I decided that my collection of VHS tapes were slowly wearing out along with my 10 year old video player and that I'd do something about it - convert them all to DVD. I've been playing with this in the past but capturing and converting to Mpeg2 just takes so long its never been worth it. Enter the Hauppauge WinTV-PVR 250 which has a hardware MPEG2 encoder on board - basically it can capture, not use up all my CPU, and write out shows in a format I can put straight onto DVD. Sorted.
Well okay, so it has to work with Windows. I have a Windows XP machine that gets used from time to time but I really wasn't expecting to have to spend over 6 hours to get close to having the board working correctly. Along the way I found the reason why my XP machine wasn't booting every time (the Netgear FA311 card doesn't work well with Athalons), why my SB Live! only appeared sometimes (it wasn't sitting flush into the motherboard - ouch), the source of some strange glitches (the iPanel doesn't work well with WIndows XP) and a number of updates for the VIA chipset, ASUS graphics card, AMD bridge, ASUS supplied BIOS, etc etc etc.
So now I have a machine that can almost record videos - it just has an annoying glitch in the audio every minute or two, which the Hauppauge site puts down to the VIA chipset although I followed all the advice, and no reply from tech support yet (only 1 day waiting so far).
My Christmas tree is now X10 controlled, which means the lights go on and off when it's dark but also you can stand outside of the room and use a remote control to dim the lights. I'm not sure what use this is apart from managing to confuse all our guests who think it's spooky that the lights flash each time they say a particular word.