Windows Media Center vs TiVo Premiere - AVS Forum
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post #1 of 925 Old 07-30-2012, 05:30 PM - Thread Starter
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Background

I have been using TiVo for over a decade and I think for what it is it has performed nicely. Overall, I have been happy with its beyond simple interface and rather complex (conflict resolution, etc) DVR features. I'm OTA only so obviously I'm only concerned about such and 99% of my viewing is done in the den. I do have a dedicated screening room (projector and such) that gets some TV use every once in a while... not even monthly. I currently have two Premiere TiVos (paid $60 each). One Premiere via the OTA special at $10 a month and its commitment runs out in a couple of months. According to TiVo I will be billed $10 a month forever... or at least until told other wise. :) The other is a non-subbed TiVo with Trick Play still active (I didn't let it update) which I can use in the dedicated room for live TV only. Of course I can't stream recordings between them however I can convert/transfer files to my NAS and use my NeoTV 550 to play them. Certainly not ideal but at the same time I have next to zero reason to do so.

Up until this last TiVo purchase I have been purchasing Lifetime and simply selling the unit when I wanted to punt (I would upgrade the drive and make a little or break even). With the OTA special I couldn't justify purchasing Lifetime so I went with monthly. As its commitment will be up shortly I see three options for me... of course others may lean towards different options.

Options

  • Keep paying $10 a month
  • Purchase Lifetime for $400 (online TiVo states I can purchase it at this price for my non-subbed TiVo)
  • Switch to Windows Media Center (guide service is free of charge - forever?)
Paying $10 is probably my best bet. As I tend to punt (switch directions) and I would have the least invested. However, I lose the resell value of the service since I can't resell it like I could with Lifetime. If I do decide to forgo the monthly fee I have $400 to play with more or less. Which brings me to Windows Media Center. Would the $400 be better spent going that route? I'm giving it a try and after a couple of days I'm leaning at giving it a shot. So far I have picked up the following:

Windows Media Center Hardware

All of the above is slightly less than the $400 cost of Lifetime. I could throw in another HDHomeRun for four tuners. Not that they would be used that often but being OTA only you hate to see a show get bypassed... there aren't that many worth watching! I have used WMC a couple of times in the past and punted more or less up front. Mainly, I found the ease of use lacking although I never really gave it an honest try per se. By this I mean using a dedicated remote. If you aren't familiar with WMC I found this article has a nice comparison. It is outdated and several complaints they had about TiVo have been added and or corrected in the last several releases. It's still a good reference especially if you want to see what WMC offers.
This page gives you a rough idea as to what features the remote can offer as they simply map the buttons to the various keys.
I'm sure there are better references but I found both informative and they inspired me to give WMC a better look than I have in the past and so far I'm much more impressed.

Windows Media Center Installation

To get up and running I first installed the HDHomeRun by connecting it to my antenna feed (it splits the one line into two) and my network. To test it out I installed the configure utility on my Mac and I was watching TV within a couple of minutes. Reception wise it appears to work as good or better than TiVo. As I have zero issues receiving my channels although I don't think they are much of a challenge. I have an outdoor antenna installed in the crawl space above my garage. Watching TV via any of your PCs or Macs is a nice feature and pretty much worth the $55 in and of itself. The tuners are shared so if WMC is using one the other is free and I believe you can have to 16 via WMC.

I gutted the PC by partitioning the drive and doing a clean installation of Windows 7 and removing virtually any program that isn't DVR related. This took much longer than configuring WMC which found my network tuners and I was watching TV in a few minutes after running WMC's Wizards. This past weekend I had it working overtime recording the Olympics and didn't have one issue either recording or viewing. All of the time I was giving the PC a going over tweaking this or that such as modifying the Desktop, Theme, etc. I also gave Hulu a try and watched an episode or two of In Plain Sight. Its low resolution stood up fairly well to the HD set (it's 61 inches) but would never be mistaken as HD. However much better than viewing on my monitor.

User Experience

So far digging into the DVR abilities I have been impressed. I wouldn't have guessed it has better conflict resolution than TiVo which I think is often an overlooked DVR feature. Living with it for a few days I noticed little features like clicking on the time bar jumps to that spot in the recording. Having TiVo features (or lack of) ingrained into my mind all of these years I find dozens of little things it simply does nicer. At this point in time TiVo's dual pausing of live TV with the ability to bounce back and forth effortlessly is the major feature I would miss. With the exception of the peanut remote. I'm still waiting on my WMC remote and overall I could live with my current keyboard but I'm not sure I would. I'm hoping the remote brings a large degree of TiVo's ease of use to WMC. If it does I think I'm hooked.

Conclusion

In most cases I would recommend TiVo (with Lifetime). It's simpler all around and doesn't lose much because of it. Rather it gains by making the experience more enjoyable. I didn't really cover TiVo as this is more... is WMC a valid alternative for OTA. Such as should cord cutters look its way or stay the DVR route with TiVo or Channel Master. For me WMC has plenty of features, works terrific and if the remote comes even remotely close to TiVo's ease of use I'll give it a try. For me it's more not picking WMC over TiVo rather I'm just ready for a change... a chance to tweak more and I'm almost convinced I won't pay for it by giving up ease of use. If everything goes swimmingly I might throw an Xbox into the dedicated room as use it as an extender which would allow viewing of those recordings I don't have access to now.

I have decided to switch to WMC from TiVo for a variety of reasons listed in later posts. Since my experience with WMC is anything but set in stone and continues to evolve I'll update this post from time to time to reflect my current take on several areas. The why's and how's will be covered in later posts and (hopefully) offer some insight.

Ongoing Experience

Hardware

After using the remote for a week I found zero reason to use a keyboard for WMC and most everything I do. So I returned the keyboard referenced above and got this one instead. It's a more traditional keyboard and as you can see from Amazon's ratings (five star ratings are ten times the one star ratings) it simply works.
Since I'm still playing around with the PC side a lot I have been using my keyboard which has worked well enough. But I still hate the touchpad tapping enough to wish something else would pop up. Well it did. Fry's had the Lenova N5902 on sale for $20 and I couldn't pass it up. It's more or less a hybrid of a keyboard and remote.



First off the range works for me. Second it features scrolling right underneath the mouse and the third and final winner is you can click the mouse to enter and or left click (you never have to move your finger). And the clicking takes enough effort it doesn't do it without you trying... unlike certain touchpads I won't mention. It feels reasonably well built (especially for $20), the mouse tracks better than anything I have tried and the keyboard well let's just say it does have a backlight if you want to use it. Now don't get me wrong for WMC and XBMC the remote is perfect although using this works but it isn't nearly as slick. I grab this guy when I need to run around Windows (or enter text). I hardly ever enter text so losing the more traditional keyboard is well worth it.

Recycle

Want to play around with WMC to see if it will work for you? WMC itself requires very little horsepower and as long as you have HDMI via your PC you should be all set. If not, you can always add a graphics card such as the one linked below. Apparently, the NVIDIA GeForce GT430 is the (low-end) card of choice. It's sold by a variety of companies with different amounts of memory. For WMC the best deal you can find should work. You'll get HDMI audio and video and even better should you decide to play HD audio (DTS-HD MA and TrueHD) it will bitstream that as well.

http://www.amazon.com/PNY-GeForce-PCI-Express-Graphics-VCGGT4301XPB/dp/B00466IP5Q/ref=pd_cp_e_2 - found this guy at Fry's for $40 with $20 rebate.

Of course you'll need an OTA tuner or two and to really get a feel of the DVR experience you'll need a remote. You can take one old (useless?) PC and add...

$40 - HDMI video card (linked to in this post)
$55 - One or more OTA tuners (linked to in this post)
$16 - Remote (linked to in this post)

A little over hundred bucks and you should be up and running. Of course you might have to hunt around or wait a while for sells to find as good or better pricing. Taking for granted you have a Windows 7 Home Premium or other license for the PC. If you give it a try be sure to use the remote as if you don't you really aren't.

Harmony Support

I picked up a Harmony remote (it supportes the same IR sensor) so I could control my TV and AVR with one remote. The remote linked above needs to be added as a ORTek VRC-1100 not a Media Center PC remote. I added a few buttons and redefined a few others and ended up with every key being mapped without any problem. Since 99.99% of the time I spend in WMC or XBMC I wanted to be able to go back and forth with the remote as well. Searching around I found this...
It adds XBMC to the Extras menu and it closes WMC when loading XBMC and reloads it when you exit. All and all rather cool and pretty much means the lenovo will be collecting even more dust.

WMC

To playback MKV files within WMC including HD audio (bitstream) you'll have to add MKV support. It's very easy and works terrific. So much so I now use it instead of my dedicated streamer. It took roughly an hour to install. All of the software was free and pretty much worked first pass. Here's the references I used...

Note: To playback TrueHD (or PCM) you need to run 64bit Settings Application (as admin) and change MKV - Playback from Use Haali... to Use LAV's splitter. I could still stream DTS-HD MA so I didn't switch it back for the other bitstream codecs. To go beyond PCM 2.0 channel playback you need to go to Control Panel - Sound - Configure and set the actual number of speakers you will be using. Once done you need to set this back to Stereo or bitstream won't work. Without making these changes WMC will act like the files are not found, defective or whatnot. (TrueHD or PCM you either get no sound or 2.0).

If you add/run Hulu (Desktop) and XBMC via Extras you might find that when you return to WMC the interface appears frozen. To regain control simply press the Info button on your remote.

Commercial Skipping

When I first looked into commercial skipping I thought the process had to convert recordings into WMC's old file format, process, and then convert to the new format. Well that ain't so! I also (wrongly) guessed the process rewrote/altered the recording which is incorrect too. About the only fact I had right is it isn't free... one of the three apps will cost you $30. However, you get to play with it for free 30-days to decide for it's for you. Finding out the process was much cleaner than I had previously thought I was willing to give it a try. I used this engadget article for installation with success.

http://www.engadget.com/2009/10/22/h...-media-center/

I had zero issues during installation and within a few minutes I had it processing my previous recordings and set to process while recording as well as afterwards. You configure how many Workers you want to run concurrently and I selected two. So if I'm recording more than two shows at a time the other shows will be processed when a Worker becomes free. I'll play around with this setting as I'm guessing it's CPU and hard drive dependent. So far two doesn't seem to have any effect on WMC's performance. You can turn commercial skipping on or off while viewing with user-defined keys.

If you are wondering about the actual process it's rather slick. The three apps basically perform the following...

Interface to WMC via Extras - big bother controlling playback (skipping over commercials)
Finding commercials
Document commercial locations (stored inside a data file)

The result is the actual recording isn't molested (no image quality hit) and can easily be enabled or disabled. So there isn't any reason not to give it a try. I plan on using my 30-days to see if I have any issues and I'm guessing by that time I'll be more than willing to spend the $30 to keep skipping...

After using this for a few days I'm guessing it works 90% or more of the time. I have only seen two occasions where I would have lost content if I didn't turn it off and skip back. The end of show preview for next week's Survivor and the closing segment on The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson. I'll have to check to see if it was a one time skip or not. The only other issue been has not bypassing commercials before the show begins. I start recordings one minute early and on a rare occasion it won't skip the end of the previous show (one would expect such) but also won't skip the commercials between the two shows.

Skipping forward and back

If you don't want to mess with commercial skipping you can adjust of the length of time skip forward and back uses. I increased the skip back time as typically I had to hit it two or three times (after skipping forward) or I would miss a few seconds. This link provides the details along with a few other hints.

Media PC

One of the (big) advantages of a HTPC is the ability to stream video content banned from Google TV and not available on streamers such as Hulu. Hulu offers a desktop app that's designed for a remote and your TV. I have seen where the desktop app won't reflect the same number of videos as the browser version (on rare occasions). One time my queue listed three items and logging in via my browser listed six (all six were available to be played). I guess that's' why it's still in Beta! It's free and you can download it here...
The following link will allow you to add Hulu Desktop to your WMC Extras. This allows you to go back and forth between the two with your remote and it's from the same guys who brought you the XBMC Extra.

XBMC

Another advantage of a HTPC is (of course) the ability to run other applications. One of the most popular is certainly XBMC. It's a (free) open source software media player and entertainment hub. It's extremely powerful and customizable. I couldn't resist giving it a try by installing the latest release. It now supports HD audio however I didn't have a lot of luck playing back MKV files with HD audio (I resolved this later by changing the rendering options). I would get a lot of video stuttering although the audio was perfect. Haven't played around enough to see if my PC isn't powerful enough or there is another issue. I do know WMC plays the same MKV files with HD audio perfectly so one way or another it's possible on my PC. Well worth giving a tryout!




http://xbmc.org/

XBMC - Add-ons

Free Cable

If you have cut the cord one very good reason to install XBMC is Free Cable. It's an XBMC Add-on that indexes free content available at various network sites. As such it's safe to use and you don't have to worry about what you are streaming... which is why I have avoided similar apps in the past.

It searches roughly 20 networks and its interface is slick and easy to navigate. Most of the shows are in SD however HD can be found at times. It probably won't be your main source of viewing but it comes in handy when the wife finds out she can catch a show on HGTV or Lifetime or you want to catch The Daily Show with Jon Stewart.

Four Tuners

I know it sounds silly. I have seven OTA channels listed in my guide and going from two to four tuners feels like a weight has been lifted off my shoulders. Last year even with TiVo's conflict resolution (such as recording a repeat if the series is set to new only and it was skipped) I ended up (or should I say my wife) missing the last couple episodes of Downton Abbey. I gave up several 2 Broke Girls episodes and missed a lot of The Voice. For some reason Monday was a hot bed and other nights nothing... Now that I have four tuners I feel absolutely rich... the freedom to record whatever I want never worrying if there will be a conflict. No, I won't be watching more TV rather I'll be enjoying the TV I do watch more.

Don't Do It!

I know I was concerned about using a PC let alone WMC as a DVR as for over a decade TiVo has served me very well. I can only remember a few recordings it didn't capture and other issues have been far between. Such as when it would reboot while viewing Netflix, lock up with the (semi) HD interface. Once I had to swap hard drives as it would reboot at times. And many, many years ago I have to send one in for service... back in the day when Sony was manufacturing them.

However almost all of those issues were issues that TiVo themselves had to resolve. Worse case you suffered through it until they released a fixed version of the software. Well with the PC/WMC that's not the case. When an issue pops up it's up to you... solve it or don't watch TV! :) As such I think it's only fair to document them so one can judge how they influence your experience. In my case since I'm still new I have been playing around a lot especially outside of WMC so I'm bound to shoot myself in the foot more often. Below I'll list my WTF moments...
  • No video - I woke up the PC and everything was fine. Went into WMC to watch TV and the lovely message pops up... Video drivers not installed or not working... well since everything else displays fine that makes no sense what so ever. Long story short I have found that if you have audio issues WMC will give you such a message and it has nothing to do with your video drivers (indirectly I guess it does since in my case it's HDMI audio which is embedded into the video). In this case somehow my Denon receiver got added as a sound card twice. I'll take blame for it by playing around but it could have just happened. Can't say for sure. At that point your wife is complaining until it's resolved and you can't even watch a movie via XBMC. :) The simple fix was to remove them under Device Manager, reboot and it was automatically added (once) and started working.
  • No video/audio - On rare occasions when the PC sleeps while I'm viewing TV (paused) there will be no video and or audio when it wakes up. Closing and reloading WMC typically cures the issue and I think it's unique to the PC and or the power settings. As an example the first PC I used never went to sleep in full screen but would if I had WMC in a window. This one will go to sleep in full screen mode. If you have related issues it's best to play around with your power settings.
  • Flickering Image - This is well known and curable. The video will flicker (get lighter and darker) and it's the result of Intel's HD video drivers (i3, i5, etc chips) and rare recordings that have a encoded refresh error. I ran into this with a couple of shows on CBS (2 Broke Girls was one of them) and was going nuts. I couldn't figure out why CBS was having an issue when NBC and other networks using the same resolution did not. I played the episode back on my other WMC installation and it was perfect so I gave HDHomeRun a pass (original theory). After a little googling I found if you disable Adaptive Contrast Enhancement within the video drivers it's gone. While you are in there take the time to calibrate your display and disable a few other image enhancements (such as skin tone) and your image will thank you.

Miscellaneous

  • If you are worrying about the PC being a power hog don't. It will go to sleep when idle and wake itself up for recordings. My PC uses roughly 2 watts asleep and around 30 - 60 watts when awake. It will wake up from hibernation and record however if it's hibernating I can't wake it up with my remote. So I use hybrid sleep (more or less desktop's version of hibernate).
  • If touchpad tapping is driving you nuts like it did me the easiest fix I have found (I'm sure there are hacks and various drivers I could have installed) is to simply set the mouse's Double-click speed to the fastest setting. At this setting it doesn't get activated by mistake and I can still use it when I desire.
  • With WMC recording fours shows at once my network load is roughly 6% (the 4 tuners and PC are on separate Gigabit switches).
  • You can view recordings via WMC (still in process on a remote WMC) although you can only view up until the point it was recorded when you begin. Let's say it's a 2 hour recording and you begin viewing after an hour was recorded. You can only view the first hour. You can then restart the recording and view the remaining hour.
  • If you find your PC waking up for seemingly no reason take a look in the Task Scheduler. I disabled various tasks or made sure they couldn't wake up the PC and I haven't spotted it waking itself up in several days outside of for recordings. If you are using hibernate instead of hybrid sleep be sure your network card's Power Management Only allow a Magic Packet to wake the computer is selected. This will prevent unrelated traffic from waking the PC.
  • Disk drive utility - Once I spent the time configuring my installation I wasn't about to start over to use a larger drive, move to a SSD (Solid State Drive) or make any drive related reconfiguration. With Series recordings set up, Windows tweaked so it sleeps nicely, HD Audio configured, etc there is simply too much time invested. At the same time I wanted the ability to reconfigure the system as well as the ability to create a backup. Looking around I found Partition Wizard. The Home Edition is free and if it's disk drive related more than likely it will handle the job. It runs in Windows and if need be will boot the PC and run the task self-contained so you can even reconfigure your boot (active Windows) drive. I used it to copy (backup) my drive, resize various partitions and create partitions just for starters. When copying a drive you can even copy it to a drive of a smaller size. As an example I copied a 1TB drive to a 240GB SSD. Of course there can't be more than 240GB of files on the 1TB drive. Certainly not a utility needed for WMC however if you are jumping in with both feet it might come in very handy.
  • Remote Desktop - Windows Home Premium (typical version installed on PCs) does not include the ability to log in remotely. Well you can enable this feature without upgrading to Pro or Ultimate by running the linked script. You can also enable multiple logins...
  • Bypass scaling - to ensure WMC isn't applying overscan to the image set your display to Television - Tasks - settings - TV - Configure Your TV or Monitor
  • If you wish to change the filename WMC uses you can customize it to include several variables. See this link for details:

Windows 8 and WMC

Since I have been bored with my WMC installation as it's rock solid. Outside of bouncing to and from Hulu and XBMC where it will lose audio (only when reloading WMC - not during one of the programs) once in a while. I decided to give Windows 8 a try along with its version of WMC. Not much to say about WMC as it's virtually identical. Outside of a couple of features being dropped such as having it auto start when Windows boots. Of course there are other ways to have it auto start. I downloaded the Windows 8 Preview and installed it on a mac mini. It doesn't include WMC but Microsoft has published a free key so you can add it after installation.

I sped through the installation and only had to stop for a minute to update the Homegroup on my working WMC PC. This allows the PC to share all of its WMC data (including TV recordings) with the new WMC PC (via Media Library). Within a couple of minutes I was watching The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson. Having read WMC is identical in Windows 8 (plus last I heard it's not included (free) with any version) I wasn't let down. Still it's rather disappointing Microsoft hasn't spent any time advancing WMC. I guess they could have dropped it entirely so things could be worse.

At this point Windows Pro 8 would run me $20 (upgrade from recent PC purchase) and I'm guessing $20 - $40 for WMC? Cost wise not enough to move the Earth in any direction. If you are using your PC for WMC (only?) I see zero reason to upgrade to Windows 8... you'll end up right back where you started... that is minus a few options.

Related notes
  • Commercial Skipping apps aren't supported
  • There is a different version of HD audio drivers
  • Numerous apps/drivers/etc used with third-party apps (such as XBMC) aren't supported
With a 100% plain Jane WMC installation upgrading should be painless. The moment you throw in any amount of customization look out and if you depend on WMC for your daily TV fix I would recommend configuring a replacement PC and swapping them once you have everything under control. As noted above with nothing to gain I would resist the upgrade urge as long as possible.

Media Center Extender

Fry's had the Xbox 360 (with Kinect) refurb on sell for $199 so I decided to give it a shot. Luckily, the Xbox 360 and all of the accessories were/looked brand new although the warranty is only 90 days. I have played around with the Xbox 360 before and it only took a few seconds to connect it to my Denon receiver and unhide the receiver's Game input. The moment I turned it on the WMC PC popped up a message requesting I enter the extender's 8-digit code of which the Xbox 360 was displaying. After a couple of minutes I was viewing a recording from my PC and watching Live TV.

Working my way through the Xbox 360's preferences I set it to go directly to Media Center when booted. Media Center looks identical to the PC's version and I had no problem guessing which buttons to use on the controller. I had already added the Xbox 360 to my Harmony and it worked great. Virtually identical to the PC with the same functions and display (such as which shows will be recorded in the guide) although the IR commands are different so you need to set up each as a device in your Harmony. Now everything isn't identical as I can't use my XBMC and HULU Extras nor HD audio with my MKV files. However MKV files will play (after installing the Optional Media Update from Live) with non HD Audio (DTS HD-MA, TrueHD). Image wise I haven't noticed any difference but it's still (extremely) early.

The Xbox 360 extender will wake the PC which is a good thing. Even though it takes a couple of minutes it will even wake the PC from hibernation. If I end up placing the PC in my dedicated room (closet) this will be real handy as I can let the PC hibernate in there until it's time for a recording or viewing via the Xbox 360 (in the den). Not sure why but it seems rather cool waking the PC (at the other end of the house) and afterwards it going back to hibernating all by itself.

Of course Kinect is useless with Media Center so all you really need is the Xbox 360 which typically can be had for $180. Which if you are only going to use it as an extender is about as high as I would go. I'm guessing for $300 (or less if you retrofit an old PC as covered above) you can get the real thing (a PC). Of course it's a PC and brings some potential headaches. However I have been issue free for basically a couple of months. In a lot of ways the Xbox 360 versus PC comes down to much like TiVo or PC... if you only want the DVR features or any of the Xbox 360 games/apps the Xbox 360 is the way to go. If you want to do anything PC related (as well) adding another PC works.

Three Month Update

Since it has been three months since I switched from TiVo to WMC I figured it was time to post an update. A few points that largely recaps the experience...
  • Haven't missed one recording.
  • With the start of the new Fall season I have been really using four tuners (at once).
  • Virtually zero issues with Windows.
  • Only updates have been Microsoft's monthly security update. Painlessly installed within a few minutes.
  • With the Harmony remote it's a DVR not a PC.
Am I glad I switched? You bet. Having four tuners alone makes the switch worthwhile. Is there anything I miss about TiVo? Not really. My only complaint is one I had initially. I wish there was (better) support for clients. For a stand alone installation it's hard to beat. Even with a few more TV sets I'll stick with it until hopefully XBMC brings one of its supported DVR backends mainstream (to the degree it can).

Six Month Update

After six months I'm more sold on WMC than ever. Still haven't missed a recording and have had zero issues outside of one night of recordings with a little pixel breakup. Not sure if it was the HDHomeRun's beta software, network traffic or a PC issue but it hasn't occurred since.

I have upgraded to Windows 8 (to take advantage of the upgrade pricing before it expired) and added a Xbox 360 as an extender. Both have painlessly fit in. Even as I tend to fiddle with the installation quite a bit such as installing beta drivers, various video cards, etc the system has remained an appliance... it simply works. With Windows 8 pricing it doesn't offer the same bang for your buck however it still offers features the other solutions don't. Not so much WMC rather the PC environment which enables other applications such as XBMC. In the cases where it's the best solution to a large degree it has increased its advantages.

The latest release of XBMC which supports DVRing has failed to impress and TiVo's Mini (solution) isn't even available to OTA only users so I don't see me leaving WMC anytime soon.

Nine Month Update

WMC has been flawless and I still haven't missed a recording. Having four tuners now is a requirement as on a regular basis (several nights) I'm recording three and four shows at once. I even hit five the other day however WMC was smart enough to pickup the fifth (on PBS) when it repeated. I didn't know WMC was that smart! I know TiVo does such and always thought it was one of its advantages.

A while back I cloned my disk (increasing its size) and the drive proved to be rather noisy. So I ended up switching back to the original drive and this time instead of cloning I did a fresh install of Windows 8 and started from scratch. However since I only have an upgrade Windows 8 Pro license I had to install Windows 7 (via Dell's USB stick) and then run the upgrade process.

It wasn't fun and took a couple of hours but it was painless. The longest (manual) process was changing the priority of my 40 or so scheduled series. Once everything was in place I copied my recordings back and even being a watch and delete person I had quite a few hours waiting on me.

I re-installed Windows for the simply reason I have stopped using various software programs and utilities (all non WMC related) and decided I would clean up the box while I was switching drives. It was working perfectly and it was strictly a tweaking desire or anal retention moment. At this point I am more or less freezing the box as is... XBMC and WMC and treating it like an appliance. No more tweaking around so I thought it was a good time to remove any remnants of other software.

After nine months I appreciate WMC more than ever and it meets my needs to a tee. Only thing of interest on the horizon is Project:Connect of which I don't see a viable DVR aspect anytime soon.

One Year Anniversary

Time sure flies. As it stands today I have two WMC HTPCs. One is in my dedicated room (theater per se) and the other my desktop (work PC) in the den which is connected to the TV as a second monitor. Now in a week who knows what my configuration will be... perhaps three WMC HTPCs or back to using an Xbox. However one thing I do know is WMC isn't going anywhere. Both computers are running Windows 8.1 Pro Preview of which I like better than Windows 8 Pro. Just enough of a difference to be an improvement but not enough to throw the world adrift.

After a year it's more what hasn't changed than what has changed. XBMC's backend/Live TV offering isn't worth considering unless you want to cut your nose off to spite your face. After using it for several weeks it's doable although the user interface is so lacking it turns your HTPC into a computer certainly not a DVR. SilconDust hasn't even shipped their new tuners related to Project Connect not to mention no hint of a DVR service.

So WMC wins by default (as before). Not that it couldn't hold its own in a lot of cases. I wouldn't switch back to TiVo if it was free. That is unless TiVo drastically altered their hardware offerings... at least four OTA tuners and OTA Mini support. At that point I'd look to see what it costs...

Over the year I can remember two instances where my recordings were an issue. Ok maybe three... the time I deleted all of the series' schedules when I thought I selected delete all recording history. One was when lightning stuck close by and there was a power surge on my network. I lost a few network cards (in PCs) and one of my tuners struggled to find the network. After x minutes it would connect and work 100%. The other when I was playing with iSCSI and having WMC record directly to my NAS. Messing around I removed access to the R drive (used for recordings).

In each case I can't blame WMC nor really its environment. Using iSCSI is some what living on the edge even though it seems to have been worked out and perfectly stable at this point. Bottom line 99% of users aren't going to expose themselves in this way. This leaves WMC reliable as TiVo was for over the decade I use it. It had a few reboots out of the blue, bad disc, and even a repair trip among its adventures.

Since WMC is frozen (at best) I certainly won't go into all of the things I wish it could do... rather I'll simply say in most cases it does what it needs to do and does it very nicely to boot. So much so I look forward to another great year...

Two Year Anniversary

Time appears to be flying even faster and now it's been two years. Short story is I'm still using WMC and I'm as happy as ever. The silly thing simply works. The one actual issue I ran into over the last year turned out to be the station's and TiVo didn't handle it any better (I purchased a new Roamio thinking I would switch and it was returned).

Over the last year I have used various WMC configurations involving different computers, locations and extenders. However I'm back to more or less my original configuration as it simply works and requires the least investment. I try not to invest (spend money on) items that only relate to WMC. Up to now I have purchased 4 tuners and one Xbox E for a whopping $220 investment. This is because as much as I like (love?) WMC I'm not married to it and if something comes along better I'll punt. Or how about if the guide stops being updated...

Currently I use my Den's desktop for WMC and it's connected to my TV as a second monitor. There are a couple of drawbacks but not enough that I can justify using a dedicated computer for WMC. One being to use my harmony remote WMC has to be the active window. So fast-forwarding through commercials and such can be a pain if/when I'm using the desktop as a desktop. The other is a few times a year I might want to reboot my PC while recordings are underway.

Recordings have been working like a champ. The only issue I had was iSCSI related (recording directly to my NAS) and I believe I have that resolved. It appears Microsoft's Defender was to blame and after changing to Norton I haven't seen it at all. Details are posted earlier in the thread. WMC has been rock solid on my desktop.

Off and on I have used ServerWMC and the WMC add-on for XBMC and have been very impressed. To the point the low-end NUC or ASUS Chromebox (both a little over $150) are the best extender solution in my eyes. Heck you can even use a Fire TV ($99) with XBMC/WMC... now that's a low-end powerful extender.

In my case I'm using a custom built HTPC as my extender (in my dedicated room) simply because I wanted to build a PC and movie playback is what counts in there... since I installed Windows 7 it has WMC covered. The Xbox is in the exercise room collecting dust. At some point the PC I just built might become my desktop which just might free up the current desktop and let it morph into a stand alone connected to the TV. With perhaps a Chromebox in the dedicated room (or the new Celeron NUC) running OpenELEC/XBMC.

Back to the Roamio for a minute. Now that TiVo offers client/server I think they are pretty hard to beat for your typical installation (mine not being one of them). I have yet to see any of the other solutions offer enough to make any savings remotely worthwhile. I would rate the new Tablo as getting close.

Cord cutting wise I find roughly two months a year where OTA only isn't enough per se. I have roughly 40 series scheduled and most of the year a backlog of recordings. Typically, I subscribe to Netflix or give Roku a try during those periods and by the time I have run through what interests me OTA has once again backed up and I'm good to go.

All and all I would have to give WMC an A+ over the last two years. Any issues have come from my "advanced" playing and it's certainly not fair to blame WMC. At this time I can't dream of a reason not to keep going...

Last edited by Charles R; 07-02-2014 at 02:36 PM.
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post #2 of 925 Old 07-31-2012, 05:29 AM
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I bought a Ceton tuner card for my latest PC (it was built in March) and I use it occasionally to record shows. However, having been a TiVo owner for many years the one thing I noticed that I would miss is the ability to put shows into folders. I have one folder with almost 100 programs, and it would be a major pain to use that with WMC.

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WMC does not have advanced wishlists with boolean search phrases, but you may not care about that. I do, it allows me to set and forget a variety of sports recordings based on keywords and phrases to include/exclude.
To me Tivo is a superior DVR if that's all you care about, but WMC has much more in the way of add-ons (such as comskip) and of course it can do all the other stuff a PC can do. Plus it's cheaper to run on multiple sets since you can use Xboxes as extenders (or get one of the discontinued Linksys et al boxes on fleabay) and you might only need one Cablecard if you go with cable.

I run both Tivos and WMC in my house, and mostly care about the DVR features so stick with Tivo for almost everything. WMC is only used for overflow recording and live TV on secondary sets.
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post #4 of 925 Old 07-31-2012, 06:45 AM - Thread Starter
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Folders

 

I read about WMC's lack of in the comparison. (later I found out if you sort recordings by title they are placed in folders).  It would be nice to have although I'm a record/watch/delete kind of guy. If I want to keep anything around I'd transfer it to my NAS anyway. Speaking of my NAS I like how WMC can record directly to it. This way I don't have to worry about disk space on the PC or TiVo wise cover the cost of upgrading the drive. I do prefer how WMC displays its recordings. In general its interface looks/feels slicker. 

 

Searching / Wish lists

 

Luckily, I never do such and have never used TiVo's suggestions in over a decade.

 

HDHomeRun

 

Comparing them myself I think one of the biggest advantages WMC has is the fact it supports network OTA tuners. It will support up to four digital OTA tuners versus TiVo's two. Which can come in handy especially if you end up using extenders with WMC. Also, having the ability to view TV via any of your PCs and Macs is an added bonus. I spend a tremendous amount of time in front of my monitor and having the ability to casually view TV (in the background) works. 

 

Local streaming

 

I have used TiVo for DVD playback with great success via MKV with native video and audio. Wasn't fun transferring the files to TiVo but it was virtually painless. Now with WMC it's a whole new ball game. It took me roughly an hour to install support for MKV and HD Audio (via bitstream). All of the software was free and pretty much worked first pass. Here's the references I used...

 

http://www.pavtube.com/guide/get-windows-media-center-play-mkv-bluray-ripping.html

http://shark007.net/troubleshooting.html

 

The only issue I ran into was the article stated: To use SPDIF/HDMI output - Go into Control Panel\Sound and make sure S/PDIF is your default output mode. I tried this and lost all audio so I switched back to HDMI (Denon receiver) and it worked... including bitstreaming DTS-HD MA anf TrueHD.

 

Power Usage

 

One concern I had switching to a PC versus TiVo was power usage. Not so much the added cost rather the wastefulness. Well it turns out Windows 7 will sleep and wake itself up for recordings and then go back to sleep. While sleeping my PC only uses 2 watts. It does use more (35-70 watts) while viewing. So I'm guessing overall the PC as a DVR will be more green than TiVo.

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post #5 of 925 Old 08-04-2012, 12:31 PM - Thread Starter
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One Week Later

 

After using WMC for a week I have decided to switch (for good?). If I was looking for a single TV and 100% DVR usage I'd stay with TiVo. However, even with my modest desires WMC and or its related hardware offers too many advantages. Why would I stay with TiVo? The best example is the peanut remote versus the WMC remote. It just works and for what it does it does it wonderfully. At the same time there aren't tons of other features available for you to take advantage of which is a negative. But at the same time the experience (limited as it is) remains virtually flawless. To a small extent think Apple versus Microsoft.

 

For me WMC advantages (along with the environment it brings) I couldn't pass on...

 

  • The ability to stream/view HD audio/video including TrueHD and DTS-HD MA. The PC/WMC replaces my dedicated media player.
  • PC comes to the TV. Instead of the streaming Hulu on my PC I can view it via the 10 foot interface Hulu app on my TV. This is just one example of having a PC connected to your TV.
  • Viewing TV on my PCs and Macs via the HDHomeRun tuners. Not to mention WMC supports more tuners than TiVo.
  • Ability to use Xbox 360 as extenders. I'll probably end up with the PC in my dedicated (projector) room and an Xbox in the den for TV viewing.
  • DVR interface - It's all HD and considerably nicer looking and offers more features.

 

Now WMC isn't perfect. In my installation I have noticed when I stop pausing a recording (while it is recording other shows) it takes a second to sync up the image. It might be my lack of horsepower (both CPU and video) as I'm using an i3 and whatever video capabilities you get with a $255 PC (not much). Luckily, it doesn't do it with skip forward or reverse or I would have punted.

 

With my previous attempts to use WMC I always tried to use a (multimedia) wireless keyboard and its drawbacks were too many (since viewing TV is job one) to offset the numerous advantages it offers. Using a dedicated remote (perhaps Harmony down the road) levels the playing field enough (however it still came up short) that I can't resist switching. I think I'm gaining much more than I'm leaving behind.

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post #6 of 925 Old 08-04-2012, 01:57 PM
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For me WMC advantages (along with the environment it brings) I couldn't pass on...
  • Ability to use Xbox 360 as extenders. I'll probably end up with the PC in my dedicated (projector) room and an Xbox in the den for TV viewing.
This is the part that seems incongruous to me -- having to buy a game console to use as an extender. It would have been much better if WMC had caught on enough for actual extenders to have been profitable enough to stay in the market. I'm not familiar with XBox but I see there are many models with a large range of prices -- some are quite expensive to be bought solely as a WMC extender. If one had no interest in gaming and just wanted the cheapest Xbox to use as an extender, what model Xbox would you have to buy and how much does it cost.

I've always anticipated that if TiVo went down I would have to transition to a HTPC, hence my reason for setting up a media-PC to do HDTV recording and other media service tasks except for playback.

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post #7 of 925 Old 08-04-2012, 04:18 PM - Thread Starter
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This is the part that seems incongruous to me -- having to buy a game console to use as an extender.

 

I agree with you. You would think some of the streamer guys would support it. Much like I don't understand why they haven't added support for HDHomeRun. Simple.tv is trying to provide such a service with Roku (and other supported devices). Regarding Xbox I believe the older models are supported however they are jet engine loud from my understanding. Also, TiVo is introducing an extender although I haven't read all of the details. It should be out this fall.

 

The lack of WMC acceptance played a big part in me dismissing it. Finally, I accepted it like any other solution if it does what I want at this point in time... so be it. The latest 4GB (diskless) models are best priced around $180 and very quiet. Again, I'm not that familiar with them but from what I understand TV viewing works great and the other WMC features not so much. If TiVo's extenders end up being killer (such as no monthly fee and reasonably priced) I'll probably revisit my decision. The only hardware I can't repurpose would be the HDHomeRun tuner and at $55 it's worth it just for viewing on my Macs/PCs.

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post #8 of 925 Old 08-04-2012, 07:20 PM
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The lack of WMC acceptance played a big part in me dismissing it.
My understanding is that WMC will not be a standard feature of Win 8. It really did not catch on in Win 7 even when they were giving it away, so they are going back to the old model of making it an add-on option for Windows. If it is an extra cost option, that will make it even less attractive and it may eventually disappear.

There are a number of open source and commercial PC DVR packages. I'm using NextPVR on my Win XP based media-PC. As a DVR it is a far cry from a TiVo but I only use it for recording shows I want to collect as a series over the season for watching as a block over the summer and for that it does the job very well -- name based recording with the ability to filter out repeats; the Schedules Direct guide service is only $25/yr. I suppose I should give WMC a whirl on my main Win-7 PC, but I don't have the desire to even launch it. The software that comes with the HD Homerun is perfectly fine for watching a live TV window on any of my PC's.

Oh, you made the comment about being able to record directly to your NAS with the HTPC. There is a line of Netgear ReadyNAS units that have TiVo servers built in. In my case I have TiVo Desktop server running on my media-PC which can automatically pull a capture off the TiVo and put it on one of my NAS units as soon as it is done recording. From there I can stream it anywhere in the house. WD Live players are selling for only $80.

For me, I don't see it as an either/or situation -- I find that I have a lot of value for having both TiVo and media-PC. The TiVo is our networked DVR and the media-PC runs 24x7 doing everything else. At this point, I won't give up either, I want them both. At the present, we only have one main viewing room that I feel needs a DVR so only one TiVo. By the end of this year we will be getting a second large plasma for a new second viewing area -- as long as they are in business, I won't think twice about getting another TiVo for the DVR. I may also feel compelled to upgrade the 10 yr old hardware that is currently my media-PC.

Good luck with your setup, but don't throw away your TiVo. After the initial glow of WMC wears off, turn your thoughts to consider the possibilities if you integrated the two.

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post #9 of 925 Old 08-04-2012, 08:35 PM - Thread Starter
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Quote:
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My understanding is that WMC will not be a standard feature of Win 8. 

There is a line of Netgear ReadyNAS units that have TiVo servers built in. In my case I have TiVo Desktop server running on my media-PC which can automatically pull a capture off the TiVo and put it on one of my NAS units as soon as it is done recording. From there I can stream it anywhere in the house. WD Live players are selling for only $80.

For me, I don't see it as an either/or situation -- I find that I have a lot of value for having both TiVo and media-PC.

Good luck with your setup, but don't throw away your TiVo. After the initial glow of WMC wears off, turn your thoughts to consider the possibilities if you integrated the two.

 

I think WMC will only be included in the Pro version. Who knows perhaps selling it as an add-on might give it more exposure. Hopefully, it will be (greatly) improved or I'll see no reason to upgrade.

 

I have a ReadyNAS that will archive my TiVo recordings. It does leave it in TiVo's format. I also have a WD TV Live (exercise room). Converting and viewing on another device doesn't interest me. Most of my viewing is commercial delayed only. So as I'm viewing content it is still being recorded. Once viewed I typically have zero interest in seeing it again. This is why I haven't even looked at the utilities to cut out commercials. Lastly, I only watch TV in the den so I don't have any other locations. With the exception of my dedicated room. With my projector it's 99% HD movie streaming. If I want to expand TV into there I'd throw the WMC computer in its electronic closet and use an extender in the den.

 

Bandwidth wise I should be good as I have bounced around several 1080p streams over the network without issue. My TiVo's are already on eBay... the only thing I'm really giving up is the $10 a month OTA billing. I just can't see paying monthly (even the $10) and as I covered earlier the cost of Lifetime ($400) buys me WMC and its related advantages. WMC isn't glowing I'm just ready for a change. Today I caught the last few episodes of In Plain Sight via Hulu's 10 foot interface app. When I went OTA only a couple of years back I used to keep up on a few series via Hulu but eventually I got tired of watching them on my Mac. Having them available on the TV brings new life to them and surprisingly so the quality isn't as bad as I thought.

 

Since 2000 I have left TiVo several times. Even for a few years at a time but have always made my way back... so I'm sure they aren't worried. :)

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post #10 of 925 Old 08-04-2012, 09:08 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Kelson View Post

This is the part that seems incongruous to me -- having to buy a game console to use as an extender. It would have been much better if WMC had caught on enough for actual extenders to have been profitable enough to stay in the market. I'm not familiar with XBox but I see there are many models with a large range of prices -- some are quite expensive to be bought solely as a WMC extender. If one had no interest in gaming and just wanted the cheapest Xbox to use as an extender, what model Xbox would you have to buy and how much does it cost.
I've always anticipated that if TiVo went down I would have to transition to a HTPC, hence my reason for setting up a media-PC to do HDTV recording and other media service tasks except for playback.

AH, but you can cruise through craigslist ads and find plenty of used Xbox 360's for $100 or less. Doesn't even matter if the disc drive is wonky, as long as it streams video, you're good to go. I've picked up two in the last few weeks this way. One for $90 and the other one with a sticky disc drive for $60. They both work fine as extenders. Once I buy a dual tuner HD Homerun unit and a 2TB hdd, my upgraded ota media server set-up will be complete! My wife and I are seriously considering going to ota and streaming services for our entertainment after my last son graduates from high school next year. The one thing I like WMC better than a Tivo is the fact it is a whole lot cheaper to go with a multi room option.
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post #11 of 925 Old 08-05-2012, 02:16 PM
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We've been using WMC7 since shortly after its release, initially with an AverMedia Duet and pair of ATi DCTs, then a Ceton PCIe, and now OTA with two Duets. For extenders, we currently have two XBox 360s, one Linksys DMA2200, and are looking forward to replacing some of them with a Ceton Echo. Commercial support has definitely improved in the last year or so.

The only thing I can add to this is to definitely check out My Channel Logos. It costs a couple bucks, but makes the Guide a lot more enjoyable to use.

http://www.mychannellogos.com/

Edit: I can't speak in regards to current TiVo products, I haven't owned one since the Series 2 (649) went out of style. But, given the unholy force it took to unsubscribe from their service, I definitely won't be giving them another penny.

Edit 2: We have Logitech Harmony remotes of various models on all of our TVs (pretty much required for Wife Acceptance Factor). Nothing has a mouse or keyboard plugged into it.
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post #12 of 925 Old 08-05-2012, 06:03 PM
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You guys are making me feel like I should crank up WMC and see for myself.
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post #13 of 925 Old 08-05-2012, 06:36 PM - Thread Starter
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You guys are making me feel like I should crank up WMC and see for myself.

 

I think the secret (at least for me) is the remote. In the past I played around with it via a keyboard and quickly got tired of the user interface. This guy is only $16 and includes an IR receiver if you want to use a Harmony or other remote.

 

http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00224ZDFY/ref=oh_details_o00_s00_i00

 

Today, I played a HD movie (MKV format) complete with DTS-HD MA and it worked wonderfully. Even the skip forward and reverse buttons were supported and implemented better than the dedicated streamer I was using.

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post #14 of 925 Old 08-06-2012, 02:15 AM
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Now, with that remote, would I be able to easily use that cursor for general internet usage? I ask, because there's a ton of stuff I'd like to stream directly from there. I really don't want to have to use a keyboard for that, plus, with the DVR, I'll have the control all-in-one.

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You guys are making me feel like I should crank up WMC and see for myself.
It's definitely worth trying, just to see what you like/dislike vs. Tivo. You might find it to be a better solution for you just like Charles. Using extenders can be a big money saver vs. Tivo too.
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post #16 of 925 Old 08-06-2012, 06:52 AM - Thread Starter
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Now, with that remote, would I be able to easily use that cursor for general internet usage? I ask, because there's a ton of stuff I'd like to stream directly from there. I really don't want to have to use a keyboard for that, plus, with the DVR, I'll have the control all-in-one.

 

The cursor on the remote actually works rather nicely. I used Windows to speed it up and it tracks very smoothly. Of course you're missing a keyboard. Since I like the remote so much I ended up returning the keyboard I linked to previously and purchased this guy for $30. It's more a traditional keyboard that works great versus being oriented to WMC (didn't need that since the remote works so well) and it was some what flaky.

 

http://www.amazon.com/Logitech-Wireless-Keyboard-Multi-Touch-920-003070/dp/B005DKZTMG/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1344256741&sr=8-1&keywords=logitech+k400

 

If you want to stream via Hulu be sure to download their 10 foot app. It's designed to be used with a remote and works great on a TV.

 

http://www.hulu.com/labs/hulu-desktop

 

Regarding power usage my PC is sleeping fine when idle and wakes up roughly 6 minutes before a recording is scheduled. If I have something scheduled for 9 (currently I have WMC set to begin recordings a minute early if possible) it wakes up at 8:53... I don't know what it does during those extra six minutes... :) 

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post #17 of 925 Old 08-06-2012, 09:31 AM
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Charles, it might be good if you updated your post #1 to reflect your latest equipment recommendations?

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post #18 of 925 Old 08-06-2012, 10:10 AM - Thread Starter
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Charles, it might be good if you updated your post #1 to reflect your latest and greatest new info and suggestions?

 

I have thought of that however I don't want to leave out the ongoing discovery aspect as I think it has some value. Also, it doesn't come across as a billboard for WMC which can get dismissed at times. I know I have run across them in the past and without seeing the journey it's rather difficult seeing yourself getting there.

 

I think I'll add a few ongoing sections to the first post... perhaps Hardware, WMC, Media PC and Misc which can recap various ongoing posts. This way the gory details will still be posted with a quick overview being available. 

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post #19 of 925 Old 08-06-2012, 10:40 AM
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It's definitely worth trying, just to see what you like/dislike vs. Tivo. You might find it to be a better solution for you just like Charles. Using extenders can be a big money saver vs. Tivo too.
As I noted above, for me TiVo vs. media-PC is not an either/or dichotomy. I have value maintaining both TIVo and media-PC and have integrated their use in my network. As long as it is available, TiVo will always be our primary DVR solution -- family acceptance of it's simplicity and expectations of its 99% recording-reliability are much too high to needlessly tamper with. There are a number of open-source DVR products for the PC that compete with "free" WMC in the DVR arena. If you bring into view that WMC will be an extra cost item with Win-8 then that broadens the competitive field to include other commercial PC-DVR offerings in addition to open-source.

So for me the question is not WMC vs. TiVo but rather, does WMC offer me anything over competing open source DVR products that I'm using now. Right off the bat, WMC has a huge strike against it that poses a significant energy barrier to me even turning it on -- it is mired in DRM and records to a proprietary file format that media streamers do not understand. WMC is geared to cable-card tuners and honoring Pay-TV's copy restrictions. I am strictly OTA and don't have to deal with any such restrictions. The PC-DVR software I'm using currently, NextPVR, records the incoming stream as a .ts file to a NAS unit which just about any media player will play -- my media players are essentially my extenders.

So, every time a thread like this puts a burr under my saddle to give WMC a try, I eventually come back to the whole file format thing and ask, "why bother". It's not a piece of software I would ever use in my home systems for that reason alone. So I am pro-TiVo and I am pro-Media-PC, but because of the way my home entertainment network has established itself, I can never be pro-WMC. Best of luck to the rest of you.

- kelson h

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post #20 of 925 Old 08-06-2012, 11:05 AM - Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Kelson View Post

Right off the bat, WMC has a huge strike against it that poses a significant energy barrier to me even turning it on -- it is mired in DRM and records to a proprietary file format that media streamers do not understand. WMC is geared to cable-card tuners and honoring Pay-TV's copy restrictions.

 

Energy barrier? My WMC uses 2 watts most of the day (up to 7 if you include the network tuners actively streaming). DRM? Since when are TiVo recordings not a proprietary format? I won't even bother to address the pay-TV aspect as it's so far off topic and I rather this thread remain a what can WMC offer versus why I won't use it.

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post #21 of 925 Old 08-06-2012, 11:22 AM
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What is the purpose of a discussion thread like this if not to bring to light other points of view, concerns and ways of doing things. If you want this to simply be a vanity thread for your personal journey from TiVo to WMC, I can accept that and will contribute elsewhere. Good luck.

- kelson h

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post #22 of 925 Old 08-06-2012, 11:25 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Kelson View Post

So for me the question is not WMC vs. TiVo but rather, does WMC offer me anything over competing open source DVR products that I'm using now. Right off the bat, WMC has a huge strike against it that poses a significant energy barrier to me even turning it on -- it is mired in DRM and records to a proprietary file format that media streamers do not understand. WMC is geared to cable-card tuners and honoring Pay-TV's copy restrictions. I am strictly OTA and don't have to deal with any such restrictions. The PC-DVR software I'm using currently, NextPVR, records the incoming stream as a .ts file to a NAS unit which just about any media player will play -- my media players are essentially my extenders.
I'm not sure any of that is true.

DRM only applies to cable recordings which have been flagged as copy-once, which is usually only paid premium content (HBO, etc, unless you're on Time Warner). None of that applies to OTA recordings.

The DVR-MS (Vista and earlier) and WTV formats (Win7), despite being proprietary, are both well-understood and easily handled by most current playback/editing software. VLC can play them, and Handbrake has no problem encoding them, for instance.

I've been a Linux and all-around open source guy for 15 years now. The only Windows system I have in my house is my HTPC *because* WMC blows away any of the open source offerings in both simplicity (of use and configuration) and flexibility (what media it will consume and how/where I can consume it).
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post #23 of 925 Old 08-08-2012, 01:54 PM - Thread Starter
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Network Bandwidth

 

If you are using HDHomeRun tuners you can easily see how much bandwidth will be required. Their installation/configuration utility provides realtime usage. Here's an image for various stations... the first two are 1080i and the last two 720p. Of course they yo-yo to a degree so a little leeway would come in handy.

 

 

700

 

700

 

700

 

700

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post #24 of 925 Old 08-18-2012, 09:20 AM - Thread Starter
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Three Weeks Later

 

I'll more or less put a bow on my initial experience of switching from TiVo to WMC. Upfront, I can't recommend one over the other as one's individual requirements will lean one to being the better solution. For me (at this time) it turned out to be WMC (I have already sold one of my TiVos and other is up for sale). If one is looking for information about WMC/HTPCs I found there is a bunch in the HTPC forum here and I highly recommend reading a few of the stickies... I wish I had before I started.

 

DVR wise WMC has been stellar. Recording all of the Olympics along with a few series, individual recordings and whatnot it hasn't missed a beat. It wakes up from sleep (if need be) and goes back to sleep once recorded. I spend a lot of time in the room and even though the TiVo wasn't loud I really like the absolute silence of the PC being asleep. The remote isn't a peanut but all in all works wonderfully. Much better than I would have guessed. Definitely gives you a DVR experience.

 

I happened to run into another PC on clearance and ended up swapping. I was surprised how effortless it was to get everything configured as before. I did copy all of the downloads (such as HDMI HD audio drivers) to a separate disk. I have all of the programs, drivers, etc stored in a WMC directory so I don't have to hunt all over the Internet trying to remember what I need to download and where to find it. I also created a very short README file in the directory that lists a half dozen or so settings to be used during configuration. As an example the three changes I need to make to the default HD Audio settings. This will come in rather handy if I decide to swap PCs down the road. All told it took perhaps two hours to duplicate the installation.

 

The new PC is a i3 processor (which supports HD audio), 6GB RAM, 1TB drive and happens to be a tower. It's actually quieter running than the mini-tower it replaced and much quieter than TiVo. I ended up throwing in a 3TD drive which has my media files. I removed it from a ReadyNAS since its only purpose was to serve the media. So switching to WMC I dropped the NeoTV 550 (streamer) and NAS. WMC and XBMC play the HD MKV files (with HD audio) perfectly so I didn't need the streamer any longer.

 

I ended up spending...

 

  • $300 - PC as listed above
  • $55 - HDHomeRun - dual tuners
  • $16 - WMC remote with IR sensor
  • $20 - wireless keyboard

 

Roughly the $400 it would have cost me to purchase Lifetime on my second TiVo. I would have stopped using the first one at that point. Starting fresh Lifetime would cost $500 (plus the cost of TiVo). In my case I sold off the NeoTV 550 and ReadyNAS. Along with selling the two TiVos my out of pocket is actually negative. Without purchasing Lifetime I could have continued to pay $10 a month with TiVo... while no longer available to new subscribers it's still a bargain.

 

Passing Thoughts

 

I do get the urge to play around with the PC from time to time. Mostly because it's still new and I'm adding features and after a while I will think of it more as an appliance. Such as Windows 8 ships in October and the Pro upgrade is only $30 and includes WMC... hopefully the urge will pass real soon. More than once the wife has complained about the WMC window being hidden by another. :)

 

The other day I realized I didn't have easy access to the HDHomeRun as it's installed in my electronic closet. I placed it next all of other electronic gear and the cover is screwed into place. I guess it says good things about it since I haven't had to touch it in close to a month. Still debating if I want to install a second HDHomeRun for a total of four tuners. The additional tuners might come in handy as at times I'd like to record three shows at once or if I decide to use a few extenders around the house.

 

If you are looking for a media server XBMC is beyond cool. My PC is 95%+ dedicated to WMC/DVRing however if you have any interest in such it's extremely easy to justify switching. It's painless to install and you'll be streaming HD video and audio within an hour. It's so customizable and feature packed you could replace all of your TV hours tweaking. :)

 

To summarize if one overlooks the installation (not that it's difficult) I'd say WMC is perhaps on even ground with TiVo as a DVR. TiVo is easier to use with WMC offering more features and a nicer interface. The moment you want to use the PC for something else (such as streaming Hulu, local playback, etc) it's no contest. You aren't really giving up anything and you're gaining a whole lot.

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post #25 of 925 Old 08-21-2012, 05:15 PM - Thread Starter
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I broke down and installed the second HDHomeRun (2 tuners). After updating the firmware I noticed it didn't receive OTA signals as strongly as the first one. Also, the power supply plug didn't fit tightly so I swapped it and the replacement works as well as the one I have been using. For WMC to find the new tuners I had to uninstall the HDHomeRun configuration utility and then reinstall it. During its installation it noted the 2 additional tuners as being new... so I guess it had to bless them in some manner before the system knew about them (at least WMC). For fun I recorded 4 shows at once and my network load was roughly 6%. The tuners and PC are on separate Gigabit switches.

 

Here's a shot of them installed in the closet... for some reason I really like these guys.

 

 

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post #26 of 925 Old 08-22-2012, 09:51 AM
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It's funny the cost for my stuff is almost the same as your, except I use a netbook that I paid $380 for 3 years ago. It's probably worth about $200 now. I also have an HD Homerun, 1 IR remote control, and a wireless keyboard. My experience of using my netbook + HD homerun as a DVR has been fantastic. The HD Homerun consistent makes better quality recordings than my Tvix DVR does. I still don't know how to do a time-based recording in WMC though, if that's possible. It would be nice to be able to set a recording for a specified length of time.
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post #27 of 925 Old 08-22-2012, 10:30 AM - Thread Starter
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I still don't know how to do a time-based recording in WMC though, if that's possible.

 

- TV - recorded TV - add recording - Channel and Time

 

There are plenty of Frequency options you can use... almost as many as them old VCR's had. :)

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post #28 of 925 Old 08-23-2012, 09:00 AM
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Thanks for the help. WMC is even better than I thought.

From the picture you posted above, you have a much more sophisticated system I have. I am at the low end with just a netbook, HD Homerun, and Mohu Leaf indoor antenna. I do have a 1080P projector that I watch everything on. I hook the HD Homerun directly to the netbook via the Ethernet cable, not thing fancy like streaming and stuff like that. The advantage of my system is that it is portable. I can and have traveled with my system in a carry-on bag (excluding the projector).
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post #29 of 925 Old 08-23-2012, 11:42 AM - Thread Starter
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I'm glad you found some value.

Somewhat funny story... I sold my last TiVo yesterday and my wife saw it sitting upstairs ready to ship and said we don't have TiVo any longer in a sort of sad way. I said we haven't for around a month now. Then she said we won't have TiVo in the house any longer as in it's getting shipped. I asked her what will she miss and her answer made me laugh... I like the little guy (their logo/guy pops up on several screens).

 

Actually, my installation is beyond simple. I had thought of using a laptop however I used my wife's laptop twice to transfer files from a USB drive to another USB drive or NAS and after a few hours it slowed to a crawl. The entire process should have taken 12 hours (or so) but it was going to take days. I think it was heat related where it automatically slowed down the processor or whatnot. What sold me 100% was getting an i3 processor for $300 or less. WMC (DVR wise) couldn't care less but it gives me HD Audio effortlessly and allows me to stream MKV HD video/audio files. At that point it replaced two pieces of equipment and became a slam dunk.

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post #30 of 925 Old 09-01-2012, 06:40 AM
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First, I'd like to thank you for taking the time to put this together. This is the best review of the process of setting up WMC for tv and comparison to tivo that I have seen! Several times I've considered the moving from tivo to WMC for tv but chickened out because I don't want to have to tinker with it all the time. I already have to tinker with WMC/mediabrowser as a media player (though it is working nicely now). I have a few questions (which you may have addressed...sorry if I missed them).

1. Swapping tuners, tivo-style, is this out? (i.e. using the Live TV button to switch between tuners maintaining the pause point.) I think you mentioned this initially, but have you found any solution that allows this or is relatively easy? I can't seem to find anything definitive on the web.

2. Grouping of series. If you've recorded more than one episode of a given program, are they grouped into a folder? And are they named by title, sortable by date recorded?

3. Do you find the guide data accurate? Especially WRT to sports?

thanks!
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