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The Fall 2012 thread - What technology to move-up to?

post #1 of 15
Thread Starter 
I feel a bit guilty for stirring the waters again, but maybe this will be a nice distraction from the election commercials! It looks like it’s been about a half-year since the last thread like this, and I want to test the waters. WHERE TO NEXT? I'm not doom-and-gloom, I just recoginze that my Replays won't last me forever, and I want to mentally prepare myself for Plan B.

I still have two working 5040s (HDs upgraded, and a used spare HD). I’d been thinking of jumping to the Ceton Q, but the “Coming in 2012” changed to Release TBD, and now the web page is Error 404.

I’m not thrilled about the HTPC route. A) Although I could probably set-up a HTPC system, I want to have something that is maintainable by my Apple-based wife, if I’m not available B) I’m concerned about the Media Center support (or lack of) coming from Microsoft, C) I’m not thrilled with having yet another PC in the house to support (I even left WiRNS and went back to The Mother Ship for program updates – let’s see how long that lasts). It just seems that if I’m going to make the time and $ investment in something new at this point, it shouldn’t be to something that’s already on the ropes.

I do have a Synology NAS that I’ve been VERY happy with. They have started development of a Video Station application. Is supports some USB tuners, but appears not to have United States-based tuner support yet. They are an innovative company, and I like the audio streaming and photo support (not to mention new DDNS support). It’s amazing having a functioning, supported piece of equipment that the vendor just adds new applications for free as they develop them. So, I’m definitely thinking of waiting longer to let them to develop a more fully-functional application. But, again there’s the waiting. And you never know what you’re going to get (or not). A dream system could be a Ceton 6-tuner CableCard USB input into the Synology, with Ceton Echo players…

I have mixed feelings on HDTV. The HDTV is nice. Our Time Warner still supports many analog channels, and we are doing fine with those on our Replay (no IR-blaster). We do have a separate digital box that I haven’t bothered to IR-connect to the Replay (might actually be a good weekend project, now that I think about it…). We did have a TWC DVR box, but found the user interface clunky, and downgraded. But, if I'm going to invest the time and $, I think it should suport HDTV.

At some point in time, If I don’t find another good, alternate solution, we may just take the plunge and go with multiple TWC DVRs. Suportable, can share shows between rooms, HDTV, etc. I just shudder at the thought of opening the monthly cable bill if we go that route.

And I have to mention Tivo. As a long-time Reply customer, I feel almost dirty mentioning the word in this forum. But, I know some of us have done it. is it a viable "upgrade" path?

At one point or another, I know many of us are thinking these same thoughts. If you’ve found a solution that works for you (and better yet, would work for me smile.gif ), please reply.

Thanks!
-Steve
post #2 of 15
Been there, done that. I started the mental process a little over three years ago, when I first got a sniff of the Ceton tuner card.

That gave me me a couple years of chewing through it in my mind, and for the Ceton card to come to market. All of that was a good thing. I applaud your approach.

I'm also with you on the HD thing. It's nice, but it's not a must-have. What I'm enjoying more is the availability of the upper tiers of channels, which were *not* available on the old analog system at all. Over the years, much of what used to be on History, Discover, etc. have moved on up to the upper (pay) tiers and the lower channels turned a bit crappier. But hey, HD comes along with the whole shebang, so just sit back and enjoy the ride.

I'm sorry that the Ceton Q got put on hold, otherwise I'd say that's your Plan A.

Cable companies are going whole-house DVR now. You're right, the costs to rent that hardware can be high; for me, it'd be another $40 for my three TVs on top of my current $80 bill. Yowza. I hate that idea. On top of that, the cableco setup is inferior in almost all ways. Oh, it's way superior to the crap individual DVRs they used to peddle, but compared to Windows Media Center and Replay it's pure crapola. You have to consider the tradeoffs--crappy user experience vs cableco supports it all.

For the last 18 months I've had Windows Media Center and a couple XBox extenders. My wife and kids can watch TV, no problem. The 7MC box just sits there, always on, and in general just works. Occasionally it wants a reboot; so be it. That's not the end of the world. I also have it equipped to skip commercials, which it does better than the Replays did during their last 9 months or so (I have no idea, but for the last several months my Replays would *not* skip any commercials in Mythbusters. None. Zero. I could never figure out what changed.) It took awhile for me to figure it out and get it all set up, but the key is to make it do one task--media center--and don't add a lot of crap to it and leave it turned on, no sleep.

The Media Center interface actually has a "turn of/restart" button, all doable from the remote. That's nice. Just last night something crashed on the tuner card and MC popped up an error (that happens now and then). I dismissed the error dialog, used the remote to restart the computer, and went on with my life. Others, sensitive to the same issues you are, simply set the thing up to to reboot every night. That seems to solve a LOT of problems.

Don't dismiss Tivo. And keep your eyes on Google to see what if anything they'll end up doing with Sage.
post #3 of 15
SUBJECT: Leaving ReplayTV - What's Next?
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AFAIK, adam 1991 has been the BIGGEST promoter of WMC in the ReplayTV Forum. While I initially dismissed his posts, I'm now running a Vista WMC Desktop with 3 SiliconDust HDHR3-US Dual Tuners (for OTA and Clear QAM) and a Win7 WMC laptop with 1 Hauppauge PVR-1212 connected to my FiOS HD STB (for Scrambled Cable).

AFAICT, you have to decide if you *ABSOLUTELY* need Scrambled Cable WITHOUT OTA (using a 4-6 Tuner Ceton w/CableCard) on a DEDICATED 24x7 Desktop PC, or if you can live with just OTA, available on *ANY* Vista or Windows7 PC (via the SiliconDust HDHR3-USs) and Scrambled Cable also available on *ONE* Vista or Windows7 PC (via the Hauppauge PVR-1212). Since I'm looking to drop Cable / FiOS and go strictly OTA, I went the 2nd route. Although I'm currently receiving my OTA broadcasts via Clear QAM on the HDHR3-USs, they will EASILY switch to OTA via an attic / rooftop antenna.

I bought the PVR-1212 for Cable / Satellite *DEALS*. If I have to switch from FiOS-to-Comcast-or-DirecTV-or-DISH, I can use the PVR-1212 to record the non-OTA channels via Component Output, while I can continue to use my attic / rooftop antenna for my HD OTA *FREE* channels.

There's certainly a *LOT* to read on this topic if you use GOOGLE! wink.gif

Do some more research! biggrin.gif
post #4 of 15
We just had this discussion over on The Green Button ( http://thegreenbutton.tv , everything you'd ever want to talk about re: Windows Media Center): using cable and clear QAM is a pain in the butt with regard to channel guides. The issue is that the cablecos move the clear QAM channel assignments around frequently and randomly. They expect that all you have to do is a rescan and all is cool.

Well, if you're just on a TV, that's fine. My Samsung TV can rescan in a few minutes and find everything, and the cableco even sends down the virtual channel numbers so those never change and the TV is fine. For those who just want a TV plugged into the wall like the old days, it works great.

But Windows Media Center doesn't recognize or use the virtual channel numbers. So not only does it require a re-scan, but it requires setting up the guide data all over again and mapping funky channel numbers to something the guide data know about. If you're doing this for just a few of the local broadcast channels, that's may be OK. But my cableco puts all the standard lineup out in clear QAM (SD only, but still) and that's 70+ channels to muck with.

In addition to my Ceton tuner I also have a Hauppauge 2250 installed, finding the clear QAM channels. I did it for a few rounds, then recently gave up. I disabled all the clear QAM channels, so now I'm not using the Hauppauge 2250 at all. It was nice to have those two extra tuners; they got the locals in full HD, and the standard cable lineup was available in SD as a backup source if need be. But wrestling with it all wasn't worth the hassle.

The cableCARD solution is automatic; they can move things around all they want and the cableCARD sorts it all out, and Media Center isn't at all involved in knowing the specific frequencies and where the channel guides are. The cableCARD hands it all correctly to Media Center without my even caring.

So I'm back to the four tuners of the Ceton, wondering if I should buy another Ceton (and spend another $3.50/month on another cableCARD) or wait to see if/when Ceton brings out their 6 tuner card.

My reason for saying the above is this: if your goal is to receive the locals and you don't care about anything extra the cableco might provide, you're better off with an antenna than the cableco's clear QAM.
post #5 of 15
I've been slowly moving towards the cloud stuff...looks of shows via Hulu, Netflix, Amazon. I unplugged my Replay a few months ago and at this point haven't found a need to turn it back on. My Roku XD and my XBMC HTPC have handled the job very well. The only issue you need to worry about with the cloud is that you've got a decent Internet connection.
post #6 of 15
Thread Starter 
Thanks everyone. All great advice.
I have to admit that I had kinda written-off the WMC option. I had heard (through the Centon Q discussions) about how Microsoft was discontinuing support, and I have a mental bias about what I thought it would take to maintain a dedicated PC (I feel that 50% of my time with my PC laptop is just dealing with updates, virus software scans, and backups, the other 50% is doing actual things of value- usually just e-mail). But, adam1991's posts at least got me to research enough that I see that Microsoft is continuing WMC into Windows 8.

I did link my cable box to the Replay (via IR blaster), so I can start seeing how much value we'd get from all those other channels beyond "basic"/clear cable.

From a basic functionality and supportability standpoint, I think the cable company's DVRs may be a resonable short-term solution. If I have a major Replay malfunction, I know I could always call up Time Warner and have multiple DVRs in the house in a matter of days. I could also return them a few months later if/when something better comes out. So, I'm thinking this is my short-term Plan-B if/when needed.

Long term, I'm going to keep an eye on Ceton, both for the Q, and for the 6-tuner card. I'll also keep tabs on WMC with Windows 8 and Synology's development of their "Video Station". I like the idea of having the Synology NAS being the central hub for ALL storage in the house, including the DVR. But I don't currently know how I'd stream the content to each TV (maybe I need to research DLNA TVs...). I could also see myself buying a Q, and multiple Echos for each TV. Or if the Q never comes, maybe going the WMC route.

Like ClearToLand said, there's lots to research...
post #7 of 15
The problem is, the basic cableco DVRs are such utter crap compared to ReplayTV, you'll experience physical pain trying to use one.

If your cableco offers something like the Arris Moxi-based multiroom setup, try that.

With regard to "maintaining a PC," the 7MC box isn't a PC. You set it up to do one thing, then leave it alone. I'm not even doing system updates on any regular basis. Good thing, too. Anyway, it's a one trick pony, and there's no "maintaining" such a beast like you're thinking. Get it set up and do a simple backup to USB drive, then let it do its thing. Since you aren't doing anything other than letting it record TV to a D drive, it's no big deal. What's there to back up on an ongoing basis?
post #8 of 15
How do you configure WMC to skip commercials? I recently got a cablecard server on Verizon FIOS and I just keep pressing the 30 second skip button until the commercial break is over.
post #9 of 15
I use ShowAnalyzer, but the current hot ticket appears to be Comskip.

You pick one of those, and it watches the recorded shows (or as they're recording) and creates a bookmark file.

Then you also have DVRMS Toolbox (DTB for short) running in the background, which (among other things) reads those bookmark files and controls playback, skipping from time to time as appropriate.
post #10 of 15
Quote:
Originally Posted by adam1991 View Post

Quote:
Originally Posted by Tirebiter View Post

How do you configure WMC to skip commercials? I recently got a cablecard server on Verizon FIOS and I just keep pressing the 30 second skip button until the commercial break is over.
.
I use ShowAnalyzer [$$$] , but the current hot ticket appears to be Comskip [*FREE*, IIRC].

You pick one of those, and it watches the recorded shows (or as they're recording) and creates a bookmark file.

Then you also have DVRMS Toolbox [*FREE*] (DTB for short) running in the background, which (among other things) reads those bookmark files and controls playback, skipping from time to time as appropriate.
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+1, AFAICT from my research...

I haven't implemented any of those programs YET. But, from my research, they appear to be the 'Most-Often-Mentioned' "Way-to-Go".

NOTE: Edits and Formatting added by CTL...
post #11 of 15
sorry, CTL, but Comskip isn't free anymore. To get the one that works with Win7 .wtv files requires paying $$$.

In neither case is the price onerous; I am still quite happy with the $30 that I paid for ShowAnalyzer, given what it does and how well it works.
post #12 of 15
I so wanted this to work! Sadly Time Warner sets the do-not-copy flag on all my stations so there's no way to skip commercials. frown.gif I'm sticking with my analog MCE as long as I can.
post #13 of 15
You can run commercial skip against your analog shows.
post #14 of 15
FYI on ShowAnalyzer... the website asks for $30 after a 30 day trial... ignore that. The application is no longer developed, and the trial never actually expires. I was initially nervous about investing time in an application that is no longer being developed, but I'm glad I did.... commercial skipping in WMC with ShowAnalyzer has worked way better than the Replays ever did. Automatic commercial skipping really does make your viewing exprience more enjoyable when it works well... so I see that as another major advantage of WMC over the cable company DVRs. These engadget articles are pretty good guides to setting up ShowAnalyzer and tweaking it:

http://www.engadget.com/2009/10/22/how-to-automatically-skip-commercials-in-windows-7-media-center/
http://www.engadget.com/2010/08/02/how-to-tweak-showanalyzer-to-100-percent-commercial-detection-ac/

Overall my wife & I have been very happy with WMC as a replacement for the Replays. I did build my own WMC PC... that was kinda fun too. It has been rock solid over the past year.
post #15 of 15
Just one clarification... ShowAnalyzer will not work on copy protected shows. That makes it less attractive for those that watch a lot of cable content. We dropped cable and use an OTA antenna - the 1080i HD quality is phenomenal. Between streaming and renting DVDs from Netflix, we get all the content we really want (well, almost).

If anyone is interested, here is the system specs for the HTPC machine I built:

http://experts.windows.com/members/skyshow1/systemspecs/default.aspx
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