Friday, July 9, 2010

Record 4 tv shows at a time

It's all about finding something to let your mind escape and the television world has been fighting for your viewing time. However why is it that the two or three shows you are looking forward watching are scheduled at the same time. So while Tivo is a great solution, i'm just plain cheap and so far have refused to fork out the recurring charge. My answer has been a Windows 7 Ultimate machine running Windows Media Center, but I've got to admit the open source MythTV was an extremely strong contender for my home media center. Media Center is also available on the home premium edition. Extenders from vendors like Linksys make inexpensive and silent boxes for the living room, while the Windows 7 machine sits in your home office.

Similar to Tivo, Myth TV and Windows Media Center both download up to two weeks of program guide and allow you to record Programs based upon titles instead of a set time and date like old fashion VCR like recorders. So if something changes and delays your show, well maybe you only get the first half hour or not at all. So as long as the cable company adjusts the program guide, you still get your show. I still end up tweaking recording times by telling Media Center to start a few minutes early and stop a bit late.

The best part is that the Windows 7 version of Media Center is capable of supporting four tuners at the same time. The big question is how to get beyond channel 78, especially the HD channels. I can get to a few unencrypted channels, but to get premium channels without cheating you're going to need to rent a "CableCard" from your provider.

These cards look just like the old PCMCIA cards used in the last generation laptop, but are used here to cache the encryption keys for your premium channels. There are two types, a single stream version and another for multiple simultaneous streams. So at this point (June 2010) i'm running a pair of USB Aver Media tuners, but there is an alternative.

Ceton corp is just about ready to ship it's quad tuner InfiniTV 4 tuner card that can utilize the new multiple stream CableCards.

So while they aren't cheap ($399) and the CableCard is going to cost you somewhere in the $2-6 range (you still have to pay for premium channels) to rent the cable card. Still cheaper than buying four tuners and four cable cards.

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