Another way to watch free TV is with the very cool SiliconDust HDHomeRun. This device contains two digital (HD) TV tuners and an Ethernet network interface. Using the included software or with the much better Windows Media Center (included free with many versions of MS Windows), you can watch and record live TV on your PC. You can also watch on Linux systems (I use Linux Mint) using the
- SiliconDust HDHomeRun ($80 at amazon, often on sale for $60-70 at NewEgg)
- PC with Windows Media Center
- Windows Media Center Remote ($14.50 at amazon, often less than $10)
I have an amplified digital TV antenna in the attic connected through a distribution amplifier in the basement to several spots in the house (for details see here). One signal from the amplifier connects to an HDHomeRun which is also connected to the home computer network .
Using the HDHomeRun, my kids can watch TV on their computers in their rooms over the network when they are home sick. Using a low cost windows media center remote control, they can watch from their beds and get the full TV/DVR experience.
With two tuners, two computers can be used to watch two different channels at the same time or you can watch one channel while recording another. You can add more HDHomeRuns for more tuners. SiliconDust also has a cable version of the HDHomeRun called the HDHomeRun Prime that uses cable card technology; I had one of these and it worked well, but we didn’t use it enough to justify the recurring cost of the cable card (Comcast charges excessively for these…some other cable companies are much more reasonable).
The HDHomeRun tuners are pretty good and receive plenty of strong channels. The Windows Media Center user interface is very good and includes a free program guide. Picture quality is full HD. It’s a nifty solution at a very low cost.
Linux users can watch using VLC viewer (included in most distros) or XBMC (setup) you may need to install hdhomerun-config. Setup involves running “hdhomerun-config discover” to get the tuner ID (see instructions).