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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I'm trying to figure out what is and is not possible with an HTPC setup in my house. I'd like to eventually convert to using the internet to purchase and download TV shows/movies and then get the local channels OTA and record them as I please. Understand that I've spent several hours reading about software and hardware, so I'm not just being lazy by asking these basic questions, I'm simply overwhelmed by the wealth of knowledge out there on this stuff, and the more I read the more tangents I get lost on. I'm glad to do the research myself on which software interfaces and hardware specs are best for my needs, I just want to know what's possible.


Question 1: I would like to be able to at least have a similar experience to my current setup with the local channels. Specifically, I'd like to be able to view a channel guide (just ABC, CBS, NBC, Fox, and maybe CW), set the HTPC(s) to record/view future programs (series too), and pause live TV. Are these things possible?


Question 2: Assuming 1 is possible, is there a way to get a "Total Home PVR" type of experience? I could do one of two things: either buy two more HTPCs (I only have two TVs) and put them where my Uverse boxes are now, or buy one HTPC and then use my desktop as my second one since it is not far from my second TV. My only issue here is that I'd want to be able to still browse the web (really not a gamer) and use some Office while one or both TVs are operating.


Question 3: This one depends on the answers to the first two. How many channels will I be able to record/view at the same time with a basic tuner card? Are there ways to increase my limits here?


I expect most of you can just answer this basic stuff off the tops of your heads, but I still greatly appreciate your help here.
 

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1.) yes. Windows media center (comes with windows) and a tuner (s)

2.) yes. 1 PC running windows media center and xbox 360's (with a good network connection) for either of the other TV's

3.) depends on card. some cards are one tuner, some are two. Windows by default supports up to 4 total tuners. There are hacks to go higher IIRC.
 

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sorry for #2 obviously xbox not good for web, office, etc. If you use another pc you can access the recorded tv from the main htpc, but not livetv or the guide. To get livetv and the guide you need xbox 360.


If that functionality is critical you could entertain a different setup (ie sage, beyondtv, etc.)
 

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Quote:
Originally Posted by beaups /forum/post/18236693


sorry for #2 obviously xbox not good for web, office, etc. If you use another pc you can access the recorded tv from the main htpc, but not livetv or the guide. To get livetv and the guide you need xbox 360.


If that functionality is critical you could entertain a different setup (ie sage, beyondtv, etc.)

you could have two htpc running with 2 tuners each, the only downside is you wont be able to access the others guide to set recording but you will be able to get to recorded content.


the xbox is most efficient in that it lets you access the guide and recorded tv, and works really well, i use it in my home, but the downside is streaming others types or content, for whatever reason the xbox doesn't ply well with certain formats.


you culd get a network based tv tuner so that each htpc can access the tuners, but each htpc has its own guide data.


so what you want to do is possible with some drawbacks.
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·

Quote:
Originally Posted by beaups /forum/post/18236693


sorry for #2 obviously xbox not good for web, office, etc. If you use another pc you can access the recorded tv from the main htpc, but not livetv or the guide. To get livetv and the guide you need xbox 360.


If that functionality is critical you could entertain a different setup (ie sage, beyondtv, etc.)

Sorry, I was unclear here. I only need my main computer to do those things.


Isn't the Xbox 360 limited to 1080i over component video cables? My TV in the main room is 1080p, and I'd like to do blu-ray on that TV, if possible. I'd at least like to be able to do 1080p blu-ray ripped video, which I don't believe is possible over component video. If it can't do HDMI like I suspect, are there options to do which with an HTPC and not an xbox 360?


Let's say the 360 is the best option and I go with it. Just to make sure I have this right, I would be able to use that living room TV & Xbox 360 to set up recordings that could be watched later on both TVs, watch/pause live TV, and watch movies that are stored on the main computer, correct?


As for the tuner, will I need one tuner for each channel I want to simultaneously record/watch? What if - by some ridiculous coincidence - I wanted to record all 4 major broadcasters at the same time... do I need one card with 4 tuners? Two cards with two tuners? I'd probably prefer to just install the max now so that I don't have to worry about upgrading later, but I would like to know.


Finally, with this setup, I'm assuming that I only need to run the coax from the antenna to the main computer, and then wireless to the 360, correct?
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·

Quote:
Originally Posted by mike_311 /forum/post/18236770


the xbox is most efficient in that it lets you access the guide and recorded tv, and works really well, i use it in my home, but the downside is streaming others types or content, for whatever reason the xbox doesn't ply well with certain formats.

So if I go the Xbox route, I would be able to see what I might have scheduled to record from the other room, correct?

Quote:
Originally Posted by mike_311 /forum/post/18236770


you culd get a network based tv tuner so that each htpc can access the tuners, but each htpc has its own guide data.

And this would NOT be able to view scheduled recordings from the other room, correct? This option sounds intriguing, but you say it has drawbacks... what things specifically could I not do with this setup?
 

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Quote:
Originally Posted by 27HoursLater /forum/post/18236899


So if I go the Xbox route, I would be able to see what I might have scheduled to record from the other room, correct?

Correct.

Quote:
Originally Posted by 27HoursLater /forum/post/18236899


And this would NOT be able to view scheduled recordings from the other room, correct? This option sounds intriguing, but you say it has drawbacks... what things specifically could I not do with this setup?

Yeah, pretty much. You could still share the recordings folder so both HTPC's can watch whatever the other has recorded. You just won't have synchronized guide data so it's possible to have both PC's record the same show.


Again, that's only a limitation of Windows Media Center (you can't use other computers as client). If you use a third-party application such as SageTV, then it's had "Total Home PVR" experience for a long time now.
 

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You will find that you rarely watch Live Tv once you get you PVR set up. We have our main HTPC in the living room w/tuners/guide and a 2nd machine in the bedroom as an office machine/2nd HTPC. The office machine doesn't have a tuner.
 

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Quote:
Originally Posted by Servicetech571 /forum/post/18237203


You will find that you rarely watch Live Tv once you get you PVR set up. We have our main HTPC in the living room w/tuners/guide and a 2nd machine in the bedroom as an office machine/2nd HTPC. The office machine doesn't have a tuner.

actually you will find you watch less tv in general. i've had cable gone for a year now with my main htpc in the basement theater, last fall i finally broke down and got another tv in the family room upstairs and got an xbox 360. the xbox is rarely ever on. Unless my wife wants to watch a show she recorded and im watching a movie.


But i digress. The xbox works great, setup is a sinch, and i can access the guide on the main htpc or watch tv through it. i can schedule recoding from either. Not sure if i can pause and pick up in another room, i haven't tried it.


the picture quality is perfect and there is not stutter over my wired network.


the draw back is trying to watch mkvs or ripped dvds on the xbox. I have to convert any mkv to dvr-ms to be able to view it and the ripped dvds need to be converted to mpgs.


unfortunately you can't access the guide from another pc, why microsoft still has yet to allow this is beyond me, my guess its coming in win8.


any option you choose is going to be flawed in some way, you just need to figure out what you have to have and what you can live without.


i may end up going to a small htpc to be able to stream movies instead, the guide access isn't that high on my list anymore, considering i can access recorded tv, once its finished recording.
 

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Quote:
Originally Posted by mike_311 /forum/post/18238029


unfortunately you can't access the guide from another pc, why microsoft still has yet to allow this is beyond me, my guess its coming in win8.

There's some rumblings that a Premium version of the latest Windows Home Server might come with something like this...

Quote:
Originally Posted by mike_311 /forum/post/18238029


any option you choose is going to be flawed in some way, you just need to figure out what you have to have and what you can live without.

Sadly true.

Quote:
Originally Posted by mike_311 /forum/post/18238029


the guide access isn't that high on my list anymore, considering i can acess recorded tv, once its finished recording.

Same here. It would still be nice to have it, but a couple of HDHomeRuns and sharing the recordings folder among all HTPC's makes it less critical.
 

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Discussion Starter · #11 ·

Quote:
Originally Posted by mike_311 /forum/post/18238029


the draw back is trying to watch mkvs or ripped dvds on the xbox. I have to convert any mkv to dvr-ms to be able to view it and the ripped dvds need to be converted to mpgs.

Is there much work involved in converting the video, or is it as simple as opening a program, selecting the video file and clicking run within some program?

Quote:
Originally Posted by mike_311 /forum/post/18238029


unfortunately you can't access the guide from another pc, why microsoft still has yet to allow this is beyond me, my guess its coming in win8.

Can you explain this please? You mean that you can't have a HTPC, an Xbox 360, and then your main HTPC and access the guide from the secondary HTPC? I thought I read above that you COULD access the guide from the Xbox, right?
 

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Quote:
Originally Posted by 27HoursLater /forum/post/18238378


Can you explain this please? You mean that you can't have a HTPC, an Xbox 360, and then your main HTPC and access the guide from the secondary HTPC? I thought I read above that you COULD access the guide from the Xbox, right?

You can access the guide from the Xbox 360. You can't access the guide from a second PC.
 

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Since all the MCE fans have chimed in, here's another perspective


Quote:
Originally Posted by 27HoursLater /forum/post/18236643


Question 1: I would like to be able to at least have a similar experience to my current setup with the local channels. Specifically, I'd like to be able to view a channel guide (just ABC, CBS, NBC, Fox, and maybe CW), set the HTPC(s) to record/view future programs (series too), and pause live TV. Are these things possible?

Oh, most definitely, there are a number of ways to build a PVR with a PC, WMC, SageTV, BeyondTV, MythTV, etc.... I record OTA with an HDHR with SageTV, I also record Dish (in HD
) with an HD PVR and an R5000 modded VIP211.

Quote:
Question 2: Assuming 1 is possible, is there a way to get a "Total Home PVR" type of experience?

Yup, although this is where you may/will start running into potential roadblocks, let me rephrase that, things can get more complicated.


WMC can only do this via extenders, which right now is the Xbox 360.

SageTV can do this both via extenders and software clients running on PCs.

BeyondTV can do this via software clients on PCs.

MythTV, I know has software clients, but I don't think it's got extenders.


I run SageTV on a headless server in the basement, and have an extender at each TV from which I access all my TV and other media.

Quote:
I could do one of two things: either buy two more HTPCs (I only have two TVs) and put them where my Uverse boxes are now, or buy one HTPC and then use my desktop as my second one since it is not far from my second TV.

If you want to use PCs, that all but rules out WMC IMO. Since as mentioned above there's no integration of WMC systems. The closest you can get is to view the other machine's recordings, but you can't share tuners between them, nor can you schedule recordings between them.


In contrast, the other solutions allow you to run client software on other PCs and get the full interface/experience of the server.

Quote:
My only issue here is that I'd want to be able to still browse the web (really not a gamer) and use some Office while one or both TVs are operating.

IMO then you really want extenders. They take all the load off the PC and can be used 100% independently of the main PC.

Quote:
Question 3: This one depends on the answers to the first two. How many channels will I be able to record/view at the same time with a basic tuner card? Are there ways to increase my limits here?

A basic tuner can record 1 thing at a time, but you can add more tuners to record more channels. SageTV supports an unlimited number of tuners for example (I've got 4).

Quote:
Originally Posted by 27HoursLater /forum/post/18236868


Isn't the Xbox 360 limited to 1080i over component video cables? My TV in the main room is 1080p, and I'd like to do blu-ray on that TV, if possible. I'd at least like to be able to do 1080p blu-ray ripped video, which I don't believe is possible over component video. If it can't do HDMI like I suspect, are there options to do which with an HTPC and not an xbox 360?

You can with an HTPC but it gets rather messy IMO. I play my BD rips via my SageTV extenders, 1080p24 over component or HDMI.

Quote:
Let's say the 360 is the best option and I go with it. Just to make sure I have this right, I would be able to use that living room TV & Xbox 360 to set up recordings that could be watched later on both TVs, watch/pause live TV, and watch movies that are stored on the main computer, correct?

Yup. Or the same with SageTV extenders.

Quote:
As for the tuner, will I need one tuner for each channel I want to simultaneously record/watch? What if - by some ridiculous coincidence - I wanted to record all 4 major broadcasters at the same time... do I need one card with 4 tuners? Two cards with two tuners? I'd probably prefer to just install the max now so that I don't have to worry about upgrading later, but I would like to know.

You're right, but I think most people overestimate the number of simultaneous tuners they need.

Quote:
Finally, with this setup, I'm assuming that I only need to run the coax from the antenna to the main computer, and then wireless to the 360, correct?

Avoid wireless if at all possible, it's just not reliable enough for video IMO. As a last resort, you might be able to get 802.11n to work, if you're lucky. You're best off with wired ethernet.

Quote:
Originally Posted by mike_311 /forum/post/18238029


actually you will find you watch less tv in general.

Maybe, I had a somewhat different experience. I think I found more stuff to watch with a good PVR since it doesn't matter when stuff airs. I may have the TV "on" less, but when I watch, it's better quality stuff since it's stuff I actually wanted to see.

Quote:
But i digress. The xbox works great, setup is a sinch, and i can access the guide on the main htpc or watch tv through it. i can schedule recoding from either. Not sure if i can pause and pick up in another room, i haven't tried it.

Unfortunately you run into it's limitations very fast if you want to go beyond watching TV.

Quote:
unfortunately you can't access the guide from another pc, why microsoft still has yet to allow this is beyond me, my guess its coming in win8.

Wasn't that coming in Vista? And then 7? Frankly I would be probably less surprised to see WMC dropped all together from the next Windows than I would be to see Softsled finally see the light of day. They just seem collectively unable to grasp simple concepts, like WHS being absolutely ideal for a recording backend.

Quote:
any option you choose is going to be flawed in some way, you just need to figure out what you have to have and what you can live without.

That is true, unfortunate as it may be. Personally though I find SageTV and extenders to be the least limiting/flawed, and there's a lot of interesting things going on in that community. Like a MyMovies port, Playon (Hulu/Netflix integration).... Plus full DVD and limited BD support on extenders.
 

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Discussion Starter · #14 ·
Stranger, thank you very much. That was incredible information. I looked extensively at Sage TV, and while it looks like it does pretty much everything I could ever want, I honestly can't get past the god-awful interface. It's just terrible. It looks like beta software at best. I know it's probably solid, but I look at XMBC and Beyond TV and I think that Sage is WAY behind in that department. Gonna have to keep looking.
 

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more on the xbox to answer some questions you asked but never got answers to.


the xbox can access WMCs guide and use one of the main htpcs tuner to watch, pause, record live tv. A second seperate standalone windows htpc can't do that.


its pretty much much brings the entire windows media center interface to the xbox, plus you can have the xbox start in MCE mode so it boots right into it.


The xbox has hdmi, and through xbox live also has access to HD netflix streaming.


as far as streaming goes, converting mkv to dvr-ms is pretty easying, there is a good program called dvr-ms toobox which you will most likely get anyway since it is used in conjunction with commercial removing software. the will easliy convert the mkv to dvr-ms plus do a plethora of other tasks.


if you get a plugin such as media browser for MCE, it will transcode files on the fly to the xbox but the quality isn't all that good, think of going Hd to SD.


you also have the option of using divx7 as your mkv splitter on the main htpc, this will allow streaming to the xbox without transcoding, and the PQ is great, however certain mkvs (mainly all of mine) lose 5.1 sound on the htpc, becuase of the way it handles ac3 audio. But if you dont care about 5.1 then that's your solution.


converting dvd-rips to mpg is very simple using vob2mpg (free) its a matter of selecting the folder and letting it run, on my pc (core2duo) its takes about 3-4 mins per movie.


If you let us know what you plan, or what features you have to have and what your can live without, we can steer you in the right direction of what your best bet is.
 

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Quote:
Originally Posted by 27HoursLater /forum/post/18239443


Stranger, thank you very much. That was incredible information. I looked extensively at Sage TV, and while it looks like it does pretty much everything I could ever want, I honestly can't get past the god-awful interface. It's just terrible. It looks like beta software at best. I know it's probably solid, but I look at XMBC and Beyond TV and I think that Sage is WAY behind in that department. Gonna have to keep looking.

Don't overlook the customizations (SageMC, and a couple more new STVs in the works), and really you should try and use it before you make decisions (frankly IMO BTV isn't that much different). I'll definitely give you that it's not as flashy as XBMC or WMC, but I've looked at both and they didn't hold my attention after a couple minutes.


And the CTO of Sage said in an interview on Geektonic that they're looking at addressing the UI for the next version.


I guess it's the typical form vs function debate. Sage does a number of things nobody else does, largely it has the broadest, most consitent experience across the most platforms of any system out there. It runs on Windows (even WHS), Linux, Mac, extenders, has clients for LAN computers and WAN computers and even LAN and WAN extenders.


Probably one of the biggest ones for me though is the the broad format support on extenders (DVD, BD, MKV, etc). They've made it so I don't need a heard of HTPC boxen around the house, and I'm very grateful for that. No more codec or video driver futzing, and the playback is better (more consistent and my projector's Gennum video processor is better than the HTPCs I used).


FWIW, I have an Xbox 360 and Win 7 Ultimate so I've got the stuff for a WMC system, but like I said when I tried it, it didn't hold my attention for long, and the extender limitations are just a deal killer IMO.


Of course if you don't care about stuff outside TV, then it's a simpler question, WMC would be much more viable in such a config, but I think I'd still stick with Sage.
 

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Quote:
Originally Posted by Servicetech571 /forum/post/18237203


You will find that you rarely watch Live Tv once you get you PVR set up. We have our main HTPC in the living room w/tuners/guide and a 2nd machine in the bedroom as an office machine/2nd HTPC. The office machine doesn't have a tuner.

+1


I have found this too. With the exception of sporting events, I usually watch even things like American Idol after it is recorded or has already been running for about 30 minutes so I can skip through the commercials.
 

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Quote:
Originally Posted by bjmarchini /forum/post/18241466


+1


I have found this too. With the exception of sporting events, I usually watch even things like American Idol after it is recorded or has already been running for about 30 minutes so I can skip through the commercials.

or let the commercial skipping software get rid of them altogether
 

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Quote:
Originally Posted by bjmarchini /forum/post/18241466


+1


I have found this too. With the exception of sporting events, I usually watch even things like American Idol after it is recorded or has already been running for about 30 minutes so I can skip through the commercials.

I also agree. I think the easiest for you would to build an HTPC and get a 360. Use the HTPC in the main room and get 2 dual tuners for a total of 4 if you need 4. Then use the HTPC to record all your tv and watch live tv. You then can use the 360 as an extender and pickup all the recorded tv and I believe it picks up live tv also (havent tried it).


While your at it i'd download mymovies (mymovies.dk) and start ripping your DVD's. This will allow you one click access to all your dvds. Also if you pay ($50-$100) It will give you access to transcode the dvd's onto your 360 automatically with one click to watch. It's so easy my 4 year old can flip the switch to the tv, hit the xbox button on the controller and pick her favorite movie and watch them without any help. Also mymovies has parental controls so we set the 360 to only allow g and pg movies in her room. The 360's have HDMI but i'm not sure if it broadcasts in 1080p.


Using mymovies is the only reason I haven't even looked into sagetv or the others.
 
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