Giving up on HTPC -- or have I missed options? - AVS Forum
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post #1 of 52 Old 12-31-2012, 08:24 AM - Thread Starter
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I've been looking at building an HTPC the past year, and lately thinking I could build it the next few months. But I'm instead concluding that I have to give up on the idea.

I have two basic goals:
* Whole house DVR (centralized programming of 4+ tuners on master device, with DVR / playback in other rooms)
* Whole house Movies / TV series (centralized storage of DVD & Blu-ray rips with playback of movies and special features, at original disc quality, in other rooms)

These two desires are at odds with each other. For the DVR, I need to use extenders (Xbox or Echo). I can't use satellite HTPCs; they require dedicated tuners, individual programming and storage. Worse, they can't stream recorded shows to each other (assuming the copy-flag is set by the cable providers. But for movie streaming, I need satellite HTPCs, since extenders can't play ripped discs (or even high bit rate transcodes).


My disc watching is apparently unconventional, but easy to explain: I enjoy special features and commentaries.

Specifically: I've got three seasons of Community on DVD, unopened. I want to feed those into a (hypothetical) HTPC in the basement. I'll watch them in the bedroom, episodes, and then with commentaries. I also have Band of Brothers and The Pacific on Blu-ray, unopened. I want to feed those into a basement HTPC, and watch in the living room, through the SVS speakers; and then watch the historical, making-of, etc. special features. The only solution I've found with 7MC is full disc rips and satellite PCs.

The Ceton InfiniTV and Echo are on sale for $50 off (bundled) right now. I'd buy if I knew I could make that combo do what I've described. Unfortunately, as it is, I see the HTPC being more dream than reality for my interests.

I could build a movie / disc-only solution with prime and satellite PCs. But it's a lot of money and effort for half a solution, and I'm still spending a big chunk to upgrade the Tivos to get a 4 tuner system.

Is my assessment correct? Or are there solutions I've missed or misunderstood?
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post #2 of 52 Old 12-31-2012, 08:29 AM
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Full disc rips are discussed here all the time but IDK if there's a solution. I don't watch the commentaries and other stuff so I cannot help but as far as the whole home DVR the InfiniTV4/echo combo seems to be a pretty good way to go. I have an HDHR Prime and an echo and it works pretty well although the latest echo BETA f/w sort of borked my echo for the time being.

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post #3 of 52 Old 12-31-2012, 08:29 AM
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You need multiple devices. You could use an extender + a dune player for instance.
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post #4 of 52 Old 12-31-2012, 08:33 AM
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So the dune plays back full disc br-iso rips? This I did not know.

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post #5 of 52 Old 12-31-2012, 08:45 AM
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You're basically in the same situation as me and having the same frustrations. There simply is not a single device that can handle ALL of your media needs while sharing copy protected recordings.

What I am planning to do in the new year is basically this:

Current system:
1 HTPC in living room w/ InfiniTV4
1 WHS in office
1 Desktop in office
1 XBox 360 in bedroom used exclusively as extender

additionally, I converted all my movies to MP4 to play them on the 360. Still have the original intact rips for the HTPC and desktop.

It's works, but the 360 doesn't get the extras and obviously there is some quality loss on the encodes. The TV is only 22" there and uses the built-in speakers, so its not a huge problem, but still not ideal. Plus, the cable signal is kind of weak, so I ocassionaly get the 'Subscription required' screen in 7MC.

Proposed new solution:

This depends on how the Echo gets its bugs fixed (haven't kept up, but it needs to be able to put out 1080p and pass through any audio format that might come over TV), plus prices of things and finally what funds I ultimately have available - target it is mid summer.

Living Room and bedroom -
  • 1 Echo to use exclusively for Live and Recorded TV
  • 1 Micro HTPC to run something like XBMC for viewing all my ripped Movies, TV shows, etc. I'm keeping an eye on the Raspberry Pi for this as it seems they are very close to handling all my needs in this regards.

Office -
  • One server for virtualizing WHS, HTPC and potentially Desktop PC - still reading up a lot about this. Seems like virtualizing the WHS and HTPC may make sense. HTPC would do nothing but record and serve TV to the extenders, so with updates disabled, it should be pretty stable. Main issue seems to be that ESXi seems to have an issue passing the InfiniTV to the virtualized HTPC. Maybe they will have fixed this by then, maybe not. I'm also considering ditching the InfiniTV and moving to a HDHomerun Prime as I could then locate it right next to where the cable comes into our condo and hopefully have less issues with signal drop.

    Other issue is that I use FlexRAID with my WHS and I seem to recall that there is some issue with running FlexRAID in a setup like this.

    I'd like to virtualize my Desktop as well, but not sure how that will impact performance. I'm not a hardcore gamer by any means anymore (the most modern game I've played in recent years was NWN2).
  • Move the XBox 360 down to the office and use as an extender there. I'd also have the virtualized Desktop PC for playing my ripped movies, TV shows, etc., but if the Raspberry Pi proves a viable alternative for that, I'd probably just get another one of those.

We'll see how this all turns out, but my current setup is just not cutting it. At random, my wife (who uses the bedroom TV since the room is also her art studio) seems to find one of my encodes that either doesn't play right or has an issue with the sound and then I have to redo it. Then it comes up that she wants to watch some special feature, but she can't and that's a pain. My HTPC in the living room is dated (nearly 4 years old now) and while it works, it seems to have more and more issues as I upgrade other components (like my AVR last Spring) or when I've had to make some change to one fo the software components.
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post #6 of 52 Old 12-31-2012, 10:18 AM
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The solution is out there, but its still limited by the fact you won't be able to watch/record copy protected channels. Instead of using Windows Media Center you could use MythTV instead. There is support for the Ceton tuner in MythTV the only downside is it won't support the copy protected channels.

With MythTV you can to a full ISO rip of your discs which includes all the special features/commentary that you want, and with the advent of SFF PC's and things like the Rasberry PI boards you can use those for your "head end extenders".

So you'll have a server/mythTV back end box in the basement, and SFF/PI boxes at each tv for viewing.

-Josh
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post #7 of 52 Old 12-31-2012, 10:23 AM
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Yup. The whole home DVR (with premium channels) AND centralized media playback, was a flustercuck 5 years ago and still is.

The culprit (in my mind) is actually not Microsoft (or other vendors). It's Cablelabs/Content owners/Studios.
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post #8 of 52 Old 12-31-2012, 10:37 AM
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http://experts.windows.com/frms/windows_entertainment_and_connected_home/f/116/p/96460/505840.aspx
http://thedigitallifestyle.com/w/index.php/2010/01/22/how-close-to-softsled-can-you-get-pretty-close-dvblink-recording-broker/

You can get kinda close with WMC if you use recording broker, though you will still have issues with copy once content (usually the premium channels).
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post #9 of 52 Old 12-31-2012, 12:38 PM
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We're all hoping that the Echo will eventually provide playback of ripped Blu-Rays and DVDs at some point. It will most likely support mkv format for ripped movies. Right now I have individual HTPCs supporting TVs in several rooms of my house. I'm on FIOS so I'm able to share recorded TV shows without dealing with the copy once flag. I also don't subscribe to any premium channels, allowing me 100% trouble-free playback of recorded programs on any TV. I rip all of my DVDs and Blu-Rays using MakeMKV and store them on a 24TB unRAID server. I can play them on any TV using XBMC integrated into WMC. For live and recorded TV, I have two InfiniTV4's installed in my primary HTPC and a SD HDHomeRun Prime for sharing with the other HTPCs.

I actually prefer having individual HTPCs as it allows each TV to work independently of one another. Being on FIOS tends to make things a lot easier as well. The whole-house DVR concept looks good on paper, but it makes the primary HTPC the weak link in the chain. If the primary HTPC goes down, the entire multimedia network goes down with it. If your household has multiple rooms served by one HTPC, this can be extremely problematic. The same goes for using extenders, which is why I've tried to avoid them altogether. OTOH, I signed up for the Echo beta testing program so I do have one connected to my network. My plan is to replace a seldom-used HTPC in a spare bedroom with the Echo. However, this is only viable if Ceton can get the Echo working with certain types of mkv files.

For now, the solution to a whole-house media playback system will require two boxes at each TV: a media extender for watching live and recorded TV and a media player for streaming movies from a central location (i.e., HTPC storage or media server). I believe there are media players available that can stream movie rips in mkv format and some that may also play isos and/or folder structures.
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post #10 of 52 Old 12-31-2012, 02:50 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Sammy2 View Post

So the dune plays back full disc br-iso rips? This I did not know.

Yes. WITH full menus. Some models anyway. They're a bit expensive but highly regarded. No cinavia.
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post #11 of 52 Old 12-31-2012, 03:38 PM
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Maybe I'm missing something but unless your cable provider uses the copy-once/never flag there should not be any problem with a full HTPC at each TV.

If you use the SiliconDust HD Homerun Prime cable card tuners then every HTPC can watch their own live tv channel. All the tuners in the HDHomerun Prime are pooled among all the HTPCs.

You get the best of both worlds... whole home DVR and independent DVRs. Each HTPC can have its own recording schedule for different household tastes plus you can share the recorded TV folder so that every HTPC's recordings are viewable from any other HTPC.

Add in a file server like WHS which automatically archives the recordings to one set of hard drives and you don't have to worry about recordings diss appearing due to low local disk space.

Of course a full HTPC at each TV can be setup to play any type of file you have... MKVs, AVIs, ISOs, etc.
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post #12 of 52 Old 12-31-2012, 03:45 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by umdivx View Post

The solution is out there, but its still limited by the fact you won't be able to watch/record copy protected channels. Instead of using Windows Media Center you could use MythTV instead. There is support for the Ceton tuner in MythTV the only downside is it won't support the copy protected channels.

With MythTV you can to a full ISO rip of your discs which includes all the special features/commentary that you want, and with the advent of SFF PC's and things like the Rasberry PI boards you can use those for your "head end extenders".

So you'll have a server/mythTV back end box in the basement, and SFF/PI boxes at each tv for viewing.

-Josh

If you can't do copy protected channels, then its not a solution anymore than a bunch of windows htpcs.
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post #13 of 52 Old 12-31-2012, 03:47 PM
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Cable companies can change the flags whenever they like. Ask Verizon customers. Most people would prefer to have a single recording schedule too. To each their own though. I personally hate the multi wmc machine solution. Tuners aren't allocated logically either. It's really remarkable just how well extenders work for live TV and DVR.
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post #14 of 52 Old 12-31-2012, 03:59 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Puwaha View Post

Maybe I'm missing something but unless your cable provider uses the copy-once/never flag there should not be any problem with a full HTPC at each TV.

Just about they major cable company is using copy once flags on at least their premium channels. Fios was one of the last that was all copy freely, and they've started. My company is cablevision and they show up all over the place. Disney junior is horrible about it, which sucks since I have a 16 month old. Tried recording sone stuff to play on our plane ride for Christmas and ended up having to torrent them thanks to those stupid flags.
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post #15 of 52 Old 12-31-2012, 04:16 PM
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As others have implied, you can do it what you seek with limits. I'm not sure what you exactly meant by satellite HTPC. My thinking is satellite TV, but I'm assuming you just mean a PC in another room.

As far as knew, media center on a PC can act as an extender. You can setup your homegroup and tell it to share your libraries, or just tell MC on that PC where your libraries are located. I prefer the prior sense it gives more functionality over the recordings from the PCs such as deleting. This would handle your DVR situation, I believe. Most people go with extenders such as the Xbox 360 because it's a lot cheaper than another PC.

As for your movie and TV show situation, this is more depending how what format you plan to rip media into--mkv, iso, mp4, mpv, etc. If you like the DVD/BR menu structure, then ISO may be a good idea, but not as much software is ISO friendly. You could do MKV. No menus, but you can rip multiple audio tracks in the same MKV. So when you want to listen to commentary, just choose the commentary track on that play through. Those special features, you can just rip individually. I do this for some stuff such as the short animations features on the Pixar discs. If you do this, you may want to create something like a special feature library; kind like what Amazon video does with special features.

What you do above, may be depending on what software you plan to use. Media Center could work perfectly well with something like MediaPortal or Mediabrowser, I think these were addons/mods for Media Center. I don't use them, so I'm going off what I have read from memory. But it would be a more suite solution for you. You'll still have whatever DVR flag issues. You could try something something like Plex. It has a server, and you just install front end clients on your PCs. This could handle your movie rip playback. It can play MC DVR recordings (wtv files), but no metadata; I don't know about flag material, but I assume not. You could also try out XBMC. Similar to Plex, It has recently added live tv and DVR function, but does not support cablecards, as of yet; I don't believe it will get cablecard certification from what I've read. XMBC has a Plex plugin as well.

All the above is assuming you're using PCs in livingroom and bedrooms and so forth. If not, then you're looking on some kind of set top box. For your DVR, you'll need a media center extender such as 360 or Echo. From there, I would look at something that has DNLA support. If so, you could then you a media server that has DNLA such as Plex. I've have Plex and tried it out on my Panasonic TV with DNLA. It worked ok, but it didn't like all my files. Some DNLA servers may transcode to a friendly format. You may want to find a box with will play the file format of you choice.. I have Roku boxes and it has a Plex frond end. I can play my DVR reocordings on it, but no live TV. But it you have a TV, I assume you'll have cable connected to it, so it may not be issue for you. It's not pretty, but it does work. Skipping commercials on the Roku is ugly since it's more guessing game of how long the break is.

I use Plex a lot so I'm very familiar with it and it's limitations. Plex is NOT ISO friendly. In the future, maybe. The Rhetorical question I would pose, how often do you watch the special features? If it's just once, then maybe using the disc may be sufficient. If you have PCs in the all the rooms, this may not be a issue if they have optical drives. If not, get a cheapy extenral drive you can hook up. If not feasible, you could just create a library when you rip these features, watch, and then delete.

There are options. But no will fit perfectly. Here a, kind of bad, video of Plex on a first generation Roku playing a MC DVR recording.
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post #16 of 52 Old 12-31-2012, 04:18 PM
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Hmm well unless we know th OP's cable provider we don't know what they do with the flags. Could be regional too... my local Comcast only flags premium channels.
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post #17 of 52 Old 12-31-2012, 07:09 PM
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My solution to the problems you bring up is to drop the cable company. An antenna on the roof records all shows without the roadblock of DRM, I also pick up a lot of programming from netflix and hulu.
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post #18 of 52 Old 12-31-2012, 08:30 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jeffkro View Post

My solution to the problems you bring up is to drop the cable company. An antenna on the roof records all shows without the roadblock of DRM, I also pick up a lot of programming from netflix and hulu.

I have yet to see mad men come in over an antenna
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post #19 of 52 Old 12-31-2012, 08:46 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jeffkro View Post

My solution to the problems you bring up is to drop the cable company. An antenna on the roof records all shows without the roadblock of DRM, I also pick up a lot of programming from netflix and hulu.
OTA Dexter? Count me in, and move me 30 miles closer to the transmitters...biggrin.gif
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post #20 of 52 Old 12-31-2012, 09:30 PM - Thread Starter
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Fantastic replies here. I'll reply to a few specifically.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Puwaha View Post

Maybe I'm missing something but unless your cable provider uses the copy-once/never flag there should not be any problem with a full HTPC at each TV.
If you use the SiliconDust HD Homerun Prime cable card tuners then every HTPC can watch their own live tv channel. All the tuners in the HDHomerun Prime are pooled among all the HTPCs.
You get the best of both worlds... whole home DVR and independent DVRs. Each HTPC can have its own recording schedule for different household tastes plus you can share the recorded TV folder so that every HTPC's recordings are viewable from any other HTPC.
Add in a file server like WHS which automatically archives the recordings to one set of hard drives and you don't have to worry about recordings diss appearing due to low local disk space.
Of course a full HTPC at each TV can be setup to play any type of file you have... MKVs, AVIs, ISOs, etc.
I'm on Fios. No HBO. Don't know if copy flag is on or off.

I already manage multiple programming schedules with multiple Tivos. Having to do that with multiple HTPCs is not an improvement smile.gif

Does each independent HTPC record to its local drive, or do they record over the network to a main server?

Quote:
Originally Posted by lovekeiiy View Post

As others have implied, you can do it what you seek with limits. I'm not sure what you exactly meant by satellite HTPC. My thinking is satellite TV, but I'm assuming you just mean a PC in another room.
As far as knew, media center on a PC can act as an extender. You can setup your homegroup and tell it to share your libraries, or just tell MC on that PC where your libraries are located. I prefer the prior sense it gives more functionality over the recordings from the PCs such as deleting. This would handle your DVR situation, I believe. Most people go with extenders such as the Xbox 360 because it's a lot cheaper than another PC.
As for your movie and TV show situation, this is more depending how what format you plan to rip media into--mkv, iso, mp4, mpv, etc. If you like the DVD/BR menu structure, then ISO may be a good idea, but not as much software is ISO friendly. You could do MKV. No menus, but you can rip multiple audio tracks in the same MKV. So when you want to listen to commentary, just choose the commentary track on that play through. Those special features, you can just rip individually. I do this for some stuff such as the short animations features on the Pixar discs. If you do this, you may want to create something like a special feature library; kind like what Amazon video does with special features.
What you do above, may be depending on what software you plan to use. Media Center could work perfectly well with something like MediaPortal or Mediabrowser, I think these were addons/mods for Media Center. I don't use them, so I'm going off what I have read from memory. But it would be a more suite solution for you. You'll still have whatever DVR flag issues. You could try something something like Plex. It has a server, and you just install front end clients on your PCs. This could handle your movie rip playback. It can play MC DVR recordings (wtv files), but no metadata; I don't know about flag material, but I assume not. You could also try out XBMC. Similar to Plex, It has recently added live tv and DVR function, but does not support cablecards, as of yet; I don't believe it will get cablecard certification from what I've read. XMBC has a Plex plugin as well.
All the above is assuming you're using PCs in livingroom and bedrooms and so forth. If not, then you're looking on some kind of set top box. For your DVR, you'll need a media center extender such as 360 or Echo. From there, I would look at something that has DNLA support. If so, you could then you a media server that has DNLA such as Plex. I've have Plex and tried it out on my Panasonic TV with DNLA. It worked ok, but it didn't like all my files. Some DNLA servers may transcode to a friendly format. You may want to find a box with will play the file format of you choice.. I have Roku boxes and it has a Plex frond end. I can play my DVR reocordings on it, but no live TV. But it you have a TV, I assume you'll have cable connected to it, so it may not be issue for you. It's not pretty, but it does work. Skipping commercials on the Roku is ugly since it's more guessing game of how long the break is.
I use Plex a lot so I'm very familiar with it and it's limitations. Plex is NOT ISO friendly. In the future, maybe. The Rhetorical question I would pose, how often do you watch the special features? If it's just once, then maybe using the disc may be sufficient. If you have PCs in the all the rooms, this may not be a issue if they have optical drives. If not, get a cheapy extenral drive you can hook up. If not feasible, you could just create a library when you rip these features, watch, and then delete.
There are options. But no will fit perfectly. Here a, kind of bad, video of Plex on a first generation Roku playing a MC DVR recording.
"satellite" = extender. Master computer in basement, with extenders or slim PC in living room and bedroom.

Mkv with multiple audio tracks is a good idea for commentaries. But multiple, custom mkvs for special features is a lot of work for even a handful of new discs, let alone a full library. And front ends like Media Browser don't seem to handle such a setup elegantly.

Quote:
Originally Posted by jeffkro View Post

My solution to the problems you bring up is to drop the cable company. An antenna on the roof records all shows without the roadblock of DRM, I also pick up a lot of programming from netflix and hulu.
previously I did OTA with TiVo. Weather caused erratic signal loss about monthly, which was annoying. In current location, I've got poor, at best, OTA reception. And I've gone cable tv, regardless.

Quote:
Originally Posted by lockdown571 View Post

You need multiple devices. You could use an extender + a dune player for instance.
What is dune?
Quote:
Originally Posted by ncarty97 View Post

You're basically in the same situation as me and having the same frustrations. There simply is not a single device that can handle ALL of your media needs while sharing copy protected recordings.
What I am planning to do in the new year is basically this:
Current system:
1 HTPC in living room w/ InfiniTV4
1 WHS in office
1 Desktop in office
1 XBox 360 in bedroom used exclusively as extender
additionally, I converted all my movies to MP4 to play them on the 360. Still have the original intact rips for the HTPC and desktop.
It's works, but the 360 doesn't get the extras and obviously there is some quality loss on the encodes. The TV is only 22" there and uses the built-in speakers, so its not a huge problem, but still not ideal. Plus, the cable signal is kind of weak, so I ocassionaly get the 'Subscription required' screen in 7MC.
Proposed new solution:
This depends on how the Echo gets its bugs fixed (haven't kept up, but it needs to be able to put out 1080p and pass through any audio format that might come over TV), plus prices of things and finally what funds I ultimately have available - target it is mid summer.
Living Room and bedroom -
  • 1 Echo to use exclusively for Live and Recorded TV
  • 1 Micro HTPC to run something like XBMC for viewing all my ripped Movies, TV shows, etc. I'm keeping an eye on the Raspberry Pi for this as it seems they are very close to handling all my needs in this regards.
Office -
  • One server for virtualizing WHS, HTPC and potentially Desktop PC - still reading up a lot about this. Seems like virtualizing the WHS and HTPC may make sense. HTPC would do nothing but record and serve TV to the extenders, so with updates disabled, it should be pretty stable. Main issue seems to be that ESXi seems to have an issue passing the InfiniTV to the virtualized HTPC. Maybe they will have fixed this by then, maybe not. I'm also considering ditching the InfiniTV and moving to a HDHomerun Prime as I could then locate it right next to where the cable comes into our condo and hopefully have less issues with signal drop.
    Other issue is that I use FlexRAID with my WHS and I seem to recall that there is some issue with running FlexRAID in a setup like this.
    I'd like to virtualize my Desktop as well, but not sure how that will impact performance. I'm not a hardcore gamer by any means anymore (the most modern game I've played in recent years was NWN2).
  • Move the XBox 360 down to the office and use as an extender there. I'd also have the virtualized Desktop PC for playing my ripped movies, TV shows, etc., but if the Raspberry Pi proves a viable alternative for that, I'd probably just get another one of those.
We'll see how this all turns out, but my current setup is just not cutting it. At random, my wife (who uses the bedroom TV since the room is also her art studio) seems to find one of my encodes that either doesn't play right or has an issue with the sound and then I have to redo it. Then it comes up that she wants to watch some special feature, but she can't and that's a pain. My HTPC in the living room is dated (nearly 4 years old now) and while it works, it seems to have more and more issues as I upgrade other components (like my AVR last Spring) or when I've had to make some change to one fo the software components.
WAF is necessary for success. Suggesting replacing TiVo with something new is met with skeptical and disapproving scowls smile.gif

I could consider a custom compromise:
Master PC and extenders
* whole house DVR through media center. InfiniTV for 4 tuners. If it goes well and desired, double up for 8 tuners.
* rip full discs assuming playback on the PC for "real" movies
* rip & transcode to MKV with multi tracks for commentary the shows I specifically watch remotely, for extender use. Accept that I won't have other special features, and that I'm sacrificing quality for extender playback.

I see that I dont really understand how multiple HTPCs interact and work with tuners for live DVR, recording schedules, and storage.
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post #21 of 52 Old 01-01-2013, 12:55 AM
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Fantastic replies here. I'll reply to a few specifically.
I'm on Fios. No HBO. Don't know if copy flag is on or off.
I already manage multiple programming schedules with multiple Tivos. Having to do that with multiple HTPCs is not an improvement smile.gif

I guess this depends on your needs. Some people have kids or guests that would prefer to have control over their own shows. But the point is, it doesn't matter what HTPC records what show. They are all visible from any and every HTPC. Put all the HTPCs in a homegroup, manually share out the recordedTV folders on each, or dump them all up to a server (or automatically with WHS). And if you use the HDHomerun Primes the tuners are pooled across all the HTPCs. For instance, I have two Primes for a total of 6 tuners. I can record two shows in the bedroom, another two shows in the livingroom, while the kids are streaming live TV to two separate bedrooms. The recordings that get done on the livingroom HTPC are available to watch in any of the bedroom HTPCs.


If you are looking for a master/slave type setup, then the best route is one HTPC and using extenders elsewhere. There are tools you can use to get close to a "unified" recording schedule, like Remote Potato and Recording Broker. I gave up on the master/slave setup a long time ago. Get enough tuners and you don't have to worry about if you shows get recorded. The benefits of individual HTPCs far outweigh the master/slave setups anyway. You don't have a unified recording schedule, but you also don't have to worry that your extenders won't play MKV files or stream Netflix.


By the way, don't Tivos share recordings now?

Quote:
Does each independent HTPC record to its local drive, or do they record over the network to a main server?

To a local drive, yes. You can do some trickeration to force recording to go to the server while it's recording, but that's not so reliable. A better solution is to use WHS which can automatically move the files from the local drive to the server, or you can setup software to do it for you periodically. But once again, this doesn't matter. As long as you have a homegroup or shared folders setup on each local HTPC's recordedTV folder, then all the other HTPCs see the recordings of the others.

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"satellite" = extender. Master computer in basement, with extenders or slim PC in living room and bedroom.

Extenders just don't do enough for my tastes. If TV is your only goal, then extenders are brilliant. But once you start wanting to do more than TV, extenders fall down.

Quote:
WAF is necessary for success. Suggesting replacing TiVo with something new is met with skeptical and disapproving scowls smile.gif

No doubt, this is a constant battle. But I promise you, once you setup WMC and she gets used to the concept, Tivo is no longer the marvel.

Quote:
I could consider a custom compromise:
Master PC and extenders
* whole house DVR through media center. InfiniTV for 4 tuners. If it goes well and desired, double up for 8 tuners.
* rip full discs assuming playback on the PC for "real" movies
* rip & transcode to MKV with multi tracks for commentary the shows I specifically watch remotely, for extender use. Accept that I won't have other special features, and that I'm sacrificing quality for extender playback.

For a perfect whole house DVR experience, a master HTPC and extenders can't be beat. Extenders just don't do Netflix, and don't do rips very well unless you encode them specifically for their capabilities. This is why your proposed setup above requires two sets of rips.

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I see that I dont really understand how multiple HTPCs interact and work with tuners for live DVR, recording schedules, and storage.

Multiple HTPCs work best with a network based tuner like the HDHomerun Prime, not the InfiniTV4. Let me see if I can explain the difference...

Say you have 4 TVs in different rooms, and you want DVR service to every TV. With a master/slave(extender) setup, you have one HTPC in one room with 3 extenders in the rest. The master HTPC in your setup has the InfiniTV tuners and can record up to 4 channels at once. All recording is done on the master HTPC. The extenders don't do any of the grunt work. Since the extenders depend on the master HTPC for it's TV service, the master HTPC has to serve up pre-recorded shows stored on it's local drive (or server network share), or farm out one of the InfiniTV tuners to an extender if you want to watch live TV in another room. This setup works great for what people believe a "whole house DVR" should be.

Now... with a full HTPC setup, each TV has it's own independent computer. You don't want to use an InfiniTV tuner in this scenario, as it physically has to reside in one of the HTPCs (essentially the master). Recording can be done only on the "master" HTPC that is physically connected to the InfiniTV. It is possible to assign one (or more) of the InfiniTV's 4 tuners to one of the other HTPCs over the network, but that tuner is forever assigned to that HTPC. So, in our 4 room scenario, you would have to assign 1 tuner to each HTPC in order to allow live TV or recording abilities on each HTPC. A HTPC with only one single tuner is not very useful. This forces you to know exactly which HTPC is recording what show to avoid conflicts... precisely what you are trying to avoid with your current Tivo setup.

If you are going to use full HTPCs in each room, the HDHomerun Prime is a perfect solution. The HDHomerun only has 3 tuners, but those 3 tuners are available to each and every HTPC. So, your bedroom HTPC has 3 tuners, the livingroom HTPC has the same 3 tuners, and so on. So you can record two shows on one, watch a live channel on another (or the same, it doesn't matter). If you use two HDHomerun Primes, then you now have 6 tuners available on each and every HTPC. This is where the individual HTPC scenario gets really interesting. With 6 or more networked tuners you are going to have enough pooled tuners available to each and every HTPC, that it doesn't matter who is watching live TV, or which HTPC is recording a show. Why?

Why doesn't it matter which HTPC is recording a show? Because you setup all the HTPCs in a homegroup... so every HTPC can see the local hard drive of all the other HTPCs. So if you record "Wheel of Fortune" on the living room HTPC, then the bedroom computer can see that recording just as if it were recording it and it was on the local hard drive. It streams the recorded tv file from the livingroom HTPC, shows up in the Recorded TV section with all meta-data (timestamps, channel info, plot/description, etc.) intact. You can even throw a server into the mix here. Recorded TV is just a big MPG file, and it doesn't matter where it's located as long as the HTPC (any HTPC!) has a network connection and can see the network share.


I actually have both setups in my house. I have a HTPC in the living room, a HTPC in the bedroom, and a virtual HTPC running on my server. All 3 HTPCs have full access to all 6 of my HDHomerun Prime tuners. So my wife can record her shows on the bedroom HTPC, and I can record my shows on the livingroom PC... but it doesn't really matter because all recordings on both computers are uploaded to a server as soon as they are done recording. Both HTPCs can see all the recordings.

The virtual HTPC is setup to serve two extenders (one in each kid's room) so they can watch live TV. I setup the virtual HTPC with a modified channel listing so that only approved "kid-friendly" channels are presented to the kids' extenders. You can't do this in a typical master/slave setup as the master always presents the same channel listing and guide to every single extender.


I know this is long-winded, but does this help?
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post #22 of 52 Old 01-01-2013, 02:03 AM
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I seem do a bit of what everyone suggests. I will refrain from using HTPC and just use PC; in my situation and for clarity, the HTPC will be a PC located in a home theater.

Basically, my setup is two PCs--one in the office (OPC), and another in the family room (FPC)--and three Roku boxes (2 first generaltion, 1 second generation). My setup is mostly WAF. I have one HDHomre (HDHR3CC), and two external USB HDDs connected to the OPC. I also have external slim USB blu ray burner on the OPC

In my setup, the OPC runs Plex Media Server (PMS). I also do all my DVR recordings on the OPCs. I do my media ripping on the OPC; MakeMKV, then Handbrake to reduce the file size. I share my DVR library through Homegroup. I can record on the FPC, but I setup the all the recordings on the OPC.

On the FPC, I can watch all the DVR recordings. I just go to recorded TV. There is a section for your libraries, in my case, FPC, OPC or all. I just pick all. Media Center takes a moment to load all the DVR recordings, but when done, I just go to recording listings, and pick one. When done, I delete it; there is some stuff I like to keep.

I like MKVs because it's a popular format on the PC. Most software supports it. Media Center can, but you need to add codecs such as KLite or Shark007. I prefer Plex because it's I'm able to use on the FPC, Roku, Android, and web browser. It allows me to use it at home or stream while away say at work or a friend's home. XBMC is also an excellent choice, but is still early it's in streaming away from home development. I still would recommend it nonetheless.

With the Roku and Plex, I have an easy to use set top box. There's access to movies and TV shows (MKV rips) via Plex, Netflix and Hulu Plus. It just doesn't support live TV. Unless you have some old TV like me, 27" Sony Trinton from 1997, you can probably just use the TV to watch live TV. And in Plex, there is access to the MC DVR recordings (see YouTube video). There are two people in my house who are not tech savvy, and they find the Roku to be very easy to use.

The FPC is more about just media consumption. I watch movies through Plex I have rip on the 55" HDTV and 6.1 surround sound. I also watch a lot of sports on that PC through online services such as NFL Game Pass, NBA League Pass Broadband, NHL Center Ice, MotoGP online, WatchESPN,and MLB at Bat. I use a VPN service so I can watch games that would otherwise be blacked out. I also get access to BBC iPlayer, TVcatchup, USTVnow, and other online TV services outside the USA through a web browser. Thus, having the FPC with a nice WAF ten foot interface is a bit of a hassle especially towards the sports side of things. I also do a some light gaming through OnLive as well. I have a Xbox 360 and PS3 hooked up in that room as well.

Overall, you can see I do have full house distribution or MKVs and DVR. It's not fully WAF, but enough I only hear crap about one machine.
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post #23 of 52 Old 01-01-2013, 03:18 AM
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...
"satellite" = extender. Master computer in basement, with extenders or slim PC in living room and bedroom.
Mkv with multiple audio tracks is a good idea for commentaries. But multiple, custom mkvs for special features is a lot of work for even a handful of new discs, let alone a full library. And front ends like Media Browser don't seem to handle such a setup elegantly. ...

It definitely can be a PITA setting up all those MKV files. Thus, the rhetorical question of how often you actually watch them. Back in the ancient times of DVDs, before blu ray, I use to buy all the special edition DVDs of movies I liked. And I found I basically watched the special once. I would watch the movies over and over, but not the bonus features. Most were bland and bloopers tended to only be funny once. I tend to be the same about commentary tracks as well.

I do like the short animated features like such as Pixar's Toy Story Toons. So I will rip those. Otherwise, I find I can save a lot time and effort just by watching the disc that one time.

Then again, that is my viewing habits.

If you wanted to do ISOs, I beliewe XBMC may be a good choice for you. You'll have access to all that stuff. I haven't kept up on XMBC, but I believe it's still ISO friendly. I know Plex use to be, but it's limited right now. It's on the to do list. I know they have some set top boxes you can put XBMC on to. I'm sure which, but I believe AppleTV with a jailbreak. There is a Raspberry Pi project that's looks to be pretty nice thus far. A cheap option as $35 a piece plus PSU and case (I would just tape it to the back of the TV; out of site, out of mind. I know it has launched it's live and DVR TV suite. It only plays unflagged material; it's not an official extender. But it might play the recordings if you setup a library directing it to it. Plex does, but I don't know about flagged material. I only get Comcast's limited basic, which is basically just local channels that aren't flagged.

Here's a video on and demo of XBMC on Raspberry Pi.

I wasn't able to find anything if that project is supporting the TV/DVR functions.
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post #24 of 52 Old 01-01-2013, 07:46 AM
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Looking at the size of the files being played on the Raspberry Pi it's pretty clear that they're been highly compressed. They may have started out as 1080p files but I have no idea what they are in the video. When you take a 30-40GB file and reduce it to 140MB, something has got to give.

FWIW, I use XBMC to play all of my Blu-Ray and DVD rips as MKV files and it works great. I used to use PowerDVD and TMT to play iso's streamed from my server, but playback was inconsistent. XBMC has been the only playback app I've found that provides absolutely smooth playback with HD audio. I'm hoping that Ceton eventually incorporates this functionality into the Echo.
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post #25 of 52 Old 01-01-2013, 08:00 AM
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Looking at the size of the files being played on the Raspberry Pi it's pretty clear that they're been highly compressed. They may have started out as 1080p files but I have no idea what they are in the video. When you take a 30-40GB file and reduce it to 140MB, something has got to give.

FWIW, I use XBMC to play all of my Blu-Ray and DVD rips as MKV files and it works great. I used to use PowerDVD and TMT to play iso's streamed from my server, but playback was inconsistent. XBMC has been the only playback app I've found that provides absolutely smooth playback with HD audio. I'm hoping that Ceton eventually incorporates this functionality into the Echo.
the thread on Linux htpcs here seemed to indicate that they were playing blu rays in native format on the pi
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post #26 of 52 Old 01-01-2013, 08:35 AM
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OTA Dexter? Count me in, and move me 30 miles closer to the transmitters...biggrin.gif

Most cable and network tv shows end up on netflix, you just can't watch them at the time of release. I personally have been watching less and less shows off my DVR and more programming on netflix, I have heard that hulu plus is more current and I might make the switch. The one show I really want that I can't get through netflix is Game of Thrones, its available at great expense from amazon streaming. Personally when I can get almost everything I want, I can't really justify handing over an extra $30-$40 a month to the cable company.
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post #27 of 52 Old 01-01-2013, 08:37 AM
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the thread on Linux htpcs here seemed to indicate that they were playing blu rays in native format on the pi

Its truly amazing how long the hacker community has taken to get us blu-ray playback.
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post #28 of 52 Old 01-01-2013, 02:59 PM
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Its truly amazing how long the hacker community has taken to get us blu-ray playback.
???confused.gif I'm not sure where this statement is coming from. We've had the ability to play Blu-Rays on our PCs for several years at least. You can go back to PowerDVD 10 and earlier versions of TMT for the ability to play Blu-Rays. The Asus Xonar HDAV 1.3 gave us the ability to play HD audio via HDMI back around the end of 2008, IIRC.
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post #29 of 52 Old 01-01-2013, 03:02 PM
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Its really too bad SageTV extenders and R5000 modded cableboxes/Dish Network boxes are so hard to find.  SageTV solution still does have everything the OP needs; without any weird limitations whatsoever.  Dont have to deal with "copy once" protection BD ISO/ripped directories work great.  Never had issues with DVD commentaries.  In fact, I just received an update for SageTV Gemstone GUI just recently (makes SageTV use XMBC style menus; even for TV).

 

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Originally Posted by umdivx View Post

The solution is out there, but its still limited by the fact you won't be able to watch/record copy protected channels. Instead of using Windows Media Center you could use MythTV instead. There is support for the Ceton tuner in MythTV the only downside is it won't support the copy protected channels.
With MythTV you can to a full ISO rip of your discs which includes all the special features/commentary that you want, and with the advent of SFF PC's and things like the Rasberry PI boards you can use those for your "head end extenders".
So you'll have a server/mythTV back end box in the basement, and SFF/PI boxes at each tv for viewing.
-Josh

Can your HTPC Media Center / DVR Do this??

SageTV: Unrestricted full-quality 12 tuner HD Premium Cable recording, including "On Demand" in HD + OTA ATSC + DVB-S2 + Blu-ray/HD-DVD serving 5 clients.
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post #30 of 52 Old 01-01-2013, 04:09 PM
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Originally Posted by MKANET View Post

Its really too bad SageTV extenders and R5000 modded cableboxes/Dish Network boxes are so hard to find.  SageTV solution still does have everything the OP needs; without any weird limitations whatsoever.  Dont have to deal with "copy once" protection BD ISO/ripped directories work great.  Never had issues with DVD commentaries.  In fact, I just received an update for SageTV Gemstone GUI just recently (makes SageTV use XMBC style menus; even for TV).

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Since when can SageTV playback copy once material?
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