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Economical media/streaming computer

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July 16, 2010 5:22:29 PM

What I want to accomplish:

Hook Computer to TV and a) control TV and sound system from Computer b) record programs from TV/cable like a DVR but want to get rid of DVR from cable company.

Hook Computer to Internet and a) stream Internet TV, videos, Netflix etc to TV and b) record streamed content.

I can run an IT department but just can’t seem to get my hands around this. I have 4 computers at home but may need to build one specifically for this scenario. That being the case, preferably a low profile but not mandatory.

What I have:

NZXT M59 tower with i5 750, 4G Corsair DDR3, 4-Seagate 500G HDD in RAID, Creative Fatal1ty sound card, 2-Ati HD4770 Crossfire on a Gigabyte board and some other stuff. Duel booting XP Pro 64bit and Win7 Pro 64bit – Gaming and media storage.

OPTIPLEX 745 SFF mini tower with Pentium D 3.2, 2 G PC2-5300, standard onboard stuff with DVI video dual booting Server 2003 and Server 2008 32bit

OPTIPLEX 620 SFF with Pentium D 3.0, 2G PC2-5300 standard onboard stuff with DVI video with XP Pro 32bit – mostly offline private stuff

OPTIPLEX 280 SFF with Pentium D 3.0, 2 G PC2-5300 standard onboard stuff with DVI video with XP Pro 32bit – for torrents and testing programs and I re-image it a lot cuz I keep hosing it.

I also have an Intel ATX board with Pentium Q6400, 4G of RAM and an nvidia 8500 GT card that I could use but might be limited to the case I can put it.

My Questions:

Can the 280 be used and what hardware/software would I need?

If I opt to use the Intel setup, probably better but case might limit me, what hardware/software would I need to accomplish the above?

Any thoughts about USB vs tuner card, ie, performance, software? I want to replace the DVR but still have the same functionality.
Recommended software for capturing/recording TV? What is the best video capture software for Streaming video or dvd?
Windows XP Media vs Wins 7 home Premium – will either/both of them work or is there something better?

Anything else I should be aware of or any other thoughts or any sites that might be helpful?

Thanks for your help and input.
July 16, 2010 6:32:47 PM

To be completely honest, you need basically nothing for an HTPC. Anything you've listed above would make a fine HTPC. What's needed to control it like a DVR is just a TV tuner card with an IR blaster. Other than that, there is nothing special needed for an HTPC.

The problem is the DVR part. There aren't many TV tuner cards that are able to rcord from the encrypted lines from cable. There is one that does it (I forget the name, but it's a quad tuner), but it runs a good $400+.
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July 16, 2010 7:11:50 PM

MadAdmiral said:
To be completely honest, you need basically nothing for an HTPC. Anything you've listed above would make a fine HTPC. What's needed to control it like a DVR is just a TV tuner card with an IR blaster. Other than that, there is nothing special needed for an HTPC.

The problem is the DVR part. There aren't many TV tuner cards that are able to rcord from the encrypted lines from cable. There is one that does it (I forget the name, but it's a quad tuner), but it runs a good $400+.


Thanks for the response. Basically, I want to record one channel while watching another ... the encryption part, I thought, just applied to pay channels. Something else I'll have to consider, thanks.
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July 16, 2010 8:12:57 PM

The encryption does apply only to "premium" channels. However, for cable, that means anything that isn't over the air.

EDIT: I should state that I'm by no means an expert in this area. This is probably the area in computer technology where I know the least. So take everything I'm saying with a lot of salt. It might be accurate or it might not. To the best of my knowledge, it's correct, but that's limited. I've been looking into this as well, but the information out there is so scattered and convuluted that it's hard to learn anything.
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July 17, 2010 12:13:14 AM

but the information out there is so scattered and convuluted that it's hard to learn anything. and that's why I'm here.

It seems you were right about the encryption. I got off on a tangent and ran across the HDHomeRun on newegg and started reading reviews and someone mentioned that one of the cable companies was starting to encrypt some of their channels. Anyway, HDHomeRun is a external Network based tuner that seems to work pretty good. The only complaint is it's all digital which would be fine for OTA but apparently some of the cable channels are still analogue so it won't work with them. Then, I found instructions on building a MythTV box, Free Open Source software digital video recorder (DVR) project, so I'm going to check into it more ... and the journey begins. Thanks again.
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