Maybe the problem is in my not understanding the information on the Sage web site. I would love to put all by Sat boxes and cable gear in the basement and just have an extender at each TV. It just isn't clear to me from the web site as to how this would work...
It's a bitch, it's not you... There are elevnty billion ways to skin this cat as such you really can't define a "right" way. Basically if you like, it it's right.
There is legality which is totally different.
How do you hook up 2 or 3 DirecTV recievers to the Sage PC? (If one of the cards in their bundles can do this it was not obvious to me). Do you need a separate serial cable from the PC to each SAT receiver to control it? (A drawing would be helpful here). Does it matter what brand of SAT receiver I have? (I like the Sony units I have)
The easiest cheapest way is via composite or S Video input, you'll need one analog encoder per analog source captured at any one time. The capture card may have many inputs only only one. It may also have many encoders, or none.
No matter what if you get any analog you want a hardware encoder.
I always suggest Hauppauge hardware, they are basically the most supported devices.
Other options are modified cable and sat boxes that pass the digital stream directly to the PC for storage, via USB or Fireire, Digital ATSC (over air HD) QAM (digital cable and evidently FIOS).
Also Sat PCI cards exist however only in Europe right now, hopefully a DirectTV option will show up before long. You would need one PCI card basically wherever you would have a sat box.
You would need either RS232, IR, USB or Firewire to control channel changes on the remote boxes. All boxes go in the same rack with the server.
Does Sage support true automatic commercial skip? (The reason I chose RePlay over TiVo was for this feature and I do not want to give it up!)
Yes through community developed add-ons, highly configurable as well. You can treat any channel or program differently, or no detection at all.
Can I blend the cable and Satellite channels together rather than have to pick a source (Grandma doesn't do well with input selection)
It's got a guide just like your Sat box except it shows all available channels, doesn't matter the source. You can reorder the channels, you can renumber the channels, you can remap the channels ( say the movies are 300-350 but you have one you like at 151, you can remap 151 to 351 so they are all together in your guide). You can also (through community add-ons) build a custom guide so that the kids have very few pre-approved options.
Don't I still need a local DVD player at each location to handle the "one time" video rental stuff?
A couple of posts back a DVD player or DVD mega changer option was mentioned. If it's a theater room I would have a dedicated SageTV client box there with an integrated DVD/BD/HD-DVD player. Otherwise the use an unused input for DVDs through a changer, then it shows up as channel #0 or whatever you want. I personally have no problems with my DVDs over S-Video.
I really like the concept of Sage but I need to find the detailed information that will convince me it would truly make things easier.
How about I demo my system to you remotely? It has a remote client inteface... I only keep basic cable but I have modified menus and whatnot to control the system, my lights, kick other clients off etc.