Started looking at this media pc thing quite a long while back, way back in the days of 133mhz Pentium CPU's, when PCI/ISA was the most common motherboard. Back then, I wondered how much space it would take if I recorded an episode of Star Trek Next Generation, using a WinTV PCI. Given that thing did basically no compression, the answer was "lots", and "lots" in a time when hard disks were only just pushing past the 1gb capacity.
But all this was playback, I still wanted recording, on the pc, with an EPG. I tried Showshifter, a sort of early media center app, which did it's encoding using software. I couldnt really ever find the time to let the PC run it though, so the idea was parked up again for a few years.
|Tivo Cachecard Network Adapter|
I heard a lot about MythTV, I tried building a box, feeding it dvb-t, dvb-s, and analog video in.. and discovered it took a lot of effort to run a Myth system which was 'complex', (in this case, combining programming from multiple timezones / input types). Plus it couldnt record more than one stream simultaneously from a multiplex, which seemed a bit odd. I struggled to get the MythTV box quiet enough that it would be allowed to run in the lounge, and failed. I tried using a diskless, fanless myth frontend (minimyth, on a mini-itx board), and gave up as the whole thing was becoming a 2nd job.
Then I heard that Vista had added support for combining different tuner types, and even dvb-s (in the tv-pack version). So I built a box to try that, and was surprised, the menus looked awesome, and the functionality was adequate, ok, it also couldnt record 2 streams from the same multiplex, but this was the 1st real option that might replace the now very very aging Tivo.
So the day finally came, when I powered down the Tivo, after migrating all my season passes over to Vista Media Center, and had a 2 week 'trial' to see if we'd need to power the Tivo back on. We never had to, and that began the time when "the media pc" began to manage our viewing experience.