QAM: HD Without The CableCard Headache
In this day and age, you would expect it would be very easy to get HDTV on your HTPC. However, options for the DIY'er are still pretty limited. If you live in a good area, broadcast HDTV will work, but lets not mention all of the problems that can be had when trying to get broadcast TV. Plus, that still leaves us without the premium channels in HD.
Option #2 was essentially hailed as THE killer hardware that would bring mass acceptance to the Media Center platform. Well, so far we aren't quite there. Of course, I am talking about CableCard. That is an entirely different article but for now the fact that it will cost you over $1500 to get access to a lower end single CableCard system is enough to deter most people.
Enter option #3, the HDHomerun, the network QAM tuner. Silicon Dust was the first to go after the QAM market and properly develop drivers to work with the major software package. QAM offers HD straight from your COAX cable without the mess of CabelCards or STBs. The catch? Providers choose what channels are encrypted and as such you may not get the ones you really want. As an example, in my area Discovery HD is encyrpted but AEHD, TNTHD and TBSHD are not. So you are really taking your chances.
So you want QAM? You are going to have to get a tuner card or a HDHomeRun to tune the free QAM. The HDHomeRun works with most major software packages, however, SageTV is the only windows software package that works for the Hauppauge 1600 and Avermedia M78. Check out Matt's tuner guide for more info on Linux compatability.
After that? Well you are likely going to be involved in some extensive channel scanning and then mapping DTV channels to your standard digital cable channels so you get the proper EPG data. I am currently in this step with SageTV and am finding this to be a bit of a PITA .
Whats the point of this blog post. Not much really, I just wanted to drive the point home that there is another alternative to getting HD to your HTPC :).