• Guest, The rules for the P & N subforum have been updated to prohibit "ad hominem" or personal attacks against other posters. See the full details in the post "Politics and News Rules & Guidelines."

probably a dumb question, but...

Ruptga

Lifer
Aug 3, 2006
10,249
206
106
I have a Core Duo laptop that's about to be thrown out, how much trouble would it be to set it up as a DVR? It's running XP home, with 2GB and I think an 80GB hard drive. If it will work I'll reformat/reinstall, and I'll keep the recorded video on some external drive. It also has an expresscard slot for a TV tuner, or I could use USB or firewire. I'm sure some of you are cringing now, but it gets better...

The TV has VGA and 3.5mm inputs, and I know the resulting quality would be low but the person this is for would never notice. Dad regularly stretches widescreen letterboxed content, because as long as it fills the whole screen what more could you want? Anyway he's always fighting with his DVR's recording settings, so I want to try an extremely basic but sensibly configred HTPC setup that he can use with a remote from the couch. It doesn't need to be fast, it just needs to work at least as well as a DCT6416 III DVR, which is about as old as its potential replacement.

I've noticed Assassin's guide, if this will work at all I'll start digging into that.
 
Last edited:

wicka

Senior member
Dec 14, 2003
318
2
81
I doubt anything that came with XP installed is going to have a powerful enough graphics chip to run a DVR. I'd expect it to stutter a lot. Could be wrong, though, and it shouldn't take that much effort to install something on there and test it yourself.
 

poofyhairguy

Lifer
Nov 20, 2005
14,613
315
126
What is his video source?

Is it cable? In that case you are screwed, no way that old laptop can handle a modern CableCard setup. Plus to get that to work you would need a box from them to give you cablecard access, at which point it would be smarter to just rent a better DVR from the cable company and leave it at that. On the cable side building your own DVR died in 2008 or so (unless you want a high-end setup at any cost).

If you are talking OTA channels (aka antenna), it could work. MPEG2 streams don't need a lot of CPU to decode, with a HDHomerun connected via a network is a nice tuner. You could install Mythbuntu on the machine, and after 5 or so hours of configuring (plus a fairly large external HD) have something he can use.
 

SMOGZINN

Lifer
Jun 17, 2005
13,151
2,728
136
I doubt anything that came with XP installed is going to have a powerful enough graphics chip to run a DVR. I'd expect it to stutter a lot. Could be wrong, though, and it shouldn't take that much effort to install something on there and test it yourself.
You are way overestimating what it takes to do the DVR functions, the computer is actually way overkill. A decent cell phone has enough processing power to work as a DVR if given a tuner.

For the OP, you just need to get a tuner card (or USB dongle) and it should work fine.
 

SMOGZINN

Lifer
Jun 17, 2005
13,151
2,728
136
What is his video source?

Is it cable? In that case you are screwed, no way that old laptop can handle a modern CableCard setup. Plus to get that to work you would need a box from them to give you cablecard access, at which point it would be smarter to just rent a better DVR from the cable company and leave it at that. On the cable side building your own DVR died in 2008 or so (unless you want a high-end setup at any cost).
This is true also. It is not a matter of processing power, it is a matter of all the hoops you have to jump through to even get the signal.
 

Ruptga

Lifer
Aug 3, 2006
10,249
206
106
The source is cable, and if it's going to be a huge pain I'll just see about getting a new DVR box instead.
 

lupi

Lifer
Apr 8, 2001
32,542
260
126
Pretty crappy advice here in general. Cable companies jacking up equipment rental prices to make up for lost revenue and people contructing there own dvr machines becoming even more popular.
 

AnitaPeterson

Diamond Member
Apr 24, 2001
5,682
69
91
OP, if you're going to produce MPEG2 files (aka DVD format), I assure you the laptop's CPU will be powerful enough for on-the-fly encoding.

On the other hand, those who say that you might need some extra hardware are right. This will be a fun project, if you get it up and running.

Do a Google search on "How to build your own DVR" and tweak the results to show only stuff posed in the last year.
 

Fallen Kell

Diamond Member
Oct 9, 1999
5,533
188
106
What is his video source?

Is it cable? In that case you are screwed, no way that old laptop can handle a modern CableCard setup. Plus to get that to work you would need a box from them to give you cablecard access, at which point it would be smarter to just rent a better DVR from the cable company and leave it at that. On the cable side building your own DVR died in 2008 or so (unless you want a high-end setup at any cost).

If you are talking OTA channels (aka antenna), it could work. MPEG2 streams don't need a lot of CPU to decode, with a HDHomerun connected via a network is a nice tuner. You could install Mythbuntu on the machine, and after 5 or so hours of configuring (plus a fairly large external HD) have something he can use.
He isn't screwed, just needs to use a USB based system and use the cable box to do the channel changing. Yes, this isn't always ideal and you need to remember that it might be on a channel because it is recording (and you can't watch one channel and record another), but it is very possible to do. You can use a Hauppauge HD-PVR product. I just converted over to the HD-PVR 2 Gaming Edition for a similar setup, but you need some extra hardware, like a USB-UIRT (which I had), and a HDMI splitter that strips the HDCP handshake (if you want to record over HDMI, otherwise you can use the component assuming your STB has component outs).
 

poofyhairguy

Lifer
Nov 20, 2005
14,613
315
126
Pretty crappy advice here in general. Cable companies jacking up equipment rental prices to make up for lost revenue and people contructing there own dvr machines becoming even more popular.
I think it really depends on where you live.

I think internationally there has been a big push for DVR software and services.

In the US, most cable providers have moved to all digital systems with encrypted channels (even for the OTAs) which means there is no way to get the channels without their hardware. Since you have to pay to rent this hardware anyway, the minor cost saving between a non-DVR cable box and a DVR one is minimal or nonexistent.

So in the states the home built DVR field is for cord cutters (those without cable) and for those who want the most premium DVR experience possible and are willing to pay for it. I don't think anyone does it now to save money on their cable bill, which is sad because I used to love my home-built DVR back in 2007 or so.
 

lupi

Lifer
Apr 8, 2001
32,542
260
126
Your right, the $1.95 for a cable card is no savings over the $20-40+ it would be if I simply got the companies box.
 

poofyhairguy

Lifer
Nov 20, 2005
14,613
315
126
Play through an extender and copy protection doesn't matter.
Yeah, but suddenly we aren't just talking about a $2 cablecard. Now we are talking about a cablecard, a cablecard compatible tuner which can be pricey, maybe some sort of pay-for guide listings service and then some sort of extender. Oh and of course semi-modern PC to run it all on.

Maybe over a multi-year span, once you count the cost of power, you save money over DVR rental. But to do that you hit a level of complication far past the average consumer, and your payoff relies on certain companies continuing to support these products and the laws staying in your favor.

Microsoft in particular seems to care less about this market, and there have been legislative efforts that would undo the advantages of cablecards.
 

NutBucket

Lifer
Aug 30, 2000
26,374
253
126
No question the market is shrinking. HTPC for TV makes sense when the source is OTA. It becomes increasingly complicated for cable/sat.
 

lupi

Lifer
Apr 8, 2001
32,542
260
126
You get one of those 6 tuner dvrs and you are quickly looking at $50 a month in fees, starts making everything else seem rather cheap.
 

SMOGZINN

Lifer
Jun 17, 2005
13,151
2,728
136
You get one of those 6 tuner dvrs and you are quickly looking at $50 a month in fees, starts making everything else seem rather cheap.
I don't know where you live but my cable company (Time Warner) rents their 4 tuner DVR to customers for $11.25 a month, and I just checked and AT&T Uverse rents their 4 tuner HD-DVR for $10.00 a month. That is really not that much more then renting the cable card.
 

lupi

Lifer
Apr 8, 2001
32,542
260
126
You're forgetting to include the DVR service fee, and most of those are designed to be networked to another box so that would be a second equipment rental fee also.
 

Alan G

Member
Apr 25, 2013
127
0
0
I have Verizon FIOS service and the price breakdown is as follows:
Cable Card Rental for HTPC: $4.99/Month
HD DVR Verizon Box Rental: $19.99/Month

so you can save $15/month by rolling your own with Verizon. I have the Hauppage 2650 cable card tuner which cost $100 when I bought it on sale. My HTPC build was $400 but that also included a SSD for the OS. Nice thing about the HTPC is that Internet streaming works very well. Everything ends up being a trade off and assuming my HTPC build lasts three years I am ahead of the game.
 

ASK THE COMMUNITY