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Home made DVR and watching TV on-line/rabbit ears

Discussion in 'Tech Talk' started by dissthis, Oct 6, 2008.

  1. dissthis

    dissthis Gun Fan

    Aug 24, 2005
    Marietta, GA
    Well GT brain trusts....

    My wife and I have this crazy idea...

    We were wondering if we could ditch our cable company (Comcast) and hook a computer up to our TV and watch shows over the Internet?? Also if we had rabbit ears we could we watch local channels via this system??

    The TV we currently have is about a 6 year old Magnavox (top of the line at the time). So we might need a new TV???

    Also, is there a software out there that would record shows off the internet/rabbit ears for viewing later?? I guess off the internet is a moot point since you watch thats as you want to :dunno:

    Any ideas or links would be helpful.
  2. jilverthor


    Apr 11, 2004
    Parker, CO
    The easiest method of bringing TV to you computer would be to add a TV tuner card. There are several makes and I am behind the times so I won't try to suggest one card over another. Some key features are some cards will have multiple tuners allowing you to hook up multiple input signals (like cable and antenna, 2 cable connections, 2 antennas, ...). The advantage here is you can record shows from multiple sources at the same time assuming the computer is powerful enough. Many of the cards come with recording software, but the be all end all would be to build a Mythtv box. It would take time to set up properly (and some knowledge of linux preferably) but will let you watch the video on different computers and much more.

    Here is the link for MythTV:

  3. dissthis

    dissthis Gun Fan

    Aug 24, 2005
    Marietta, GA
    I'll check out that site.
  4. CableRouter


    Jul 26, 2008
    Not crazy, I've already done this. Let me tell you, that extra $100 a month sure buys a lot of 9mm ammo! :supergrin:

    Only until next Feb, then all the TV signals will be digital, you can pick up a digital box for your "rabbit ears" for about $40 at your local big box store (Target or Wall-mart)

    Your TV should be fine.

    I consider this a bit more advanced than "Go to a website for show, click play." but then again I'm watching high definition tv shows on my 42" HDTV for nothing so it's well worth learning how to do. Keep in mind that I'm using a windows based computer, I have no clue how to do some of these steps with a mac. This also works as "recording" tv shows since you can do it any time after the show is aired.

    First step is getting yourself a DivX ready DVD player, I got a Phillips DVP560 player from Target for $40 on sale. They are pretty easy to spot as they have a USB port on the FRONT of the player (looks like a 1" by 1/8" plug, like on the back of your computer, some comps have them under a front panel as well) and will have the DivX logo on them.

    Second step is get yourself a flash drive to carry your video from your computer to your TV. What can I say, I live right next to a Target; they currently offer a 2 GB flash drive for $12.99, price will be good till 10/11.

    Third step is to get yourself DivX conversion software; offers DivX Pro for $20. Be sure to check the box to remove the option for the MPEG-2/DVD plug-in, you aren't going to need it for TV shows.

    Fourth step is to get yourself some codecs, they tell your computer how to translate various video and audio formats. Head on over to get the windows codec pack, install it and reboot if required.

    Fifth step is to learn how Torrent files work. Go to, download and install utorrent, as much as possible it's nearly automated. If you have specific questions, give me a shout. For those who are worried about viruses or FBI raids at 2am, let me put your mind at ease. You cannot get a virus or spyware from a downloaded video file. Also, to my knowledge no company has ever launched a raid on a user for downloading a television torrent either. Do like I do, keep your nose clean, stay far and away from downloaded movies and music.

    Sixth step is to download and install the free program WinRAR, it's an archive manager popular with people who share large amounts of data on the internet., near the top it talks about a free trial, and links to a download page; on the download page it should be the top item.

    At this point you're nearly there, you find a decent Television torrent site; only does television shows and has a decent FAQ and software section. You browse to the show you want to watch, download the episode you're looking for and when prompted let utorrent open the .torrent file. How long it takes depends on how fast your connection is and how many people are currently sharing the file (on average I can get a 45 minute tv episode in less than 30 mins).

    Avoid files that have x264 in the title, there are a bunch of extra steps to convert them, if there is enough interest I'll explain it later. x264 is based on a format that allows multiple audio tracks and multiple subtitle tracks.

    If you've downloaded a non-archived video file, something that ends in .avi, you're golden. Find where utorrent is storing your video, open utorrent, the menu item is options, select downloads, it should tell you the location of your downloaded files. Start DivX Pro, drag and drop your .avi file into it, set your video quality with the little blue arrow buttons (Home Theater should be fine), hit convert. If you right click on the DivX Pro window and select preferences, you can see (or set) your output folder. After you are done, you can move that output file to the flash drive, plug it into the DVD player and play it.

    Desktop makes a good output folder, you can see the file on your desktop and easily delete it when you are done. Videos can take up a LOT of hard drive space, prune old files as you go. To remove downloaded files from utorrent, right click on the entry in the main window, select "Remove and" the go over and select "torrent + data". Other unarchived files from your desktop and DivX converted files you can delete directly from wherever they are.

    If you've downloaded an archived video file, you'll see a bunch of files ending in .rar, .r01, .r02, .r03 or .r1, .r2, .r3, you can double click the .rar file (opened with windows explorer it will look like a stack of 3 books; purple, green and blue) and have WinRAR extract it for you. WinRAR will open, click the "Extract To" button, in the main windows on the bottom right, select "Desktop" and hit ok. Then you can drag the .avi file from your desktop windows to your DivX Pro program and convert it.

    In utorrent, if you click on a torrent with .rar files in the main window, select the "Files" tab from the bottom windows, you can double click the .rar file from there to launch it without opening "My Computer" and browsing to where your torrents are.

    For some of you I've been far too verbose, for others I haven't explained things in enough detail. Here is a no cost way to get started, follow steps 4, 5 and 6. Get your codecs, get utorrent, get winrar, all free. Next get and install the VLC media player, also free at Now you have everything you need to download and watch your TV shows on your computer. If you can get going with this you're nearly done, the only remaining steps are to drop the video file into DivX Pro, copy the output to a flash drive and then plug the drive into a DivX ready DVD player.

    Feel free to ask questions in this thread, or via PM if you prefer.
  5. dissthis

    dissthis Gun Fan

    Aug 24, 2005
    Marietta, GA
    Wow! thanks.

    Alot of info to read over...gotta get the kids to bed right now...

    quick question...

    will my surround sound still work (properly)?

    thanks again...I will have more questions as I read over the above...


    I will be using a Windows based computer also...I was thinking of getting a 2nd computer to put with the tv to do all of this....
  6. CableRouter


    Jul 26, 2008
    It will depend on the person who recorded and encoded the original video. But in any case you should still get sound from it, like watching an old DVD that doesn't have surround sound; the regular sound should come through the surround sound speakers.

    I'm sure you will, I sure did when I started.

    There isn't much need for it, since with my method you can't hook the DVD player up to the computer with a cable, just moving a flash drive back and forth. Of course if you really want to justify buying a new computer, buy the good one for yourself to play games on and put your old one with the TV. :supergrin:

    At least try the free route I outlined; once you're set up for watching TV shows on your computer you've got 90% of the process down and the last bit is very simple. Good luck and bring on the questions.
  7. Big Al 24

    Big Al 24

    Apr 23, 2008
    Another option is to use an old hacked Xbox or an Xbox 360 to stream music/videos/shows from your pc to your TV. If you enable media sharing on the PC you can browse/watch/listen to anything you want from the Xbox, I do it all the time, and you get the ability to play games on the Xbox. If you buy extra hookups, it makes it easy to cart the Xbox from set to set in your house so you can watch wherever you want in comfort. There's also the Slingbox, a magical, highly underrated, device that will amaze you.
  8. betyourlife

    betyourlife on a GLOCK

    May 10, 2004
    Seattle, WA
    Vista ultimate media center.
  9. mkl


    Feb 26, 2007
    I used to use mythtv on linux for this. Now I use a windows machine running Vista. Vista comes with Media center software that allows for all the common dvr functions.
    So basically, I have a full Vista pc running hooked up to my tv. That alone allows for watching shows from places like, which has a bunch of different tv and movies. Also since I am a netflix subscriber, I can stream a bunch of tv shows and movies from their site. In addition, there are a bunch of other places to get tv online, like from the stations websites.
    If you also want to use an antenna and watch additional tv delivered over the air (OTA) you have a little more work.
    If you want to record and playback HD shows, you will need an HD tuner. I use:
    This allows for 2 tuners , so you can watch one show and record another. That tuner hooks up to a HD capable antenna, which can be rabbit ears, if they can pick up a signal in your area. I use a cheap amplified set of rabbit ears from radio shack. You can find out the chance of you getting tv signals online from:

    If you don't need HD you can buy some cheaper tuners, and hook them up to the rabbit ears with the HD converter boxes that are being sold now to allow non-hd tvs to work with the new HD signals that will be broadcast.
  10. dissthis

    dissthis Gun Fan

    Aug 24, 2005
    Marietta, GA
    Here is what I am thinking to have built for the PC to run this whole deal...
    and yes we plan to use DSL for Internet and a HDTV antenna....this is the TV I want to get to use:

    1 ELEMENT 6060 ************* 0
    2 MB-INT-DP35DP Intel Desktop Board DP35DP 1
    4 CP-IC2D-E8400 Intel Core 2 Duo E8400 3.00GHz 6M 1333 1
    5 MM-2GB-DDR2-800 2GB DDR2 PC2-6400 800MHZ 1
    6 MM-2GB-DDR2-800 2GB DDR2 PC2-6400 800MHZ 1
    7 VG-PNY-8500GT PNY Verto GeForce 8500GT 512MB PCIe 1
    8 ****** 2 500GB HARD DRIVES ****** 0
    9 89430A 320GB SATA II HARD DRIVE 7200 RPM 1
    10 89430A 320GB SATA II HARD DRIVE 7200 RPM 1
    11 0
    12 CDA-SO-DVDR-20B Sony 20x Dual Layer DVD-Burner 1
    13 CDA-SON-DVD16XB Sony 16x40 Black DVD-ROM 1
    14 0
    16 SF-MS-VIST-HP32 Microsoft Windows Vista Home Premium 32B 1
    17 SF-SELECT 60-DAY TRIAL Microsoft Office 1
    19 CS-FC-TS-01 Mid ATX 3(5 1/4) 2 (3.5) BLK/SILVER 1
    21 ******* TV TUNER CARD *******
  11. mkl


    Feb 26, 2007
    Will be a very nice setup. I have a slower processor, and half the RAM and my system runs fine, with this hardware it will really sing. The only thing I would do differently is the tuner. I believe that tuner has one HD tuner, and one non-hd cable tuner. I would probably never use the non-HD tuner, so I would get 2 HD tuners, or just one HD tuner and add another later.

    Also remember that harddrive space fills up fast when recording HD! A one hour HD show recorded takes about 5-6 Gigs of space.