Older blog entries for connolly (starting at number 83)

18 Sep 2010 (updated 9 May 2011 at 21:10 UTC) »

Ditch cable TV? Yes. Build an HD DVR out of old PC parts? Maybe not.

This item was supposed to be entitled Ditching cable for netflix/wii, broadcast HDTV, and a DIY PVR. After watching the digital media marketplace and technology for years, I convinced my family it was time to go for it this summer. We're close, but due to one critical breakdown in my research, we're not quite there.



  1. Cancel TV part of double play TV+Internet subscription, reducing it by ~$60/month.

    We never did go for their triple play with phone service; I signed up for VoIP with
    ViaTalk when we moved houses a couple years ago, and we've been pretty happy with it. While only the cable company can do on-screen caller-id, I'd rather have stuff like email and SMS notification for messages, for less money. Try it, and tell 'em Dan sent you (referral code 47340A17).
    Check.
  2. Set up TV for broadcast HD TV.

    The salesperson at Best Buy recommended a $60 active antenna, but we went for the $30 RCA ANT1400 Multi-Directional Digital Flat Passive Home Theater Antenna (White) and it works just fine, even in the basement.
    Check.
  3. Subscribe to Netflix.

     I wondered about the quality of streaming movies, and the first one we tried was pretty bad. We were planning to buy a Roku box, but first we tried it on my laptop, a MacBook Air, hooked up to the TV. Big mistake. Turns out these things have a well-known cooling problem, and "The problem is aggravated by system-intensive tasks such as video playback". Then we remembered Netflix started supporting streaming to Wii consoles, and we have one of those. It seemed too good to be true, but it's not. It's just like watching a DVD, as far as I can tell. We may or may not ever get a Roku.
    Check.
  4. Cobble together a PVR out of old PC parts.

    My wife misses some cable-network-only shows, but for the price of a new HD capture card (around $80) it looks like we should be able to timeshift broadcast favorites such as Survivor and Big Bang Theory.
    That was the theory, anyway.
I thought the hard part was video capture, encoding, and recording. Sucking in HD video through a USB gizmo seemed too good to be true; plus, the norm with USB gizmos is that half the smarts is in a proprietary, Windows-only driver.