Saged and confused


Active Member
Warning, looooong post ahead - thanks in advance for taking the time to read/reply!

Frustrated by the multitude of cable boxes, AV switchers, TiVos, DVD players, an PCs that seem to congregate around our TVs - the wife has given unprecedented clearance to move to a consolidated system. For what seems like an eternity, I have read about other CT members sweet SageTV systems and longed for the day that I would have the same. Well, that day is now, kind-of...

First off, let me say that I'm a Mac guy. I like Linux, Mac, and most things different. My only Windows box is the HouseBot server. I have nothing really against MS or Windows, I just prefer the *X side of the street. That being said, if I do go with SageTV - I would most likely install it on Windows, from my observations; the support/options/stuff available for the MS platform seems to eclipse whats available for Linux or Apple with respect to SageTV. I'd love to hear from alternative installations though.

I made the mistake(?) of downloading Plex on my Macbook and playing with it. For those that don't know, Plex is a fork of the XBMC media center that has been specifically tailored to the Apple platform. Anyway, it works brilliantly. I pointed it at a server share containing several hundred ripped DVD movies, to another share containing almost as many TV shows and it indexed them all, found ratings, episode/movie info, posters, fan art, etc. all automatically. I literally did nothing except define the folder location and tell it the folders contained movies or TV shows. Plex found my itunes playlists and imported those and pictures as well. It was about this time that my wife walked up and said "ooh, what is that?". Now, rarely is my wife interested in anything that is happening on my computer, so, seeing the opportunity in front of me, I began showing her my new toy. She fell in love, hard. I explained that doing this would involve putting a Mac mini at each TV and purchasing a Harmony remote - quite a costly investment for watching Desperate Housewives... But in return, we could go back to "expanded basic" cable and have nothing but the Mini at each TV, plus she could watch Netflix movies and Hulu shows instantly in addition to whatever the TiVo records. I thought she was going to faint.

Not forgetting Sage, I said: "If you think that's good, wait until you see SageTV!". then went about downloading and installing the SageTV server trial on a virtual XP install and the Sage Client on my Macbook. I explained to her that we could do everything with SAge and also watch record live TV without the expense of multiple Mac Minis. I went thought the the explanations of how the HD200 extenders would work and how we'd put SD and HD tuners in the SageTV server to capture shows, commercial skip, place shifting, the whole works. She was ready for a demo!

Knowing that I didn't have a tuner card for the demo, I knew I couldn't show her the live-tv gooey goodness so I went about setting up the save movie and tv shares that I had working in Plex.

I fired everything up (sage client on the macbook) and her smile turned upside down - "Sage is ugly, Plex is pretty", she said. "We can customize Sage to look however we want" I responded. I went to the media center section and then to the videos. Hmm, all the TV shows and Movies are intermingled together, getting "more info" for a show only shows the file/pathname - low WAF there too. I was losing her fast, actually she was already gone, now playing with the dog on the floor in our office. "Don't you want to see more", "Nah, I don't like it. It's ugly, and the movies are all jumbled with the TV shows". I say; "But it's a lot cheaper, plus don't forget the Live TV capabilities with Sage, I'm sure I can customize it to separate the Movies and downloaded TV shows. Let's just try a movie and see how easy it is." I pick a movie from the list and it starts playing - regular DVD rip, not HD. The movie starts skipping, pausing, etc. Not good, "What about Hulu and Netflix?" she asks. We can do it, but it's through a separate application that we have to buy and plugin on Sage" (playon) I said. This was the death nail for Sage, she left the room.

I want Sage, but is what I'm seeing normal? Do people just put up with the poor navigation, skipping movies, etc. Will a HD200 be better or worse performance than the client on my dual-core Macbook? Plex's default theme is based on the Mediastream theme for XBMC. Is there anything like that for Sage? I downloaded SageMC and installed it but it wasn't much better than the default. Perhaps I'm missing something.

As I see it now, below are my goals and options:

Currently 3 TV's in the house, could expand to 5 over the next year
Desire to drop to expanded basic cable and remove need for cable boxes
Remove multiple DVD players from TVs
Will rely on Vuze/ShowRSS (torrent downloads) and Hulu for TV beyond basic cable offerings.
Netflix stream and rental for Movies
Will keep the current Gen II TiVo until it dies (lifetime subscription)
Would like to watch TiVo content on whatever solution
Optionally would like to integrate a "10 foot" interface to Housebot on whatever solution
After seeing Signal15s post on his kitchen TV with Boxee, we've though about something similar - It would be nice if either solution could display recipes from a local/web recipe database - I'm not aware of anything existing though. Anyone know of anything for Plex or Sage for recipes?

Sage on Virtual XP on existing Linux server or standalone box
3 HD200s
1 hauppage video card (1600?, 1850?) and one HDhomerun to grab live TV
Playon application to stream Netflix, Hulu (How well does this work? I know you drop out of Sage on the HD200, is it easy, seamless?)
Shared DVD on Sage Server (Blueray maybe, no need at the moment and I assume this would mean Win7 over XP)
A prettier face for Sage - preferable one like the Plex offering
A way to separate TV shows from Movies (Ideally, I could plut downloaded TV shows in the same location with Sage-recorded ones - possible?)
3 Harmony remotes? (Do I need Harmony remotes or are the HD200 ones fine?)

OPTION 2 - Plex on Mac Minis
3 Mac Minis
Live TV would be either switching the TVs inputs from the Mini to cable/antenna or installing EyeTV units/software on each Mini(That's another $200...). Plex isn't integrated with EyeTV yet, but I could switch between the apps with a harmony remote.
3 Harmony remotes

Obviously, the Plex/Mini solution is much more costly and we wouldn't buy everything all at once - probably outfit one TV to test, then another in 6 months or so. Am I crazy for even considering Plex? Am I crazy for considering Sage?

I'm going to cross-post this on the Sage forums, but I'd love the un-biased opinions of CTers too.

Sorry for the long explanation, thanks in advance for your help/opinions.

Well I think it boils down to this: With Sage, you can record TV or show it live in the integrated solution vs. with Plex, you still need to use your Tivo. But your wife really likes the Plex GUI. I'd look hard at the Sage Media Center plug in. If you can find one that looks closer to Plex, then that might sway things back to Sage.

But ulimatedly, if the wife isn't on board, you are screwed. So what ever the final decision is, she better be able to like it in the end (even if it takes a little "adjustment" period).

Your mistake was giving her a choice! :lol:
I hear ya. Frankly I was surprised at her reaction to Plex. I thought for sure the high cost would throw her.

I've been thinking about going ahead and getting and HD200 and Sage plus one HDHomerun to test. I'll add SageMC and Sage Movie Wall into the mix along with Batch Metadata Tools and try to pretty it up some and let her test drive it for a while. Worst case, if she doesn't like it I could sell the HD200, go with the Plex solution and continue to use sage to record live TV from the HDHomerun using the Plex box to view the recordings. True live TV would still come from basic cable, but we generally on watch live TV for news or sports.

How is the remote control response on the HD200s? I have an old Pinnacle Showcenter that has horrible remote control response. A button press on the remote takes 2-5 seconds for a response on the ShowCenter, I hope the HD200 isn't like that, if so she'll never use it.

They really need to come up with a nicer looking interface for SageTV, as using 3rd party add-ons might make future upgrade scenarios (and support) more difficult.

That said, both my wife and I got used to the basic SageTV interface (used to run MCE before, which has a much smoother interface), and we really appreciate the functionality, flexibility, and low-power extenders the most. Some of the aspects you mentioned (such as sorting downloads etc) is pretty easy to fix, it's just a matter of changing some options and the 'view', the default settings definitely could use some tuning.

My main goal was to eliminate all PC based media players (I had several machines) for both energy cost and maintenance reasons. SageTV gave me that and much more.

The only thing I don't do is Netflix/Hulu, only because I don't want to deal with 3rd party components in order to watch video.
The Playon addin with Sage works very well. It is certainly seemless - even with the extenders. You simply go to "On Line Services" to view the different feeds.

The only negative thing I can say about it is that the underlying mechanics to get the different feeds is cludgy. It requires someone to modify the xml code to see the feeds in Sage. This is all done behind the scenes so you don't need to worry about any of that. It just means that not every feed or plugin that is available with Playon is going to be available inside the SageTV interface. Only those "major" feeds that are important enough that someone has gone through the donkey work will show up. Currently that is all the major networks, scifi, foodnetwork, HGTV, and some others.

Oh - and it needs a decent download speed on the internet connection. It works fine for me (mid speed cable connection), but my parents have a low speed DSL connection and it takes too long to download the material to watch it in real time. You have to let it buffer a good long while before watching the show to make sure you don't run out of buffered material. On my connection, I can start watching it immediately and never catch up to the download.

Do you know if this works with the HD100? You got my attention now :lol:
Well, I went ahead and bought the SageTV/HD200 bundle from Sage and a HDHomerun from Newegg. I got the license key delivered via email so I can start playing. Is there any problem with installing/removing/installing and key use? Should I just use the trial until I'm sure of the hardware/OS config and then enter the key as the last step? I don't want to get into a repeated license activation thing like you can with Microsoft.


EDIT: Thanks for the Playon answers Brian - I'll give the trial a spin when the HD200 arrives.
No issues with the key. As long as you don't have two machines running SageTV trying to use the same key at the same time, you'll be OK. You can even switch machine in the future without needing a new key. I myself just recently built a new SageTV computer which runs WHS. My last Sage server was an old P4 machine running XP Pro. I simply removed Sage from the old machine and put the same key into the new machine to activate it. No problems what so ever.
Am I crazy for considering Sage?

I'm going to cross-post this on the Sage forums, but I'd love the un-biased opinions of CTers too.

Sorry for the long explanation, thanks in advance for your help/opinions.


Ok, several things come to mind when reading your post:

1. Are you sure you will be able to do a cable boxless solution? I thought most companies were doing away w/ analong and going encripted qam.

2. If you go sage, DEFINATELY do a windows install.

3. Sell the TiVo. Any solution with anything will be klugy at best. With lifetime you should get a decent return.

4. If you go Sage, and this is the hardest thing for some people to grasp, you must remember "there is NO SUCH THING as live tv". Say it to yourself every time you use Sage for the first several weeks. Sage is totally built on the premise of Shows, as in you tell Sage you want to watch Spongebob, for instance, and Sage takes care of scheduling, tuners, conflicts, HD over SD, etc. There is NO BUFFER. There probably WILL NEVER BE A BUFFER. Sage treats every show like a recording. This is very hard for some new users to understand and get used to. This doesnt mean that you can't watch a show while it's in progress, it just means that Sage will make a recording for it, just like the favorites and manual recordings it records. One potential downside to this is that if you like to settle down for an evening of "must see tv" (im dating myself here) you have to realize that there will be a small pause between each recording while Sage Stops the current recording and starts a new one. I personally dont understand it, but it drives many new Sage users CRAZY. In my opinion its much better to just get totally out of the habbit of thinking about TV as a scheduled medium. Also, if anyone in your family is a channel surfer, Sage can be a bit of an adjustment.

Hopefully I didn't scare you off. I Think Sage is a wonderful, powerful, somewhat beauty channenged, EXTREMELY customizeable, PVR powerhouse. Just dont expect it to be a drop in replacement for how you currently watch tv.

. The WAF, even with the stock SageTV interface, is very very high; all live TV (it really is nearly live, our household was used to the slight delay from show slection to playback with media center as it does the same thing, buffers a bit before playing),

The thing that I want to get across to the OP though is that Sage doesn't have a traditional buffer. I dont know exactly why, but it's hard for some people to adjust to.

As an example, most dvrs have a one hour buffer. If you were watching a show for 40 minutes and then changed the channel and watched a new show for 10, you would have 50 minutes of shows to be able to rewind and watch. With Sage if you watch 40 minutes of a show "live" and then change the channel, those 40 minutes are effectively gone. The upside to how Sage works is that, for instance, if you sat down to watch a 3 hour movie and in the last 10 minutes you decide you want to save it you can hit the record button and Sage will be able to save the whole movie, not just the last 60 minutes. Im not saying its better or worse, it's just different, and something to be aware of, coming from the TiVo world.

Maybe it's already mention but really consider the power usage when comparing media PC's with sage HD100 or HD200 extended boxes. The Sage boxes are relatively low power.

What i don't understand is that they seem to consume the same when they're 'Off' than than when they are playing. If this is the case, when do they even have an off mode. I measured mine with the killawatt and then instructed my wife to just hit 'Home' and 'Stop' when she's done so that there is no 'boot-up' delay when we come back and want to watch something. Keeping the unit on also helps in maintaining CQC communication with it. Once you turn them 'Off' CQC cannot talk to them anymore.
Turning the extender off just frees up the license, it still stays up and running. It still uses less energy than many digital cable boxes, so it's not too big of a deal IMO.
Well... before, during and just after Christmas I've accumulated a quad core Sage box, Windows 7, Sage software, 1 HD200 and 1 HDHomeRun, playon, and AnyDVD to play with. I still need 1 or 2 HVR 2250s and I'd like an SSD to put the System/Software on.

I like/dis-like Sage very much so far. I won't talk about the interface other than to say my wife hates it. The combination of SageMC, MovieWall, TvExplorer, blah, blah help to make the interface attractive, but it also slows it down somewhat and is difficult to get the just-right combination of cooperating versions of everything. Live TV seems ok but I have occasional stutters, pauses, lockups when watching Live Tv or ripped DVDs that I haven't gotten to the bottom of yet. I really don't understand why it was written in Java but that's the way it is and it seems to be widely accepted as the best of breed and I see the potential so I trudge onward.

The volume control on the HD200 not controlling volume when using the optical is dumb. A universal remote would have been nice so I didn't have to buy another - even if it just controlled the volume and power on something else (Amp, TV).

I guess I need to start a blog about the whole experience - maybe after I reload everything again...

Do a clean install of SageTV, and test all the features such as Live TV, DVD playback etc before installing plugins/MC. SageTV is rock solid IMO. I dislike JAVA as well, but so far it has worked well. That said, I run everything on Windows XP (nothing against Windows 7, XP is just a proven platform, 7 is too new IMO), which probably makes a big difference.