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Television Media

Best Non-Subscription DVR? 153

ngc5194 asks: "I'm thinking about joining the 21st century and purchasing a Digital Video Recorder. However, I DO NOT want to subscribe to any services. I understand that this will limit what my DVR can do, and I'm fine if it just acts like a solid-state VCR. Given the constraint above (no subscription services), which would be the best DVR to purchase and why?"
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Best Non-Subscription DVR?

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  • I understand that this will limit what my DVR can do, and I'm fine if it just acts like a solid-state VCR.

    Then go with mythTV. Anything else will limit you in some way.
    • The problem with MythTV and other PC based solutions is that the box may not looks so good in the living room and particularly price.
      • by spagetti_code ( 773137 ) on Thursday June 21, 2007 @03:27AM (#19591347)

        box may not looks so good in the living room

        Wrong [].

        and particularly price

        I can build one for ~ USD500 - 600. Admittedly without the gorgeous silverstone case.
        Not as cheap as a DVR, but no subscription. And much
        more functional.
        • What are you going to do when your TV listing service for Myth cuts their free access?

 4 []
          • by cowbutt ( 21077 )
            What are you going to do when your TV listing service for Myth cuts their free access?

            Use the DVB Electronic Programme Guide retrieved over the air. At least, that's the way we'd do things in Europe.

            • by demon ( 1039 )
              Unfortunately in the US, that'd make far too much sense - we have to have our own different standards. If only we could cooperate on those kinds of standards - it took us years to get RDS, and other things that Europeans have taken for granted for many years.
          • by knorthern knight ( 513660 ) on Thursday June 21, 2007 @07:58AM (#19592611)
            Analog TV goes off the air in the USA Feb 17, 2009 and Canada Aug 31, 2011. North of the Rio Grande, you'll be using an ATSC TV set. In the USA, and in major Canadian cities, the old NTSC TV stations are already being double-banked with digital ATSC (in many cases HDTV) equivalants, so digital is a reality now. ATSC tuners can pull in PSIP [] data. To quote from the website...

            PSIP (Program and System Information Protocol) PSIP is a standard set by the ATSC that provides a methodology for transporting DTV system information and electronic program guide data. It allows broadcasters to identify themselves when you tune their channel. It can be information such as call letters and channel number. It can also convey up to 16 days of programming information. Consumer receiver manufacturers can use PSIP data to display interactive program guides to aid navigation of channels in the DTV receiver.

            • by AuMatar ( 183847 )
              A date thats been pushed back 4 or 5 times now? And the vast majority of TV owners still don't have digital hardware? It ain't happening once again, it'll be pushed back another 2 years.
          • Scrape or some other web-based listing service. Myth existed before labs.zap2it was borne, and it will exist long after it dies (assuming some other solution isn't reached).
        • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

          by shadow349 ( 1034412 )

          Not as cheap as a DVR, but no subscription.

          Of course, this misses one huge hidden cost .... electricity.

          Most embedded boxes (Cable set-top DVRs, Tivo, etc) are built using specialized components and consume much less power than a home-built MythTV unit.

          I've done a few tests with various units (Comcast DVR, Tivo, Myth box) and found there is about a 150W difference between home-brew and embedded. .150kW * 24 hr * 365 days * $.15 kWh / 12 mo = $16.425 / mo

          So the electricity for that that "free" MythTV box actually costs $16.43 more per month than a e

          • I've done a few tests with various units (Comcast DVR, Tivo, Myth box) and found there is about a 150W difference between home-brew and embedded. .150kW * 24 hr * 365 days * $.15 kWh / 12 mo = $16.425 / mo

            Firstly, I don't know how you can say that, considering "home brewed" systems vary.

            Second, according to [] , "The average cost of residential electricity was 9.86/kWh in the U.S. in March 2006." The 3 highest rates rates were "12 in California, 14.314 in New Yo
            • I'll add to this by mentioning that in many cases, thanks to the client/server setup of mythtv, you can just put a few TV cards in your file (or other) server which you might already have at home (like I did) and then use a very efficient client based around VIA/mini-itx for the frontend, which is still a bit more than a set top box, but is still an improvement.
              • use a very efficient client based around VIA/mini-itx for the frontend, which is still a bit more than a set top box, but is still an improvement.

                Not to mention that there are now purpose-built devices for that, such as the AppleTV, Slingbox, etc. You just have to do some research to find one that works with MythTV.

                • by llefler ( 184847 )

                  use a very efficient client based around VIA/mini-itx for the frontend, which is still a bit more than a set top box, but is still an improvement.

                  Not to mention that there are now purpose-built devices for that, such as the AppleTV, Slingbox, etc. You just have to do some research to find one that works with MythTV.

                  My understanding of the Slingbox is that it's a back-end device. It connects to your cable, etc and then streams to other devices, like a cell phone or pc. Am I missing something?

                  I ended up getting a Buffalo LinkTheater. To use it with MythTV all you would need to do is run a DLNA daemon to serve the video directory.

            • a single person who sleeps 8 hrs a day, and works 8 hrs a day could have their TVPC...essentially powered off for 16 hours a day.

              Here I thought the point of having a DVR was to record all the stuff you couldn't watch because you were asleep or at work. I guess I've been doing it wrong all this time!

              Anyway, it's not like Tivos don't have power buttons. The same power saving techniques you could use on a PC could also be used on a 'traditional' DVRs, so you still end up using more electricity with a
            • Turning off (or even hibernating) a DVR manages to completely miss the point of a DVR: automated recording. If I wanted to manually turn on a device every time I needed to record a TV show, I'd still use a VCR instead of owning a TiVo.
          • others have sorta said this but not as bluntly as I will.

            my mythtv box (knoppmyth actually as I'm lazy and have enough debian machines to maintain) turns itself ON and OFF as needed to record whatever shows are scheduled. It generally spends between 0 and 4 hours a day ON (including watching time... turns out most of the shows we record are being recorded at the same time we're watching pre-recorded shows).

            but that's just me.
          • by afidel ( 530433 )
            Dude, if your PC sucks down 150W doing nothing but HTPC it sucks. I have an Athlon 64x2 4200 with 2GB of ram, two 7200rpm SATA HDD's, and a Geforce 7600GS which is WAY overkill for a HTPC and doing most things it barely uses over 50W, playing games it's barely over 150W!
      • by KlaymenDK ( 713149 ) on Thursday June 21, 2007 @03:40AM (#19591417) Journal
        Regarding the article, at they sell ready-made MythTV boxes so you don't need mad linux skills. The "Dragon" comes in a Silverstone case whose beauty, I suppose, is debatable (but it's not exactly ugly). But there are plenty of nice-looking HTPC cases out there, you can even find some that look not too far from a SlimDevices Transporter.

        Just so you know...
      • You can get some very cool looking cases which look just like dvd players, stick a pc based blue-ray or hddvd player in it and a hard drive and whatever you can also have a high def player as well as a dvr box.

        Yes it would be expensive, but you could probably replace one of your other devices with it.
      • by rlp ( 11898 )
        the box may not looks so good in the living room

        I'm using an old Shuttle SK43G (silver) which looks fine in the living room. A slightly more pertinent concern is finding a unit with a quiet fan for the living room.
      • thats what the MediaMVP is for mvp.html []. It is the about 1"x6"x6", ~$50, and is basically a client for a VNC-like protocol. MythTV and GB-PVR both support it. Run a network cable to it, use your existing PC as the server (doesn't use up a whole lot of resources).
    • by PseudoThink ( 576121 ) on Thursday June 21, 2007 @03:25AM (#19591339)
      As a Windows user, I used GB-PVR ( []) for 18 months with great success. Just recently switched to Windows XP Media Center Edition 2005, and am loving that too. It requires a bit more video card, though.
      • I'd also add that GB-PVR (and SageTV, too) support the Hauppauge MVP. For those who already have a computer running Windows in the house this is a cheap option. Just $70 for a (hardware encoding) video card and $90 for the MVP and you're done. Add a bit more if you go with SageTV and/or a wireless network, (and you may end up wanting a large hard drive, too).
    • The downside of MythTV is typically you need a spare PC lying around to get it running. But there are plenty of upsides. It's free as long as you have the hardware. I have a plextor convertx m402u which works with mythtv. You can use supported capture card. Someone has to write a v4l driver for the device, but there are a bunch. If you have cable or antenna you can record one show per tuner device. You'll need a linux system to run the backend, but there is a windows frontend for it. The backend saves all
    • You can try out [], it's a very nice dvr software for windows. It's not open source, but it's freeware. I use it at home, and i'm very pleased with it. You may have to play a little bit with the codecs, to get it working right with your tuner card.
    • I bought a ReplayTV 4500 [] on eBay for around $200. There's no way I could have built a rig myself that inexpensively which does everything the ReplayTV does. Sure, they're not making the hardware any longer, but it did come with lifetime activation, worth $299. The company is still in business, but no longer selling hardware; they have ReplayPC now which I think is around $50 plus $20 per year, not a bad solution either if you're building (but if you're building you might as well go with Myth).

      I absolut

      • by Optic7 ( 688717 )
        Sounds like a good idea, but what if you buy a ReplayTV unit without a lifetime listings service? And how long are they going to honor that lifetime listings service since they've discontinued the product and been passed from hand to hand? I really would like to know these things because I would be interested in getting one of these.

        • by Thing 1 ( 178996 )
          Their web page says they will continue to provide service as long as they are in business. Not very reassuring, I know, but it works now. And since it communicates over the internet, I'm sure one (or a group, i.e. an open source project) can intercept the request and provide the data after scraping, say,
  • Other options... (Score:4, Informative)

    by Mizled ( 1000175 ) on Thursday June 21, 2007 @03:14AM (#19591277) Homepage
    If you don't want to go the *nix route (MythTV) then there is always BeyondTV [] for Windows. It's a one time fee for the software and will act as a Media Center PC just like MythTV. Either option will work fine...I have found MythTV has a little more setup involved. If you don't want to build a DVR then I'm not sure if there are many options available to you.
    • by mlts ( 1038732 ) *
      Thank you for the Snapstream link. I am going to recommend it to a friend of mine who is Windows savvy to turn one of his older PCs into a DVR. The option to allow burning of recorded shows to DVD is a great item as well.
    • I would add SageTV [] along side with BeyondTV. Very nice interface, stable, easy to use. The extras (Movies, YouTube, GoogleVideo, Pictures, etc.) are all work much nicer than on the Tivo. Threw a cheap tuner card (dual analog/ATSC for $69) into a P4 2.8GHz box that wasn't being utilized, random 250GB FireWire HDD -- completely rocks the socks off of ComcastDVR/Tivo, with no monthly cost.
      • I've been using SageTV for almost 3 years now, and I've been pretty happy. I don't use anything besides the TV functions, though. (I use a Hauppauge 350, so I can't use for anything other than TV).

        If I were to build one today, I'd buy one of the media extenders instead of building a whole box. Cheaper (provided you already have another computer and a network in the house)and quiet.

  • by BandoMcHando ( 85123 ) on Thursday June 21, 2007 @03:17AM (#19591293)
    It would be helpful to know what country you are talking about, as this will affect lots of things...

    eg here in the UK we have freeeview, which is just a brand name for free-to-air terrestrial digital television, and many DVR/PVRs over here are built with this in mind.

    But I have no idea what the situatuion is with non-subscription television services in other countries
    • ...BT Vision ( [] is a fairly good option, especially if you already have a subscription with BT as an ISP.

      I'm a BT internet subscriber and got my Freeview-supporting DVR from BT a few months ago for £90 installation fee (the box was free), but apparently there will be a self-install option later this year that will bring the cost down to about £30.

      The BT solution also connects to your DSL line and allows on-demand (pay-per-view or subscription) viewing of TV and Movie c
  • by Snospar ( 638389 ) on Thursday June 21, 2007 @03:18AM (#19591303)

    I use a MythTV [] box which was fairly hard to get working but is simple to use. It can change channels on my Sky Digibox so I can record shows automatically using the built in TV guide. I can archive recordings to DVD or play back DVD's on the same box. It cost around £400 (GBP) to build 2 years ago, with a lot of the money going on a Hauppauge PVR-350 [] card and a small form factor case.

    I've also bought a Pioneer DVR for my father in law, the DVR-540HX-S with 160GB hard drive [], this was much the same price and does almost as much as the MythTV box including controlling a Sky box. It's also quieter and lacks the initial setup complexity of the Myth box (meaning less support for me!).

    If you want total simplicity go for the prebuilt DVR - for total control it has to be MythTV

    • by QuantumG ( 50515 )
      Is there anywhere that sells MythTV boxes with nice cases and all this hard work already done?

      Sounds like there would be a market for them.
      • Yes []

        As mentioned in the first thread, Mythic.TV sells the Dragon. It's a fully working computer and MythTV setup in a HTPC form factor (looks like a piece of stereo equipment) that is based on KnoppMyth. It's pretty nice looking and is apparently very quiet. It's pricey though (over $1k), but all the hard work has been done for you. A great way to make MythTV accessible to those who don't have the Linux know-how.

        Personally, I really enjoyed building my MythTV system. For me, it's always an ongoin
  • From the way the poster asked the question, I just kind of gathered he wanted a non-PC based standalone DVR box.

    I know all about Myth / ATI MMC / Beyond TV etc, but I too would like to know about STANDALONE boxes, which have nothing to do with a PC.

    What's out there? Whats good?
  • Dreambox (Score:3, Informative)

    by huha ( 755976 ) on Thursday June 21, 2007 @03:50AM (#19591465)
    If you don't need HDVT capabilities, you might want to try the dreambox series by dream multimedia ( []).
    They run Linux and the top-of-the-line model even features interchangeable receivers in case you'll ever need to switch from cable to sat or vice versa.
    The box is not quite cheap, but it's a nice thing to have if you don't want to set up a PC for this stuff--it just does what it's supposed to do.
    The only problem I've been having is the menu structure, which is--as most of the time with utterly complex gadgetry--way too crowded to be even somewhat intuitive. Luckily, there's a web interface, allowing you to configure and organize movies from your PC.
  • I am UK based and have a cheap digifusion freeview PVR (£90). Its basic, but it works - I previously had a PC based PVR, using GB-PVR, but my GF could not be bothered figuring out how to use it. Bring up the program guide, highlight the program you wish to record, and hit the record button. This combined with a DivX/XVid compatible DVD player covers most of my needs. That said, I have just started using Win Media Center on my Vista laptop, for when I want to record two programs, or for things that I
  • by HaeMaker ( 221642 ) on Thursday June 21, 2007 @04:10AM (#19591553) Homepage
    MythTV with a $1000 PC, or $200 dual tuner TiVo with a year of prepaid service.

    Decisions, decisions.
    • Here in the UK we don't get Tivo anymore but I can buy a freeview-based PVR (with 7-day EPG and 160gig HDD) for £180. Of course thats bought outright, theres no subsequent subscription costs.

      Or I can build a MythTV box with dual tuners and lots of processing power and RAM and a half-terabyte of storage for £300. And thats with sticking it in a non-hideous case (in my case I'm using an Antec NSK1300) :)

    • by Gregg M ( 2076 ) on Thursday June 21, 2007 @08:05AM (#19592655) Homepage
      MythTV with a $1000 PC, or $200 dual tuner TiVo with a year of prepaid service.

      $1000 PC?

      Who pays 1000 dollars for a PC? I paid less for my gaming rig! All you need for a MythTV is a 1 GHz pc with 256MB of ram. I could find that in the garbage these days. All you need then is a 80 dollar PVR-150 and a video card with an S-video out. Storage is about a gig an hour for mpeg2 files. Besides Tivo costs 20 bucks a month for the subscription. Once I pay for the computer I'm done.

      • For those of us who aren't terribly interested in dumpster diving and don't the spare equipment laying around, how much would a bare-bones MythTV-capable system really cost?
        • I build MythTV systems out for people. Here is a rough breakdown:

          HTPC case, IR remote integrated, display (VFD) integrated, $300. Note that the VFD/IR is over $100 by itself -- and the case has to be "living room acceptable".

          Power supply - main characteristic - QUIET. $40.

          Mainboard. Note that we are using this for (potentially) running multiple HD streams, and transcoding HD, so Athlon X2, and 2GB (dual channel) memory. 4 PCI slots, 1 PCIe. $100 for the mainboard/processor, $60 for memory.

          SD (standard def)
          • Thanks for the good info. That'll help me decide whether the investment in time and materials is worth it for me (I really don't watch much TV).
          • SD (standard def) TV. Dual tuner - $140 (with hardware MPEG-2 encode).
            QAM/ATSC HD tuner - $80.
            Suitable video card (full HD output) - $150

            Could you post which video cards you find preferable for these (tuners and HD output)? I'd be interested to know what you use for the above.

            • Sorry for the delay.

              I prefer Kworld ATSC tuner (model 110), and Adaptec hardware SD tuner (hardware MPEG2 encode). The Adaptec simply because I got a load of them cheap. There is a dual SD hardware tuner available (Hauppauge model PVR-500) that comes without a remote (because the remote is integrated into the case. I also use these.

              For video out, I use ATI x700 or better, or NVIDEO 6800 (or 5200 if HDTV output isn't needed -- quality SD output at a very good price point).

              Look for passive cooling on the vide
      • I'd just like to point out that I run my MythTV server on a PIII-750 with 128mb RAM, it was free to me because it was donated from a friend who didn't use it anymore. I'd ba amazed if anyone couldn't find a similar PC for free, but even if you have to pay I agree $1000 is way out of line with reality.
      • by g1zmo ( 315166 )
        I don't if I've missed a setting or something, but my standard-def MythTV box uses 1.1GB per half hour of recording.
    • by hal2814 ( 725639 )
      $1000 PC silliness has already been covered but since I did just buy a new PC, I feel the need to chime in. My most recent PC was an Athlon Dual Core that I bought off of Dell's outlet for $250 shipped. And that included XP Media Center. Granted, to be a decent high definition HTPC I'll need a better video card (maybe $150) and probably a bit more disk space ($100). For standard definition, I have more than enough horsepower and disk-space. I'll just need a TV tuner ($100 for a good standard def one or
    • by rtechie ( 244489 )
      MythTV can run on hardware you can buy on eBay for $50 total. The only expensive bit is the capture card.
  • Hm, lessee.

    If you buy a DVR without a subscription, and use it as a solid state VCR, you take away everything that's remotely advantageous of having a DVR, in my opinion.

    Season Pass (or the equivalent) makes recording all new showings of your favorite programs hassle free. If you're using it as a VCR, and the show ends up swapping time slots without your knowledge (you're probably ffwing through commercials that would warn you...) you risk missing the show in it's new time slot. Or if it's pre-empted by another program, or delayed, etc.

    If you're not looking to pay a subscription, just download the shows off bittorrent or usenet.
    • by antdude ( 79039 )
      Heh, I use a VCR and I rarely have this problem because I always check the TV guide and compare. I have had heard people, with TiVo, get their recordings messed up (e.g., missing the last few minutes, etc.). I always try to make 5 minutes and 5 minutes after the TV shows I record if possible so I won't miss anything.
      • Season passes let you pad the recordings by up to 5 minutes early or two hours (!) late. Not usually an issue except on Sundays during football season when the simpsons gets pushed back.
        • by antdude ( 79039 )
          Ahh, I am on Pacific zone so I have never seen The Simpsons get pushed back like that. Is that pad recordings automatic or user has to do that? Bascially, can TiVo and others automatically detect the show is being late due to sport games or whatever?
          • I haven't seen one that can automatically detect it, but the padding is an option in every recording you set up, including season passes.

            My Tivo is sitting gathering dust because it won't change channels reliably on my hd receiver, so I dunno if they've updated the software recently.
    • If you buy a DVR without a subscription, and use it as a solid state VCR, you take away everything that's remotely advantageous of having a DVR, in my opinion.

      In my opinion, it's remotely advantageous to be able to record more than fits on a videotape or DVD without manually swapping. The ability to archive recordings on a separate file server, which some DVRs offer, is also remotely advantageous.

    • by grahamm ( 8844 )
      The only advantage you gain from a subscription is the ability to watch subscription only channels. You do not need to use it as a solid state VCR. The EPG shows details of the programmes for up to a week in advance and most (if not all) PVRs can be programmed to record using the EPG so that if a show changes time then the recording will be at the altered time. Some PVRs also have 'series' mode so it automatically records all the episodes in a series but the repeat showings.
    • Season Pass (or the equivalent) makes recording all new showings of your favorite programs hassle free. If you're using it as a VCR, and the show ends up swapping time slots without your knowledge (you're probably ffwing through commercials that would warn you...) you risk missing the show in it's new time slot. Or if it's pre-empted by another program, or delayed, etc.

      Wha? Certainly with MythTV, you just say "record any time on any channel" and "only new showings", and you'll never miss an episode. I ass
  • I also use the old fashion VCR and my computer (HDTV only; not 24/7 so I turn it off when I don't use it). I think once my VCR dies, I am jumping to a PVR that doesn't use subscription. I live in USA and don't have cable and satellite TV. Just the good old fashion rabbit ears and bowtie antenna. I still use a 10 years old 19" CRT TV. I will get a small HDTV when it dies.

    I was thinking of getting a DVD recorder, but I heard it is not very good because it skips or something? Also, short recording time especia
    • by debest ( 471937 )

      I prefer a hardware recorder like the VCR. I don't need a fancy scheduler with TV guides like TiVo and Replay.

      Simple, then. You go and buy a hardware PVR from Best Buy or Circuit City (or wherever). There are models from Pioneer, Samsung, JVC, etc. (all the usual suspects): when you're ready, read up on the models and choose the one that best suits your needs at that time. As a bonus, you'll probably be able to get one with a DVD recorder for not that much more, so you'll have both options.

      • by antdude ( 79039 )
        Aren't these PVRs subscription based? I don't want to pay for subscription to use them.
        • by debest ( 471937 )
          Nope. They are exactly what you described them: "solid-state" VCRs. I think you can subscribe to a service with them, but they are absolutely capable of being used stand-alone. If you can program a VCR, you'll have no problems.
          • by antdude ( 79039 )
            Sweet then. I do recall that some of these brands and models use TiVo models. Is this the case or are they using their own? I will look into them deeper when the time comes (could be years).
    • by Micah ( 278 )
      FWIW, I recently got a DVD recorder (a Panasonic) and I haven't yet noticed any skipping.

      It's cool because I can play the DVDs in my laptop with Xine. :)
  • You do not specify in which country you live. In the Netherlands, you can buy a wide range of DVR's for amounts between EUR 150 (crappy no-name brands) and EUR 500 (with HD support, 2 tuners, big harddisk, etc.).

    For example Samsung [] has quite a few, but I don't know whether they sell them only in Europe (PAL) or in other places as well. There's several other brands that sell 'em too, e.g. Sony.

    Pay attention to such things as: does it support an electronic program guide (and will this work with your cable pro
  • OnAir HDTV Creator: 5589 []

    I tend to find with most AV questions, if I just cruise AVSforum long enough I find the best of breed and a long list of posts praising it. Such is the case here.
  • Hmmm... nothing more than a VCR? Well, you could try:

    sleep 13453; dd if=/dev/video of=tv_show.mpg bs=1000 count=1000000
  • Pretty amusing this appears on the front page 10 stories after the one [] that says Zap2it is shutting down and pondering:

    Without a data feed of this type, users will be reduced to scraping websites at best. Is this going to be a killing blow for MythTV?"

  • I might be stretching the definition of "non-subscription" but Dish Network now has their "DVR Advantage" plan where for $49.99 you get 250 channels + your locals + a dual tuner DVR. Having use the Dish522, Dish622, MythTV and a few different Tivo's...I have to say my preference goes to the Dish DVR's. I have a 622 (the HD MPEG4 one) and I love it.
    • I agree. DISH DVRs are pretty nice (assuming you have DISH of course!).

      You can also buy the 622 HD DVR (300 hours standard recording, 30 hours of HD content) off of e-bay for around $300 so it is considerably cheaper than the MythTV solution or buying the HD TIVO ($799.99 from them directly).

      Now I guess "satellite" does count as a subscription, but you have to get the channels somehow, right?
      • by GweeDo ( 127172 )
        Don't forget that those 300 hours SD/30 hours HD are based on MPEG2 channels. Since Dish is moving more and more of their HD channels to MPEG4 (and at the end of the year will have a full MPEG4 offering for customers) that will push it to around 600 hours/60 hours.
  • Personally, since I'm kind of stuck in the Windows arena currently, I use SageTV. It is very stable, very functional, and not encumbered by any sort of DRM.
  • Oh Oh, Read Me! (Score:1, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward
    For a stand alone digital VCR here is the best solution.

    Go here []? and get yourself a series 1 Tivo. $60

    Buy a big IDE hard drive from $50 - $??

    Buy some DIY software from []. $20

    The Series 1 Tivo does not require a subscription to work. You can schedule recordings for a channel, time, and duration. So now you have a piece of hardware built just for recording TV without a monthly fee. In the future if you decide to subscr
  • by DynaSoar ( 714234 ) on Thursday June 21, 2007 @08:53AM (#19593037) Journal
    Most DVRs are sealed and the storage is recycled. As long as you have your receiver in a different box, you can get a replaceable media DVR. Several manufacturers are making DivX compatible home DVD burners, Phillips being the cheapest right now. You can get 12+ hours of standard broadcast or 6 hours of HD material on a single DVD. You can rotate through a box of 10 DVD/RWs and get about the same storage you get with a satellite provider DVR unit, and you can permanently burn anything on regular DVDs (including multisession capability). I screwed up and got the read-only unit for $50. I could have gotten the burner for $150. I'm sorry I didn't, despite already owning a Dish Network receiver/DVR. As an added bonus with these units, you can load a single DVD with MP3s and get over 24 hours of continuous music. And it's worth noting that you can get format converters that will take pretty much any video format and convert it to any other, including DivX, so you can download eleventy seven gubbabytes of stuff and make it watchable on your home unit. For Winboxes DivX sells a passable converter, and eRightSoft gives away an absolutely jam packed converter (actually a front end for just about any OSS codec/format converter already available).

    Any argument about DivX vs. another format is moot unless there's another format being built into home replaceable media recorders. And as for the false permanence of DVDs, if you follow the listing at [] you can get media that lasts 10 times longer than the commonly available 2 to 3 year lifetime disks.
  • if you have cable you can get them and you just have to pay the box rental fee.
  • by jbarr ( 2233 ) on Thursday June 21, 2007 @11:14AM (#19595067) Homepage
    MythTV, BeyondTV, SageTV (my preferred), Windows Media Center, and any of a number of PC-based solutions are available to provide subscription-free DVR capabilities. But it doesn't come easy. Just be aware that Satellite companies and Cable companies are not making it easy for roll your own users. If you have local OTA or analog cable signals, it should be a no-brainer to set up the channels and the inputs, but if you use set top boxes (STB) you introduce some complexity that goes way beyond Joe Sixpack's capabilities. You need a way to control the STB's, so you either need to use IR blasters or serial/USB control which varies from STB to STB.

    If you want a completely compatible DVR, then you really need to go with one supplied from your Cable or Satellite provider. Of course, that goes against your "no subscription" requirements. You typically have to pay a subscription, and you cannot typically "do anything" with the recordings other than watching them (like transcoding to an iPod, burning to DVD, etc.) But you do get 100% compatibility. And if you want to record HD content, be prepared for disappointment. Unless you use a cable or satellite provided DVR, you WILL NOT be able to record most Cable or Satellite HD content without their proprietary DVR's. There really is no exception to this (in the consumer-level price range.) If you have local broadcast HD content or unencrypted HD content over cable (satellite encrypts it all) you will NOT be able to (inexpensively or easily) roll your own HD DVR for recording. The excellent HDHomeRun [www.silicondust] box does a fantastic job of providing recordable content to such PC-based DVR's but it requires "clear" signals--no premiums, unless your cable company inadvertently leaves them unencrypted. And though HDHomeRun is an excellent product, it's certainly not Joe Sixpack-friendly.

    I have an amazing SageTV setup that the wife just LOVES, but I dread the day when I have to switch from cable to DirecTV (which may be sooner than later) because of the technical tweaking and changes I'll need to make to accommodate multiple DirecTV receivers. And, of course, we will NOT be able to record HD. That will have to be done with a DirecTV HD DVR.

    For me, it was all about features, so we weer willing to incur extra cost, but if it's about the cost, then you really need to assess which is more economical. So, calculate how much it will cost you to build a subscription-free setup, and then amortize that cost over say, two or three years, and see which is cheaper, the home-built subscription-free DVR, or a subscription.
  • In my experience, you'll need a subscription DVR if you have pay channels like HBO, or if you get HDTV over cable. If all you care about is basic cable (standard definition,) or over-the-air TV; you should be all set with a non-subscription DVR.

"Never face facts; if you do, you'll never get up in the morning." -- Marlo Thomas