This is Part of Jon’s HTPC setup. For more, see: Introduction and Table of Contents
Everybody knows what a TIVO is and what it can do, so whatâ€™s the advantages to doing it through your computer? Several. First, a TIVO can only record one, or sometimes two, channels at a time. With a computer, it can record as many channels as you have tuners installed. Want to record 12 channels at once? No problem, just make sure you have 12 tuners installed. If you are going to buy a tuner card for you computer (I canâ€™t stress this enough) buy a Hauppauge PVR-250, 150, or 350 card. There are tons of other cards out there and some for a lot less money, but look through the user profiles of people in HTPC forums and you will see that 9 out of 10 profiles use one of the cards I mentioned above. They are very reliable cards, heavily supported by all sorts of software, and most importantly they have hardware MPEG2 encoders built in. That means when you are recording TV shows it wonâ€™t slow down your computer. Also, the cards are top-notch quality. For a comparison, DVDâ€™s are usually encoded at around 8 Mbit/s. These cards hardware encode at up to 12Mbit/s. The problem for me is that the cable signal coming into our house is really crappy. Weâ€™ve actually had the cable company out to look at it and they did something outside that helped a bit, but itâ€™s still not very good. Oh well. Also, stay away from the ATI All-In-Wonder cards. If you want a headache give one a try, but in a few months I guarantee you will upgrade to a Hauppauge card. If you are looking to record HDTV content itâ€™s going to be a whole other game. I havenâ€™t personally tackled that beast yet, so I donâ€™t have any advice. That takes care of the tuner card. Just like TIVO you can schedule shows to record once, or every time it airs, or every new airing, yada yada. You can skip commercials with the push of a button. You can fast forward, and rewind TV. The interface is also automatically available via a web server, so you can schedule your computer to record shows from anywhere in the world. You can also watch recorded shows streamed from your computer to anywhere in the world. Fun stuff. I guess the other big difference from TIVO is that with a computer you donâ€™t have any monthly subscription fees. Once you buy the software thatâ€™s it. Another advantage is that the shows record to your hard drive as MPEG2 or WMV files, so when your hard drive gets full you can just burn them off to DVD-R discs. I usually wait until the end of a season then burn the whole season to DVD to save space. Another advantage to TIVO is that you can easily upgrade your hard drive space. With my settings, an hour of MPEG2 takes up 4 Gigs and an hour of WMV takes up 1 Gig. I have it set up to record everything as MPEG2 and then every day at 1AM the computer takes everything recorded that day and then re-encodes it as WMV to conserve space. My personal choice for software is Beyond TV (accessed through the Meedio front-end). Itâ€™s good software, but there is other good software out there as well. A major competitor is Sage TV and Windows Media Center Edition. Beyond TV works just fine, but I donâ€™t have any die-hard loyalty to it.
Beyond TV Softwareâ€¦
Hauppauge PVR cardsâ€¦ (the 250 is your standard card. The 150 is identical except it encodes audio and video using one chip instead of separately on two. The 350 is identical except has two inputs and two hardware encoders.)
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