BYOPVR with Dish Network 301, PVR-150, & GBPVR

Contributed by: Ssky

posted on: 6/1/2005

I had been lingering around in the BYOPVR forum for months before I decided to fish out some money for my dream PVR. My objective was to build a PVR that will record and playback tv recordings, be able to playback my ripped DVD’s, be able to be a music MP3 jukebox, and showcase my digital pictures (either as a slide show or individually). The other main objective was to do all of this as cheaply as possible!

It’s important to consider the hardware I had on hand as "spare" hardware drives down the project price considerably.

Here’s what I started with:

  • Athlon XP 1800+
  • ASUS A7V333 mobo with VIA chipset.
  • 2 HD each 40 gb.
  • Nvidia Ti4600 AGP with S-video out.
  • Onboard Realtek audio
  • Win XP SP2
  • Cheap case with 500 w power supply (noisy)

On the TV side of the equation I have Dish Network service with a DP301 dish receiver and a 27” Sony Wega TV (S-video input).

I needed to buy only 2 items for my PVR project: a Hauppage PVR-150 "retail" which comes with a 45 button remote and the all important IR Blaster. I also picked up a wireless network card (some cheapo from Newegg). Wifi network access allows the PVR to download the EPG over the net and makes remote administration easier.

So far the total project cost was $80.00:

Hauppauge WinTV PVR-150 $60 USD (after $40 rebate from Circuit city)

Generic Wireless NIC $20

GBPVR software FREE!

The following is how I did all the connections between the PC, DN 301 STB, and the TV:

This setup allows me to watch "live" TV bypassing the PVR whenever I want (rampy note: but why would you ever want to go back to "live" TV? 🙂 )

The PVR to be PC already had Windows XP installed on it, so my next step was to install the wireless NIC card. I configured the network so that my "main" PC and the PVR PC both can share folders as well as internet connection. Remember that the Internet connection is crucial for DIY PVRs to get their EPG data.

After the home network was up and running, I installed tightVNC. TightVNC is a remote desktop application. This is handy for controlling and admining your PC PVR from the "main" PC as the windows desktop looks awful on a standard defintinon 480i screen (video and PVR applications designed to run at 480i look great though!). TightVNC was installed as a server (and a service) on the pvr while it was installed as a client on my main pc.

I physically installed the Hauppauge WinTV PVR-150 PCI card into the PC. In order to have better air flow and to avoid unnecessary resource conflicts I put the PVR-150 card a couple of slots away from the AGP slot used by my Nvidia Ti4600 video card.

After booting my pc I was confronted by the Windows "Add New Hardware" wizard. I cancelled the "Add New Hardware" wizared and then put in the driver CD that came with the WinTV PVR-150. By default the WinTV PVR-150 install wizard has most of the items as checked but I chose to install only the Hauppage drivers, WinDVD MPEG codec/decoder, WinTV 2000, and the IR Blaster and IR Remote applications. Installation went smoothly.

I rebooted my pc again and double checked under windows Device Manager (HINT: Control Panel->System->Hardware tab->Device Manager button) if there were any yellow exclamation marks indicating a problem with any devices. Everything was good!!!! Note that I used the WinTV PVR-150 drivers that came on the included cd and didn’t download more recent drivers from either the Hauppage Support site or from the SHSpvr WinTVPVR Forum.

(rampy note: YMMV, I usually recommend using the latest drivers from the manufacturer’s website whenever possible, but that’s more personal preference/experience than anything)

It’s a good idea to try out your new PVR-150 card with the included/default hauppauge WinTV 2000 software to verify that everything is in working order before moving on to other steps. So that’s what I did 🙂 I fired up the WinTV 2000 application, tuned it to channel 3, and in a matter of minutes I was able to watch live TV through the WinTV app on my PC! Obviously at this point my Dish Network receiver’s output is a coax run to my PVR and is set to output on channel 3. Your Dish Network box might be set to channel 4. If you choose to use svideo output or composite output of your Dish Network satellite receiver your setup will vary slightly and you’d change your wintv 200 0 and PVR-150 inputs accordingly.

So far so good. Couldn’t believe my luck. Haven’t had a single hiccups so far… *fingers crossed*

Next it was time to install the dependencies for GBPVR if they aren’t already installed on your system. You must have installed .NET framework 1.1 or higher and Directx 9.0 or higher before you attempt to install GBPVR (see the full list of requirements at the GBPVR site)

One word of caution. You must install the PVR-150 IR Remote app and IR Blaster before installing GBPVR as GBPVR’s installation routine writes some new entries into the irremote.ini file. The irremote.ini file is what translates your remote control button presses to actions on the PC and PVR software.

The version of GBPVR that I downloaded was 0.92.8. Sub the creator and maintainer of the GBPVR software is always working on improving the software and has a pretty fast release cycle so be sure to check GBPVR for the latest and greatest version! Initial installation of GBPVR went smoothly. Now the tough part: configuration!

The most important tab of all is the “Capture Sources” tab. I am including picture of exactly what I picked.

You will have to create an account with Zap2It to download the EPG (for US listings). It only took me a few minutes to register for the free TV listing service (free as long as you fill out a survey every few months). Once registered with Zap2it labs, enter your Zap2it login information into GBPVR’s EPG Source SETTINGS menu.

Next you click on the Update EPG button to, you guessed it, update the EPG. It took around a minute or so to complete this process but a lot of people have experienced a much longer EPG update time. If it seems to be taking a long time, don’t assume it’s frozen/locked up; just go out get a six pack and relax, it will be done in a little while.

In the “channel changer” section there are two options one is the “Hauppage IR Remote Plugin” and the other is “.exe changer Plugin”. With the new upgrade available pick the latter.

In the directories tab (not pictured) I defined the destination drive and folder where my TV recordings will go as well as the folder where my ripped dvds and pictures reside.

I left the options in the “Playback” and “DVD & Remote” tabs at their defaults. Remember to click “Fix Remote 45 button” on the DVD & Remote tab in oder to make sure that the PVR-150 45 button remote will be mapped correctly with GBPVR. Other than that the rest of the settings I left at defaults.

After I was done with configuration, I fired up GBPVR and clicked the “LiveTv” menu item. Voila! Live TV was working. I could pause, rewind and do any of the things that a PVR should do. At this point I am very happy.

But now it was the time to press on and get to the heart of the matter. I was ready to schedule recordings, which in my humble opinion, is the heart and soul of any PVR. I went to the “TV Guide” menu item and all my channels were listed there. I highlighted a program in the listing grid, "clicked" to call up the recording options, and set it to record once. I then went back to the main menu, turned off my TV set and waited… and waited ..and waited. After an eternity of thumb twiddling I was certain the selected program would have been over, I turned on my tv, select the “Recordings” menu item and low and behond, there it was. My very first scheduled tv program recorded and ready to be played.

I picked medium quality for my recording which takes up nearly a gig per ½ hour but still maintains pretty good picture quality. This is mostly a matter of personal preference as far as whether you want to fit more shows on your hard disk at the cost of lesser quality (more noticeable pixelation) or have few hours of shows on your hard disk and higher quality reocrdings. I haven’t even tried a higher encoding quality option as i’m perfectly content with the medium quality setting picture quality.

The recording was smooth, and free from any artifacts or discoloration. The color to me seemed a bit warm but it could just be my transmission. I have no complains about it. A lot of people will waste tons of hours just to get dvd quality recording by playing around with different kinds of encoders and decoders but I am more interested in the content. Like I said I am no frill person but that’s just me 🙂

Okay to summarize everything so far: I managed to record a program using GBPVR and my Dish Network DP301 satellite receiver using my keyboard and mouse and without using IR Blaster. Babysteps you see. I wanted to test the whole setup before going into the IR Blaster and Remote control stuff as things may get decidely more complicated.

Once I made sure that the system does record programs manually, it was time to setup the IR Blaster and Remote. The IR Blaster is little piece of hardware that GBPVR uses to send command to the Dish Receiver – it basically simulates the commands you send to your satellite receiver when using its remote control. To work properly, you have to stick that little piece with the LED right on top of the IR Eye of the satellite receiver. I then put some clear tape on the IR blaster to secure it in position. The other green thingy on the cable is the IR receiver for the Hauppauge remote control, which I taped to the receiver in clear line of sight. This should allow me to schedule any program on any channel using just the remote control (no need for the keyboard or mouse!).

I ran the Hauppauge IR Blaster config from the start menu ( screen shot 2, screen shot 3 ). The version that I installed was v1.3.23013. I went through the wizard like setup. The only important item here is finding the correct code set for your specific satellite receiver. I used code set “431” for the Dish Network DP301. This setting worked like a charm for me.

A little bit of history of when things didn’t go smoothly: I initially did have a lot of trouble with the IR blaster plugin and GBPVR crashing on external channel change. I prowled the forums and googled like crazy for solution to no avail. I was stuck and remained stuck for weeks, but I did not loose hope and kept on prodding. Finally when the new GBPVR version was released, I immediately updated my GBPVR, made the necessary changes (changed the option for the new IR Blaster setting) and everything was fine. I now can record any channel on my Dish Network 301 at any time automatically without my intervention!

So there you go! That’s my “brief” account of my experience with building a highly functional, extremely cheap PVR for Dish Network 301 Set Top Box.

What’s Next?

My next goal is to make the PVR as quiet as possible. Forum are filled with suggestions but I took the following points from one of the forum’s contributor “smokeyalien”.
These are:

1. Buy a scotch brite pads (not the one with the foam but just the pads) $0.89 from Walmart. Use them as fan filter. It will do two things, first it will act as an air filter keeping dust out of the case, second it will minimize the noise due to the vibrations.

2. Buy a brat (type of bedding) from Walmart for $2.89 and wrap my whole case with it from the inside. This will further muffle the noise.

If these two things didn’t lower the noise enough then I will go deep inside the case and will put some kind of a air channel in there. Also will install a channel coming out of the case to take the exhaust out in an orderly manner.

I hope these cheap solutions will make my system whisper quiet. Of course I could go out and spend hundreds of dollars to buy silent computing products but that’s not the spirit of the true DIY’er and I like to keep it real with the "B" in BYOPVR being more "BUILD" than "BUY" =)