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Old 2008-10-28, 12:54 PM   #1
redonkeechong
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Default Please help me convert old PC into budget media center!

Hi everyone,

Spent some time reading through a ton of topics, but couldn't really find a definitive guide to help build myself my first HTPC. Not really looking for much, main use will be for recording basketball / hockey games while I'm away with the ability to stream content to other rooms.

My old comp:
P4 - 2.8GHz
Asus P4P-800 Mobo
1GB OCZ Plat ram
Audigy 2 SB Live!
ATI X1650
Most likely going to buy a 1TB HD for storage.
Wired to a Linksys G wireless router.

Don't have a fancy HDTV, so as long as the quality is more or less broadcast equivalent, I'm happy.

My main concerns are finding a TV tuner that'll work well with Rogers Digital Cable, and finding the right software to use it. Since my hardware is kind've old, I don't think VMC will run all too well, so I'll probably stick with XP MCE unless popular vote says otherwise.

Suggestions? Any help is appreciated. Thanks.
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Old 2008-10-28, 01:11 PM   #2
cohoho
 
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Your old PC is certainly capable of performing well as a standard definition media center (but not on Vista). For a low budget media center I would suggest XP with one of these free media center packages:

GBPVR (http://www.gbpvr.com/pmwiki/)
MediaPortal (http://www.team-mediaportal.com/)

Or, you can go with Linux and use Myth TV (for example, http://www.mythbuntu.org/).

For tuner/capture cards, Hauppauge WinTV PVR-150 Series is plentiful and cheap and well supported on both Windows and Linux. You'll want to get the media center version (WinTV-PVR-150 MCE-Kit) as it comes with remote and infrared blaster. Alternately, if you get a non-MCE PVR-150, you can but the Microsoft MCE remote with IR blaster for around $25.

Hope that helps.
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Old 2008-10-28, 01:18 PM   #3
redonkeechong
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Hey thanks for the quick reply! Any idea if this card works with Rogers Digital cable? (QAM right?)
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Old 2008-10-28, 02:05 PM   #4
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Not sure but I think QAM is not used in Canada. As far as I know, any set-top box (Rogers or otherwise) that is normally controlled with an infrared remote can be controlled with a media center remote/blaster connected to a PC.
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Old 2008-10-28, 02:08 PM   #5
redonkeechong
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I'm not concerned with the control/remote. I just meant general recording, will this card support digital channels say.. LeafsTV / Raps TV etc?

I'm reading mixed reviews with cards that are connected through the STB's and some can record them while others cannot even with "ClearQAM" support.

I'm confused =/
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Old 2008-10-28, 03:04 PM   #6
Stilgar
 
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I played around with MCE-XP on a very similar PC to yours sometime around last year. I too am a Rogers subscriber.

Connecting that Hauppauge MCE 150 TV Tuner to just the cable in the wall will tune in only the channels available via Standard (IE: Basic) cable. You will not receive any of the Premium Digital cable channels.

Your setup, should you wish to be able to record from any of the channels you subscribe to, will be:

Cable in to Rogers STB. STB out to TV-Tuner Cable/Line in. You then connect the video card to the TV in whatever fashion.

When you wish to record, say The Movie Network (TMN) from 8:00 - 10:00, Media Center downloads the Rogers Guide from the Internet. You set up your timer in MCE. When 8:00 rolls around, the Infrared blaster that comes with the TV Tuner card sends the signal to your Rogers box to turn on and tune to the appropriate channel. MCE then starts to record the incoming signal on either Channel 3 or the Line In port (whichever you defined at setup).

To my knowledge, there are NO PC TV-Tuner cards that are capable of receiving any of the Rogers Digital Channels on their own.
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Old 2008-10-28, 04:13 PM   #7
jvincent
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Given that your PC has more horespower than my HTPC, you should be OK. Granted, I only use mine for DVD playback and iTunes serving.

Most of the questions you asked are covered in the threads that are stickied at the top of this forum so I'd suggest going through those as a primer.

The short answers are that you will only be able to record the "analog tier" of Rogers cable unless you connect a capture card to the video output of your cable box.
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Old 2008-10-28, 05:57 PM   #8
Wayne
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Just to elaborate a little bit on what jvincent said - there is very little, if any, Clear QAM available from Rogers or any of the other cable cos in Canada. Therefore you have two options - analog cable tuning or tuning with the help of a set top box connected to the s-video input of your cable card. Since you want RapsTV and LeafsTV you will need the latter which means that you need a blaster and you will likely also want a remote.

By the way you don't need to go with XP MCE or Vista MC - there are the PVR software options mentioned above by cohoho and there is also BeyondTV and SageTV but they will both cost money.

I would recommend the PVR-150 MCE kit which comes with the remote, IR receiver and IR blaster.
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Old 2008-10-29, 12:21 PM   #9
phaeton
 
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I've just recently setup a myth system with roughly the same spec machine as you. Right now i'm running 2 HVR-1600 hauppauge cards and it is working well. The HVR-1600 cards are faily new with the drivers being updated constantly.
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Old 2008-10-29, 02:05 PM   #10
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We haven't really hit on the topic of "stream to other rooms". What do you plan to use for that?

Do you have an XBox or XBox360 already in the house? If yes, that may lean you towards Windows Media Center.

-Pete
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Old 2008-10-29, 03:38 PM   #11
dignatec
 
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Quote:
I played around with MCE-XP on a very similar PC to yours sometime around last year. I too am a Rogers subscriber.

Connecting that Hauppauge MCE 150 TV Tuner to just the cable in the wall will tune in only the channels available via Standard (IE: Basic) cable. You will not receive any of the Premium Digital cable channels.

Your setup, should you wish to be able to record from any of the channels you subscribe to, will be:

Cable in to Rogers STB. STB out to TV-Tuner Cable/Line in. You then connect the video card to the TV in whatever fashion.

When you wish to record, say The Movie Network (TMN) from 8:00 - 10:00, Media Center downloads the Rogers Guide from the Internet. You set up your timer in MCE. When 8:00 rolls around, the Infrared blaster that comes with the TV Tuner card sends the signal to your Rogers box to turn on and tune to the appropriate channel. MCE then starts to record the incoming signal on either Channel 3 or the Line In port (whichever you defined at setup).

Red: I have the same PC at home and that is more than enough to watch TV on. It's a powerful chip, only thing you might benefit from is a bit more ram, 1gb is pushing it, 2gigs is more appropriate.

To my knowledge, there are NO PC TV-Tuner cards that are capable of receiving any of the Rogers Digital Channels on their own.
Hey, now there's an idea I have never thought of. So if I have a Rogers HD receiver and use the cable out of the receiver to my TV guide on my PC, can I then record HD shows/movies on the PC with the software you mentioned? Is it that simple?

If so, I can then get rid of the HD PVR that I pay an arm & a leg for and create my own pvr. The whole reason I never bought a TV card is because as you mentioned, it is incapable of descrambling the digital content. You might have figured a great away around that issue.

Also, people have two tv tuners, why is that? So you can watch tv and record at the same time? I guess I use a TV as well, so one card is good enough for me.

Great thread guys!
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Old 2008-10-29, 06:07 PM   #12
cohoho
 
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"Is it that simple? "

Yes and no - but mostly no. AFAIK, with most video capture devices on a PC you can capture only standard definition video. If you are happy with SD recordings, an HTPC video recording solution is worth considering, but be prepared for lots of tweaking, occasional hiccups in controlling channels on the STB if using an infrared blaster, and potentially a poor spousal acceptance factor.

"Also, people have two tv tuners, why is that?"

Multiple tuners (can be more than two actually) allow you to watch and record at the same time, or record multiple shows at once.
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Old 2008-10-29, 07:20 PM   #13
Wayne
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Quote:
Originally Posted by dignatec View Post
Hey, now there's an idea I have never thought of. So if I have a Rogers HD receiver and use the cable out of the receiver to my TV guide on my PC, can I then record HD shows/movies on the PC with the software you mentioned? Is it that simple?
There is currently only one way to record HD from cable in Canada and that is using a device called the Hauppauge HD-PVR. It is not a tuner card, it is an external device with Component inputs. It works with some of the software mentioned above - I am using it with SageTV as my PVR software.

Quote:
Originally Posted by dignatec View Post
If so, I can then get rid of the HD PVR that I pay an arm & a leg for and create my own pvr.
Yes but this route won't necessarily save you money. The HD-PVR is about $250 plus you need an HD cable box which will likely cost around $200. Then you need the PC, etc.

Quote:
Originally Posted by dignatec View Post
Also, people have two tv tuners, why is that? So you can watch tv and record at the same time? I guess I use a TV as well, so one card is good enough for me.
Some people put many tuners on their HTPC server and then use extenders (there are extenders for Microsft MCE/Vsta MC and SageTV) in the rest of their house. This lets you watch the show you record at any TV you have. The extenders look like DVD players and attach into your LAN either through wifi or wired network.

So you could build an HTPC server with 4 tuners and 4 cable boxes and not need any sources at your TVs except for an extender. You could then record/watch up to four shows at once and you could also stream photos, watch videos you download from the web, DVDs that you rip to your hard drive, music, etc.
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Old 2008-10-30, 03:07 PM   #14
dignatec
 
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--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Quote:
There is currently only one way to record HD from cable in Canada and that is using a device called the Hauppauge HD-PVR. It is not a tuner card, it is an external device with Component inputs. It works with some of the software mentioned above - I am using it with SageTV as my PVR software.
Ok, I'll look into the hd pvr by Hauppauge. Do I still have to buy a tuner card or is my HD stb good enough? Also, what is Sage tv? I've never heard of it (live in Toronto)

Quote:
Yes but this route won't necessarily save you money. The HD-PVR is about $250 plus you need an HD cable box which will likely cost around $200. Then you need the PC, etc.
I can rent the HD STB for $12/month and I already have a PC. I'm currently paying $25/month for the HD PVR STD. So yes, even with buying the Haup device, I still save $ in the long run. There are also other providers that offer HD stb's for <$100 which I'm currently looking into as well.


Quote:
Some people put many tuners on their HTPC server and then use extenders (there are extenders for Microsft MCE/Vsta MC and SageTV) in the rest of their house. This lets you watch the show you record at any TV you have. The extenders look like DVD players and attach into your LAN either through wifi or wired network.

So you could build an HTPC server with 4 tuners and 4 cable boxes and not need any sources at your TVs except for an extender. You could then record/watch up to four shows at once and you could also stream photos, watch videos you download from the web, DVDs that you rip to your hard drive, music, etc.
That's cool but since I live in a condo, it's a bit over kill. I just want my living room tv to record and leave the bedroom tv alone. That's somethin i'll keep in mind for the future though.

Also, what is the "IR blaster" people keep talking about? Do you mean adding IR to my PC? That's something I want to do, I just don't know how to. I am using Windows XP and I'm not willing to upgrade my OS (don't need any more computer headaches).

Thx everyone.
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Old 2008-10-30, 03:54 PM   #15
Wayne
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You don't need a tuner card if you buy the HD-PVR and it includes an IR blaster and a remote. (You can buy an HD-PVR at Canada Computers and NCIX just to name two shops. The IR blaster is used to change channels on your cable box and it usually also acts as an IR receive to receive codes from a remote control. But you can also likely use firewire to change channels which is more reliable. If you plan on keeping this setup for any length of time I would recommend buying an HD cable box as you can often get them on sale for about $170 and you often get programming credits. That is less than 15 months at $12/month.
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