I have begun to source for information and parts for an HPTC but it looks like the cable company the Grinch (aka Time Warner) just put the nail in the coffin on my HTPC Christmas Present for my parents.
Upon calling Time Warner I found out they broadcast in QAM. They stated that if my parents switched to a cable card and get rid of the box they would lose their cable package deal with the cable box and the cost on their monthly cable bill would increase. They also said it is required that one of their technicians install the cable card.
My question is what TV Tuner card (if any) can work with the cablebox in place, be able to change channels and record 1 show and watch another using Windows Media Center, or is this not possible and this is dead in the water ?
Do I have any other options available ?
My intention was to build the HTPC to replace their broken DVD Player, Old VCR and originally the Cablebox but that looks like it will be staying now.
The TV is a standard definition TV and the cablebox is a Scientific Atlanta Explorer 2200 or 2100...
My first question would be what "cable package deal" do your parents have? The only thing you would lose from switching from a set top box device to a cablecard device is the ability to watch PPV/On-Demand and the Guide Channel. Pay channels such as HBO should not be affected.
My experience is that leasing a cablecard is cheaper than leasing a set top box, so I'm wondering why the monthly cost would go up (unless they're on some sort of introductory offer).
As far as the Technician visit to install the card, the FCC mandates that you can perform a self-install if the cable company offers ANY type of self-install package.
One "gotcha" that I ran into was that my local office did not have cablecards and thus they were not able to give me one for self-install. I did have to have a technician come out, but they waived the technician visit fee (Comcast). Another "gotcha" is that Time Warner is not going to mail you (or give you) a cablecard as the account is in your parents' name.
Other cable cards generally only come with a single ClearQAM tuner; meaning it can only display channels sent from your cable company un-encrypted (in the clear). What channels those are vary from location to location even within the same company. You will need a set top box to view/record channels that are sent encrypted (QAM). You can still use the set top box in conjunction with a TV Tuner card, but you will need to set up your HTPC and Remote to work with the set top box (using an IR Blaster). One is included with the Hauppauge WinTV-HVR-1850 I linked in the other thread.
The problem with this set up comes when you decide you want to record something while you're away. You will need to first tell your HTPC to record a program, and then set up the set top box to automatically change the channel to that program when it starts and then leave it on. Regardless, you cannot watch one channel while recording another with only the HTPC.
I'd get back in touch with Time Warner and find out what exactly is included in your parents package and why the cost would increase going from a set top box configuration to a cablecard configuration.
Are your parents getting high number channels? Most TV tuner cards for PCs will be able to get most channels from 1-100 and maybe a few higher number channels depending on your area and the card. If they just have regular cable with no special digital channels then a card like the HVR-1850 wolfshadw referred to will work just fine, i have an older pinnacle card which works fine with Time Warner cable in Rochester.
If they do want to get the higher level digital channels then you may be forced to go through Time Warner to get one of their tuner cards that can decrypt the signal.
Sorry guys I never got notification until today on this thread....
Wolf, The reason is my parents have a cable package that includes a set top cable box. This means if they split the box from the cable and get a cablecard the cable company will charge more for the cable channels as they will no longer be part of the "cable package" which includes the set top cable box.
Yeah, something isn't right with that. The only thing I can think of is that they're saying, "if you turn in your cable set top box, we'll still have to charge you for it plus the add on fee for leasing a cablecard from us". Bogus IMO because (looking at a few TWC pricing sheets) a cable set top box fee is $10, while a cablecard fee is only $2. If anything, the price should drop at least $8. I say "at least" because you do lose some functionality with a cablecard solution:
No more on-screen guide (Windows 7 handles that anyway)
No more Pay-Per-View (I never used it)
No more On-Demand (I have Netflix)
Doesn't make sense to me, but oh well. It's a moot point anyway since there's no easy way of connecting the proposed HTPC to the standard television unless the graphics card natively does 640x480 resolution. A quick check of my Geforce 8800GTS-640 shows it only goes down to 800x600 (PC) and 576i (TV).