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Regular-use PC as an HTPC

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February 5, 2010 7:53:36 PM

I've currently got my nice shiny new PC, on which I play WoW and occassionally Crysis, specs are in my sig. I feel like I am vastly underusing this piece of equipment, and would like to use some of the untapped hard drive space and processing power to give me some added value in my TV-viewing. How do I go about using the hard drive space on my PC to augment my DVR cable boxes and give my TV access to online content? I already am using both of my video card's outputs for my two monitors. I can upgrade the PC if necessary (additional ram, SLI video card, more hard drive space, whatever) but would prefer not to. In my home i have 3 DVR cable boxes from Comcast, each is a dual tuner and rarely is more than one in use at a time. One thing I would like to do is allow each of my TVs to 'see' the DVRs from the other rooms, but my primary goal is to increase my total recordable space (120 gb isn't a lot especially in HD; I've got most of my 750 gb HD unused and can allocate a fair portion of it for this purpose). What can I do?

More about : regular htpc

a b B Homebuilt system
February 6, 2010 1:14:30 PM

If I understand you correctly, you want to save the tv shows and view 'em later on different tvs? My idea would be to use a pc as a central HTPC server and ($$$) add as many lightweight pcs as you need as a player. Or get some of these media players.

http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...!play-_-15-293-008-_-Product

This is the best in its class and plays everything from avi to jpeg. Just needs network access to a server.
February 7, 2010 6:54:46 PM

That sounds about right, I definitely don't have the cash to add more PCs, the idea is to use the one PC i have now for storage and connect each television to it one way or another. What exactly does the item you've linked do? Also, what do I need to do to my PC to make it work this way?
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a b B Homebuilt system
February 8, 2010 11:00:27 AM

All the standalone media players are uPNP compatible. uPNP is built into Windows. You can use MS' media player to enable uPNP (media sharing) so that other computers or devices or players can read the media files. Or you can use one of the many free server programs to do that.

Think of a media player as a MP3 player with the exception of using network to get files.
February 8, 2010 1:15:53 PM

and how about getting things recorded ONTO the computer? That answers how to get things on the computer TO the TV, but I'm still a bit lost on getting things TO the computer in the first place.
a b B Homebuilt system
February 9, 2010 2:11:29 PM

You need a HTPC with a HD TV tuner and PVR software to schedule recordings. I can't help you with this as I RARELY watch TV. Only 2 shows interests me and it's off season. I believe the PVR is very easy to use like point and click. It MUST be Windows as the free bundled software all runs on Windows.

So you get a HTPC server and a few other media players. Wire 'em up with a switch (as many devices as supported) /router (up to 4 devices).

[server]-[router/switch]=[players/pcs]
February 9, 2010 6:23:15 PM

thanks vane, i'll look into that.

p55 - i guess my main question is what differentiates a HTPC from the one i'm currently using? is there any reason that I cannot use this one as BOTH a PC and HTPC? Additionally, is there any way to use the DVR cable boxes I have from Comcast to do my recording scheudling, rather than an HDTV Tuner in the PC? maybe i just don't get the concept very well, but that's why i'm here.
a b B Homebuilt system
February 10, 2010 12:37:49 PM

None other than functionality. Oh sorry I missed that you already have a rig. So you just need a TV tuner card. You'd contact comcast about recording shows on a computer. If no luck, stop. I think some cable companies are encrypting their signals.
February 10, 2010 1:14:02 PM

definitely dealing with an encrypted signal, so does that mean that i'd need the tuner card and pvr software, with the media player you linked above; and the cable boxes become useless other than additional tuners?
a b B Homebuilt system
February 11, 2010 1:23:42 PM

You NEED to talk to Comcast about recording shows. It MAY not be doable. Techically, anything that's encrypted can be decrypted, but it's the legality issue that I'd be concerned about.

Yes, just a tv tuner card + software. This turns your pc into HTPC. Next, you get a few boxes/players for each TV except the one connected to the HTPC. Yes, the cable boxes may be useless to you.
February 12, 2010 1:59:31 PM

I haven't called yet so don't quote me, but let's assume that Comcast uses encrypted signal and I'm not interested in gray-area legality. Is there a way that I can use a cable box (non-DVR, just a digital box) to provide the HD Tuner Card with digital cable and not just a direct coax feed? Also, where do I get this software, is it free?
February 17, 2010 12:25:06 PM

bump hoping for more information
a b B Homebuilt system
February 17, 2010 2:17:09 PM

Recording digital cable with a computer gets a little messy. It can be done, but you have to use an IR Blaster to control your digital cable box. The TV tuner just intercepts the signal between the cable box and the TV, but the cable box is still required to decode the signal.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Infrared_blaster

You don't need any special software if you use Windows 7. Windows Media Center does a good job scheduling and watching live TV/recorded TV.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Digital_video_recorder
February 17, 2010 2:34:34 PM

Just to be clear, if you set up the system as shortstuff_mt suggests, you would be capturing a standard-def signal.

Not only that, but the signal would be converted from digital, to analog, and then back to digital. All of these conversions hurts picture quality.

If you want an economical high-def picture, either go with Tivo HD or switch to OTA [DTVPal DVR].
February 17, 2010 11:26:28 PM

it sounds like unfortunately what i WANT to do isn't really possible ... what that is, is essentially what everyone is telling me with with the ability to incorporate a CableCard into the mix so i still get full channel lineup and full HD
!