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HTPC Setup

Patre

Senior member
May 29, 2013
398
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I'd like to set up a network where I can watch Cable TV on my PC as well as another TV (maybe 2) at my home. I'm about to call my cable company (Bright House) and get the cable tv hooked up.

Is this SiliconDust HDHomeRun PRIME CableCARD 3-Tuners - HDHR3-CC: a good tuner for what I want to do or can you recommend something better?

http://www.silicondust.com/products/hdhomerun/prime/

I'd also like to use this to record any shows as well and don't want to pay/add a DVR which the cable company provides. They do have a cable card that can be used with 3rd party hardware.
 
Sep 12, 2004
16,852
58
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I'd like to set up a network where I can watch Cable TV on my PC as well as another TV (maybe 2) at my home. I'm about to call my cable company (Bright House) and get the cable tv hooked up.

Is this SiliconDust HDHomeRun PRIME CableCARD 3-Tuners - HDHR3-CC: a good tuner for what I want to do or can you recommend something better?

http://www.silicondust.com/products/hdhomerun/prime/

I'd also like to use this to record any shows as well and don't want to pay/add a DVR which the cable company provides. They do have a cable card that can be used with 3rd party hardware.
That will work fine for your requirements. You will need either an extender or another PC (like a NUC) for each TV. While a PC would work since the HDHR Prime can dynamically allocate tuners, extenders would be a better solution for DVR purposes. With extenders all recordings would reside on the central PC and any recording could be accessed. When using PCs any recordings that are flagged as "copy once" could only be watched on the PC that was used to record it.

Also, Ceton makes a 6-tuner cablecard tuner. While it is more expensive than the HDHR Prime, take my word for it, once you get used to having 3 tuners you will wish you had more.
 

destrekor

Lifer
Nov 18, 2005
28,736
333
126
That will work fine for your requirements. You will need either an extender or another PC (like a NUC) for each TV. While a PC would work since the HDHR Prime can dynamically allocate tuners, extenders would be a better solution for DVR purposes. With extenders all recordings would reside on the central PC and any recording could be accessed. When using PCs any recordings that are flagged as "copy once" could only be watched on the PC that was used to record it.

Also, Ceton makes a 6-tuner cablecard tuner. While it is more expensive than the HDHR Prime, take my word for it, once you get used to having 3 tuners you will wish you had more.
There are some caveats and some "bonus features" - depending on overall amount of use and requirements.

First off, perhaps 3 tuners will be more than enough. So far, I've never run into a problem. You have to factor how many TVs will want to watch a live show at any given time, and/or how many recordings (plus live shows being watched) you'd want to be able to handle.

At the time, I felt far more comfortable picking up the HDHR 3-tuner model over the Ceton 6-tuner. At the time (July), many users will still experiencing some stability/driver issues on the external 6-tuner model from Ceton. At the time, the dynamic tuner allocation was also still a work in progress, whereas I had heard it was rather solid on the HDHR models. So I went with that, and have been more than happy since.

It's bound to be improved by now, but... what you really need can only be determined by you.


Now... other things. If you use Windows 8, ONLY the Xbox 360 can be used as an Extender. Someone correct me if I'm wrong, as I don't feel like searching, but I have also heard the Xbox One does not function as an Extender, as ridiculous as that sounds.

There are ZERO third-party Extenders that work with a Windows 8 MCE host.
If you have Windows 7, it's not that much better - there used to be more, but the only actively produced Extender left (aside from the 360) is Ceton's MCE Extender device, and it's not the cheapest device out there (considering its lightweight purpose).

Also, regarding Windows Media Center Edition - unless you have what might be the best cable company to ever exist in the world (I don't think such a company truly exists), you will most likely have channels, or at least the occasional program, flagged "Copy Once".
Most of the "cable" channels, especially AMC, and of course the big movie channels like HBO/Max/Starz, as well as some sports programs, tend to have that flag enabled. Basically, it's DRM. What it means for you, as a CableCARD user - you must use Windows Media Center Edition, or you don't get these fancy programs/channels.
No other media software can touch the DRM content, at all. It can't watch the live show, it can't record it, and it can't even read the files once recorded (assuming you have a valid MCE PC to record).
That's why the concept of Extenders is something Microsoft truly needs to work on, yet has let stagnate, because there is nothing we can do about sharing content around the house, if we use this setup and adopt the latest software and hardware.

Now, let's say you want to watch a show but generally don't want to worry about recording it or having it get buffered on the central HTPC/server. If this particular device never needs to access previously recorded content, any media info/guides, and you don't care about buffering content for rewinding/pausing (I MIGHT be wrong on that last one, don't think so though), you do have the option to use DLNA devices.
I have watched TV, using the HDHR on my network, through my PS3. It basically is direct communication between the HDHR and PS3 on the network, without the HTPC. It does count as an active tuner allocation, so, on a three-tuner device, it's one of three in use.

Another concept: any PC with MCE can latch onto a tuner and watch content, as well as record. It's generally not recommended because it's basically a solo instance - unless it's DRM-free content, you can't watch it on other devices if you record anything. That said, you would have the full MCE experience, in case using pause/rewind/forward is all you want on that particular screen. You can record just fine, if so desired, but you should expect that to be only accessible locally. It would be one of the tuners in the available tuner pool, but ultimately would function as an entirely unique DVR. If you accept that use, it's still pretty damn awesome to be able to pull up your entire cable subscription package on your PC/laptop as long as you're on the same network. I wouldn't advise on a weak wireless connection, but on a good wired connect, it'd be just fine.
 

Patre

Senior member
May 29, 2013
398
0
76
Thanks for the replies.....especially destrekor for the detialed info. Being new to all of this, I appreciate this.

Most of the time, we'll be watching live TV on either the PC or the actual TV. I'd like to record a different program while watching live on either one at any given moment........not sure about how these extenders work or even if I really need them.....
I guess I'm trying to get a device that's simple to set up on the PC and not invest a lot of money in doing so. ;)
 
Sep 12, 2004
16,852
58
86
Thanks for the replies.....especially destrekor for the detialed info. Being new to all of this, I appreciate this.

Most of the time, we'll be watching live TV on either the PC or the actual TV. I'd like to record a different program while watching live on either one at any given moment........not sure about how these extenders work or even if I really need them.....
I guess I'm trying to get a device that's simple to set up on the PC and not invest a lot of money in doing so. ;)
An extender is pretty much what it name says, it extends the functionality of WMC to another device. There are a lot of variables involved with cable card tuners and destrektor touched on a lot of them, but you will need a device (an extender or a PC) to watch live or recorded programming on every TV in the house. With the HDHR Prime and the Ceton InfiniTV6 ETH (both are external, Ethernet connected cable card tuners) you can watch programming on any locally connected network PC with WMC, or any TV connected to an extender.

Examples of extenders are the Xbox 360 (the Xbone doesn't function as an extender - fu MS) and the Ceton Echo. There are also older extenders that are no longer made, but still work fine even with HD programming like the Linksys DMA 2100, Linksys DMA 2200 and HP x5400. I use the DMA 2100 and it works great for watching live and recorded TV.

There are some caveats. As destrektor already mentioned, the older extenders won't work with Windows 8. Only the Xbox 360 works as an extender with Win8.

Also, you can pretty much forget using wireless networking with extenders or WMC PCs. I used a dedicated wireless N bridge for a while, and it worked OK most of the time, but a wired network is far, far better. If your place is already hard-wired then you're set. Eventually, because running ethernet cable was a daunting prospect through my house, I installed to MoCA adapters. They provide way more than enough network bandwidth over my cable lines and everything runs great now.

Setting up a cable card system is not a cheap endeavor. There is an initial investment. I spent about $600 for everything. However, I've had mine for over 3 years. If I had gone with Verizon FIOS DVRs it would have been @ $25 per month. In the long run it has paid for itself.

Verizon doesn't offer 4-tuner DVRs either. That's not to mention that the WMC interface is leaps and bounds beyond what cablecos offer and you can mod the WMC interface yourself with add-ons like MyChannelogos and a number of others.

Finally, instead of having multiple devices/boxes in my media cabinet, I only have one. It does live cable TV/DVR, Blu-ray, Netflix/Amazon/Vudu/Hulu, can browse the internet, plays games, and streams music and video from my local server. A single remote controls it and even my non-techy wife is able to use it.

Some years down the road there will be a new paradigm for HTPCs. I don't think we'll see that happen for at least 5 years and probably 7, or more. So a cable card tuner at this point is still worth that initial investment, imo. You'll get your money back, plus, and be happier in the process.

As a last note, if you're looking for completely something simple and don't consider yourself technically competent with PCs, this may not be for you. There is as learning curve. If you aren't willing to do a small bit of due there are other solutions for cable cards like the TIVO, though those are more expensive than using the SD or Ceton. If you do decide to go with the SD or Ceton solutions, feel free to ask questions here or even PM me. Be glad to help you out.
 

Patre

Senior member
May 29, 2013
398
0
76
Thanks so much for this detailed reply.....I truly appreciate the info as I'm considering the costs to do this.

The following are the items I have and would like to watch cable tv on all three:

1) PC - setting this up also as my DVR and possibly the main connection to Cable TV (see 2)

2) TV - Not sure if the HDHomeRun PRIME should be connect here with main Cable line here or on the PC

3) A secondary Desktop PC (networking wirelessly through AC adapter)

I see (above) that #3 is a bad idea, but the place isn't wired for this. Given my scenario, what items would I exactly need to set this up efficiently and the most cost effective way?
 
Sep 12, 2004
16,852
58
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I don't know exactly how you are currently set up but would suggest the following:

  1. HD Homerun Prime or Ceton InfiniTV 6 ETH
  2. Actiontec Ethernet to Coax Adapter Kit
  3. Linksys DMA-2100 or DMA-2000, XBOX 360, or Ceton Echo
For #1 I would suggest the InfiniTV 6ETH because of the 6 tuners. While 3 tuners would be adequate for your needs you can be sure that there will come a time when 2 tuners are in use and 2 shows need to record. Something will have to give. Of course you can always start out with the HDHR Prime and upgrade later.

For #2 I'm assuming that you don't currently have a network connection to the TV. The Actiontec MoCA kit provides Ethernet over your cable lines. It is low latency and provides plenty of bandwidth (200 Mbps) for streaming live or recorded content. For your secondary PC you should be able to wirelessly stream content over wireless AC. From what I've read it should work. If it ends up being choppy you can always add another MoCA adapter and that problem will be resolved.

#3 is the extender for your TV. It will connect to the Ethernet cable coming from the MoCA adapter. If you already have an XBOX 360 you can use that. I use a DMA-2100 and it works perfectly fine, plus they can be had relatively cheap from eBay. The Echo should work fine with live and recorded TV but they do have a reputation for being somewhat problematic if used for streaming DVD/BD rips (if you do that sort of thing), though I think some were expecting them to meet an unobtainable standard. I've never used one and all I know of them is based on posts at AVS Forums.

You may also need a few incidentals like a cable splitter and some network cables. If you want to keep costs low you can try eBay for the items above and you should be able to keep the cost under $300 for everything you need. If you go that route be sure to do the following - only buy from Power Sellers who offer a 14 day return policy. That way you can be pretty sure you will be getting decent, functioning products. If you go with new items from Amazon you'll spend about $400 for those same parts.

You will want to connect the cablecard tuner to your router. Since both the HDHR Prime and Ceton have Ethernet ports it isn't required to connect them directly to a PC. In fact, it would be a bit of a pain to do that since you'd need a dual LAN PC and you'd have to bridge the network connections, or you would have to use a network switch.

There is probably something I am forgetting to mention here but the above should get you started. Good luck.
 

Patre

Senior member
May 29, 2013
398
0
76
I don't know exactly how you are currently set up but would suggest the following:

  1. HD Homerun Prime or Ceton InfiniTV 6 ETH
  2. Actiontec Ethernet to Coax Adapter Kit
  3. Linksys DMA-2100 or DMA-2000, XBOX 360, or Ceton Echo
For #1 I would suggest the InfiniTV 6ETH because of the 6 tuners. While 3 tuners would be adequate for your needs you can be sure that there will come a time when 2 tuners are in use and 2 shows need to record. Something will have to give. Of course you can always start out with the HDHR Prime and upgrade later.

For #2 I'm assuming that you don't currently have a network connection to the TV. The Actiontec MoCA kit provides Ethernet over your cable lines. It is low latency and provides plenty of bandwidth (200 Mbps) for streaming live or recorded content. For your secondary PC you should be able to wirelessly stream content over wireless AC. From what I've read it should work. If it ends up being choppy you can always add another MoCA adapter and that problem will be resolved.

#3 is the extender for your TV. It will connect to the Ethernet cable coming from the MoCA adapter. If you already have an XBOX 360 you can use that. I use a DMA-2100 and it works perfectly fine, plus they can be had relatively cheap from eBay. The Echo should work fine with live and recorded TV but they do have a reputation for being somewhat problematic if used for streaming DVD/BD rips (if you do that sort of thing), though I think some were expecting them to meet an unobtainable standard. I've never used one and all I know of them is based on posts at AVS Forums.

You may also need a few incidentals like a cable splitter and some network cables. If you want to keep costs low you can try eBay for the items above and you should be able to keep the cost under $300 for everything you need. If you go that route be sure to do the following - only buy from Power Sellers who offer a 14 day return policy. That way you can be pretty sure you will be getting decent, functioning products. If you go with new items from Amazon you'll spend about $400 for those same parts.

You will want to connect the cablecard tuner to your router. Since both the HDHR Prime and Ceton have Ethernet ports it isn't required to connect them directly to a PC. In fact, it would be a bit of a pain to do that since you'd need a dual LAN PC and you'd have to bridge the network connections, or you would have to use a network switch.

There is probably something I am forgetting to mention here but the above should get you started. Good luck.
Thank you so much for this wonderfully detailed info. It makes this project look very easy (of course, I'm very likely to forget some simple step ie. plugging in the power :biggrin:). You and everyone here are a great resource that can help us amateurs avoid wasting money and time. I'm in the process of buying a home where I'll be starting this project, so I hope you won't mind me asking you dumb questions when I'm ready to setup?? ;)

Thanks again T.L.C.!!!
 

hoorah

Senior member
Dec 8, 2005
755
18
81
I'll throw in a couple things to look out for.

I haven't kept up on the prices of the HDHRprime or the Ceton cards. I bought a HDHRprime when it was first released for $250 (3 tuners). What I found at the time was that while 3 tuners was *mostly* enough, I could add a few PCI/PCIe/USB ATSC (antenna) tuners for around $20/tuner. The ATSC tuners couldn't tune all of the cable channels (obviously), but you can prioritize them in WMC for the channels you do get (FOX, ABC, CBS, etc). When you're recording something on one of thos channels, it will use the OTA tuner first, freeing up network tuners. In my situation that was a good alternative to getting a second CC tuner. Today it might be easier to just get the 6 tuner card, but look into it. This setup has a few added bonuses like being able to watch a certain channel even if there is a blackout with the cable company and reducing network load.

As for where to put the HDHR, I have mine connected to a switch that the HTPC is connected to (router/main switch are located elsewhere). I like this setup because if I reset the router it doesn't kill all of my shows that are recording. The HDHR and the HTPC can still talk to each other.

As for a secondary PC or an extender - I've done the second PC for a few years now. I'm using a combo of wireless and powerline networking. If you can get enough bandwidth with powerline (or some other hardwire) use that. Wireless N is okay, but any momentary loss in signal means pixellation or lost recordings.

I will caution this on the second PC vs the extender: When I first started, I shared recordings between both HTPCs and all was well. Over time, Comcast has been flaggning more and more channels with the 'copy once' flag, meaning they can't be watched on each other. The extender allows this.

I am not sure how 'copy once' works with an OTA tuner. If OTA shows are all copy freely, you might want to go that route just for the ease of getting rid of the DRM whenever possible, but I am not sure it works that way.
 

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