Building your own DVR, Part I

In my last blog, I brought you up to date on the hell that is dealing with Time Warner Cable for service. In the comments, my pal Sean was surprised that I didn’t just dump the Time Warner DVR and buy my own. I don’t think I’d buy a dedicate DVR myself (like one from Scientific Atlanta) but, I have considered building my own. I thought I’d share my research so far…

Tired of paying way too much money to Time Warner Cable ($75/month) for cable TV service and DVR box rental, I started down the road of figuring out what it would take to build my own DVR. After spec’ing out a PC do the job, I eventually abondandoned the idea when I figured out that I’d only save about $15/month of the cable bill and lose a lot channels in the process. But, with my latest problems with Time Warner service, I think I’m gonna dust of the building a DVR idea again.

Let’s start with pros and cons…

Pros:

  • Don’t have to rent it from Time Warner.
  • If it blows up, I can (probably) fix it myself.
  • I can have more than 2 tuners if I want (can record more than 2 shows concurrently; seems kinda silly, but it happens frequently)
  • Capacity. I can have as much as I want.
  • Storage Reliability. I can use RAID to protect my recordings.
  • Flexibility. I can use a number of different PVR software packages (MythTV, SageTV, BeyondTV, etc.)
  • Hackability. MythTV is of particular interest, it appears to be easy to add your own skins and additional functionality.
  • Exportability. I can back up recordings to DVD.

Cons:

  • No digital content. In the Time Warner Cable system, you must use their cable box (standalone or the one built into a DVR) to receive digital quality cable.
  • No digital channels. In the Time Warner Cable system, a significant number of channels are only available when you have the digital package.
  • No high def. Its not too big of a deal now because there are only about 8 high def channels available, but as more channels convert, it would be nice to get full usage of my high def TV.
  • Noise. Unless I invest in pricey noiseproof pc components, I’ll have to live with the white noise of a standard pc. Not a deal breaker, but kind of annoying.

In my next installment, I’m going to start to spec and price a pc for DVR use. Stay tuned.

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