Tech Microsoft Windows Media Center, 2010 Fall Television and HomeRun Tuners

Windows Media Center, 2010 Fall Television and HomeRun Tuners

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The new Fall season of American television has started and there is a veritable cornucopia of great shows available for recording in Windows Media Center. Why use Windows Media Center? Monday night has three great shows all on at 10:00 PM. How are you going to record three or more shows at once? Read on to find out.

Windows Media Center

Standard HD DVR Recording

For those of you with HD DVRs from your cable company, you can usually only record one or two shows at once. I have a Moxi DVR from Charter so I know. Bummer.

Living Room

Notice: Although I have yet to return the Moxi box, I have a HTPC behind the TV and a Roku in the cabinet!

The DVR from Direct TV also only has two tuners. Even for those of you with a TiVo, you can only record two shows at once.

http://www.tivo.com/products/tivo-premiere/premiere-compare.html#tab

Now, I have also heard the AT&T U-Verse DVR has four tuners. Here is what AT&T has to say about that:

Four channels can be recorded to the DVR or viewed simultaneously, up to 2 can be HD subject to availability. Total Home DVR functionality available for up to 8 TV’s and requires a receiver for each additional TV at $7 per month each. Access to HD programming requires $10 monthly HD Technology Fee. HD Premium Tier available for an additional $5 per month.

Really AT&T?

http://www.att.com/u-verse/explore/offer-details.jsp

Got Verizon Fios? They use Motorola DVRs so you are in the same boat as most cable companies.

http://www22.verizon.com/ResidentialHelp/FiOSTV/Receivers/Equipment+Issues/Top+Questions.htm

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TV Tuners and HD Recording

With Windows Media Center and two SiliconDust HomeRun Dual Tuners you can record up to four HD shows at once. In addition, with the new WMC tuner hack from TunerSalad you could actually record even more!

I have three SiliconDust HDHomeRun dual tuners on my network. This means I have six tuners available at any given time. I have two tuners dedicated to cable signal and four tuners dedicated to over the air (OTA) signal. I live in Los Angeles so I get many OTA channels including the major networks. I also have a ATI CableCARD tuner that records premium content but lets just stick with the standard tuners for this article.

image

I have all three HDs on a shelf high up in my garage. They only draw a 6 watts of power each, so leaving them on 24-7 is not a lot of electricity.

You can read about the installation of these tuners at:

http://moviesgamesandtech.com/2010/03/01/installation-of-two-hdhomerun-dual-tuners-on-a-friday-night-part-one/

SiliconDust HD HomeRun Tuners

I also have one dedicated dual core computer with Windows Media Center that I leave on 24-7 for recording. I do not use a keyboard, mouse or monitor with this PC. This PC is just made to record but you could easily use your HTPC to do the recording.

HTPC

This PC cost me $230 to build and the three tuners (bought separately over the last year) cost me about $120 each on average. Refurbished units are my choice since there are no moving parts.

http://moviesgamesandtech.com/2010/08/16/building-an-under-cabinet-htpc-on-a-friday-night/

If you think about how much you pay per month for your DVR, then you probably realize that in under two years you could have bought the tuners and built a PC!

.

Video for Setting a TV Series to Record

Video for Setting a TV Series to Record

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Windows Media Center Interface

Once you have tuners on your network (or in your PC if you choose that route) you can set recordings. As you can see below, I had all of the shows ready to record for Monday night. More than eight shows in one night. I love Windows Media Center. Seriously.

Windows Media Center

I even have THREE shows recording at once. Is this great or what?

Windows Media Center

Once the shows record they are automatically moved to my EX485 through the Media Connector.

Windows Media Center

And once the shows are on your Windows Home Server you can watch them from any PC in the house. You can also use Home Group for those of you without servers!

Windows Media Center

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Windows Zune Conversion

Once all of my TV shows have been recorded, Windows Media Center will not only move them to the server, but it will also make a 720 Zune formatted copy for me. This means I can now sync my Zune to watch these movies or even copy them directly to my netbook for watching while on the road. SWEET!

You can see it takes a while to process the video, but I am sleeping anyway!

I woke up this morning and all of my shows were waiting for me!

Windows Media Center

NOTE: CableCARD tuners have Copy Protection on certain shows and the Zune downsize will not process those shows.

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Windows Media Center and Remote Desktop

To make changes or schedule more shows I can Remote Desktop to my HTPC at any time using the Windows Home Server website. I can make changes and adjust settings as needed. Remember though, that WMC does support video playback while using Remote Desktop so you cannot watch over RDC.

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Windows Server code name Vail

Since I am testing Vail I also move the Zune copies to my Vail machine so I can watch them with Silverlight over the web. SWEET!

NOTE: The Vail Media Connector is not fully developed in this version of Vail so I do not use that interface at this time.

Windows Media Center

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Conclusion

I cannot say enough great things about Windows Media Center but I can easily say too much. Most of you have used it in some form or another so I really would suggest trying networked tuners and recording.

Tim

Timothy Daleohttp://usingwindowshomeserver.com
Timothy Daleo is a Project Resource Analyst and Oracle Applications Trainer in Pasadena, California. In addition to financial analysis, Tim has been developing training materials since 2003 and supporting direct projects through various auxiliary databases since 2005.

21 COMMENTS

  1. Tim, I am not an expert with wmc. Do you use an xbox to watch everything. If not what do you use as an extender.

    My experience with using xbox as an extender with my videos is that ff and rw do not work well with the remote. How do you do it flawlessly?

    Any help would be great.

    Todd

  2. I use a HTPC for each large TV in my home. I use the WMC interface on each of these computers with a Lenovo all-in-one remote.

    I also have a XBox on two of the three TVs and can use it as an extender when I want to watch CableCARD stations. I use the $20 XBox Media Center remote and just gently FF and Rew!

    Tim

  3. Tim, can you do an article or just give an explanation of why you when the SiliconDust route and not with the Ceton 4 tuner card? The networking features of Home Run tuners are advantageous with multiple PC's but I think I missed the "What happened to Ceton Prime" article about why this build got a job change.

    • I never changed HTPC builds. The Core i5 Alienware PC I built for the Ceton project is still my daily use office PC. I did eventually change the name to

      • I love my HD Homerun but Silicon Dust has been so silent on any progress relating to release date that I feel the move to the Ceton option is still viable and maybe preferred. Any "insider news on SD"? 🙂

        • I wish I knew the status of the SD Prime. I have three of the dual tuners and an empty spot for the Prime. I will wait as long as it takes but if you are really in a hurry then go for it. I am sure they will release it the day AFTER you get your Ceton. 😉

  4. I love the write ups. I really do. Thanks for all your effort. You may have covered this question before. What kind of HDTV antenna would you use? Would you mount it outdoors?

    Other than that, it looks like I have found a great new toy.

  5. Hi,

    Great post. will your setup also work with verizon fios with hidef supscription. I have just been using an htpc for recording but limited to one show at a time and cant change channels while recording is in progress.

    also do you have a recomendation for an external antenna.

    Thanks in advance.

    Syed.

  6. I looked at the hdhomerun because I currently use older tv tuners. Wow was I disappoined, Really shocked that a new piece of hardware is so limited. It has duel tuners but only one coax input?? Are they on drugs? And what about composite or component input?? This is not progress. How would you record your analog satilite? Through analog coax? Then why have HD aint gonna get it through coax.
    I have a pc set up to record and play all my digital media and its true HD through HDMI to the TV. I can recod 5 shows at a time 3 HD and 2 SD limits of the old DVR and pay no subscriptions. My oldest is a usb pinnacle and then a hauppaug dual tuner. I have been running this setup for 5 years and only missed a show once, a storm made my signal go away. I can record from one of my satilite recievers through A/V cables and all the digital signals through coax. And the best thing its right on the pc so everything goes to the TV through HDMI cables. If the network is down I am still recording. But all the media is available on the nework to watch elsewhere.
    As to the antenna question get the Winegard HD8200U with a amplifier if you dont live in town I can pick up stations 100 miles away. Its huge but it works like 15′ x 9′. I actually have the older model but you cant but them any longer.
    Hope this helps.

    • The difference between your setup and the HDHomeRun tuners I use is that your tuners are all on one PC. With my HD HomeRuns (I now have four dual tuners and one CableCARD tuner) I can record shows on the main HTPC and still have networked tuners available for other PCs on the network until I use all 9 tuners. Each dual HD HomeRun tuner has two coax inputs that can accept cable or antenna. The latest HD version has the spilt inside and makes it easier for most people, however as you point out, it may not work for everyone.

      http://www.silicondust.com/products/models/hdhr3-us/

      Satellite users have always had to use alternative recording options, and unfortunately that does not look like it is going to get any better any time soon.
      Microsoft Homegroup now makes sharing easier and Windows Home Server has always been there to store and stream recorded content.

      If network reliability and up time is in question, those issues go beyond the scope of this article; however we do discuss networks in other articles on this site.

  7. I guess you missed the point. I can record from my satellite effortlessly.
    The old hdhomeruns had 2 inputs but they were both digital. There is no component input there is no composite input, there is not even a analog coax. So I could see using it in limited situation where you only have digital signal available.
    The beauty of having all the tuners on one pc is you only have to have one pc running. Duhh. So you only need one UPS and one nice pc. And I never watch live tv why would I? I use mcpstar and never see a commercial or a pause in the action if its sports.
    If you use the hdhomerun on 2 differant pc you have 2 pc’s running just to record 2 shows. Then you have to remember where they are. All my media is in one directory all of it and its available to anything that can get on the network. And when the pc is not recording or playing it is in sleep mode using 10 watts of power.
    Since I use a ups I even recorded an event when the power was out at my house.
    Yes I live out in the country and power outages do happen. The PC,signal booster, satellite receiver are all on the UPS in one convenient spot.
    All I am saying is hdhomerun is not a bad ideal but you have to have a way to record and analog signal, preferably not through coax. My satellite is 25% of my programs and its all analog. And currently you can buy dual digital/analog tuners for less than 40 bucks that work fantastic and dont leave the satellite or any other analog signal out of the picture.

    • You focus on analog signal but for the last three years all major US networks broadcast in digital. Not sure why analog is so important to you but if your system works for you then cool. If you are in Europe then may I suggest The Digital Lifestyle for more information on analog signal.

      Recording from composite or component? Again, if your system works for you then cool. We have said over and over that satellite, and the way they provide signal, leaves many people searching for ways to record.

      As far as one PC recording, that is exactly what my system does. Under the counter, 48W low power and UPS installed for the rare brown or power out. That being said, with the 8 networked tuners, the unused tuners can be used when other PCs need them. No need to record on them, but nice to be able to use the HD tuners if needed.

  8. Tim;
    I have just finished builing a new WHS. I am looking at HD Homerun for OTA signals and PVR recording. 1) can you run the HD homeRun on the WHS? 2) In your article , I am not clear on how the recorded shows were moved to the WHS. Did you tell WMC a location to save the shows to while it was recording? I know you have the older models but other than the internal spliter does the newer models offer any advantage or features not in the older model?

    Thank you

    • I had one more questions are your recording on a dedicated hardrive or are they part of the hardrive pool on the WHS.

      PS. I had some mispeellings in the previous post. –jw

    • 1.) I would not suggest running tuners on your WHS.

      2.) Recorded shows are moved to your WHS as directed by the WHS when you set up your WMC. Make sure you have the WHS connector software installed on the PC that is recording with WMC.

      3.) Newer models are just smaller with a splitter. I like the older ones sicne you can use OTA or cable on one device.

  9. Tim,

    I have an issue I can’t seem to solve with Windows Media Center. I have used it for a few years now recording shows and then watching them on my Zune BUT lately (about the last 6 months or so) I keep getting a “Windows Media Center failed to record” message. I would keep trying to do a reset of the settings but have had no luck. Sometimes it records and most of the times it doesn’t. Please help if you can.

    -Frank

    ps- I just use a standard TV Tuner on the back of my HP desktop

    • Frank,

      Does WMC record when you press the record button during live TV? We would need to find out if the issue is due to a scheduling service issue or a lack of tuner at the recording time. Try wastching live TV and recording it. This would rule out the drivers for the tuner.

      Tim

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