Originally Posted by jreese831 /forum/post/18121533
Question for those of you who are using your HTPC as a DVR...
When you want to watch regular/live TV (who does that anymore?!), are you stuck watching it on/with the computer? I know it may seem like a stupid question, but I only have one TV and one cable box, so if I go this route, does my computer essentially take the place of my STB? Does this make your viewing experience any different or more troublesome than just using the CC's STB? I can't imagine it would, but everybody has different experiences, so I'd love to get some feedback.
You have a couple of options.
I use SageTV, which I would say is the most flexible option out there for distributing your DVR TV shows throughout the house, so I will only talk about its capabilities.
Sage has 3 potential components, a “server”, a “client” and an “extender.”
The Server is the computer that has Sage Server software running and the tuners/capture cards hooked to it. It is responsible for recording all shows and it must be on if you want to watch recorded shows on any of the TVs. You can have this server computer hooked directly to your TV and it will function as an all-in-one DVR system similar to a TiVo, you get the 10ft GUI, program guide, show setup/delete, FF/Rew, etc. etc. (you can also have it disconnected from all TVs, but we’ll get to that in a minute.)
The Client is a computer that has Sage Client software running and it. It gives you the same playback interface as the server (10ft GUI, program guide, show setup/delete, FF/Rew, etc. etc.) allowing you to do all the same things you can as if you were actually sitting at the server computer, but all it is doing is communicating to the server. No shows get stored on the client and it can not do anything unless the server computer is running. The client computer plays the shows locally, but accesses them from the server.
Lastly is the extender which is a STB that basically does all the same things as the server and the client can do, but as it is a STB you don’t need to build a computer. You just plug it in, hook the audio/video up then plug in a network connection and off you go. It again has the same interface as the server and client allowing the same interface on all TVs. It does not allow you access to recordings that are stored on the server or schedule/delete recordings without the server running (but it does have basic abilities to play videos off of a USB drive you attach to it in stand alone mode, ie. without the server running.) The extender has hardware playback locally, and does not require transcoding for any of the popular video/audio formats (it does have some limitations with regards to the advanced audio formats found on Blu Rays.)
I have a computer with 4 tuners running the server software attached to my livingroom TV. I have a client license running on my desktop (so I can watch shows while I work on digital pictures/edit home movies) and one extender hooked up to the TV in the bedroom. I can start a show in the livingroom, get half way through, pause it, go to bed and finish watching it up stairs, etc. Also, all three options allow for watching of live TV through the system.
It is quite common for people to run their server tucked away in the basement with no TV/monitor attached to it and only control the DVR capabilities from client and/or extenders. This way they can have a big/noisy PC with a lot of HDDs and tuners out of the way, and then have a small computer or silent STB sitting next to the TV. It depends on what you want your home setup to look like. In your particular instance, it would be possible to have an extender at your TV, and a copy of Sage server running on a desktop in the office (assuming you have your home networked.) As long as the office computer is on, you have full control of Sage through the extender. The server software takes very little resources to run in this manner so you probably wouldn't notice the added overhead if you were also using your office computer for other things at the same time.
Other flavors of this basic setup of multiple computer can be accomplished with other programs (like BeyondTV and I believe Mediaportal) however to my knowledge SageTV is the only system that has a set top box option that offers a full system control interface identical to the computer interface.
One last thing, Sage has provisions in it to allow for the distribution and playback of ripped CDs, DVDs and Blu Rays too, if you want more than *just* DVR support.