DVR newbie - need some recommendations :)


Simply Daemonic
So my VCR kicked the bucket last week, I have no VHS tapes that I care to keep so I was using the VCR to record my favorite shows while I was in class. I was looking around on amazon and I see DVRs for more than $400 (the ones that I really took a liking to anyway). I was toying with the idea of buying an elgato eyetv system to connect to my powerbook but then I thought that I don't have enough HD space so that idea went out the window as I would have to get an external HD just for the DVR stuff.

Here is my setup for all you AV geeks out there :D
TV<-->VCR<-->cable box<-->line to the outside world

Pre-cable I had a connection as follows:
TV<-->VCR<-->rabbit ears
this allowed me to have the VCR setup to record multiple channels (one at a time of course - the VCR would switch over to the appropriate channel at the appropriate time)
with my current setup I can only record the channel that is selected on the cable box at that time.

I was toying with the idea of getting a DVR from my cable provider but there are two negatives: (1) $10 monthly charge and (2) no DVD-R on it

I like the idea of recording something digitally but I liked the "do it yourself" aspect of the VCR. I don't need a subscription to TiVo - I know when my shows are on and I can program the time myself thank-you-very-much :) If I can save a buck here or there I will do it ;)

These are my minimum needs:
(1) Record shows from a digital cable source

Here are my would like to have:
(1) record to DVD capability
(1a) If I cannot record to DVD directly - need to have the ability to interface with a mac to suck out the files and burn them myself
(2) no monthly subscription
(3) have the ability to schedule things on my own

So what are your recommendations?
If my demands of the system are too much - what do you recommend? any good/bad experiences?
well, i am in a similar boat as you , but i do believe that TiVo has an option where you pay once for an unlimited subscription.
Speaking as a long time tivo user, I cannot say enough good things about the tivo units and service. It's so easy to use, and the monthly fee is not that big of a deal honestly.

I use 2, a old Sony Series 1 unit, and a newer Humax 80 hour with DVD recorder. It's soooo nice to be able to slap some content onto DVDs without capturing off to the mac, reencoding, burning. And the tivo makes tivo-like menus for each disc with the descriptions etc.

The lifetime (fyi) is pretty pricey now, $299 USD. However if you consider the monthly is $12.95 (or $6.95 if you talk them down or get offered a deal or have multiple units) adds up to just about 2 years of service. Still wish I had taken them up on their lifetime years ago for $150 USD.

If you want to run the system into your mac and convert, iDVD it etc, it could be a little cheaper for the capture unit, etc. But honestly its so much easier to do it via the tivo.

TiVo hooks up directly to cable as far as I understand, right? :-/
Any "incompatibilities" with cable providers and encrypted channels?
I also do not have a landline - which is sort of the Achilles heel of TiVo
I'd simply get one of those rather cheapish DVD-recorders that come with a harddisk. It replaces your VCR, acts more or less the same, but you don't have to care about having enough tapes. You simply record stuff, watch it and delete it. The stuff you want to keep, you can burn onto DVD-Rs or DVD-RWs. Simple, nice solution. If you still want to get the stuff over to the Mac, there are various solutions. I guess you could even get the harddrive out of the DVD-rec and mount it on your Mac somehow, but you could also burn to DVD-RW and use handbreak to translate the DVD to MPEG-4 (its files are QuickTime compatible, so that's great), although the conversion takes a lot of time.
Bumping this up...I've seen the question posted but I'm unclear on the answer. Is there a way to hook my macbook up to the cable box and dvd-r a couple of shows?(Basic cable, not premium or even HD) I know there are gadgets but I'm really curious as to if there is a way to do it with just adaptors or something. I've read something about a way with firewire and something in the developer tools. Does anyone know how or know where I can find a tutorial?