Originally Posted by bruce73
Is this with a Ceton card or similar? Does it replace a regular STB as well? Sounds very interesting, but I know virtually nothing about it or how to proceed. Do you have any links to FAQs or tutorials? Thx.
This is based on Windows 7 and Windows Media Center as your DVR software. You do NOT need a regular STB/DVR, so you return all of that equipment to TWC.
Instead you rent an M-Card from TWC, because the Ceton card requires an M-Card to enable access to encrypted program content (i.e. 99% of TWC's cable channel content) on its four tuners. And you feed the TWC coax to the RF connector on the Ceton card. There is a built-in 4-way splitter in the card, to feed the four tuners simultaneously.
You must have a home LAN, because live/recorded HDTV from your WMC machine (aka HTPC) to the HDTV's around your house is distributed via ethernet cable from your router. So you have to have a fairly decent home network to deliver TV content to TV's around the house.
Because of digital rights protections, you can only deliver encrypted program content to remote TV's through a "media center extender". This is a small box that is at the end of an ethernet cable near the TV, and then it feeds the TV via HDMI. It can be an xBox (which I call an "active extender" since it has a hard drive that spins and makes noise and generates heat) or something like a Linksys DMA2100 (which I call a "passive extender" since it is 100% silent and uses almost no electricity).
Ceton actually is developing its own media center extender, named Echo. It's not available for purchase yet but sometime in 2012 it should be.
Windows Media Center is supported by Microsoft and Zap2it for the Guide data (which provides 11 days of advance information). Most people leave their HTPC on 24/7, but you can let it go into hybrid sleep if you want since it will wake up automatically to perform scheduled recordings.
You can have as large a hard drive in the HTPC as you care to have. Most people opt for a 1Tb or 2TB drive (of course you can partition those drives if you want to use part of it for ordinary computer folders).
There are significant restrictions on any copy-once encrypted content once it's been recorded by a specific Windows 7 system. It can then only be played back by that very Windows 7 system that did the recording, and it can only be played to a TV via a media center extender. You cannot view those copy-once programs using any program other than Windows Media Center, even on the same PC. So you can't use Windows Media Player, nor can you use Windows Media Center on a second PC on your home network to play recordings made on your HTPC. This is all part of the DRM arrangement Microsoft made with Cablelabs that then allowed Windows 7 and Ceton to do what they did.
That's the basic lay of the land if you want to build your own whole-home setup. There's an initial hardware outlay, and possibly home network cabling.
But after that it's just $2.50/month for the M-Card. Won't take long to recoup your hardware outlay with monthly STB/DVR hardware/service savings.
Note that with a strong enough PC and adequate hard drive space, you can actually install up to three Ceton cards in one machine, meaning you could theoretically have 12 tuners... all recording independently and/or feeding "live" view to TV's around your house. Feeding recorded programs does not use a tuner. You can have up to five media center extenders.
Ceton also offers an external box with the tuner card in it, which connects to your PC via USB, if you don't want to install the internal tuner card. Same capabilities.
The Ceton 4-tuner card also supports "network tuner sharing", where the 4 tuners of the card can be allocated to multiple Windows 7 machines around your house (across the home network), if that provides some advantage to you.