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Get DVR freed from monthly fee

Kim Komando
| Friday, Oct. 23, 2009

DVRs have changed the way we watch television. We can watch our favorite shows whenever we want and skip commercials. But TiVo and your cable company charge a monthly fee for the privilege.

Fortunately, you have options. You can get a DVR without the monthly subscription.

If you want to pay up, you'll find solutions at the store. Or, you can take the cheap-and-easy route. Let's go to the store first. You can find links to the products mentioned at www.komando.com/news .

The Moxi HD DVR is subscription-free. Moxi says its 500-gigabyte hard drive holds 75 hours of high-definition content. Or, if you're old school, you'll get 300 hours of standard definition.

You can record two shows simultaneously. Or, connect to the Internet to watch Netflix, Hulu and YouTube content. It connects to computers for viewing photos and listening to music.

At $800, though, Moxi's DVR is $200 more than a comparable TiVo.

Archos' Internet Media Tablets record television shows. They're similar to Apple's iPod Touch.

Prices start at $280 for the Archos 5. It has a 60GB hard drive. The DVR Snap on ($80) turns it into a portable DVR. But it only records standard definition.

You remember that old computer• The one in the closet• Get it out! It's your new DVR!

You'll need a television tuner card. You'll find both standard- and high-definition TV varieties. Analog TV tuners are still being sold; opt for a digital (ATSC) tuner. If you have cable, make sure the tuner is compatible. Some only work with over-the-air signals.

You'll need to match the card's output connections to your TV's inputs. Otherwise, you could be limited to watching on your computer monitor.

Some tuners must be installed inside the computer. Others are external, connecting via a USB port. The USB option is easier to set up.

Windows tuners are made by Hauppauge, Pinnacle and ATI. They start around $50. Mac users should look at Elgato, Pinnacle and ATI tuners. They start around $130.

These setups generally do not require powerful machines. Any modern machine should be fine. You'll need 512 megabytes of RAM for XP machines. Vista and Windows 7 computers should have 2GB. Macs need a minimum 512MB.

You want plenty of storage. An hour-long recording requires about 2GB. Half an hour of HD television can require 6GB. If you have a teensy-weensy hard drive, you can add storage. A 1 terabyte external hard drive is about $100. Double that for 2TB.

Most cards include software for recording shows. This is handy for Macs and Windows XP. But Vista and Windows 7 users may not need additional software.

Media Center is included in Vista Home Premium and Ultimate. Windows 7 Home Premium, Professional and Ultimate include it. It will record your shows for you.

Finally, you can take your shows with you on your iPod. IPodifier (free) will convert recordings for your player. It works with Vista's DVR-MS Media Center file format.

Windows 7 uses the WTV format, but you can convert it. Right-click the file in Windows and select "Convert to .dvr-ms Format." You can then use the file with iPodifier.

Mac tuners should include software for converting recordings.

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