Dreams of an OTA DVR #2

Another in the Cord Cutter Curious series.

I gave up on my first effort realizing that the original recorder attempt was comparable to old school VCR’s with no network streaming functionality.

The dream would be to use a software suite that would record programs on a network accessible space ( using a PVR) and be viewable via a client preferably on the many Roku’s around the house for replays on the TV’s.

I ordered two different USB stick tuners. One was an Avermedia H837 and an Hauppauge WinTV-DualHD. Avermedia was only compatible with windows setups. Hauppauge was compatible with both windows and linux.

I narrowed the options down of the various software PVR’s to two. TVHeadEnd and NextPVR. TVHeadEnd was compatible with Linux only. NextPVR was only compatible on Windows 10.

Then came the experimentation to put together the different pieces. Things to consider if you go through this. 1)Your pc will need to have excellent network connectivity. 2) You need to have a solid coax connection between the USB stick and your antenna.

I won’t go into the configuration specifics but will touch on the overviews.

I tried the Avermedia and the Hauppauge on a windows setup, however, this was an older windows desktop pc so it wasn’t the best at reception or recording. As a desktop pc, the location for it was awkward at best because of it’s size. And finally I wasn’t able to figure any means that the recorded files were able to be shared with the Roku’s reliably. With a more current multi core cpu and graphics card, I probably would have had better success.

Next, I decided to try with Raspberry Pi’s. I used Raspbian OS on a Raspberry Pi 3 connected to the Hauppauge with TVHeadend. Recording performance suffered, so I changed to a Raspberry Pi 4 and saw a lot of improvement.

There is a learning curve with TVHeadend. It is NOT a set it and forget it. It worked well with the USB tuner and able to record based on channel and time. It provided access to current TV guide entries on most channels, but recording based on TV show name didn’t seem to work. TVHeadend did auto start for me after power loss.

In order for the recordings to be accessible to my Roku’s, I had to boot Kodi on the Raspbian and make the folder with the recorded shows visible to my network. By using the Roku Media app, I was able to access the recording directory on the Raspbian OS. This was klunky especially for the wife and kid because the recordings were in folders and had file names that were a combination of time, date, channel and not show names. Less than optimal for them by far.

With a little scripting I was able to get this to boot sequentially AFTER the TVHeadend started. This was very useful during power loss.

The total configuration arrangement worked well for a couple weeks. The Raspberry Pi 4 ran a bit warm. It’s unclear whether the heat impacted performance. Eventually the recordings became compromised somehow and I kept hearing complaints of how hard it was to watch the show they wanted.

Overall, it was fun to try. But certainly not the ideal for ease of use for the total household.

Author: 21Buzzards

Mid-life retired reservist in the corporate IT world parenting a grandchild. Sharing my evolution as age and priorities impact life.

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