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CaveTec
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Alternative "media extenders" for live cable TV / PVR

Mon Jan 05, 2015 12:40 am

A number of people use traditional "media extenders" such as Xbox 360 or Ceton Echo to view live or recorded cable TV on multiple TVs as part of whole home PVR solution based around a Windows Media Center HTPC. This allows cost savings relative to leasing equipment from a cable provider. Of course, Microsoft is no longer actively supporting WMC and media extenders as well as the companies that make them are on the wane. However, it seems that recent developments have enabled an alternative form of media extender with enhanced capabilities and much broader support.

With recent live TV enhancements to Kodi (formerly XBMC), it is now possible to view live or recorded cable TV on a wide range of PVR client devices when connecting to a central server running a PVR backend such as ServerWMC. This has a number of advantages and a few disadvantages relative to the traditional media extender.

Advantages:
- Supports a wide range of client OSes including Windows, Android, Linux, iOS, and OSX
- Supports a wide range of client devices such as Amazon Fire TV/Stick, Google Nexus Player, misc. Android boxes, Intel NUCs, smartphones, tablets, and Raspberry Pi
- Supports a wide range of apps like Netflix, Hulu Plus, Amazon Instant Video, YouTube, etc.
- Supports a wide range of addons, skins, and media scrapers
- Client devices are less expensive or already used within many households
- Active development community

Disadvantages:
- Sideloading Kodi can be complex, especially for non-technical types (a standard app store version would be strongly preferred)
- Only supports viewing of content marked Copy Freely (no premium channels or pay-per-view)
- Performance can be sluggish, depending upon client hardware specs

I have personally tested 2 client device types running Kodi 14 "Helix" with the PVR WMC client addon and a mid-range Win7-64 HTPC running ServerWMC:
- Amazon Fire TV (using wired Ethernet connection)
- Samsung Galaxy Note 3 running Android 4.4.4 (using WiFi connection)

The Fire TV is a more practical settop box replacement because it supports a wired Ethernet connection and it has a great selection of streaming apps. Sideloading Kodi onto it and setting up a home screen launcher app was probably too complex for an average user. Performance was generally good, although EPG load times were pretty slow. This might be improved with further optimization or future software releases.

Sideloading onto the Note 3 was easy and no special launcher app was required. UI performance and touch screen support was excellent although EPG load times were also pretty slow. Streaming HD video over WiFi is often problematic, but my experience was a lot better than with DLNA.

Overall, I think this is a promising direction which opens up a lot of new possibilities.

I am wondering:
- how many people out there are aware that this is possible?
- how many people see the benefit in keeping their cable service and owning their own settop boxes / media extenders to cut the monthly bill?
- for any who have tried it, how was your experience?
 
Anovoca
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Re: Alternative "media extenders" for live cable TV / PVR

Tue Feb 03, 2015 9:05 am

Just tossed a tuner card into my HTPC. Couldn't get any addons to work in Kodi but the wintv7 is easy enough to use I may just suffer having multiple front ends for my media.

Now to sit back and wait for my slingTV invitation.
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tanker27
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Re: Alternative "media extenders" for live cable TV / PVR

Tue Feb 03, 2015 11:00 am

This smells, looks, and feels like spam. Hell even the username is spammish because Googling it leads to the tech. :/
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VincentHanna
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Re: Alternative "media extenders" for live cable TV / PVR

Tue Feb 03, 2015 11:30 am

tanker27 wrote:
This smells, looks, and feels like spam. Hell even the username is spammish because Googling it leads to the tech. :/


ah, but did you take the time to look up his other post? If you had, you would have seen that it is also basically spam.
 
The Egg
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Re: Alternative "media extenders" for live cable TV / PVR

Tue Feb 03, 2015 1:00 pm

He states in his profile that he's the president of CaveTec. So long as he makes this known and is actually initiating a discussion rather than just advertising, I don't have a problem with it. Something in the signature might help though.
 
DragonDaddyBear
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Re: Alternative "media extenders" for live cable TV / PVR

Tue Feb 03, 2015 1:27 pm

I hope this is not spam. I just downloaded that a few weeks ago. I am toying with one of those neato AMD passively cooled boxed that TR had up a few weeks ago and using that for Steam, Kodi/PVR, and other "old/archived" games for a Linux box. That or the new Pi and drop the Steam idea. Still, it's actually a neat concept.
 
CaveTec
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Re: Alternative "media extenders" for live cable TV / PVR

Tue Feb 03, 2015 6:09 pm

Not sure why my post would be considered spam. It only references open source software and widely available hardware. Just wondering how many people out there know or care about this capability and curious about their experience. Also, I am not linking to unrelated websites, unlike some posts above.
 
TheEmrys
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Re: Alternative "media extenders" for live cable TV / PVR

Tue Feb 03, 2015 6:32 pm

WMC is just so much easier than anything. Add a tuner card and done. Even cable.
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Captain Ned
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Re: Alternative "media extenders" for live cable TV / PVR

Tue Feb 03, 2015 6:38 pm

Whatever issue there may be has been noted and appropriate PMs have been sent. Further comment on any potential issues in this thread will not be helpful. From my perspective, no TR Forum Rule has yet been broken, so please let us manage this to a happy ending.

Thanks for listening.
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CaveTec
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Re: Alternative "media extenders" for live cable TV / PVR

Tue Feb 03, 2015 9:23 pm

TheEmrys wrote:
WMC is just so much easier than anything. Add a tuner card and done. Even cable.


WMC is definitely easier to setup, but the available extenders (Xbox 360, Ceton Echo) leave a lot to be desired if you are trying to setup a whole home PVR solution. By using Kodi on the client side, you can run it on phones, tablets, FireTV, etc. - devices which you already own or which cost less than a traditional extender, and which support apps like Netflix, Hulu Plus, and Amazon Instant Video. Doesn't that seem worth the effort?
 
LoneWolf15
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Re: Alternative "media extenders" for live cable TV / PVR

Tue Feb 03, 2015 10:49 pm

I'm already doing some of this.

-Tivo Premiere XL as my STB. A single cablecard is free, and having the Tivo means I'm not paying a monthly fee for a set-top-box, another monthly fee to upgrade said box to HD, and a third fee for a DVR. I got a lifetime subscription (actually, my lifetime subscription didn't cost me anything, but that's another story, and a rare one at that) so I came out on top.

-I built a home theater PC. I'm still running XBMC 13.2 Gotham while I wait for Kodi to mature a little (though with 14.1 out that day is getting closer), but I have plugins for online channels and Youtube, and stream video stored on my server. The system is run on a Core i3-3225 and I use the HD 4000 graphics through HDMI, so it's low power and quiet. I have an mSATA 128GB SSD for the operating system slotted right on the system board. I've owned several types of media extenders/content streamer appliances before that, and found that they were poorly supported --bugs were never ironed out prior to the release of new equipment, as it didn't profit the vendor to fix software on products people already bought. I decided I'd take that into my own hands.

If I were doing it today, I might wait for the Raspberry Pi 2.0 to come out. Small, powerful, and efficient.
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