Category Archives: DVR

DVR Software So Far

I am no where done tweaking with the software and trying to get everything working perfectly. This is just a post to document what I have done so far. Until I have a better internet connection, I will not be playing with streaming services such as Netflix and Hulu.

Operating System – Windows 7 Ultimate

I’ve decided to go with Windows 7 Ultimate. This version comes with Windows Media Center by default, which I will get into later. I know this is surprising to everyone that knows me, since it’s not Linux. The reason that I’ve done this is because Linux doesn’t allow the DVR to meet it’s needs. I wouldn’t be able to stream netflix or many other websites through boxee. In addition, it does come with DVR software for free that provides listings for free.

DVR Software – Windows Media Center (MWC)

I’m using Windows Media Center for the DVR software. It does decent, but is free with Windows 7 and comes with free listings. It does a good job of setting up with the tuner card. It allows for some plug-ins also. I haven’t spent much time trying to tweak it, but I need to find a way to modify the main menu to remove a lot of junk I don’t want. The movie section also leaves a lot to desire, as it does not break things down by folder and just displays all files it finds regardless of which folder it is in.

I have it setup so that when the DVR starts up, that WMC will startup in full screen. With this setup, there is no need for a mouse or keyboard.

Air Video

Air Video can stream videos in almost any format to your iPhone, iPad and iPod touch. You don’t need to copy your videos to the device just to watch them. The program runs in the background and starts automatically when the DVR starts up. With the recent Beta version of the server, it can stream the drm laden wtv format without having to convert them first.

My Channel Logos – MCE Plug-In

This is only a minor plug in, but it adds nice Broadcaster logo’s to the channel listings. It’s a minor touch, but a nice one.

Media Browser – MCE Plug-In

I use this for accessing, organizing, and viewing my shows on the remote server. If you loved how XMBC populated information about shows and movies, you will love this plug-in for watching all your backed up media. It will key off the title, download all the information about the media, and also pictures. Much better than the stock movie lister that came with WMC

Remote Potato – MCE Plug-In

I’ve used this for setting web access to the DVR. It allows for viewing the listings and setting up recordings using a web browser. It also allows you to stream already recorded shows to windows and os x web browsers that support silverlight. This doesn’t include the implementation on linux though.

A new feature that I haven’t had time to test out is streaming to iOS devices. I might try it out in the next couple weeks and update this post. Currently, it does not support native mode on the iPad.

Streaming Windows Media Center DVR Shows to the iPad

I had started this article out about how I use all these different applications, such as using MCEBuddy to convert videos to a non-drm stream on a nightly basis, save to a separate location, and then using Air Video Server to stream it to the iPad or iPhone.

So while I was getting the links together, I realized that Air Video Server now has a beta server out that does that all for you. Air Video now has the ability to stream the DRM WTV video format that WMC saves the shows in!

Software Used

Instructions

  1. Navigate to http://www.inmethod.com/air-video/index.html and there will a box announcement link in the top left of the page that there is a new Air Server beta. Click the box, which will take you to the forum to choose either Windows or Mac in the first post. Download the software and then install on your application.
  2. If the server hasn’t been started yet, start it now (either in task bar or going to applications). Under the “Shared Folders” tabl, click the “Add Disk Folder” button. For a default WMC installation, you should add the folder “C:UsersPublicRecorded TV”. At this point, if you have other video file locations (MKV, mp4, divx, avi), you can add those in there also. Now start the server by clicking the button at the top left. You are all done on the server side.
  3. Download “Air Video” from the App Store. Once you start up the app, click the “+” button and if you are on the same network as the DVR, the server should pop up. Just navigate to the shared videos and start. It’s that simple.

One of the additional benefits of Air Video is that you can also stream at a lower resolution from your DVR over the internet, but you will need to go to the Air Video Website for more detailed instructions on that.

OTA DVR Equipment Build

I’ve decided to drop cable / satellite, and create a DVR that will record programming from over the air. This first entry is just going to outline the what I wanted out of the DVR and what equipment I purchased and why. The main intention is for a DVR, and not a gaming system. In the chance that I did decide I want to go that route, I tried to purchase equipment so that I would only need to purchase a video card to allow it to play games.

Requirements

  • Quiet. Should not be audible when watching tv
  • Stream online content
  • DVR over the air content
  • Stream shows and movies from home file server (NFS or Samba)
  • Should be able to play multiple containers and formats (xvid, divx, mkv, H.264)
  • No keyboard and mouse should be required for use

Hardware Purchase

  • Case: nMEDIAPC HTPC 1000B
  • Power Supply: SeaSonic S12II 430B 430W
  • Motherboard: ASUS M4A785TD-M EVO
  • Processor: AMD Athlon II X2 250 Regor 3.0GHz
  • Memory: CORSAIR XMS3 4GB (2 x 2GB) DDR3 (PC3 10666)
  • Hard Drive: Seagate SV35.5 ST31000525SV 1TB
  • Tuner: Hauppauge WinTV-HVR-2250 Media Center Kit

Note: I also purchased the LCD that goes along with the case, but after having used it, I would not have purchased it. It is too difficult to read at a distance and it is poorly made. I thought it would be cool to have showing time and what was playing and recording, but I have to get up close to the tv to see it.

nMEDIAPC HTPC 1000B
I was looking for a good case that would fit my media center stand. This case had the identical shape of my current audio receiver and even matched it’s dimensions perfectly. There is a front panel on the front that hides one IEEE 1394 port, one e-SATA port, two HD Audio ports, one SDHC 2.0 Card Reader and three USB 2.0 ports. It does not come with a power supply. You can buy an optional lcd for the front, but as I mentioned before, I would skip on purchasing it. A Micro ATX will fit in it. It has 1 5.25″ Drive Bays and 4 3.5″ Drive Bays, but you will only probably be able to use 2 out of the 4 3.5″ Drive Bays due to things getting to tight and reducing air flow. It has 2 60mm Fans in the back and 1 90mm Fan on the side which are very quiet. I’m very pleased with this case and would highly recommend to others.

SeaSonic S12II 430B 430W
This power supply is enough power for what I need. It’s also very quiet and has excellent reviews. Unfortunately, it is not modular, but I had no problem bundling up the extra cables and putting them in one of the empty 3.5″ drive bays.

ASUS M4A785TD-M EVO
This seems to be a good motherboard. The reasons that I purchased this one in particular is that it is a Micro ATX form, allows for DDR3 memory, has both a PCI Express 2.0 x16 and PCI Express x1 slots, has a integrated ATI Radeon HD 4200 GPU with 128MB DDR3 1333 memory, has a HDMI output, and a S/PDIF Out optical out.

The reason that I wanted both a PCI Express 2.0 x16 and a PCI Express x1 slot is for the tuner card and a future video card upgrade if I choose to upgrade it to a gaming system. The HDMI out is self explanatory and I really wanted a S/PDIF optical out so that I could hook it up to my receiver.

I wanted a motherboard with the integrated ATI Radeon HD 4200 so that I could offload the video decoding of the H.264 to the video card from the CPU. With this video card, I can watch every mkv that I have with no stuttering and very little cpu usage. I also don’t have to worry about the additional heat and fan sound from having a video card in the machine, and also the price of having to buy a video card.

The only downside to this motherboard is the bios settings. It’s hard to get it just right to get in there and the bios menu leaves a lot of wanting. It does horrible for setting boot sequence since if you want to boot from usb, a bootable usb needs to be in there to set it to boot from it in the order and it only works for that particular device. Luckily, you only need to mess around with the menu once.

AMD Athlon II X2 250 Regor 3.0GHz
I bought this cpu for two reason: 1) 65 watt tdp and 2) price per performance.

I could have bought a much nicer processor that runs cooler and faster, but then it would have increased the cost of the dvr quiet a lot. This is a dual core processor, for when I’m running multiple things at once, which every computer is doing anymore. It handles everything wonderfully and without stutter. It’s also powerful enough for doing the tv re-encoding and if I want to use it for playing video games in the future. The 65 watt tdp means that it uses less power and runs cooler. The fan that comes with it is very quiet also.

CORSAIR XMS3 4GB (2 x 2GB) DDR3 (PC3 10666)
Since DDR3 is dropping in price and is getting close to the cost of DDR2, I decided to go the faster route and get DDR3. There is no special reason I bought the CORSAIR, it was just on a very good sale when I found it. I decided to go with 4 gigs, because I planned on having multiple programs running at the same time and heard that if I wanted to run Boxee, that it was a memory hog.

Seagate SV35.5 ST31000525SV 1TB
I figured a one tb drive would be more than enough to use as a dvr, since I wouldn’t be storing anymore besides recorded tv shows on it. I made sure to stick with a drive that is 7200 RPM, even though the green drives (5400 RPM) run cooler and with less power consumption. In my mind, recording two shows at once while watching another show would probably tax a 5400 drive a little too much and have some stuttering. This drive had good reviews and was designed to be used for security cameras, which matches very closely to what I’m going to be using it for. In use, this drive is super quiet and I have no complaints with it at all. Beyond that, the reason I picked this one out of the other recommended DVR drives is that it was on sale.

Hauppauge WinTV-HVR-2250 Media Center Kit
I chose this card after viewing my friends DVR that had it in there. It just has wonderful picture. That card fits a PCI-Express x1 slot. The card is a dual tuner, which means you can either watch 1 show and record another or record two shows at once. The “Media Center Kit” edition comes with a remote and ir receiver.