Couple of years ago I bought Hauppauge WinTV PVR PCI for my Windows (!) -machine. I was looking forward to recording stuff from analog cable-tv (HTV). Seinfeld re-runs from the beginning started right about this time in Finland 😉 Pretty soon after that I got my first digiTV set-top-box Galaxis (if my memory serves me correctly). It was shit. It crashed all the time, couldn’t display DVB-subtitles correctly, had lipsync problems all wrapped in a interface from hell. I started recording shows with WinTV PVR’s s-video input connected to digibox’s output. WinTV card was pretty nice on paper at the time, it has hardware mpeg2 encoding in 704 x 576 (PAL), but the software sucks ass and mpeg2 files produced by the card/software are impossible to edit without loosing lipsync. Drivers and hardware were such crap that third party software could not be made (succesfully).
I started looking for an alternative. At the time I had started using Linux in some servers at work and was pretty impressed by open source community. Somehow I noticed the community around software called VDR. It sounded too good to be true, a set-top-box -software to run a recording digibox through menus on tv with your remote controller. Select programs from EPG for recording, watch/record multiple channels from same buqet etc. All this at time when there was no sight of hd-recording digibox in shops, for any price. I read the mailing list allmost completely and got a pretty good view on where the software was. It was stable, dvb-subtitles were supported by a plugin, very strong support from the community, couple of pretty smart and active finnish guys doing patches etc.
I bought a full-feature Technotrend dvb-c card, built J2 RGB-cable and installed RedHat 7.2 on my system. At the time I had switched workstation-computing at home to Macintosh (iBook at the time) so I had one PC to use as digitv-server. Installation (and especially the J2 jumper-thingy) had it’s hickups, mostly due to RedHat. After couple of weeks of tinkering, sweat and beer, I was running the system 24/7 as my main digibox (still had one set-top-box for times I was working on the VDR-system).
Since that I have changed allmost the whole hardware, switched the distro to Gentoo and upgraded and extended the VDR-software.
More specific info on hardware and software on other pages on my site.