I have been at this HTPC and media server hobby for more than 5 years. My wife and I are designing a house and I want to start planning how our home network and entertainment stuff will work throughout the house.
First some background. We have been Tivo users since it first came out. We started with a Philips S1 Tivo on analog cable in 2000 which I immediately upgraded to 120GB. When we moved to our second townhouse in 2003, we went to DirecTV and eventually ended up with two SD DirecTivo units, one DSR600 (160GB) and one HR10 (stock). Just after we moved there, I built my HTPC and added HD with a MDP-120 MyHD card and an antenna multiplexed into one of the SAT lines in the entertainment center. Basically all SD TV watching was done on the Tivo and the HD watching was on the MyHD. However, the wife was never comfortable with the HTPC and I always had to "drive" even though everything was set up on a Harmony remote. We also had the main DTivo extended to the master bedroom via a Terk Composite/Stereo/IR over CAT3 system. The MyHD recordings and DVD Rips soon outgrew the hard drives I was willing to put in the HTPC, so I built a RedHat Linux media server with a 3Ware 7500-4 with 4 250GB disks. Those Maxtor disks started biting the dust quickly and when I eventually upgraded to a 3Ware 9550SX-8LP RAID card, I ditched the Linux and rolled the RAID storage functions into the desktop "workstation" in my home office and added a MDP-130 so I could record two HD programs at the same time. We have since sold that townhouse and moved in with my in-laws where we occupy 3 bedrooms (bedroom + office + TV room). They have Comcast, so we shelved the DTivos and got a S3 Tivo and use the same Terk A/V repeater system to watch the S3 content in our bedroom. So, the only way we can currently watch different programs on the two TV's is to either watch something live from analog cable (yick!) or my wife watches Tivo content in the bedroom and I watch something on the HTPC in the TV room. The HTPC currently does not record anything, it only plays content from the workstation/server or local disk or DVD-ROM.
* Sony 36XBR400 (36" 4:3 CRT 480i/480p/1080i Component Only)
* Rotel RSX-1056 Receiver
* Kef XQ 5.1 speakers
* S3 Tivo
* HTPC w/ MDP-120 & Component Transcoder
* Workstation with 3TB RAID (expandable to 7TB+) and MDP-130
* Gigabit Ethernet
* Terk A/V/IR repeater
* 27" CRT NTSC-only TV (bedroom)
* Panny 58" 60U Plasma (in-laws family room)
* HDTVtoMPEG (commercial cutting)
* Tivo Desktop
* MyHTPC (front end)
* ZoomPlayer + Cineplayer decoders
My goal is to establish a whole-family friendly system where 3 or 4 TVs in the new house can independently display content from whichever programming source I find is best at the time. That means that I don't want to be tied to Comcast or any other provider and each TV user independently can choose from Live HDTV, recorded HDTV, DVD library, photos, music, etc. I will start implementing the system with the 3 TVs we have now and the future displays and audio in the new house are really not relevant to this thread.
From what I've read around here there are many solutions that will almost meet my needs. I've nearly come to the conclusion that SageTV and their HD Extender is the best compromise. I'm thinking that a HD-Homerun on antenna and two HD-PVR boxes recording from STBs will meet all our recording needs and it will be cable/sat provider agnostic. I think Sage will also meet our DVD/photo/music needs too, but I haven't downloaded and tried the trial yet.
This has been really long-winded but I really look forward to input from everyone here because I'm sure there are things I'm overlooking.