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The first chapter can be found below!!

 

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BOCS Whole Home Entertainment

Chapter 1:

Why would you build a PC DVR?

 

Let's start with a basic definition: a PC-DVR, at its most basic, is a computer set up to record TV shows; a PC based computer DVR. Obviously you can head down to your local cable company and for a monthly fee they will happily rent you one, or you can head to your electronics store and pick up a TiVo for a few hundred dollars and still be stuck with a monthly fee. But why - really? What are you paying for - the TV guide? (Many sources are free online), the interface to a remote? (Thats free with a tuner card), the cool on-screen menu that lets you schedule your favorite shows? (Yep - that too is actually free), or the useless thumbs up function that tries to guess what you like?

If you already have a computer with reasonable processing power, all you really need is a tuner card and they run between $30 and $100. Both Windows and Linux based free software is readily avaliable.

But why take on the project? Good question! Some folks are motivated by the challenge – you really can build something better and more versatile than the DVR you get from your cable company or from TiVo and like any other home project, you can brag about it to your friends. It has traditionally been the exclusive domain of the high-end tinkerer but with relatively new tuner cards, software, and this guide – anyone can do it.

One last thing - what is this guide? This is NOT a recommendation of specific hardware (although I chose a few to use as examples I highly encourage you to explore all your options - a good place to start is the HTPC - that is Home Theater PC - thread on avsforums.com, you can actually post your proposed choice of hardware and all kinds of experts will happily give you real time advice and/or ridicule you for trying to build that htpc with a 386 machine)... This is meant to be an overview of all the pieces of the system with special attention paid to the tuners and the software.

So let’s compare your options:

The chart below begins to go through reasons to build your own vs renting or buying form a cable company or a stand alone DVR company.

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BOCS Whole Home Entertainment......PC DVR

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Your Options:

Features DVR From Cable Co TiVo DVR Build Your Own PC-DVR
Record SD
Yes
Yes
Yes
Record HD
Yes
Yes
Yes
Take Programs Mobile
NO
Kind-Of *2
Yes
Watch on Main TV
Yes
Yes
Yes
Watch Anywhere at Home
NO
Kind-Of *3
Yes
Watch Your Movies
NO
Kind-Of *4
Yes
Listen to Music
NO
Kind-Of *4
Yes
Internet Programs
NO
NO
Yes
Rent Movies Online
Kind-Of *1
Yes *5
Yes
Download Movies
NO
NO
Yes
Home Automation
NO
NO
Yes
Home Security
NO
NO
Yes
 
Cost PER MONTH
$12-$18/Month/TV
$12/mo 1st TV, $6 each additional
$0 - Really - $0

 

Notes:
 
*1: Only rent movies from Cable company; Very limited selection *4: Movies and Music can be accessed by a TiVo through TiVo desktop but codecs are limited and access is difficult
*2: Take mobile through TiVo desktop - very slow transfer, limited playback rights *5: Renting and buying movies works well through TiVo although you have to buy from one of their partners. That movie takes up valuable hard drive space forever. No ability to access media via P2P
*3: TiVo DVRs can share a recording list but you are required to have a series 2 or better TiVo at every TV in your home (up front cost) and pay monthly for the extra DVRs to enjoy that feature.  

 

I Don't know about you but I see a pattern here!!

 

Building your Own PC Based DVR is low cost, has no monthly subscription, many more features than anything on the market, and you will feel so much better about yourself...

 

WHOLE-HOME and Portability:
I’d like to specifically draw attention to the whole-home part, as once people understand that piece, it is usually the motivating factor for taking on this kind of project.

If you build your own PC DVR, not only can you record ANYTHING, you also now own all those files. That may sound simple, but it is huge as our media collections begin to grow. With other systems, the recordings are encrypted, and while you have temporary access, you can’t just grab a program off your TiVo or off your cable company DVR and do with it whatever you like – there are keys, encryptions, special ways to access it and other big brother stuff.

Build your own PC DVR and you get more freedom:

Want to watch a program in your bedroom instead of the main TV? You bet
Want to take a program to a friends house and watch it? You bet
Want to start watching a program in the living room, get tired and finish in bed? Yep
Want to record that movie off HBO and keep it in your collection forever? Oh Yeah
Want to cut down your Cable AND TiVo bills? Easy

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