Originally Posted by ShoutingMan
Fantastic replies here. I'll reply to a few specifically.
I'm on Fios. No HBO. Don't know if copy flag is on or off.
I already manage multiple programming schedules with multiple Tivos. Having to do that with multiple HTPCs is not an improvement
I guess this depends on your needs. Some people have kids or guests that would prefer to have control over their own shows. But the point is, it doesn't matter what HTPC records what show. They are all visible from any and every HTPC. Put all the HTPCs in a homegroup, manually share out the recordedTV folders on each, or dump them all up to a server (or automatically with WHS). And if you use the HDHomerun Primes the tuners are pooled across all the HTPCs. For instance, I have two Primes for a total of 6 tuners. I can record two shows in the bedroom, another two shows in the livingroom, while the kids are streaming live TV to two separate bedrooms. The recordings that get done on the livingroom HTPC are available to watch in any of the bedroom HTPCs.
If you are looking for a master/slave type setup, then the best route is one HTPC and using extenders elsewhere. There are tools you can use to get close to a "unified" recording schedule, like Remote Potato and Recording Broker. I gave up on the master/slave setup a long time ago. Get enough tuners and you don't have to worry about if you shows get recorded. The benefits of individual HTPCs far outweigh the master/slave setups anyway. You don't have a unified recording schedule, but you also don't have to worry that your extenders won't play MKV files or stream Netflix.
By the way, don't Tivos share recordings now?
Does each independent HTPC record to its local drive, or do they record over the network to a main server?
To a local drive, yes. You can do some trickeration to force recording to go to the server while it's recording, but that's not so reliable. A better solution is to use WHS which can automatically move the files from the local drive to the server, or you can setup software to do it for you periodically. But once again, this doesn't matter. As long as you have a homegroup or shared folders setup on each local HTPC's recordedTV folder, then all the other HTPCs see the recordings of the others.
"satellite" = extender. Master computer in basement, with extenders or slim PC in living room and bedroom.
Extenders just don't do enough for my tastes. If TV is your only goal, then extenders are brilliant. But once you start wanting to do more than TV, extenders fall down.
WAF is necessary for success. Suggesting replacing TiVo with something new is met with skeptical and disapproving scowls
No doubt, this is a constant battle. But I promise you, once you setup WMC and she gets used to the concept, Tivo is no longer the marvel.
I could consider a custom compromise:
Master PC and extenders
* whole house DVR through media center. InfiniTV for 4 tuners. If it goes well and desired, double up for 8 tuners.
* rip full discs assuming playback on the PC for "real" movies
* rip & transcode to MKV with multi tracks for commentary the shows I specifically watch remotely, for extender use. Accept that I won't have other special features, and that I'm sacrificing quality for extender playback.
For a perfect whole house DVR experience, a master HTPC and extenders can't be beat. Extenders just don't do Netflix, and don't do rips very well unless you encode them specifically for their capabilities. This is why your proposed setup above requires two sets of rips.
I see that I dont really understand how multiple HTPCs interact and work with tuners for live DVR, recording schedules, and storage.
Multiple HTPCs work best with a network based tuner like the HDHomerun Prime, not the InfiniTV4. Let me see if I can explain the difference...
Say you have 4 TVs in different rooms, and you want DVR service to every TV. With a master/slave(extender) setup, you have one HTPC in one room with 3 extenders in the rest. The master HTPC in your setup has the InfiniTV tuners and can record up to 4 channels at once. All recording is done on the master HTPC. The extenders don't do any of the grunt work. Since the extenders depend on the master HTPC for it's TV service, the master HTPC has to serve up pre-recorded shows stored on it's local drive (or server network share), or farm out one of the InfiniTV tuners to an extender if you want to watch live TV in another room. This setup works great for what people believe a "whole house DVR" should be.
Now... with a full HTPC setup, each TV has it's own independent computer. You don't want to use an InfiniTV tuner in this scenario, as it physically has to reside in one of the HTPCs (essentially the master). Recording can be done only on the "master" HTPC that is physically connected to the InfiniTV. It is possible to assign one (or more) of the InfiniTV's 4 tuners to one of the other HTPCs over the network, but that tuner is forever assigned to that HTPC. So, in our 4 room scenario, you would have to assign 1 tuner to each HTPC in order to allow live TV or recording abilities on each HTPC. A HTPC with only one single tuner is not very useful. This forces you to know exactly which HTPC is recording what show to avoid conflicts... precisely what you are trying to avoid with your current Tivo setup.
If you are going to use full HTPCs in each room, the HDHomerun Prime is a perfect solution. The HDHomerun only has 3 tuners, but those 3 tuners are available to each and every HTPC. So, your bedroom HTPC has 3 tuners, the livingroom HTPC has the same 3 tuners, and so on. So you can record two shows on one, watch a live channel on another (or the same, it doesn't matter). If you use two HDHomerun Primes, then you now have 6 tuners available on each and every HTPC. This is where the individual HTPC scenario gets really interesting. With 6 or more networked tuners you are going to have enough pooled tuners available to each and every HTPC, that it doesn't matter who is watching live TV, or which HTPC is recording a show. Why?
Why doesn't it matter which HTPC is recording a show? Because you setup all the HTPCs in a homegroup... so every HTPC can see the local hard drive of all the other HTPCs. So if you record "Wheel of Fortune" on the living room HTPC, then the bedroom computer can see that recording just as if it were recording it and it was on the local hard drive. It streams the recorded tv file from the livingroom HTPC, shows up in the Recorded TV section with all meta-data (timestamps, channel info, plot/description, etc.) intact. You can even throw a server into the mix here. Recorded TV is just a big MPG file, and it doesn't matter where it's located as long as the HTPC (any HTPC!) has a network connection and can see the network share.
I actually have both setups in my house. I have a HTPC in the living room, a HTPC in the bedroom, and a virtual HTPC running on my server. All 3 HTPCs have full access to all 6 of my HDHomerun Prime tuners. So my wife can record her shows on the bedroom HTPC, and I can record my shows on the livingroom PC... but it doesn't really matter because all recordings on both computers are uploaded to a server as soon as they are done recording. Both HTPCs can see all the recordings.
The virtual HTPC is setup to serve two extenders (one in each kid's room) so they can watch live TV. I setup the virtual HTPC with a modified channel listing so that only approved "kid-friendly" channels are presented to the kids' extenders. You can't do this in a typical master/slave setup as the master always presents the same channel listing and guide to every single extender.
I know this is long-winded, but does this help?