Trying to make a whole home DVR out of my computer - AVS Forum
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post #1 of 8 Old 10-04-2013, 10:51 PM - Thread Starter
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So apparently I posted this in the wrong section, so here it is copied and pasted into (hopefully) the correct section:

So my cable provider just switched to encrypted digital and I'm being forced to pay for set top boxes. I don't like the idea of being ransomed to utilize a service I'm already paying for and I REFUSE to pay $25 a month for the "privilege" of renting a single dvr. So Im trying to figure out how to turn my computer into a whole home dvr using a cablecard adapter.

Here's what I have so far. I can either use an HDHomerunPrime which has 3 tuners and is onsale for $130, or I can get a Ceton InfiniTv4 which has 4 tuners for $200. I can hook either up to my computer and use Windows Media Center or XBMC to watch and schedule recordings.

Then comes the tricky part. How to get the tv and recordings off my computer and onto the TV's. None of my tv's are smart tv's and none are HD. I have 2 ideas:

First is using Chromecast ($35) the HDMI dongle that uses your wireless network to stream content to your tv.
Issues with that: How do I use a remote to change channels? I know I can use my phone to send things to Chromecast, but is there
a way I can use my phone as a remote for WMC or XBMC? and second: Chromecast is an HDMI dongle, is there an adapter thats female HDMI to male coax or to RCA?

Second option is using the PIVOS XIOS DS ($100) which natively supports XBMC and can access the network either wired or with an adapter ($13), and has an available remote ($25)
Issue being its going to be pretty expensive to hook each tv up to the system.

So is there a better way of going about this? I think my understanding of how to get my computer to function as a DVR is fairly sound. My major issue is weather there is a better way to get the tv and recordings to my tv's. Any assistance would be greatly appreciated. Thanks
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post #2 of 8 Old 10-05-2013, 03:50 AM
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The simplest solution is to use Windows Media Center (WMC) Extenders. They are thin client boxes that connect to your TV and 'extend' your WMC 'experience' from a Windows 7 PC to your TV. The Windows 7 PC handles the TV tuner, TV recording, and storage for all your music, photos, and videos while the extender allows you to view this content over the network on another TV. The main drawback of an extender is their limited file/codec support for music and movies. The Xbox 360 and Ceton Echo are the only extenders that can be purchased new. Otherwise you can get Linksys DMA 2100 extenders on ebay for $60-$80. The Xbox is the only extender supported by Windows 8.

I used DMA 2100 extenders with a Windows 7 PC connected to a HDHomeRun Prime for several years. It works well for live and recorded TV, but I used another box for my movies (WD Live SMP). The DMA 2100 can play several video formats, but support for things like chapters, subtitles, and various surround formats is limited. I gave up and sold my HDHomeRun Prime and DMA 2100 extenders and purchased a Tivo with a couple of Tivo Mini's. While the extender solution works, I was trying to do too much with my Windows 7 HTPC. It could serve up recorded and live TV to the extenders fine, but it couldn't play back a Bluray reliably while recording a TV show or streaming a movie. I could have upgraded my HTPC to get more performance, but I chose to separate my whole home DVR from my HTPC. I hate paying $15/mo for the Tivo service, it tends to just work (minus some tuning issues) and everyone in the house can use it.

Another option is to build multiple inexpensive HTPCs (Intel NUC is one example) that share one or more HDHomeRuns. This makes sharing recordings across HTPCs harder, but you have a fully functional HTPC at each location. This provides the most capability, but with more PC maintenance (OS & SW updates). If you add up the cost of a new Tivo Roamio Pro ($1100 w/lifetime) and several Tivo Minis ($250 ea w/lifetime) you can buy a decent amount of computer hardware.
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post #3 of 8 Old 10-05-2013, 08:45 AM
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You didn't say your provider but from the sound of the fee for the DVR, and the fact they are now encrypting everything, sounds more like TWC rather than comcast.

Generally, if your provider is not Comcast or Verizon, you are "forced" to go into the WMC + extender (such as xbox 360) model as the channels are protected (note: protection is not the same thing as encryption)... I have even heard that some areas of TWC are now protecting the locals (not just encrypting)... my understanding that this is in error and will supposedly be fixed as they just copied the settings they have always used for encrypting which includes setting CCI to copy once... With the FCC currently "shut down" I see them in no hurry to fix this as one can't make complaints against it. Yes the multiple HTPCs with prime mentioned above will work but only the pc that recorded the protected content (or extenders connected to it) can view the recording as you can't share the recordings to other devices, including the other HTPC's (other than those extenders).

TWC almost always protects every channel (usually except for locals)... Verizon only protects HBO/MAX while comcast also protects the other premiums (HBO/MAX/SHO/Starz etc) but everything else is copy freely. Other providers often vary too much by market to flat out state what would be protected (I have heard that sometimes charter will not protect the regular SD channels, that for many are/were available as analog, while protect nearly all HD... cox usually protects all but locals but there are a couple of markets that only protect premiums) . If your content is not protected (and you only care about the locals... from your post, something tells me that this may be the case), you can use any of the methods described as the content can be freely moved around. Right now, I would not count on Chromecast to do this (too much unknown here as Goggle changes capabilities all the time and last I heard it wasn't known if one could license/play mpeg2 content on it) but may be an option.

To me the only reason for going the Tivo route is if you have family members that are not willing to put up with the slightest glitch in the system as tivo for most "Just Works" (there may be some problems in the initial setup for some... lately this seems to be from Roamio 6 tuner models occasionally needing to be limited to 4 or 5 tuners depending on cablecard firmware) while WMC/extenders usually work fine, they are more prone to an occasional glitch (especially if you try a "new" extender) and personally, I would rather pay the cable company for it's dvr unless tivo lowers its lifetime fee to about $200-$250 and/or it's monthly fee to $5 (note: I am willing to pay more the first year to subsidize the equipment... I just don't and never will see the value of the service as being worth that much).
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post #4 of 8 Old 10-05-2013, 11:51 AM - Thread Starter
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My provider is Charter they had some digital channels before that I could get fine (un-encrypted/unprotected) but since the full digital switch I only got 2 channels one telling me that they switched to digital and one that was a home shopping channel that only showed up in 1/4 of the screen.

Im not sure if this effects any considerations, but when I got the cable card from them they also gave me a 2ndary box its a Motorola MTR700. Im not sure of what its functionality is but they told me I had to put it before the tuner and plug the usb in to the computer. I have heard that there is a beta driver for WMC to be used with Chromecast, so I would imagine anything I can use with WMC should be streamable. I've also heard that I can get a wireless remote as opposed to an IR one so I wont need line of sight to change channels as my computer is only in one room and my TV's are all over.

Barring that, I guess some cheap ebay 360's would be my best option, if a little less convienient
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post #5 of 8 Old 10-05-2013, 01:51 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by savan12986 View Post

My provider is Charter they had some digital channels before that I could get fine (un-encrypted/unprotected) but since the full digital switch I only got 2 channels one telling me that they switched to digital and one that was a home shopping channel that only showed up in 1/4 of the screen.

Im not sure if this effects any considerations, but when I got the cable card from them they also gave me a 2ndary box its a Motorola MTR700. Im not sure of what its functionality is but they told me I had to put it before the tuner and plug the usb in to the computer. I have heard that there is a beta driver for WMC to be used with Chromecast, so I would imagine anything I can use with WMC should be streamable. I've also heard that I can get a wireless remote as opposed to an IR one so I wont need line of sight to change channels as my computer is only in one room and my TV's are all over.

Barring that, I guess some cheap ebay 360's would be my best option, if a little less convienient
I have Charter, a Moto tuning adapter like yours, cable card, WMC and a house full of extenders (currently Echo, formerly Xboxes). My system works beautifully and has been for the past couple of years. I get all channels I subscribe to and full DVR functionality on every TV in my house and pay only for my programming package ($65) and cable card ($2).

In my market, little or none of my channels are copy protected, so XBMC could be made to work. But I find it far more complicated to set up and maintain than simple WMC extenders like Xbox. And I really wouldn't save any money for my trouble. Xboxes are far from inconvenient and are literally plug and play. I felt like I needed a PhD in computer science to get XBMC working on my Raspberry Pi. Add the WMC back end to the mix and you've got quite a science experiment on your hands.

Chromecast will not work as an extender, although I wish it would. I would be very interested in this beta WMC driver, if you can find a link. I personally don't see how it would work since the ChromeCast only works with Netflix, Youtube and things running in a Chrome browser, none of which are WMC

As for your remote, you don't control your PC from another room. You control the extender in that room. Each will have its own IR remote. So RF is unnecessary (unless your primary TV and HTPC are in different rooms).

And as for that MTR700, you must plug that in, or you will get very few channels, and you never know which ones will work and which ones won't.
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post #6 of 8 Old 10-05-2013, 02:35 PM - Thread Starter
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seems I was wrong about the driver, Its a plugin that lets you do Chromecast type things on WMC not send WMC to Chromecast, which is unfortunate because that would really be useful. If you're still interested its called Media Center Cast, but it doesn't solve my problem. I think my best option for now is going to be a used 360 as an extender
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post #7 of 8 Old 10-13-2013, 11:46 AM
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Use MCE for backend server with serverWMC and XBMC for as many clients as you need, Xbox not required.

Rick
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post #8 of 8 Old 10-14-2013, 09:06 AM
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If you have older TV's without HDMI, you will need to install a DHCP capable video card to pass the DCA win WMC so that you can install and use CableCard tuner. After that, you can remove the card, and install one that has S-video, or component/composite out, to connect to one of your TV's.

You will be limited to viewing channels that are not copy protected, which is also a limitation of XBMC.

As posted by other, Linksys, D-Link, and HP all made extenders that had analog outputs. XBOX 360 also has analog output. But, you will need a wired network to connect them all to the HTPC.

I think that the new XBOX360E is HDMI only, as well as Ceton Echo.

6 TV's in the house on FiOS and we only pay $4.99/month to connect them all!!! Power to the CableCard and WMC7!!!
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