Sunday, January 19, 2014

CableCARDs, PCs and not leaving well enough alone (Project DVR - Part 2)

Now getting a CableCARD can be a struggle in itself. It took 3 calls and 2 trips out by "technicians" to finally have a CableCARD activated. I hope your experience was better than mine.

Getting it all working was another issue altogether.

Biggest hurdle was getting the HDHomeRun Prime to recognize and find all the channels. My cable provider (TWC NYC) requires a Switched Digital Video (SDV) adapter to access all the channels with a CableCARD. Without the SDV, the HDHomeRun Prime would recognize probably 2/3s of the channels. Problem was that initially, the SDV wouldn't find any channels at all. This was because of the instructions from almost every SDV provider and device that requires it. This is why ...

Almost every diagram states the same. Wall to SDV tuning adapter, out from cable adapter to CableCARD device and USB from SDV to CableCARD device. Problem is, this didn't work for me. As soon as I connected it this way, it failed miserably. The signal to noise ratio was awful - from high 90s percent of signal off the wall to low 60s off the SDV.

Whatever I tried didn't work. Then I finally came across a different diagram.

And this indeed did work. It seems that the SDV only needs coax connection to receive channel data and out how to tune into the channels but it didn't pass any information from the cable out, only through the USB connection. So with a splitter and the HDHomeRun setup like the diagram above, everything ran perfectly.

The PC on the other hand was relatively simple to setup. Had an old PC that was just laying around that wasn't in use so I put it back into service. Only thing I had to do was purchase another video card because I didn't have a HDMI connection. Installed a fresh copy of Windows 7, configured Media Center and it wham, working DVR. Xbox 360s connected to that PC as extenders without any issues.

The bigger issue is that I can't leave well enough alone. Everything was working and there were zero hiccups. But I just had to slap this thing on out of curiosity.

I've had a Kill-a-Watt for ages because I used to run a lot of computers before and I got curious about how much electricity I was wasting away with my labs. But since I was planning on leaving this PC on 24/7 to act as a DVR, I wanted to know how much this PC was going to suck up. And the truth wasn't pretty.

It was in the 120-130 watt range. I'm no eco-fanatic but I understand that in the long run, this is going to ding my wallet. Hell, my current "gaming" PC idles at 60 watts (yeah, I had to check that too) and I don't leave that on all the time. So I started thinking about alternatives and how to replace this aging PC with something more efficient.

This is were the snowballing began ...

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