DIY Place-shifting Your DirecTV Service

Introduction

First of all, buy a Slingbox, plug it in, and forget about this guide completely. However if you're like me and like doing this for yourself and also regularly upgrade your computer hardware so that you have some decent hardware lying around, read on:

What you need

  • Server to stream from, running Windows 2000 or above; recommend minimum of 1GHz P3 and 256Mb RAM and an open serial port and line in (either onboard or via a sound card);
  • TV capture card; the WinTV PVR series does not work because it does direct MPEG2 capture;
  • A DIRECTV receiver with a Low Speed Data port / Home Control Port
  • A serial cable to connect your DIRECTV receiver to your server and the necessary audio / video cables. S-VIDEO connection is recommended if supported.

Low Speed Data Cable

On many receivers (espically RCA) the Low Speed Data port is an RJ-6 socket .. the same as the cord between the handset and the base on a corded telephone. It's thinner than a regular RJ-11 phone line. If you feel adventurous, you can make your own Low Speed Data cable.

Information on how to buy or build a Low Speed Data cable is here: http://www.dtvcontrol.com/index.aspx?... />

The Low Speed Data Cable allows you to remotely control your DIRECTV receiver.

Install TV Capture card

The first step is to install the TV capture card and set up the drivers as per the instructions with the TV Capture Card install guide. Usually there is a utility to view live television. You should connect your DIRECTV receiver to the TV capture card and verify you can “tune in”. If you are using either a composite video or S-VIDEO connection, you should only connect the video portion to the TV capture card. The audio jacks of the DIRECTV receiver should be connected to your line in of your on-board audio or sound card. If you are using a regular co-ax cable connection then you should connect that from the “TO TV” output on the DIRECTV receiver to the co-ax jack on the capture card. On my TV card, if you are using the co-ax connection there is a “audio out” jack on the TV capture card which should be connected to the line in of the on-board audio or sound card. However other TV capture cards may capture audio and this is not necessary in that situation.

Install Streaming Software

I recommend Windows Media Encoder 9 series, available as a free download from here: http://www.microsoft.com/windows/wind....

Configuring Windows Media Encoder

First of all decide your target bandwidth. I have a 768k upstream DSL service, so I chose 350kbit which allows 1 stream to run comfortably, or I can have 2 remote viewers.

Steps to configure WME:

  • Launch WME, Start > Windows Media > Windows Media Encoder
  • Choose “Broadcast a Live Event”
  • Choose the correct audio and video input devices on the next screen, then choose Next
  • Choose “Pull from encoder” option, then choose Next
  • On the next screen, enter a port number for your stream. This will be the port that you will have to forward from the Internet on your firewall if you want to view from the Internet. Any number over 1024 works fine.
  • The next screen is where you define your video quality. The “built in” values are a good start to get you going, but you can improve quality by defining your own. For reference, on my stream I use:
    • Audio: CBR, Windows Media Audio 9 Codec, 32kbps, 22kHz Stereo
    • Video: CBR, Windows Media Video 9 Codec, 320 x 240 with 29.97 fps, with a target video bit rate of 327kbps. I use buffer 5 seconds, and video quality of 70.
    • This gives a total bitrate of 368kbps.
  • If you have a fast computer, you can choose multiple encoding rates (useful if your remote connection is variable). If you have a slower computer, I recommend just setting one rate.
  • Hit Next on the “Archive File” screen;
  • Hit Next on the “Include Video Files” screen;
  • On the next window fill in any information that you want, none is required;
  • And then you should get a summary window. You're done!

Once you're done, your encoder should start. You should be able to see the video in the video window and you should see the audio bars respond to the audio. If you get this far, congratulations!

Check the CPU utilization on the Monitor window. If you see a 99 or 100% then your computer may not be coping with the encoding process and you may have to adjust the encoding properties (lower the bandwidth and set the fps to 14.985 are good strategies for doing that).

Verifying the stream

Go to another computer and run Windows Media Player. Choose Open URL and enter http://ip-of-streamer:port/ where the port is the number you chose above. You should be able to watch your DIRECTV.

Channel Changing

All the above steps do not require a DIRECTV receiver with the Low Speed Data cable. If you want to be able to change the channel remotely from the streaming computer or over the web, you need the DIRECTV receiver + LSD cable.

Download and run the “DTV Control” utility from http://dtvcontrol.com/. When you run it, choose the COM port that the DIRECTV receiver is connected to. If all is well you should see data scrolling in the bottom part of the window and the signal strength and the channel you are tuned to showing in the utility.

Once that is working you can fire up a web browser and point it at http://localhost. You should now be able to change channel on your DIRECTV receiver using the web!

Accessing from the Internet

If you have a firewall that supports “port forwarding” then you need to allow 2 ports through. One is for your streaming data and one is used to access the streamer web interface.

External port A should map to streaming-ip / port you defined above

External port B should map to streaming-ip / port 80

You should also consider restricting access to specified Internet IP's, or anyone that finds your stream can watch!


IMPORTANT:
Be sure to enable a spending limit of $0.00 on PPVs on your DIRECTV receiver or someone could use the web interface to order PPV! You should also try and lock the menus and block out channels you don't subscribe to with a PIN to avoid accidental exposure of your DIRECTV access card ID / receiver ID to the Internet.

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