us on Facebook
/ October 15, 2009
How to Turn Your Computer into a DVR

Moscow chill” alt=”watching_tv” width=”270″ height=”251″ />As NYU students, the fact that Tivo, Digital Video Recording (DVR) and On-Demand are now essential parts of watching television programming does not necessarily mean we have access to them. Many students can’t afford to pay the hefty prices that cable providers charge or even worse, have to live with NYU’s ancient cable service that’s embedded in the dorms.

What many students do not know is that there are several ways to turn your very own computer into a DVR. Some options are pricier than others, but all will enable you to record live TV programming on your computer without having to pay for any monthly services. After the jump, the instructions, so you never have to miss an episode of Mad Men again.

A. Slingbox

As a religious early adopter of TV related technology products, I purchased Sling Media’s Slingbox when it first came out. As their website accurately states, it “has literally transformed the way we are able to watch TV.” While living in Israel after high school I will never forget waiting in the Tel Aviv airport at 5am for my friend to land while watching “The OC” season four premiere live, by accessing the cable box that was in my room in Manhattan.

This option is perfect for those of you that have a DVR where you grew up and would like to be able to access that DVR or cable box on any PC, Mac and many mobile devices with internet access. This is how it works.

1. The cheapest option is the Slinbox SOLO, which can be purchased for $179.99 here.
2. You then need to find someone who loves you (parents usually work) who will let you hook up the Slingbox to their DVR/Cable Box.
3. You easily connect the DVR/Cable Box to the Slingbox using RCA, coaxial (the regular cable wires with the needles), or HD cords depending on what outputs your box at home has. If you choose to go the HD option, the slightly pricier Slinbox PRO-HD lets you do this. There are even little infrared claws that you stick to your box at home so that you can turn on/off the box the same way you would with a remote if you were sitting on your couch in suburbia.
4. You then connect the Slingbox to your internet router at home (hi speed internet – is a must, but I’m just assuming everyone has that) either with an Ethernet cord or wirelessly the same way you would hook up your laptop.
5. Install the software on your Mac, PC, iPhone, iPod touch, Blackberry, Palm OS or even most web browsers and you are good to go!


-This option isn’t perfect. Although most of the time it works flawlessly there are two things that can ruin the video. If your internet connection is really slow at home this may cause some problems with the picture because you are essentially streaming your cable box through your internet. Also, if your internet is very slow where you live (this is usually not an issue in dorms, but definitely is if you share internet with your roommates who love to torrent 24 hours a day), this could occasionally mess up the picture.

-Remember, you are literally accessing your DVR/Cable box at home or in someone else’s apartment the same way you would if you were actually there. When you turn on the cable box through the Slingbox software you are turning it on wherever that box is. That means you need to make sure your mom doesn’t forgot to turn the TV in your living room off. If she thinks it’s weird you just have to explain to her that it’s 2009 and just because you’re not physically there anymore does not mean you shouldn’t have the same rights to the cable box as you did when you were living at home. Or just promise to check in first before you use it.

-If you bought a Slingbox early on like me and are saddened with the newer better models that are now out, have no fear. Sling Media is now offering a pretty good incentive to upgrade.

B. Turning Your Hard Drive into a Personal Video Recorder (PVR) with TV Tuners

Many NYUers are familiar with Slingbox, but few know how easy it is to turn the hard drive of your own computer into a DVR. Here are the two best options that I have found, one for Mac and one for PC. My first piece of advice would be to consider upgrading the hard drive space you have.

Video files are very bulky and I would recommend investing in an external hard drive with at least 500 gb. The NYU Computer Store actually has some good deals but really any electronics store carries them. A better option would be to invest in an internal hard drive that you can slip right inside your computer. Then you will not have the hassle of being tied down to your desk when accessing the files on the hard drive. has the best deals on internal hard drives.

For Mac

1. Purchase Elgato’s EyeTv Hybrid, which is a phenomenal TV Tuner that easily plugs into your USB port and then into your dorm cable output or DVRless cable box. The Hybrid currently only costs $149.95.
2. Install the impressive Eye TV 3 software that comes with the product to “watch, rewind, fast forward and pause live TV.”
3. The coolest part about the software is the Smart Series Guide capability that allows you to record shows and entire series in advance the same way you would on your DVR.
4. The TV Guide powered data service can even pull the channel lineups for NYU’s Campus Cable. I know because I used an earlier version of the software my freshman year in U-Hall.
5. There is also an EyeTv iPhone App.

For PC

TV Tuners are actually relatively old technology. The first TV tuner I used was back in 2001 and was before I had converted to Mac. It cost about $80 and although the picture wasn’t too great it worked fine. The product was Hauppauge’s WinTV. Their website correctly states that they are the “worldwide leader in developing and manufacturing PC based TV Tuners and data broadcast receiver products.”

* The best and cheapest model they have for being able to DVR in your dorm or through your cable box is the 1192 WinTv, which Amazon has for $126.25.
* The WinTV software uses channel guides, which has a great display of NYU’s channel lineup.

And there you go: no more Surf the Channel grainy quality for shows Hulu refuses to carry.