The simple act of TV watching in our house was revolutionised about six years ago when our TiVo arrived. Once set up we could pause and record TV scheduling 'season passes' to automatically record all episodes of a series, and it even looked at the programs we liked to watch and automatically recorded others we may enjoy.
As we moved to digital TV TiVo moved too with external freeview box control, an upgraded hard disk, and 'Mode 0' allowing recording at full 720x576 at 9Mb/s MPEG2 being output over component - a pretty good picture on a 32" LCD TV.
Over the years TiVo served us reliably, but more recently it has been freezing occasionally.
I had started to look into replacements, but any hardware options (like sky+) seemed to limiting, or just poor. I was hoping to replace both the TiVo and the XBOX (XBMC) with a single box. The only option was to go for a PC, using some form of PVR software to control it. I spent time setting up various offerings like MythTv, MediaPortal, GBPVR and a few others. Each had their positives, but I couldn't find an overall package I liked.
I had given up until a colleague persuaded me to try Vista Media Center. I bought a copy of Vista Home Premium Edition and installed it, and after a bit of messing around I was impressed. It is easy to use, simple to configure and seems to work well. The only issue we have is the occasional stutter on live TV, but hopefully we'll find a solution for that.
The other big advantage is that I can now cancel my TiVo subscription which was £10/month for their listing and guide data, meaning the new machine is already paying for itself...
I finally decommissioned TiVo and XBMC from our living room today, hiding a fairly out-of-place looking PC in the corner of the room. Hopefully it'll do us as well as the TiVo.