Subscription free DVR with mCableCard support? (Or prebuilt HTPC less then $400-500?) - AVS Forum
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post #1 of 55 Old 01-28-2013, 11:12 PM - Thread Starter
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Charter cable user here and they're DVR is a joke at 160Gig Max (I think, it's like 20 hr max HD or something...)

I'm wanting to get a DVR or prebuilt HTPC (just don't have the time to build and config it all) that's like $400 total or LESS, maybe maybe $500 if it's a HTPC and I can cheaply add another hard drive later if needed...

Main factors I want is at least 2 channels recording at once, pretty big storage (I'm thinking 1Tb or more) and support for mCableCard (at least all digital and HD channels, would like good support for premiums but don't watch them too often anyway), and lastly maybe remote scheduling possible, but that's not a deal breaker.

Any advanced features from a HTPC like commercial skipping or upscaling of SD content would be nice, but budget is the driving factor right now and I just want it for recording and playback, I don't need BluRay support or .mkv 3d playback and stuff.


Does anything fit the bill any more?

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post #2 of 55 Old 01-29-2013, 04:32 AM
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Options for any DVR are pathetic. Even without the CC requirement, it's still pathetic.
The only choice for a DVR w/ a CC is the over rated TiVo or a PC using M$'s Media Center (if I understand correctly). I believe MC is the only platform that allows CC's in a PC unless there is a Linux version. As far as a pre-built DVR type of a PC, I never heard of any probably due to it being a very specialized product and the number of options.

Have you been to the PC sub-forum?

You can thank TiVo, CableLabs & the MPAA for starters for the stranglehold on DVR's.

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post #3 of 55 Old 01-29-2013, 09:38 AM - Thread Starter
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I guess what I'm super surprised about is that there isn't really any pre built DVR options. It's frustrating the couple I've seen start at like $799 or above. I can find a "crappy" low end laptop computer now at Best Buy for like $350. I'm surprised we haven't seen at least on or two kinda big names (Asus or Acer, etc) just drop the DVDRW drive, change from a laptop chassis to a set top box sized one, upgrade to a 1tb drive or so and stuff a reasonable runner in and have a selling price around $400 - $500.

If they offered it dead simple 100% ready to go or even rolled their own skin to put ontop of WMC to keep it really simple I would think there would be huge demand since you could avoid the $500 TiVo Lifetime fee...

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post #4 of 55 Old 01-29-2013, 09:43 AM
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It's probably the same reason that Ceton's Q DVR has been tabled - Media Center is strictly maintenance-mode now. Microsoft isn't developing it any more, and there's no future commitment to it at all. So while Media Center works for now, there's no guarantee it will later.
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post #5 of 55 Old 01-29-2013, 12:21 PM
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Originally Posted by acarney View Post

If they offered it dead simple 100% ready to go or even rolled their own skin to put ontop of WMC to keep it really simple I would think there would be huge demand since you could avoid the $500 TiVo Lifetime fee...
I wonder if people would feel differently if the TiVo cost $500 and the lifetime guide subscription only cost $100.

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post #6 of 55 Old 01-29-2013, 12:58 PM
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Originally Posted by videobruce View Post

I believe MC is the only platform that allows CC's in a PC unless there is a Linux version.

There are many PVR options for Linux, but none of them can legally support CableCARDs. The DRM-restricted and encrypted content made accessible through CableCARDs is contrary to the free, open-source software model employed by programs like MythTV, and incorporating support for DRM would be a violation of the software's license agreement (GPL).
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post #7 of 55 Old 01-29-2013, 12:59 PM
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Originally Posted by acarney View Post

I guess what I'm super surprised about is that there isn't really any pre built DVR options.

 

Almost any PC comes ready to DVR... throw an HDHomeRun on your network and about 30 minutes to configure MC and you are good to go. If you want bonus points throw in a Harmony remote. Now of course one could pay someone to setup such and I even think such is offered in the HTPC forum via Remote Desktop... although frankly if you can't handle the 30 minutes (running through the Wizards) you won't be able to handle MC down the road... so you're better off not getting started.

 

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post #8 of 55 Old 01-29-2013, 01:05 PM
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Bickering removed. No more, guys.

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post #9 of 55 Old 01-29-2013, 01:38 PM
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Originally Posted by demonfoo View Post

It's probably the same reason that Ceton's Q DVR has been tabled - Media Center is strictly maintenance-mode now. Microsoft isn't developing it any more, and there's no future commitment to it at all. So while Media Center works for now, there's no guarantee it will later.
It will be interesting to see if one of the commercial DVR software packages steps up to the plate and adds cable card support. If not all those Ceton and Silicon Dust cable card tuners become useless when WMC fades out -- not to mention HTPC becomes a non-option for cable.

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post #10 of 55 Old 01-29-2013, 01:49 PM
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It will be interesting to see if one of the commercial DVR software packages steps up to the plate and adds cable card support.

 

In a video interview linked somewhere around here one of the SiliconDust guys mentioned DVR support for their new line... it was just a passing remark about the future. But I think it's safe to say they know how important DVR support is and now that they are offering the stream in a more friendly format it surely will help (to some extent).

 

Here's a link to it... http://www.avsforum.com/t/1450503/silcondust-hdhr4-us-and-cc-tuners-coming-mid-2013/60#post_22870322


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post #11 of 55 Old 01-29-2013, 03:18 PM - Thread Starter
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Almost any PC comes ready to DVR... throw an HDHomeRun on your network and about 30 minutes to configure MC and you are good to go. If you want bonus points throw in a Harmony remote. Now of course one could pay someone to setup such and I even think such is offered in the HTPC forum via Remote Desktop... although frankly if you can't handle the 30 minutes (running through the Wizards) you won't be able to handle MC down the road... so you're better off not getting started.

Read my signature thread and you'll be ready to roll... if you run into a bump someone here will put you right back on course. smile.gif

And that's just the thing, it seems so easy, but I don't need the DVD burner and other stuff. It's not going to save a lot, but it takes a $380 Dell and then adds ~$189 for the Ceton tuner and makes it a $550 or above DVR in a HORRIBLE looking chassis and still only 500Gig. I mean its ok, it works, but for a basic dumb DVR I'm surprised a big name hasn't dumped out a cheap ~$300 system with no optical drive and stuff and then just let you config which hard drive size you want...

It's doable, but that puts you damn near the TiVo 75 Hr model with life time, and dead simple and rock solid TiVo features and usability.

I totally would be more open to the expensive hardware & cheaper TiVo service!! The hardware could always be found cheaper on the used market or passed along in the family but the service would feel like on going savings VS paying $200 a year or something to record some TV shows that you already pay for AND not being able to save them on DVD officially or transfer them to a new/larger TiVo in the future...

I'm almost thinking of an Intel Next Unit of Computing and adding an external Ceton and making due with the ~120gig SSD for a small and near silent DVR. But then I'm looking at like $600 for what, 45 Hrs of HD or something? But at least it's small, could be easily hidden, and would be almost silent when turned on.

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post #12 of 55 Old 01-29-2013, 04:00 PM
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Originally Posted by acarney View Post

I'm almost thinking of an Intel Next Unit of Computing and adding an external Ceton and making due with the ~120gig SSD for a small and near silent DVR. But then I'm looking at like $600 for what, 45 Hrs of HD or something? But at least it's small, could be easily hidden, and would be almost silent when turned on.

It would also die quickly. SSDs are not designed for write-heavy operations. They are ideal for OS drives that need to be able to read data quickly, but flash memory supports a limited number of writes before it fails. Using a SSD in a write-heavy environment like a DVR would be both sub-optimal and expensive; the extra read speed of a SSD is useless in a DVR application, anyway.
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post #13 of 55 Old 01-29-2013, 04:21 PM
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Originally Posted by Kelson View Post

It will be interesting to see if one of the commercial DVR software packages steps up to the plate and adds cable card support. If not all those Ceton and Silicon Dust cable card tuners become useless when WMC fades out -- not to mention HTPC becomes a non-option for cable.
An interesting idea, but I thought the big reason Windows Vista/7 was certified was because of the deeper DRM integration. Maybe CableLabs will play ball, though, considering perhaps they'd like to stave off AllVid getting shoved down their throats. Only time will tell though.
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post #14 of 55 Old 01-29-2013, 05:14 PM
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Originally Posted by Charles R View Post

In a video interview linked somewhere around here one of the SiliconDust guys mentioned DVR support for their new line... it was just a passing remark about the future. But I think it's safe to say they know how important DVR support is and now that they are offering the stream in a more friendly format it surely will help (to some extent).

Here's a link to it... http://www.avsforum.com/t/1450503/silcondust-hdhr4-us-and-cc-tuners-coming-mid-2013/60#post_22870322
Thanks for the link. It clued me in to the fact there is new firmware for the HDHR-3 that makes the unit into a DLNA server. I've upgraded and I can see the HDHR as a media server on my WD Live-SMP. Have not played with it yet, both tuners are recording for the night.

I was not happy to see the HDHR-4 advertised as having hardware H.264. I don't like that one bit unless I can turn it off. The big attraction the HDHR has for me is that it transmits the as-received MPEG-2 transport stream to my DVR software. I like my HDTV recordings to be untouched. If I want the MPEG-2 transport streams encoded as H.264, I'll do it myself.

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post #15 of 55 Old 01-29-2013, 05:19 PM
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There are many PVR options for Linux, but none of them can legally support CableCARDs. The DRM-restricted and encrypted content made accessible through CableCARDs is contrary to the free, open-source software model employed by programs like MythTV, and incorporating support for DRM would be a violation of the software's license agreement (GPL).

If you google "protected path" you will see how the CableLabs drm integrates with the HDCP protocols. The reason your pop up menus don't work under HDMI is because you can't touch the "protected path". Likewise, your AVR is a simple "repeater" of the HDMI signal, that is all it is allowed to be.

The last thing the content providers will allow is a DVR that will decrypt Cable content and then feed it in a format that isn't HDCP. The HTPC units you can get all work OTA only, and you can be sure Microsoft and others are encouraged not to support them in a variety of ways. One of the reasons iOS items, such as iPads, are all so content - provider- loved is because they are all closed systems that are tough to crack-unlike, say a generic PC or an Apple computer.

Given a choice between paying my Cable Co for a piece of utter trash SA8300 or paying TiVo for a decent DVR, I pay Tivo. I'm a refugee from the HDD 250 board so I'm just hating on Rovi and Sony now....the last remaining CableCard DVR has been killed by Sony and Rovi.

Trust me, your cable company is very happy that you have so few choices in your cable box, despite the attempt by the FCC to encourage equipment ownership with CableCards. The Current shortage and clear gap in a a competitive market is no accident.

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post #16 of 55 Old 01-29-2013, 06:35 PM
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And that's just the thing, it seems so easy, but I don't need the DVD burner and other stuff.

 

If you read my thread I spent less than $400 for the PC (i3/1GB drive), OTA tuners, wireless keyboard and remote. Is that close to the TiVo?.. it's getting there. Since I wanted to use XBMC (HD video/audio playback), Hulu Desktop and a few other apps like Free Cable for XBMC it wasn't a contest. Plus, for OTA (only) I ended up with four tuners (of which I can share among my PCs). It's quieter than the TiVos I used for a decade and it either hides behind my TV or in my dedicated room's closet.

 

I stayed away from WMC for years with a variety of (non) valid reasons so I completely understand. In over six months I've yet to miss a recording or had any downtime. Actually, the cheapest way to get rolling is to simply purchase a $30 HDMI video card and install it in one of your older (unused PCs). Add the tuner and IR sensor/Harmony and you have roughly $250 invested if you catch the HDHomeRun Prime on sale). Worse case you return or eBay the Prime if you decide to punt...

 

Regarding purchasing a specially designed WMC box... I think you would find it has no real advantages and wouldn't come close (in price) to your typical PC close-out deals.


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post #17 of 55 Old 01-29-2013, 06:41 PM
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The HTPC units you can get all work OTA only, and you can be sure Microsoft and others are encouraged not to support them in a variety of ways.

 

Are you sure about this? Or a few of the other points...


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post #18 of 55 Old 01-29-2013, 09:53 PM
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Originally Posted by speedlaw View Post

The HTPC units you can get all work OTA only, and you can be sure Microsoft and others are encouraged not to support them in a variety of ways.

Are you sure about this? Or a few of the other points...

Just from what I've read in some of the topics in this forum, I think speedlaw's post has several instances of misinformation. HD Homerun Prime tuners support CableCARDS when paired with Microsoft's Windows Media Center software, because it isn't FOSS and consequently supports DRM-protected files.
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Trust me, your cable company is very happy that you have so few choices in your cable box, despite the attempt by the FCC to encourage equipment ownership with CableCards.

I don't have a cable company, so they aren't happy with me. wink.gif
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post #19 of 55 Old 01-30-2013, 01:13 AM - Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by Charles R View Post

If you read my thread I spent less than $400 for the PC (i3/1GB drive), OTA tuners, wireless keyboard and remote. Is that close to the TiVo?.. it's getting there. Since I wanted to use XBMC (HD video/audio playback), Hulu Desktop and a few other apps like Free Cable for XBMC it wasn't a contest. Plus, for OTA (only) I ended up with four tuners (of which I can share among my PCs). It's quieter than the TiVos I used for a decade and it either hides behind my TV or in my dedicated room's closet.

I stayed away from WMC for years with a variety of (non) valid reasons so I completely understand. In over six months I've yet to miss a recording or had any downtime. Actually, the cheapest way to get rolling is to simply purchase a $30 HDMI video card and install it in one of your older (unused PCs). Add the tuner and IR sensor/Harmony and you have roughly $250 invested if you catch the HDHomeRun Prime on sale). Worse case you return or eBay the Prime if you decide to punt...

Regarding purchasing a specially designed WMC box... I think you would find it has no real advantages and wouldn't come close (in price) to your typical PC close-out deals.

Problem is the MOST important factor is CableCard support which bumps the tuner into the $180 to $200 range. I guess these tuners are crazy expensive to make... Makes me wonder if those dumb just digital set top boxes are really costing the cable company like $250 or something to give to you....

Cheapest pc at best buy was like $350 and that wasn't even 1Tb. We're basically into TiVo 75 Hr device range WITH the life time service but in a huge box with a few fans and lots of LEDs that's like three times as large as a bluray player... :-/

Just shocked a (crappy) brand new laptop with a battery and screen and optical drive can be found in the $400 range but a TiVo replacement without the need for a screen or optical drive or battery is more expensive...

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Problem is the MOST important factor is CableCard support which bumps the tuner into the $180 to $200 range.

 

That was included in my $250 estimate. The rest of the repeats... fan noise and your apparent lack of desire to find a bargain (or two) does make one pay more so I wouldn't be so surprised. No fan noise here or even bright LEDs... if I had any I'd use these guys anyway...


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post #21 of 55 Old 01-30-2013, 05:21 AM
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^^
Does this solution support an SDV adapter if one is required in your area to receive certain channels?

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normal on a two month old set..
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post #22 of 55 Old 01-30-2013, 07:04 AM
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Problem is the MOST important factor is CableCard support which bumps the tuner into the $180 to $200 range. I guess these tuners are crazy expensive to make... Makes me wonder if those dumb just digital set top boxes are really costing the cable company like $250 or something to give to you....

Cheapest pc at best buy was like $350 and that wasn't even 1Tb. We're basically into TiVo 75 Hr device range WITH the life time service but in a huge box with a few fans and lots of LEDs that's like three times as large as a bluray player... :-/

Just shocked a (crappy) brand new laptop with a battery and screen and optical drive can be found in the $400 range but a TiVo replacement without the need for a screen or optical drive or battery is more expensive...

Your estimates are too high, I just pointed my Dad to a Samsung laptop on sale at Best Buy for $300 shipped last weekend. 2.7Ghz AMD A6, 4GB RAM, 500GB drive which would be plenty for a basic DVR (500GB is what basic Tivos ship with now). Add in a SiliconDust Cablecard tuner which is routinely on sale for around $130 and a $20 USB remote/receiver kit and you're set for about $450. Not bad, but also not a Tivo - there are pros and cons to both.
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post #23 of 55 Old 01-30-2013, 07:35 AM
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I just pointed my Dad to a Samsung laptop on sale at Best Buy for $300 shipped last weekend. 2.7Ghz AMD A6, 4GB RAM, 500GB drive which would be plenty for a basic DVR (500GB is what basic Tivos ship with now). Add in a SiliconDust Cablecard tuner which is routinely on sale for around $130 and a $20 USB remote/receiver kit and you're set for about $450. Not bad, but also not a Tivo - there are pros and cons to both.
Does a $300 laptop have HDMI output? Will the laptop function with its case closed? Or will you have to have an open laptop sitting next your TV all the time.

I don't mind saving money but not a the expense of functionality. A laptop has never struck me as being a suitable device to use as a permanent DVR. I would rather opt for a small box if I ever have to. You can buy kits from NewEgg that will do the job. When I put one together with all the pieces I wanted and included software, I came closer to $550.

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post #24 of 55 Old 01-30-2013, 09:19 AM
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Does a $300 laptop have HDMI output? Will the laptop function with its case closed? Or will you have to have an open laptop sitting next your TV all the time.

I don't mind saving money but not a the expense of functionality. A laptop has never struck me as being a suitable device to use as a permanent DVR. I would rather opt for a small box if I ever have to. You can buy kits from NewEgg that will do the job. When I put one together with all the pieces I wanted and included software, I came closer to $550.

You can easily change the power settings on your laptop to allow it to run with the lid closed. MS even has a video on their site that shows how to do it. Combined with a wireless remote and wireless keyboard that has a touchpad in it, you're all set. And every laptop I've seen sold in the last 4 years has HDMI output.
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post #25 of 55 Old 01-30-2013, 09:35 AM
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Originally Posted by Kelson View Post


Does a $300 laptop have HDMI output?

 

Most do nowadays. I tried my wife's laptop and it worked fine. It's similar to the one Fry's has advertised for $278. It did 1080p without issue and overall performed nicely. I simply couldn't resist stepping up to the i3 processor as you get HD audio (for free). One of the reasons to go HTPC is its ability to do other things and playing HD video/audio is certainly one of them. XBMC compliments WMC nicely even though you can get HD video/audio playback via WMC it's not nearly as slick. Not to mention the world of Add-ons available for XBMC.

 

Price wise the desktop might a little more but in most cases you'll get a little more performance/features and have to ability to upgrade much easier down the road. I gave $255 for my first i3, 4GB, 500GB drive PC and later swapped for one with more memory (not needed) and larger drive for a whopping $320. If you don't care about performance per se throw a HDMI video card into an old PC and you can get rolling for very little... yes I know you need the tuners. Oh and if you are worrying about energy usage it's less than TiVo. Mine hibernates 80% of the day waking up for recordings and then goes back to sleep...


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post #26 of 55 Old 01-30-2013, 09:52 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mhufnagel View Post

You can easily change the power settings on your laptop to allow it to run with the lid closed. MS even has a video on their site that shows how to do it. Combined with a wireless remote and wireless keyboard that has a touchpad in it, you're all set. And every laptop I've seen sold in the last 4 years has HDMI output.
Well if you can run it closed, that would do it.

- kelson h

The bitterness of poor quality lasts long after the sweetness of the low price is forgotten . . . life is too short to drink bad wine

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post #27 of 55 Old 01-30-2013, 10:19 AM
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^^
Does this solution support an SDV adapter if one is required in your area to receive certain channels?

Yes? No? Nobody Knows?

Don't ever make the MISTAKE of buying a Samsung TV..
They consider
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normal on a two month old set..
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post #28 of 55 Old 01-30-2013, 10:31 AM
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Originally Posted by WS65711 View Post


Yes? No? Nobody Knows?

 

Google knows...quicker than even one post. :)


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post #29 of 55 Old 01-30-2013, 11:00 AM
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Originally Posted by Charles R View Post

Google knows...quicker than even one post. smile.gif

Google probably knows everything. And if you're lucky, you can find the answer there without becoming a victim of a trojan or virus or other form of malware.
But since you had already been though the "WMC Adventure" I thought you might be able to answer my question. Apparently not . . .

Don't ever make the MISTAKE of buying a Samsung TV..
They consider
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normal on a two month old set..
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post #30 of 55 Old 01-30-2013, 12:05 PM
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Yes, the on sale Samsung laptop has HDMI. And yes, all the TAs used for SDV are USB and will work with either the SD HDHomerun Prime or Ceton InfiniTV tuners.

The advantage of getting a $300 laptop or PC vs. rolling your own is that you don't have to license Windows and it's probably good enough to get working with very little effort on anyone's part. I guess that's changed somewhat now that MC is not included with Win8, which is yet another reason not to use Win8 for an HTPC.
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