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Time to Make My Own HTPC

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I decided to take the time to build myself a home theater PC, HTPC. It will eventually also serve as a home back up server for my other computers and devices too.

A couple of years ago I got my first HDTV when one of my big old tube TVs died. I know, very late to the game but TV hasn't been that important to me lately. I have a few shows I watch but I've been watching more and more video on my computers.

My Satellite TV service is standard definition (SD) and when I first connected it to my TV I was very disappointed with the picture quality. SD output on a HDTV leaves a lot to be desired. Imagine viewing a low resolution YouTube video fullscreen.

I didn't feel the need to upgrade my Satellite Service to HD. In fact, I've been cutting down my Satellite package lately and didn't want to go in the other direction. One day I noticed the majority of the shows programmed in my Satellite DVR were on local channels. Channels which I can get free over the air.

All these channels passing through my body but I needed to find a way to get them into my TV to see what it was capable of.

I found some DIY DTV antenna plans online and in a few minutes I managed to make a simple antenna using paper clips and cardboard. I didn't catch a ton of channels but it was more than I expected and the picture quality was amazing. Even better than the HDTV programming I've seen through cable or satellite HDTV because the over the air (OTA) signals are not overly compressed by the cable and satellite channels.

Eventually I worked on getting better antenna reception but there was one major thing missing. A way to record the OTA programming. After using a DVR for a long time I can't go back!

I looked into different options such as TiVo but I decided I wanted to build my own. Building my own DVR gave me these benefits I couldn't get from most other commercial DVR options:
  • Complete control over the hardware and software I choose which allows me to add more features whenever I want.
  • It can serve as a computer because, well, it is a computer. These days there are a lot of benefits to having a home server. Instead of having a different DVR device, backup device, file sharing device, you can have it all in one box to save on space and power.
  • No monthly service fees. TiVo is about $20 per month which I think is expensive. My satellite provider only charges $6/mo for my DVR service.
I spent a long time considering the choices for HTPC software, hardware, antennas and more which I will share here. Including instructions and videos on building and setting up my HDPC.

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