The HDHomeRun, A Better Tuner

When putting together a media center setup, one of the key features is the ability to DVR/PVR shows to watch later. To do this you need a tuner that interfaces to your computer. Previously, I have raved about how much I loved Hauppauge WinTV-HVR-2250  ($100)… but as tech changes better options are created.

Enter the HDHomeRun made by Silicon Dust. The HDHomeRun is a NETWORKED dual HD tuner. The huge advantages of having a networked tuned is that it can be used by multiple computers simultaneously and that you don’t need a computer with a spare PCI Express (PCIe) X1 slot. This means that you can now easily use a laptop or atom PC as your media center and enjoy all the benefits of having a DVR/PVR. Continue reading

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Matarrese Media Center 2011

I have been having more and more people ask me about setting up their own media center rig and “cutting the cord” (getting rid of cable TV). This past week I helped my brother in law get his setup up and running.

He was currently paying $125 a month for Verizon FiOS TV with DVR and 15 mbps internet and realized that he could get all the content he wanted on the network stations, Netflix, and Hulu. We decided to go with the following hardware from Tigerdirect, Lenovo, and Amazon.

We were able to setup the antenna in the attic and run the coax cable to the basement and living room without many issues (other than the attic being well over 100 degrees!). After getting everything setup he now has all the major networks in full HD for free. The computer uses Windows Media Center for DVR features and easy access to Netflix ($7 per month for streaming) and Hulu (Free). Note that the Hauppauge 2250 is a dual tuner which lets you record two different programs at once. If you prefer to navigate the actual Netflix and Hulu websites instead, you can do it easily with the Lenovo remote.

He was also able to call Verizon and lower his internet bill down to $45 a month with 3 mbps speed (which is still plenty for streaming video). All in all he is very happy with the new setup and the monthly savings. Now he also has a central hub for storing all of his families photos, videos, music, and movies. Total savings per month is about $70 with an up front investment of about $600. You make your money back in 9 months, have a better multi-media experience, are contract free, and you get to keep all your equipment.

Check out this link for pics of the hardware and setup, https://picasaweb.google.com/rhoranburg/MatarreseMediaCenter2011.

More Windows 7 Media Center Tips (Media Browser)

After having some more time to use W7MC on a daily basis I am loving it even more. Here are a few more tips/hacks that I found.

1. Add Channel Logos/Icons: adding channel logos is VERY easy with My Channel Logos. Just download and install their app, click search and you’re done. Very easy and looks great. You can even add custom logos if the auto-scan misses some.

2. Better browsing of Movies, TV, etc: I had previously mentioned that I liked DVD Library Manager for searching for and adding DVD info. While this worked, it is still time consuming and not the easiest to figure out. For instance, it stores some of the data in the actual video folders and some in the infocache folder (C:\Users\usernaem\AppData\Roaming\Microsoft\eHome\DvdInfoCache). It doesn’t work well to add all the data and then move the movie folders across PCs either. Continue reading

Windows 7 Media Center

Earlier this year I decided to to “cut the cord” and ditch my cable/fios TV service. I hooked up an old desktop I had to my HDTV via HDMI (I found a cheap video card with HDMI out for about $25) and used a Lenovo Multimedia Remote to control the PC. I’m using Windows 7 and watching TV through the browser had been working great. I got an Antennacraft Colorstar C290 from Radio Shack and put it in the attic so we could get all the local stations in HD.

I just recently got the itch to get a new video capture card so we could use the computer like a DVR and pause and record shows. I decided on the Hauppauge WinTV-HVR-2250, and so far I LOVE it. I had forgotten how nice the Windows Media Center interface is! Setup was easy and now we have a fully functional DVR. Continue reading