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Friday, November 21, 2008

Is Your DVR Not Good Enough?

A couple of friends of mine have been looking for alternatives to Tivo. The basic idea is to take your cable signal and broadcast it onto your home network. The benefit of these devices is that you can then record HDTV directly to a hard drive for later viewing without paying your cable company a monthly fee. Additional benefits include taking your recorded shows with you on trips, keeping solid days worth of TV instead of hours, and sharing shows with friends.

There are three hardware options I know about for this functionality:

The first, and most obvious, is Tivo HD. You'll need to buy a Tivo HD for $300 plus a life time service contract for $400. (Monthly fees are the devil)
But, your fun doesn't exactly end there. With Tivo Desktop you can move your HD shows to your PC, but they are digitally protected. You'll have to get some extra software online to jailbreak your shows into MPEG4 videos.

The cheapest option is called HD HomeRun. To get it working takes a little bit of effort. First you need to pick up the hardware for $170. This gives you a box with two coax digital converters. These converters will work with any cable company that doesn't encrypt their channels. You might run into trouble with HBO.

Next you need software to program it. The most common software for this is called Myth TV. It's a free Linux program that gives you all the conveniences of Tivo from the comfort of your PC. However, getting the TV channel listings can be a pain. There are free options, but the general method is to sign up for Schedules Direct at $20/year. (Hate the monthly fees, but $1.70 a month seems reasonable)

The final, and maybe best, solution is a SlingBox. For $300 you get a box that will broadcast 'X' onto your network. I say 'X' because this box has a coax in, a component in, an s-video in, and a composite in. If you wanted to broadcast and record your Rock Band session in HD, you can do it with this device.

It comes with its own software which connects to the Zap 2 It network for its channel listings. The Zap 2 It network was the de facto standard for TV listings until 2007 when it stopped handing it out for free. Apparently SlingBox has worked out a deal because there is no monthly fee.

So there it is crazies, go out there and get your TV the way you want it.

Note: When I say HD, I mean 720p or 1080i. 1080p is still a highly protected standard. While the component standard can certainly handle the 1080p bandwidth, it's too open for the big wigs in the media industry. As such, devices that output and input to component are limited to 720p or 1080i by contract. If you want a device to output 1080p, it has to conform to the HDCP over HDMI standard and all the BS that entails.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

TiVo? DVR? I do not know these words...


11/21/2008 7:21 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am currently running SageTV with an Hauppauge HD-PVR, seems to work pretty well. $275.00. Basically records component (RGB) signal out of your cable box. Pretty much unstoppable, until the cable companies start turning off the component outputs.

11/23/2008 9:08 AM  
Blogger mattjustmull said...

Is there any guide software? How does it do 'Season Pass' style of recording?

11/24/2008 8:15 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yes it does, it downloads a guide from somewhere. I have just got it working a few days ago, using firewire interface on my cable box to handle channel changing was quite a task.

11/24/2008 8:29 AM  

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