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DIY PVRs

June 18th, 2004 · No Comments

Yahoo! News had a story about personal video recorders:

“Consumers are becoming aware of the fact they can transform their PCs into entertainment centers that are very powerful and still very easy to use,” said Rakesh Agrawal, SnapStream’s chief executive officer.

At the Web Site “Build Your Own PVR” (http://www.byopvr.com), enthusiasts discuss the intricacies of how to build the most powerful personal video recorders with PC components, how well the latest hardware and software works, and also help the uninitiated to get started.

The site’s tagline is: “Why Tivo when you can Freevo?”

The first step in building a personal video recorder is determining whether it’s worth the effort. The biggest benefits are the ability to record television shows on your PC’s hard drive, watch them on a PC monitor or television, and transfer shows to other PCs or portable devices.

Those features may be overkill for the occasional sitcom watcher. But for TV obsessives, the process begins by upgrading a regular home personal computer with a special PC card that can turn television signals into digital information a computer can understand.

That process can overload some PCs, so more advanced TV tuner cards with hardware “encoding” can take on some of the heavy lifting.

Installing a PC card involves cracking open the case on your PC. Those averse to the idea of touching circuit boards can also find boxes that connect to a PC’s USB port — a far easier undertaking. Enthusiasts seem to prefer USB and internal cards from Hauppauge Computer Works — both available for $200 or less.

The next step: choosing software.

Microsoft Corp. has a special version of Windows for “media center” personal computers that can manage users’ music, photographs, and videos, but it is only available pre-loaded on special PCs.

Two alternatives are SnapStream’s Beyond TV 3, available for download (http://www.snapstream.com) for $59.99 (or $69.99 if you need a CD-ROM), and Frey Technologies LLC’s SageTV 2, for $79.95.

Free options are also available, including MythTV, described on its Web site (http://www.mythtv.org) as “a homebrew PVR project I’ve been working on in my spare time.”

For more, check PVRBlog.

Tags: Software

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