Of course, now that I've ordered a new computer the "dead" one stops crashing and actually transcodes overnight. So now I have a spare computer to find a use for.
I have two SD TiVos - a dual tuner connected to the HDTV for analog and digital cable, and an old Sony S1 in the bedroom for analog cable. I also have an antenna connected to the HDTV for getting OTA (over the air) channels in HD. I'd love to add an HD TiVo but I can't quite justify it for recording network television; and I can't justify the rental cost of a cableco HD PVR when I get HD OTA for free. But would it be possible to use my old computer as a cheaper solution?
An ATSC PVR does two things - first it stores the bitstream to disk and second it decodes that bitstream for display. The first step just requires the right hardware and a large hard disk. The second step is CPU or GPU intensive. So my old computer should be able to handle the first step without any problems, I just need to buy the ATSC capture hardware; but the second step is quite beyond the capabilities of the system. However, if the display were handled by another system, like my PS3 which is already attached to the HDTV, then I'd be laughing. (The old system is also noisy, so I don't want it next to the HDTV anyway.
That brings in two more challenges - first is getting the video to the PS3 so it can display it and second is getting the video in a format the PS3 will display. The PS3 can function as a DLNA client, displaying video streamed by a DLNA server. There are several DLNA server applications for PCs, including PS3 Media Server which will automatically transcode video into a format the PS3 can use. Unfortunately, transcoding is even more CPU intensive than simply decoding. So unless the PS3 can display something very close to ATSC this idea still won't work.
Fortunately, (based upon a simple test) it looks like it can. One problem is the PS3 Media Server interface is dang ugly - it's a very simple folder tree structure. So then the question is whether I can find some free software which will behave as a kind of minimalist PVR (ideally controllable via a web interface).