Hey since analogue cable isn't really a thing here in Toronto anymore I'm looking for a way to get live hdtv on my htpc. I DON'T want to buy a receiver unless I absolutely must, and want to find a way to watch HD tv on my htpc and would switch to any provider to do so. Can anyone help?
OTA augmented with streaming video services really is the way to go for HTPC users. Especially with services like Unblock-Us which would give you access to content that you can't normally get in Canada.
Encrypted QAM signals are more trouble than they're worth.
If you want a provider, then you can use the Hauppauge HDPVR with a STB from a provider. Here's the FAQ on Recording HD. See the links in there for the Hauppauge and other explanations. The easiest way with a provider though is to use their PVR.
Let me be the first to caution you against the Hauppauge HD PVR if you're hoping to have a reliable setup. That product is notoriously unreliable. I used it for a couple years (2008 to 2010), and it was a never ending quest for reliability.
Full moon or high tide would cause it to freeze. Search the internet and you'll find all sorts of people having problems with stability and ending up with no resolution to their issues.
I eventually concluded that I was not going to pay my cable company to provide a encrypted signal that would cause me to jump through all sorts of hoops and cause me to buy expensive decoding hardware to use. Consider that for each channel you want to record concurrently you'll require a HD PVR, a set top box, and a lot of cables. And after spending all that money (at the time the per-channel cost for me was ~$700 because the STBs were expensive and the HD PVR was $200) you still end up with a inelegant and unreliable solution for recording HDTV channels. And this is if you value your time at $0.
When you compare that to Hulu Plus at $8/month and Unblock-Us at $5/month, a bunch of streaming video sources that are free, you can get practically all the good content that is out there.
I DON'T want to buy a receiver unless I absolutely must,
The short answer is that a receiver is required for HD. The good news is that there are some good deals around on HD PVR receivers. Rogers has a promotion that provides free rent on a 3 year rent-to-own plan. Get the Nextbox 3, not the Nextbox 2.