The DVR is gone, we are now 100% on HTPC for television viewing

24 07 2012

The DVR was returned to TimeWarner about a month ago and all viewing is now on HTPC.  The problems with the Hauppauge 2650 cablecard tuner went away when I stopped using sleep mode between viewings/recordings.  With the computer online 24X7 operation has become very smooth and virtually hiccup free.

The switch from the AMD X2 processor to the Intel Pentium G620 has lowered our power useage from ~120 watts idle to ~14 watts idle which makes running the computer continuously reasonable cost wise.
The main issue I am facing with the HTPC DVR is the issue with encrypted content from the cable card tuner.  Several channels encrypt all of their shows, these channels include Disney, Food Network and many others.  When you try to play this content on a PC other than the one that recorded it you get a message saying the content is protected and cannot be played.  This issue also comes up if you have to rebuild your HTPC, it can no longer play back protected content that it had previously recorded.

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Low Power HTPC

12 06 2012

My HTPC that was connected to my cablecard tuner started acting up.  This was an AMD Athlon 2 Dual Core system.  I have the system on a UPS and am able to monitor it’s power usage through the UPS.  The AMD system was pulling about 120 watts on average.  The system started acting up (it turned out to have a memory problem) so I pulled it and replaced it with another system I had running an Intel Celeron G530 processor.

The G530 is the baby brother to the i3 family of processors.  The G530 is rated at 65 watts TDP, I was surprised to see my UPS indicate about 10 watts of power while idling.  This is with windows up, Media Center running but no shows recording or being watched.  With this low of power usage I’m going to dump  the MCE Standby Tool and stop putting the PC to sleep in between shows.  I think keeping the computer up all the time will make it more reliable and user friendly.





Westinghouse 47″ 1080P at Costco for $999

6 06 2008

I was in a couple of my local Costco’s over the past week and have seen the Westinghouse 47″ 1080P TX-47430S for sale at $999. Each store seemed to have about ten units available.

From what I’ve read on AVSForums this TV is not the same screen as in my 47″ Westy monitor but is still quite good. This TV includes tons of inputs including 4 HDMI as well as an SD and HD TV tuners.

The TX is great for use with a computer / video game system as well as using it as a tv.

I’m tempted to pick up one of these for the bedroom.

Westinghouse TX-47F430S





I really want a Clear QAM tuner for my HTPC

11 02 2008

I’ve been running the cable DVR (Digital Video Recorder) for about a month now and I love it.  Being able to record Mythbusters, Dr Who and Torchwood makes it worth the $14 a month.  Damn, $14 a month works out to $168 a year, for that amount I should be able to add a tuner to my HTPC that can pick up these stations.

The question is are my favorite stations broadcast in Clear QAM?  Clear QAM is the format that television is broadcast over cable, it is different than the way television is broadcast over the air.  Clear QAM will not allow you to pick up encrypted channels like pay channels so I need to determine if my favorites are encrypted or not.

I’ve been reading about Clear QAM tuners for months and the absolute best/easiest solutions seams to be  Silicon Dust’s HDHomeRun dual tuner network device.  The HDHomeRun has two tuners, each can be ATSC (over the air HD) or Clear QAM.  The device costs $169 just about everywhere, funny that price seems familiar.

If I determine that most of the channels I want are available unencrypted over cable I think I will buy the HDHomeRun and return the cable box.  I’ll let you know what I decide.





I got the cable box

23 01 2008

I did it, I decided to pay the extra and picked up a Motorola cable HD DVR (Digital Video Recorder) from TimeWarner. Now I can watch and record channels that are not offered OTA (Over The Air) like SciFi, Speed, G4, etc. I’m enjoying my new found freedom of being able to schedule recordings for these channels and watching them as I want.

I haven’t given up the HTPC (Home Theater Personal Computer), I still need it to access the web and I have found that the Media Center interface in XP MCE is much better and easier to use than the cable box. If a show is on a broadcast channel I tend to schedule the recording on the HTPC rather than the cable box.

Advantages of the HTPC over the cable box include skip ahead/skip back buttons, automatic commercial skip, and easier search / record functionality. I haven’t attempted to connect the cable box to my computer yet, if I could do this then I could record all of my channels on the computer using the cable box to unscramble cable channels.

I intend to, some time in the not too distant future, upgrade my HTPC to a QAM (unencrypted HD over cable) tuner to see what HD channels TimeWarner is carrying in the clear. It’s possible that QAM will give me most if not all of the channels I want so that I can give up the cable box.

I’ll update you as I try new stuff.

My setup as it stands today:

HTPC:

AMD Athlon X2 3800 Processor

2 GigaBytes of RAM

3 hard drives totaling 936 GigaBytes

DVD +- Burner

ION Media Center Case

2 HD ATSC OTA Tuner cards

Microsoft MCE Keyboard

Microsoft MCE Remote

Monitor:

Westinghouse 47″ 47w1 LCD Monitor (not a TV, it doesn’t have any tuners built in)





To HTPC or not?

19 11 2007

I’ve got a dilemma, I love my HTPC (Home Theater PC) but I’m being tempted to replace it with a cable HD DVR.  My HTPC is excellent, it records television in HD, plays games and browses the web in beautiful 1080p.  The problem is that my HTPC only receives OTA (Over The Air) broadcast HD channels. I’ve never hooked up the analog cable channels because a cable converter box would still be necessary.  Now my cable company is offering me HD channels and an HD DVR (Digital Video Recorder) for $10 more than I pay them for services now.

I’m currently paying $80 a month for 6MB cable internet, cable telephone with unlimited long distance and basic cable channels.  For $90 they will throw in cable channels in HD and an HD DVR.  I’m not sure which DVR but whichever it is I’m sure it will work fine.  The idea of being able to record my favorite cable channels  is very tempting.  The only thing making me think twice about this deal is the time, effort and money I’ve put into my computer.
As I’ve recounted in prior posts, my HTPC is made up of the following:

ATI TV Wonder HD tuner card

VBOX Cat’s Eye DTA-150 tuner card

HIS RADEON 1800GTO graphics card

2GB of RAM

70GB 10,000 RPM SATA hard drive for the system

400GB  SATA hard drive internal for recording

500GB SATA hard drive external for storage (I manually move shows to the external to free space for recording)

AMD Athlon X2 3800+ processor

DVD Read/Write

Windows XP Media Center Edition 2005

Terrestrial Digital DB2 Multi-Directional HDTV Antenna

Eagle Tech Silver Aluminum HTPC Desktop Computer Case

This is a nice computer and I’ll still use it for games / browsing / burning DVDs but it just doesn’t feel right to give up on Media Center.  Yes, I’ll be getting a lot more channels on the cable DVR but my beloved HTPC will be underutilized.  Maybe all I’m feeling is the fondness that one feels when he/she sells a beloved car to buy a new one.  Part of the loss is the sense of pride I have when I show off my HTPC, the sense of community that I have when dealing with others in the HTPC universe.

The HTPC gives me abilities that a DVR never will.  I can burn recordings to DVD, change them to other formats, share them, the DVR won’t let me do these things.

I’ll try the DVR for a while and see how it goes.  I’ll miss playing with my HTPC, now there is no reason to but the HDHomeRun tuner that I’ve been drooling over.   If the DVR doesn’t work out or if the cable company jumps the price my HTPC will be sitting there waiting to pick up the slack.





Looking to buy a Home Theater PC (HTPC)?

28 09 2007

I’ve been looking for a good deal on a “gaming” pc for a coworker. Today Newegg’s latest email advert had a nice Gateway PC listed. After scouring the details on Newegg’s site it turns out that in addition to all the stuff you want in a PC this also has an HD Tuner Card and MCE remote control. This computer is an HTPC all setup and ready to go. Just add rabbit ears or any UHF antenna and you are ready to receive HD broadcasts over the air (assuming your area has broadcast HD in range).
Gateway GM5442
The computer is the Gateway GM5442, for $579 plus shipping and tax it has:
Intel Core 2 Duo E4400 processor,
2GB of RAM,
500GB Hard Drive,
Windows Vista Home Premium (Premium includes Media Center!),
16X DVD±RW Drive,
Optical Mouse and Multimedia Keyboard,
7.1 surround audio and stereo speakers,
Analog/Digital TV Tuner w/3-D Comb
Media Center Remote Control

This looks like a great deal, the reviews are excellent for this computer. Check out the pictures and reviews on Newegg’s product page.