10.3. TV Tuner/Capture Cards
At first glance, it seems reasonable that a computer video adapter should also be compatible with television video, but in fact computer video standards are so different from television video standards that few PC video adapters handle TV-video. There are exceptions, though, and they fall into two categories:
Figure 10-9. The I/O ports of an ATI RADEON All-In-Wonder 9800 Pro AGP video card
Which, if any, of these cards makes sense for you depends on your priorities and habits. If you primarily time-shift TV programs, a $99 DVD recorder is probably a better choice than a TV tuner/capture card. These devices are essentially VCR replacements that record directly to writable DVD discs rather than VHS tapes. More expensive models include a hard drive that can store many hours of programming.
If you want more than a simple VCR replacement and you dislike, as we do, TiVo policies and practices (not to mention their high fees), installing a TV tuner/capture card in your primary PC or a secondary PC is a good alternative. If you prefer to use Windows, we recommend an ATI AIW card used with their bundled MultiMedia Center software. If you want more flexibility and are willing to learn a bit about Linux, we recommend a Hauppauge PVR-250 or PVR-350 cardor cards; you can install multiple tuner cards if you want to record multiple programs simultaneouslyon a Linux box running MythTV (http://www.mythtv.org).