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My cable provider recently gave me a nice offer, $3/mo more to double my internet speeds and get free basic cable at the same time. I took it just for the boost in internet speed, and now am wanting to take advantage of the TV. My wife and I don't own a TV, so I have ordered a TV capture card, and plan to build a nice little computer around it. But my question is this:

What are good ways (including hardware/software) to really make this cool? I'd love to have a computer that is able to do all the traditional PVR functions, be controlled remotely, stream video or save it to a remote destination, and also be able to stream a live feed across the network to be viewed on a remote terminal. Anyone accomplish this? Currently, I'm a Windows household, w/xp, vista and server 2008. But since I'll be building a new box for the capture card, if *nix has some killer features, I'm open to that. But in any case, the other computers are going to be running Windows, so the front-end needs to support that.

Feel free to share your experiences and thoughts. I want to gather as many ideas as I can and make this into something cool.

MythTV or Media Center would be your best bets. Either one can't necessarily do it all, but both have decent capabilities.

I've had good success with Media Center.
I installed Mythbuntu over the weekend (Ubuntu built for MythTV) and I LOVE it. I use basic cable, so DVR from them wasn't an option. After seeing most TiVo DVR-PVR's going for over $350 I decided to just build one.

Best thing I've done to date. Bought a DVD+-RW for $22, used a 500 GB hard drive (Most DVR's come with ~160 GB) and bought a tuner card. After a few hours on google, I was set. It records all showings of Family Guy (Sad, but I really love the show), House, 7 Days (Ok, so I liked the show back in 2000..), CSI, and JAG. My only mistake was getting a single tuner card.

One thing that makes it really worth wild to me (Well, will, when I can budget myself a few tuners >.>), you can use these on any TV you want to be able to connect to the "Backend" and stream TV/Movies/Music/Pictures/Weather/Movie times to anything within Cat-5 (Or even wireless) range.

By far the best thing I've found in ages. You only have to pay for one thing, the guide requires you to subcribe to a services ($20 a year, but free trial so you can see if it's worth it) that pulls program guides for everything.
I started down this path some time ago using Snapstream's BeyondTV. I'm a big fan of the company. It's not open source but they're really good people and listen very well to their users.

Ultimately, since I was trying to do the MediaPC on the cheap it took too long. My wife got frustrated at the lack of progress and bought TivoHD. She simply couldn't deal with the CableCo DVR GUI any longer.

I don't mind since TivoHD is really great device. I prefer Squeezebox for music. We have several of these around the house.

Sling Media / Slingbox is also an interesting product worth considering depending on your needs. You basically your cable / input right into the 'Slingbox' and then with their software can watch and control the TV anywhere, even outside your home. Not nearly the capability of a Myth or MCE setup, but a good plug-and-play 'watch TV anywhere' kind of solution.

I confess I know very little about HTPCs, but I have never seen a card that can handle HDMI 1.3(B1?) with both video and audio. I'm certain nVidia and ATI both have video controllers with HDMI outputs, but being that its a video controller, it's just video. How would we easily take the HTPC to a A/V controller and maintain the 7.1 audio?
Current HTPC technology and componentry is nutoriously bad for handling HDMI, Audio, and HD properly. A lot of it seems to rest with Video card manufacturer's and their poor support for audio over HDMI and support for HDMI standards in general.

A few months back Asus came out with some interesting Xonar products that help support this better. But in general, proper HD, Audio, and HDMI support in the HTPC realm still leaves a lot of be desired.

There's several interesting articles floating about the discuss this topic.
I used an old Audigy 2 Zs card for my audio, porting it from the Digital "mini-plug" to the Coax S/PDF on my surroud sound. I cheat though, I used a camera cord from RadioShack (2.5" mono headphone jack to RCA cable). That gives great sound for everything I use it for.

What took the longest was trying to figure out how to get Linux to use the Digial audio out. Half hour on google and it was working. My next feat, I want to get a Blu-ray drive in and working! But that'll be a month or two down the road.

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