DVRing via WMC couldn't be much easier and so far (several months) I have zero issues recording with four tuners. It's just a shame Microsoft has abandoned WMC as well as their lack of support for extenders. I have to think if they pushed extenders (clients) WMC would have proven to be more valuable to the point of selling it as stand alone software would be viable.
For a variety of reasons Channel Master and simple.tv don't offer a solution I can live with so I'm left with TiVo as an alternative which isn't a bad solution at all. XBMC's next release has DVR support and if it's halfway slick and the guide subscription is reasonable I'll take a close look. Perhaps its file format is/will be supported by most streamers.
Regarding playing around I understand completely. I enjoy implementing various features however at the same time the PC is my DVR so I restrict it to semi-proven solutions and haven't shot myself in the foot yet. I did install Windows 8 (with WMC) on my desktop and have tried to test various programs out but many of them aren't supported in Windows 8 so that didn't work out too well.