[mythtv-users] Hardware Suggestion for under $1,000

Joe jfwd at phlobus.net
Thu Dec 16 17:36:44 UTC 2010

On Wed, Dec 15, 2010 at 5:23 PM, Blake Perdue <bperdue at gmail.com> wrote:
> I live in New York City. I am a Time Warner Cable subscriber. I have a Scientific Atlanta cable box that outputs HD and SD channels to our HDTV.

Hi Blake, sounds like you are in the same boat as me, also in NYC and
suffering with Time Warner.  My tuner setup consists of a dual-tuner
HDHomeRun connected directly to the cable and an older PVR-150
connected to our cable box with S-video.  It works pretty well -- here
are the details:

The HDHR picks up the channels that are sent unencrypted QAM.  In my
location with time warner this means only the broadcast stations
CBS/NBC/FOX/ABC/PBS, and a couple others.  It seems every cable
channel is encrypted on their system.  TBSHD is sent clear as well,
but I'm not counting on that continuing as it is probably a mistake --
but I expect the major broadcast networks to stay unencrypted as I
think the FCC mandates this.  Anyway, a good portion of the shows I
watch are on these channels anyway so the HDHR gets me two
simultaneous recordings.  I added these as tuners 1 & 2 so it gets
priority over #3.  When setting up these inputs in mythtv-setup just
removed all channels except the ones that the HDHR actually gets in
the clear.  BTW, you have to use live TV to tune each channel and
figure out what it is, and manually set the channel name/xmltvid  in
mythtv-setup to get everything matched up.  The channel scan finds all
sorts of stuff which is not valid.

Tuner #3 is a PVR-150 connected via S-video to the cable box,
controlled by an IR blaster.  This is capable of tuning every channel,
of course, but only records SD.  Since most of those cable channels
are SD anyway it is not really a loss.  If I built the system new I
would probably buy an HDPVR for this, but I had a couple PVR-150's
around from the pre-digital changeover days so this was a way to get
more life out of one of them.

Keep in mind that any additional cable-box based tuner (or even a
cablecard, if that ever comes to be) will require another cable box,
shelf space (a hot commodity in Manhattan - our place has precious
little), and a monthly fee paid to TW.  I like the HDHR because it's
smaller than a cable box and it is a one time purchase, even though it
only picks up a few channels.

FYI - when choosing hardware, I'd choose power efficiency over raw
speed for this purpose.  This system is on 24/7 and the kilowatthours
add up.  My older athlon X2 4850e (45W TDP) handles
transcoding/commflagging jobs just fine.

> What I need is a frontend and backend in one system that can:
> - record a minimum of 2 HD or SD channels at one time; I would prefer to record 3 or 4 (2 HD plus 1-2 SD) channels at the same time
> - do commercial flagging
> - have lots of storage to build up a media library (I'm thinking a RAID array of two 2TB drives)
> - room to expand the RAID array (so I need a case and motherboard that can handle a RAID array of at least 4 to 8 disks)
> - a good CPU to also do DVD ripping and other media operations
> - a bluray drive to play bluray discs
> - decent video card for HDMI output to an HDTV
> - have enough RAM and CPU power to last a few years and eventually be the backend for 2-3 front-end systems
> Thoughts? Do I even need a cable box for this? What CPU/Motherboard and capture card/video card combos do you recommend? Thanks so much!
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