: Best Service Provider for HTPC use?


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Xride
2011-07-26, 08:29 PM
Hello, I'd like to first say that there is a lot of information on this site, and I have tried to find my answer, but like I said there is a lot of information to go through.

I'm in Edmonton, and right now with Shaw, although it was their crappy HD PVR (just had to exchange my 3rd one in a year, sucks losing the shows you wanted to watch after your vacation) that got me looking into HTPC's, and from what I can tell from this site is that Shaw is not HTPC friendly.

I have a Ubuntu box, and have XBMC installed, although nothing is set up, I ended up here looking how to set it up, and found on here that Shaw doesn't really work with HTPC.

So who do I switch to? Bell? Telus? Is Rogers TV ever going to make it to Alberta?
Is there HDTV over internet yet?

Thanks in Advance, and sorry if this is in the wrong forum.

audacity
2011-07-26, 11:34 PM
Easy. For the major Canadian networks you can use a antenna with a TV capture card (or, even better, a HDHomeRun). Over-the-air digital signals are not encrypted, so they are ideal for HTPC use. And best of all, they are free.

57
2011-07-27, 12:10 AM
No provider is HTPC friendly. Here's the FAQ on Recording HD. The only real HD HTPC option is the Hauppauge, discussed in several threads in the HTPC forum.

http://www.digitalhome.ca/forum/showthread.php?t=14099

Here's a useful post: http://www.digitalhome.ca/forum/showthread.php?t=57741

Almost no areas have two cable providers (there are a select few small areas)

Xride
2011-07-27, 12:37 AM
No ability to quote? what the?

Anyways, OTA is no good, gf would kill me if she didn't get national geographic.

I can get Shaw, Telus, Or bell here.

I thought if I used the shaw HD box I could just plug a firewire into it, so I wouldn't need a video capture card.

Those links don't really answer my questions. Only bring up more questions.

57
2011-07-27, 01:08 AM
Read the Shaw firewire thread - lots of problems and lots of restrictions as mentioned in the FAQ - read the first few and last few pages.

http://www.digitalhome.ca/forum/showthread.php?t=76682

Read the Hauppauge threads - links provided in the Recording HD FAQ - requires more than a little technical ability to make an HTPC work.

Both options require a lot of "nerd" input and not recommended for the average person. Since you mention a GF, there's probably no way she'll be happy with an HTPC.

You say you've gone through a number of PVRs - this indicates to me a problem with your signal, or perhaps the unit is not well ventillated and is overheating. You might be happier with the BTV PVR, but it also requires appropriate ventillation to preclude overheating (open shelf)

And yes, there is a lot of information on this forum - that's why we have the FAQs and the links there, as well as the search feature.

Xride
2011-07-27, 01:18 AM
Is Telus better? Bell?
Most of the faq is so old I don't even know what is still valid, I've read several things that are outdated.

That thread is 4 years old. That is forever in computers.
While I may not be able to write my own programs I can hold my own.

57
2011-07-27, 01:22 AM
Those threads may have started 4 years ago, but if you bother to read the last few pages, you'll see that they are up to date.

The FAQs are also constantly updated. I've added some additional info to my previous post.

In terms of the Hauppauge, it doesn't much matter what HDSTB you have upstream since the basic connection is component video.

cambo
2011-07-27, 08:46 AM
What you'll need is an HTPC with PVR function, of which there's really only a few. As 57 said, you'll need a capture card from Hauppage. They're really the only ones to go with.

That said, XBMC doesn't have a PVR function built in. Maybe down the road but the developers haven't gotten there yet.

Look at MythTV - http://www.mythtv.org/
Someone has also created an Ubuntu variant called "MythBuntu". It is a bit tricky to setup so read the directions very carefully.

The other one that I can think of is SageTV. http://sagetv.com/index.html
It's not free but supports Hauppage cards and is relatively simple to setup.

Both of the above also do what XBMC can do in playing video/pictures/music.

Apparently SageTV has been purchased by Google. Not sure what the plan is there now, but they're not selling SageTV anymore!

Wayne
2011-07-27, 09:22 AM
No provider is HTPC friendly. Here's the FAQ on Recording HD. The only real HD HTPC option is the Hauppauge, discussed in several threads in the HTPC forum.Actually there have been a couple of tiny cable companies in Canada that were HTPC friendly as they allowed CableCard devices on their systems. But that doesn't help you unless you live in their area.

There is something called an R5000 mod where you buy a satellite box and send it to this company and they modify it to provide an active firewire port. I am not sure of the current status of this as it may not work on newer sat boxes. And it wasn't cheap either.

If you are interested search for Nextcom Wireless.

Xride
2011-07-27, 10:50 AM
I have read the FAQ's and yes some of them have newer posts too, but there is a huge spread of info in them, hard to read 700 posts to find the single relevant one.

My PVR sits open air, and I have AC to keep my place a constant 22C.
I do not know what happens to kill them.

What is BTV PVR?

I guess I could do with a normal PVR and then the HTPC for other media.


Actually there have been a couple of tiny cable companies in Canada that were HTPC friendly as they allowed CableCard devices on their systems. But that doesn't help you unless you live in their area.

How do I know if they are in my area? What companies?

Danster
2011-07-27, 11:15 AM
Check who is the main distributor in your area. If it is SHAW, then that is the one. I doubt a city like Edmonton would have a tiny cable company.

Then there is SHAW Direct and BEV for satellite.

Wayne
2011-07-27, 11:15 AM
What is BTV PVR?BTV is likely BeyondTV (http://www.snapstream.com/products/beyondtv/) which was/is PVR software for PCs. The company has decided to focus on making enterprise PVR-type products so they no longer support their product for personal users. I have been using SageTV (http://sagetv.com/index.html) which is an excellent PC based PVR product that I use in conjunction with two Hauppauge HD-PVRs to capture HD cable channels. Unfortunately SageTV was purchased by Google five weeks ago and you can no longer buy their products.

How do I know if they are in my area? What companies?Cable is a monopoly service - you generally only have one cable company in your area which is Shaw in Edmonton.

The company that I mentioned was Compton Cable a cable company in Port Perry, ON that had 5500 cable subs. See this thread http://www.digitalhome.ca/forum/showthread.php?t=137457

Tikker
2011-07-27, 11:42 AM
The long and short of it is that if you want to build a HTPC you need a couple of STB's from whatever tv company you prefer (telus, bell or shaw) going into a couple of HD-PVR's (or colussus)

you can use windows or linux
MCE or Myth or Media Portal

it will not be plug and play
you will have to fiddle extensively and to a certain extent constantly

it can be a very rewarding hobby

There's several of us here who've run the gammut of the apps, and found ones that suited our purposes

personally, I've stopped recording my own stuff, and just live the MediaRoom PVR (whole house, and it's great) and just rely on my HTPCs for backed up media

Wayne was an MCE guy who went to Sage and was really satisfied

Several others are Myth converts


there really aren't any companies that are better/worse
it's all the same when you feed their pipe into a HD-PVR

shadowlordkt
2011-07-27, 12:14 PM
I am a Shaw subscriber in Vancouver using MythTV. I having been using the firewire port on my Motorola 6200 and 6416 (previously rented, now retuned) to capture the HDTV feeds since 2008. Once you get past the initial set-up, it operates quite well without any need for intervention.

I agree with many of the comments posted here regarding Shaw; specifically about only being able to capture some of the channels. For me, it seems like I can only capture the basic cable-equivalent HDTV channels.

However, I consider it "simpler" than other providers, because I did not need to purchase additional hardware like a Hauppauge HD-PVR to capture to my HTPC. I am contemplating a switch to Telus for cost reasons, but their boxes don't have firewire ports.

Got a SiliconDust HDHomeRun last year and am capturing the Canadian networks via OTA. As a result, the Shaw firewire capture is only used for time-shifted shows off the Eastern USA stations or shows not broadcast in HD on local stations (example - Chuck). Seems to work quite well, if you can get a good signal.

That's my perspective. Based on my current equipment, configuration, experience, and location, I would select Shaw as my top cable-provider choice (after OTA, because it's free). However, it may not be the top choice for everyone due to inconsistent results experienced by others.

audacity
2011-07-27, 12:20 PM
Well, I can tell you from personal experience that if you want a video provider for your HTPC, Shaw is not a good choice. The Hauppauge HD-PVR is unreliable and it is a horrible hack when compared to dealing with unencrypted signals. Besides, if your signal provider isn't going to give you a easy to use signal, why give them money; especially when you can get useful (i.e. unencrypted) content from OTA providers. Many streaming video sources are even free (http://www.streaming-guide.com/).

Incidentally, I see that National Geographic specials are available on Hulu.

Wayne
2011-07-27, 12:37 PM
The Hauppauge HD-PVR is unreliable and it is a horrible hack when compared to dealing with unencrypted signals. This isn't the case for everyone. I have been using two HD-PVRs for over 2.5 years without any problems other than having to do a power cycle to fix a crashed HD-PVR about once every six months. Other people have had horrible experiences with the devices and have gone so far to force the devices to power cycle every day and also reboot their PCs every day. I guess I have just been very lucky.

The other thing to note is that the HD-PVR outputs an H.264 file rather than an MPEG-2 file (which OTA does). This has its pros (smaller file size, supported by AppleTV) and its cons (takes longer to commercial skip, not supported by as many video editors).

OTA is great if you can get it, but don't forget that the OP is from Edmonton and there is no way you are going to get US stations OTA in Edmonton so OTA has less utility for him.

Wayne
2011-07-27, 12:43 PM
personally, I've stopped recording my own stuff, and just live the MediaRoom PVR (whole house, and it's great) and just rely on my HTPCs for backed up mediaThe other thing to note is that there is definitely a trend of moving away from a broadcast model to a streaming on-demand model. Examples of this are Netflix, Hulu, iTunes, TV network web sites, Rogers On Demand, Rogers on Demand Online, etc.

But it all depends what you like to watch and how you want to watch it. You may be better off getting a Roku2 or use a PS3 or Xbox360 to watch content from Netflix, Hulu, etc, especially if you do it in conjunction with a service that makes it appear that you are in the US. But if you are into sports then that isn't as much of an option.

And then there is the issue of internet caps but you are lucky that Shaw seems more generous in this area than Rogers or some of the other Canadian cable companies.

57
2011-07-27, 01:16 PM
BTV is likely BeyondTV (for me) It's Bell TV, mentioned by the OP in post 1.

BEV for satellite. Hasn't been called BEV (Bell ExpressVu) in years. It's BTV or BSTV for Bell Satellite TV and was already mentioned as an option in post 1.

Tikker
2011-07-27, 01:26 PM
The other thing to note is that there is definitely a trend of moving away from a broadcast model to a streaming on-demand model. Examples of this are Netflix, Hulu, iTunes, TV network web sites, Rogers On Demand, Rogers on Demand Online, etc.

MediaRoom also provides a ton of on demand streaming of HD programming, and with the volume of stuff I record, I'm almost never watching live TV except for sports

@Danceswithlysol

The HD-PVR was extremely stable for me, the only reason I went away from it was that I could not build a better whole house PVR than the MediaRoom pvr (for the cost ratio)

the hardware I'd need to purchase to implement it would be equivalent to roughly 4 years of rental, assuming I had no hardware failures in that time

but the HD-PVR is a fantastic piece of kit when properly installed

audacity
2011-07-27, 02:40 PM
I maintain my position that the Hauppauge HD-PVR is a horrible hack. Even if we lived in a imaginary world where it was a reliable product, it would still be a horrible hack for two important reasons.

1. It generates a huge mess of cables (per tuner) that practically requires that you use some sort of client-server arrangement to hide that mess in a closet in your basement.
2. When combined with STBs, the per-tuner power use is ridiculously high.

If there was a continuum between "horrible hack" and "elegant", multiple tuners using Hauppuage HD-PVRs each with their own STB would be far on the "horrible hack" end and a HDHomeRun would be closer to the "elegant" end.

Even better is not having to "cache" local content on your own hard drives. That would be a solution where all the content is stored online, Netflix-style, and then you just use your TV remote (new TV that supports Netflix) an you just press "play now".

The fact that the Hauppuage HD-PVR's reliability record is sketchy is just icing on top of the cake. Want to know how to screw up a HD-PVR? Give the TV remote to someone that wants to watch TV, let them go to "live TV" and then start flipping between channels that can only be acquired via the HD-PVR. It won't be long before they channel change it into a brick that needs to be power cycled.