Questions re: 1) New HA/HTPC - and 2) Possible Use of InfiniTV

Madcodger

Active Member
A few questions, please, about my ongoing desire to have whole-house TV / media and lower my Verizon bill while continuing my HA addiction:
 
I keep looking at the amount I pay to Verizon each month for set top boxes and have decided it's just too much for what we get.  Combine that with the fact that I need to buy or build a new Home Automation machine and I have the perfect potential excuse to have a combined HA / Home Theater PC (I'd prefer a Mac, but I don't that's going to work with all the other equipment, etc., I have - open to ideas, though).  So here's what I'm wondering:
 
1)  Does anyone have experience with InfiniTV, from Ceton Corp (http://cetoncorp.com/products/infinitv/)?  This looks like it might work beautifully, but I'd like to hear from actual CT users if possible.  I would need to obtain a cablecard from Verizon (I use FIOS) but other than that this looks like a decent idea.   Thoughts?
 
2)  My ongoing desire to lower our energy use means that I really want only one PC running at all times, and I'd prefer that it be a low-power box (no giant towers, etc., even if it is in a closet).  I would like to use this same HTPC machine for Home Automation (likely HomeSeer, which I've used for years).  This machine would also need to run Virtual Weather Station.  Does anyone have a similar setup running now, and would you mind sharing your experience?  Thoughts on the minimum amount of RAM and processor speed also appreciated, as well as your experience with Media Center under Windows 7 or 8.  Also, WAF is a primary concern - and she is tech challenged by her own admission.
 
3)  To extend the utility of this machine, I plan to use either the extender sold by Ceton IF I go with Windows 7, OR an xbox (can be used with either 7 or 8, I believe).  Is anyone using an xbox as a tv extender as described, with a HTPC?  Any experience using Kinect as a remote for that?
 
4)  We are an iPhone / iPad house (no Android) so suggestions on iOS mobile apps that work with a HTPC are always welcome.  
 
5)  Also open to any other ideas, suggestions.  One of my biggest goals is to avoid the monthly fees to Verizon for STB rental or to Tivo for their service, which just irks me (even if I spend the same amount over time for the upfront equipment).  We never rent PPV movies, but do use our AppleTV and Roku, and Pandora.  And if I could make it VERY easy for my wife or visiting guests to use, that would be ideal.
 
Thanks for any thoughts, and maybe this will make for some interesting conversation on the board.
 
Joe
 

js19707

Active Member
1) i've been using the InfiniTV4 PCIe with Windows 7 and Windows Media Center since the Ceton cards first became available, with Comcast in Northern California.  It has worked pretty well for me: though there were some rough patches in the beginning (driver and firmware fixes), I haven't had to do an update in at least a year.  These Cablecard tuning devices do seem to be quite sensitive to weak signal, so you may save yourself some hassle if you ensure you have adequate signal strength up front.  Also, I don't have to use a Tuning Adapter--those that must use one have a more complex setup and perhaps more issues.  I do occasionally get popup messages reporting that the tuner failed to tune to a particular channel due to missing/weak signal but IIUC that is a Windows Media Center bug.
 
The Ceton PCIe tuner has been in the market the longest and is probably currently the most stable.  The USB tuners had some reliability challenges up front, and I don't know but am assuming things have improved.  My guess is the newest (ETH) tuners will probably go through a similar maturation process.  Check out The Green Button forum, which I find to be a great resource (though less of one than it used to be years ago).
 
2) My PC is running 24x7 and it's not a low-power setup (AMD Phenom II x6 1100T w/ ATI Radeon 6850; I knew this was overkill when I built it, but the extra processing power is handy if you do transcoding of video).  I have sleep and hibernation disabled--I'm also running CQC on this machine.  I've resolved to try to improve the power consumption so I will probably upgrade to a Haswell-based system in a few months.  As for RAM, I seem to get by fine with 4GB RAM but I'm sure more wouldn't hurt.  You may want to check out the HTPC forum on AVS, there is good discussion there about reasonable specs for HTPC machines depending on what features are important to you.
 
3)  I don't have any experience with extenders.  I occasionally check out the Ceton Echo forum on The Green Button, and my impression is that there are still a number of users unhappy with stability and performance, but I haven't looked very closely.  You may want to take a closer look before buying one.  My impression is that the only truly reliable extender for WMC is Xbox360.
 
4) the Ceton my media center mobile apps seem to be the most reliable remote control solution for WMC, and that is compared not only to smartphone apps but all Windows IR remote solutions.  You may also want to check out RemoteKitten which is pretty decent (but still not as good as the Ceton app).  They both require the installation of some helper sw on your WMC machine, but it's install once and forget about it.
 
5) More generally, I will say that I am still ambivalent about my multi-year "experiment" w/ WMC and Cablecard tuning.  
 
It's great that I have a DVR solution that doesn't require a monthly fee (apart from whatever pittance I'm paying to Comcast for the privilege of using a Cablecard and the non-trivial upfront cost for equipment and investment of my time).  You can also find instructions online for setting up commercial skipping which is really nice (when it works, which is ~90% of the time).  I also have MyMovies and RecordedHDTV add ons installed which help improve the user interface and functionality; the former is one of many good alternatives and the latter has some quirks and stability challenges.
 
OTOH, even with lots of tweaking WMC really isn't as refined a DVR solution as my TiVo HD.  WMC problems I have to work around: duplicate recordings (have to run a nightly script to clean up dupes), bad guide data (which happens with TiVo but less often), loss of IR remote control and other "weird" WMC behavior that is usually resolved with a reboot. 
 
I've always felt WMC had a lot of potential, but I don't think at this point it will ever be fully realized: Microsoft has been and continues to be pretty half-hearted about this offering and, while third-party software and hacks can work around a number of its shortcomings, you should resign yourself to needing to invest time tweaking and fiddling.  The UI is clumsy and there is only limited ability to customize it (through the use of registry edits and thirdparty sw).  I have yet to find a reliable IR-based solution for control, which requires me to keep a keyboard and mouse handy at all times.  If you have iTunes installed on the machine, iTunes and WMC will occasionally fight for control of the keyboard/mouse/remote.  There also appears to be no "good" Blu-ray sw player integration with WMC available; they all suck.  The PC still needs to be rebooted occasionally.
 
All this will likely work against WAF--it sure has in my case, which is why we still have our TiVo (my wife uses it exclusively).
 
 
 

mdonovan

Active Member
I recently got my Infinitv hooked up with Blue Ridge Cable. The only problem I saw so far is when the cable guy hooked everything up my picture was really bad and pixellated. When he tested he found the signal was kind of weak. Luckily I had some other wires run a while back and had an easily accessable conduit so he ran a much shorter new cable to the tv, the signal was a lot stronger, and the card has worked fine ever since. I'm using Media Center with Windows 7.
 
I am also using a Ceton Echo on my bedroom tv, and so far it's been working good. It has had its moments where I had to power it off/on, but not very often, and after a firmware update it seems like it has settled down. I used a MOCA adapter to get networking to that tv because I had no network going to that location.
 
My setup is fairly new (the cable was installed July 3), but so far I'm satidfied with it.
 
Matt
 

tmbrown97

Senior Member
js19707 said:
I've always felt WMC had a lot of potential, but I don't think at this point it will ever be fully realized: Microsoft has been and continues to be pretty half-hearted about this offering and, while third-party software and hacks can work around a number of its shortcomings, you should resign yourself to needing to invest time tweaking and fiddling.  
 
I wonder how many people realize just how much irony there is in this...  I don't think anyone in America knows IPTV better than Microsoft... Did you know that uVerse TV is actually a product called Microsoft Mediaroom?  And when FIOS first came out it was based on custom software written by MS though they've gone a different route since...  
 
I'd bet if anything Microsoft is more worried about irking a customer like AT&T over a handful of hobbyists because they have the parts and know-how to make a very powerful home media solution. Shame though - this is a part of the market that's sorely in need of a better solution - especially since we lost Sage.
 

js19707

Active Member
Work2Play-good point.  I also share your belief that Microsoft is divesting in this area because of the potential to offend partners/customers.  Granted, the community of HT enthusiasts who care about WMC is pretty small and I really can't blame Microsoft for it, but it's a shame nonetheless.
 

srodgers

Member
I have also had InfiniTV since they first came out. Currently running this on a Window 7 setup. I also have two old Linksys extenders that work Ok but are a bit slow and laggy on the interface. I use them both on wired connections. I only rent one cable cars from the Cable co. I saved some getting rid of my cable boxes.

Nicest part is the Ceton Companion IOS app that gives me remote control of the WinMCE and can remotely setup recordings and such. also has a nice guide view that works great on a IPad.
 
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