PVR On A Budget

Network Features

A key selling point for a software-based PVR is content sharing. Specifically, streaming over the Internet or a LAN. In addition, one can share a Windows folder or use a regular filesharing app. As an experiment, I set up one PC with SnapStream as a capture device, and another PC with SnapStream as a playback-only device. Both shared the same video folder. This allowed me to use timeshifting on the playback-only PC.

From a practical standpoint, the sheer size and bitrate of the video files eliminates any kind of narrowband sharing.

But if you're on a campus or even corporate network, video sharing could become the next killer app.

As I demonstrated in the review of version 2.0, you can also export (transcode) shows to handheld devices like the Compaq iPaq.

Finally, you can archive MPEG-2 shows to DVD and watch them on a DVD player. I think SnapStream does a good job of providing possibilities in this area. If SnapStream wanted to, they could expand their .NET service to become the napster of tv shows. For now though, I am content with sharing shows over a fast home network.

Bugs

I had multiple stability problems with the beta software, and later the gold code (the released version). In particular, recordings would not halt correctly, the whole application would crash or freeze up. Other times the video would become half-height or the sound would drop out. After several emails back and forth with the support engineers, I was told that the ATI All-In-Wonder did not play nice with several Windows XP features.With these cards, when recording, the Desktop must be visible on the local computer monitor at all times. If anything causes the desktop to disappear, even for a brief instance, the ATI card can't continue recording. Examples of this are: monitor standby, login via remote desktop, logging in as another user with Fast User Switching, etc. After I heeded this warning, a lot of the problems went away. This may be a "feature" of the ATI card and Windows XP, but it certainly lead to a lot of frustration since it's not documented anywhere.

Other bugs I noticed with the All-In-Wonder: one time, the Starting Live TV... popup didn't go away until I exited the Live TV mode. Another time, the live TV feed froze completely. Also common was a kind of stuttering in the video feed while the audio kept going. I did not experience any problems with the Hauppauge WinTV cards, however.

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