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The DVR Project - aka "Ditch DirecTV"


SpiceWare

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A while back I calculated that if I ditched DirecTV and went over the air for the networked shows plus Blu Ray/streaming/digital-download for cable series I watch that I'd save about $800 a year in expenses. Various things kept the project on the back burner though.

 

Today I noticed that the HD HomeRun Dual, part of the hardware I planned on getting for this project, is on sale at Tech Woot! so I've finally started the ball rolling. The HD HomeRun Dual is a dual ATSC tuner that sits on your computer network. It lets you tune 2 channels concurrently either on the same computer (for recording) or even use 2 separate devices (computers, iPhones, iPads, etc) to watch different shows. You can put more than 1 HD HomeRun on your network to support additional concurrent channels. I don't know if I'll really need more than 1, but the price is right so I went ahead and ordered 2 of them.

 

I plan to pick up one of the new Mac mini's to act as the DVR. One potential hiccup is my HDTV predates HDMI. I have a few potential solutions for that, like this HDMI to Component RGB converter, but if that fails to pan out then it'll be time to replace my 11+ year old HDTV. If a new TV is required, I've an extra monitor that I'll be able to use to get everything set up with and then wait for a good sale for the TV.

 

I'll make future updates under the DVR Project category as this project progresses.

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Thanks for writing this up. I'll be watching this with great interest!

 

I cut the cable a couple years back, switching to over-the-air and Internet based video. My family doesn't miss cable at all, but having recording/pause on ota would make a big difference to our viewing experience.

 

Even better, it looks like the HDHomeRun is supported under XBMC, which I'm planning to switch back to in the future. A single interface for over-the-air and Internet video only helps the wife acceptance factor!

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My OTA set up is a MythTV (Mythbuntu) backend running on a Celeron Dell with two ATI HDTV Wonder cards which I schedule via MythWeb and play back using my PS3 via UPnP/DLNA. I also occasionally run the MythTV frontend on my wife's Macbook. Using the PS3 means I can't do live TV, but I've got cable PVRs for that (and for my wife's NASCAR).

 

Note: In my experience you really need at least 100Mbit wired for ATSC - 10Mb won't cut it and WiFi depends on protocol, distance, and interference.

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I just checked TVfool.com for your area and you have a _bunch_ of stations, and only two main directions. What you might do is set up two antennas - one for each HomeRun. One pointed NNW (RCA ANT-751 for VHF Hi+UHF) and the other NE (Antennas Direct DB-8 for UHF only) to better catch KZHO, KQHO, and KEHO.

 

Then you don't need a rotor although you may find 2 tuners isn't enough for 28 stations.

 

Scratch that idea. As per http://houstondtv.wordpress.com all three of the NE stations are religious. So just go with one good outdoor VHF Hi+UHF antenna and split it to the two HomeRuns. Depending upon your cable run you might not need a preamp.

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Yeah, we have a lot of over the air channels and most of the towers are visible from my backyard as they're only 4 miles away(my zip is 77545, which TVfool.com shows as being 1 mile closer to the towers than I actually am).

 

Per that site I could probably get by with a set-top antenna, though I'll most likely stash one in the attic. I may eventually put the antenna on the mast the satellite dish is on, but that won't happen until after I cancel DirecTV.

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I checked my AMEX account and the new billing cycle started today. So I now have a Mac mini on order.

 

I opted to bump the i7 to 2.6 GHz. I debated the Fusion Drive, but decided not to as I'm most likely going to set up a Drobo 5D. A friend has one of the earlier models and is quite happy with it.

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Assuming your TV has an ATSC tuner, you can try out antenna placement. (Although, with the antennas that close, you can probably get a signal with just a paper clip.)

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I wish it did, it only has an NTSC tuner. I don't know if they ever came out with it, but there's an internal slot for an HD tuner. What little I recall about the HD tuner was it was going to have a list price around $1000.

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