
3) When you just want to "watch TV" are you doing so on your HTPC through WMC?
4) Could I still "watch TV" through the HomeRun Prime/Cable Card, and only turn on my HTPC to set up recordings, and watch recordings?

TYIA,
 

NutBucket

Lifer
Aug 30, 2000
26,363
247
106
The only way to make it work with DirecTV would be to use an IR blaster to control the receiver. But I'm not sure how you feed the signal from the DTV box into the HTPC. I know there are HDMI capture cards but I have no idea if they play nice with MC7. Of course, if you're not going HD then those issues go out the window. Analog is easy.

If you go DirecTV just get the TIVO box and be happy. It's worlds better than any other DVR. It's also A LOT less work than getting DTV and an HTPC to play nice together.
 

BonzaiDuck

Lifer
Jun 30, 2004
14,523
939
126
Thanks. That made sense. Couple clarification questions.

1) I don't have an HTPC yet, so would have to build one.
2) I can make everything wired to my LAN - no issue - I already have the Ethernet routes running to my TV area and PS3.
3) When you just want to "watch TV" are you doing so on your HTPC through WMC?
4) Could I still "watch TV" through the HomeRun Prime/Cable Card, and only turn on my HTPC to set up recordings, and watch recordings?

TYIA,
OK -- for anyone running twisted pair (and hopefully Cat5 or Cat5e or better) in their house, I'd only advise getting gigabit switches for the connections wherever needed. We replaced our router 4 years ago, partly because I wanted the four wired ports to be gigabit. But you don't imply such a need. Somebody else can comment on the adequacy of 10/100. The wireless capability of my refurb laptop at between 50 and 114 seems more than adequate to play DVR captures (which aren't encrypted content). While playing a DVR capture of a PBS program stored on my home-server, the wireless-management software showed approximately 75 Mbps.

The answer to (3) is "Yes." You might be able to get a WMC replacement -- there are options available -- but that's the way it works. You can't just use the HDHomeRun by itself: it requires a software-driver set installed on the PC. But that's not really different from using a PCI-E tuner card (like my HVR-2250).

So, (4) you have to watch TV through the HTPC connected to the HomeRun. You don't have to "watch" to record, but the PC would have to be "awake" to record. Also -- note that in WMC, you schedule both updates and "optimization," which occurs daily as I observe it, so the PC has to be on and connected to the internet.

I think I've been using the HDHomeRun Prime since 2011. I've discovered that allowing for and properly configuring the WMC optimization and updates has eliminated the occasional loss or problem with various encrypted channels as you run the system over time. Those problems don't have anything to do with the device, but rather your cable provider and MC. Before figuring this out, I would occasionally (every week or two) power-cycle both the tuner-adapter and the HomeRun, and I might even have run the channel-scanner at the HomeRun level. Now, there's no need for that.

I think if you're going to turn the HTPC off, you should schedule occasional optimizations for it through the MC menus while the HTPC is running.

If you check another thread here about "handshaking" -- other HTPC users speak of frustrations for turning their TV off, leaving the HTPC on. Others, like me, don't have those frustrations, and it may depend on HT hardware -- the TV, for instance. IN my case, when I want to switch between my two 5.1 speaker systems (AVR versus onboard PC), I likely need to reboot the system -- even using the (French "En[glish]" version) "Audio-Renderer-Updater" plug-in for MC. Someone else with an AVR like mine suggested that one only needed to switch from a PC HDMI source to another source and "back again" after an audio switch-over. But a reboot is not a terribly inconvenient thing to do, either.

My guess is that you'll have a single audio setup and stick to it. If your HDTV has a "video sleep" option for "power-saving" -- this is also a good thing.

I've even used an "HD" 1920x1080p PC monitor to watch TV through the HTPC, my HD-capable graphics card, and whichever speaker system was configured. there are a lot of feasible options. Several such options, I only have as prospects for twiddling with in the future.
 

mdram

Golden Member
Jan 2, 2014
1,512
208
106
id just opt for the directv though them, it has 5 tuners

the only way to record form directv that i have seen is record while you watch
 

master7045

Senior member
Jul 15, 2005
729
0
76
Do you have an Xbox360? I use a PC I bought for $300 and two 360's as extenders along with a sillydust 3 tuner and it fits my needs. The thing that sold my wife on the idea of using an Xbox was 1) save money (7/mo for DVR service & 6/mo for 2 boxes) & 2) by using extenders, each xbox can watch what the other records, which our current Telco (Charter) can't do. I realize DirecTV can do this, but we had them for 2 years and didn't like how the service cut out in a storm.
 

VeroK

Member
Mar 27, 2014
35
0
0
I don't have much of a clue, but fyi if you get a Tivo, you can rent a video CARD from Comcast that goes inside the Tivo ($1-month) instead of their box which is a lot more expensive.
The huge minus of the Tivo is that they make it almost impossible to copy content out of the tivo to be played anyhwere else. That's what the Romios are for.
If you have your own HTPC w/tuner cards you can transfer the contents out much easier.
(side note: if the Tivo HD crashes and you have to replace it, be ready to go back & forth to Comcast a few times, b/c only 10-20% of their cards work w/any given TiVo box. They don't know why. Ask me how I know....)
 

BonzaiDuck

Lifer
Jun 30, 2004
14,523
939
126
I don't have much of a clue, but fyi if you get a Tivo, you can rent a video CARD from Comcast that goes inside the Tivo ($1-month) instead of their box which is a lot more expensive.
The huge minus of the Tivo is that they make it almost impossible to copy content out of the tivo to be played anyhwere else. That's what the Romios are for.
If you have your own HTPC w/tuner cards you can transfer the contents out much easier.
(side note: if the Tivo HD crashes and you have to replace it, be ready to go back & forth to Comcast a few times, b/c only 10-20% of their cards work w/any given TiVo box. They don't know why. Ask me how I know....)
CABLEcard. It's called a CABLEcard . . . .
 

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