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Thread: "Newbie" - Is this for me?

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Mar 2006
    Posts
    1

    "Newbie" - Is this for me?

    I've got several 'newbie" questions. I'm not concerned with my ability to put one of these together. I just want to know if it's worth doing versus going through Directv and paying for a service. I'm really interested in doing this myself so please feel free to talk me into it. In the end though, I have to be able to justify it with my wife. Here are some more details of what I'm after:

    1. My wife needs to be able to use it.
    I don't want 7 different remotes and I don't want to have to use a switchbox or anything like that. A single remote to perform all functions (except initial configuration) is prefered.

    2. Needs to work with my existing Directv box (Svideo only).
    The alternative to building my own is to buy one from Directv. I like the expandability (via "wikis") of GBPVR but if it doesn't do what I need, it doesn't make sense to build one.

    3. No HDTV requirements
    I don't currently have an HDTV or tuner so I don't have any need for HDTV support. I'm assuming that this can be build without using HDTV televisions? (I know, this is 2006...).

    4. No monthly service fee
    If possible, I'd like to avoid a monthly service fee. Will I lose features without this kind of service?

    5. I need to be able to watch one show while recording another.
    This is a big one because I know that I can do this if I go through Directv. My current satellite receiver probably will not allow this (if it did I wouldn't know where to start). Is it possible to get a second "TV tuner" card that will accept digital over-the-air broadcasts? If so, are these only available in HD format (and will that be a problem playing back on an analog TV)?

    6. Where does the TV (S-video in my case) signal come from? Does the TV tuner card provide that or do I need to buy a video card with TV-out capabilities?

    7. Do you recommend any specific hardware? Why?

    Thanks and sorry for all the questions!

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Feb 2005
    Location
    Santa Clara, CA
    Posts
    1,015
    The answers you seek cannot be fully comprehended until you have asked yourself one simple question, "Am I looking for a simple PVR solution (a la TiVo) or do I want to invest tons of time and money building, tweaking, rebuilding, and perfecting my own HTPC/PVR?"

    In all honesty, that is the question you will have to answer first.

    You see, everything you are interested in doing can be done by an HTPC. However, you have to take into consideration the amount of time and money you are willing to invest into this hobby (it is a hobby.) You WILL spend ALOT of time tweaking your HTPC to get it working "just right." (Remember, "just right" is a subjective term so your time investments will vary based on how meticulous you are.) Additionally, you could find yourself investing WAY MORE money into this hobby than the cost of a commercial TiVo + lifetime subscription.

    Now, digest all of that and throw the WAF (Wife Acceptance Factor) into the mix. Are you still ready to invest your time into this? Does your wife have the patience to endure "downtime?"

    If your answer is yes, then you've come to the right place.

    1. My wife needs to be able to use it.
    I don't want 7 different remotes and I don't want to have to use a switchbox or anything like that. A single remote to perform all functions (except initial configuration) is prefered.
    Well, then be prepared to invest in a universal remote and an IR device. I suggest a Logitech Harmony but there are many others out there that will work as well. There are tons of forum posts on this topic so do a search and educate yourself to the options. As for the IR receiver, see reply #2.

    2. Needs to work with my existing Directv box (Svideo only).
    The alternative to building my own is to buy one from Directv. I like the expandability (via "wikis") of GBPVR but if it doesn't do what I need, it doesn't make sense to build one.
    Well, then get ready for LOTS of configuring and testing. Unfortunately, Digital Television (Satellite and Digital Cable) poses a unique challenge to PC based PVRs/HTPCs. There is currently no "plug and play" method of recording Satellite or Digital Cable television signals (at least in the US this is the case, not sure about elsewhere). So, in order to do this you will need several things, a dedicated capture card, DirecTV receiver, and a USB UIRT.

    The way this setup works is simple*. The DirecTV receiver is your tuner, the capture card is your recording device, and the USB UIRT is the "remote control." When you schedule a recording, your PVR software will instruct the USB UIRT to "change the channel" on the DirecTV receiver. The capture card will then start recording the show you want.

    Now, what happens if you want to watch a show while recording another? Or what if you want to record several shows simultaneously? You guessed it. You have to have a DirecTV receiver AND a capture device for each connection to your service. (Last I checked, additional DirecTV receivers cost money.)


    3. No HDTV requirements
    I don't currently have an HDTV or tuner so I don't have any need for HDTV support. I'm assuming that this can be build without using HDTV televisions? (I know, this is 2006...).
    HDTV viewing/recording is still in its infancy on this side of the spectrum. If you have no interest in it now but may in, say a year or two, make sure your HTPC is powerful enough to handle the data. (See the HTPC specs in my sig. They are, IMO, the ABSOLUTE MINIMUM for HDTV recording.) Also, keep in mind that Microsoft Vista is currenlty the only OS "promising" full support for digital and HDTV PVR capabilities.

    4. No monthly service fee
    If possible, I'd like to avoid a monthly service fee. Will I lose features without this kind of service?
    I'm not very familiar with DirecTV but you will probably have to pay for additional DirecTV receivers. (Based on your questions you will need at least two.)

    5. I need to be able to watch one show while recording another.
    This is a big one because I know that I can do this if I go through Directv. My current satellite receiver probably will not allow this (if it did I wouldn't know where to start).
    See #2 for the solution to this.

    Is it possible to get a second "TV tuner" card that will accept digital over-the-air broadcasts? If so, are these only available in HD format (and will that be a problem playing back on an analog TV)?
    It is possible to record "over-the-air" digital broadcasts (non DirecTV). Whether or not the broadcast is digital or HDTV depends on the station and even how the show itself was recorded. If you are interested in recording these types of shows then the DViCO Fusion 5 (lite and/or gold) is a decent card for this purpose. I have the US version and I like it but there is a high amount of maintenance required for it.

    6. Where does the TV (S-video in my case) signal come from? Does the TV tuner card provide that or do I need to buy a video card with TV-out capabilities?
    This depends on the setup. Analog cable users can simply plug in their Coax cable into their capture cards. Digital cable and Satellite (US) users have to use more convoluted methods like S-Video or standard A/V cables from the receiver to the capture card.

    7. Do you recommend any specific hardware? Why?
    I could go on and on answering this question. If you haven't been discouraged yet then poke around these forums. You'll find lots of useful information here that will help guide your decisions. Also, you might want to visit the HTPC forums at http://www.avsforum.com/avs-vb/forumdisplay.php?f=26. There is more information there than you could ever need on HTPC's (although the users there can be a bit elitist towards "newbies" who don't RTFM.)

    - DaPhatty
    Dell Inspiron E1505
    Intel Core Duo T2400 (1.8Ghz x2)
    1GB RAM
    120GB Hard Drive
    GeForce Go 7300
    Windows XP Home

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Oct 2004
    Location
    Sweden
    Posts
    3,129
    Quote Originally Posted by sross
    6. Where does the TV (S-video in my case) signal come from? Does the TV tuner card provide that or do I need to buy a video card with TV-out capabilities?
    There is one tuner-card that has tv-out capabilities, that is the pvr-350. I would not recommend anyone buy that, though. It has a *lot* of issues. Picture quality is great, though, but it is so unstable. For many users. Yet other have no problems at all. If you search this forum, you'll find loads of threads on the theme.

    That said, you will probably need to get a graphics card with a (good) tv-out (s-video). There are plenty of cards out there with really crappy tv-out capabilities, so be sure to try some different ones in the store so you see what you get.
    I'm not always right
    GB-PVR 1.2.9
    Accent HT-400 Case, AMD Athlon 64 3800+ 1024MB, 1TB+300GB+180GB, WinXP Pro-SP2, NVidia 7600GT
    Nova-T USB2, PVR-350 recording from Dilog 355 DVB-T box, USB-UIRT (receiving & transmitting)

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