I frequently get letters from readers who want to cut the cable-TV cord, but still watch and record shows using a DVR.
Solution: your Windows 7 PC and an ATSC tuner. Together, they let you tune in and record local channels that are broadcast over the airwaves (remember those?).
Today only, and while supplies last, 1SaleADay has the Sabrent TV-USBHD dual-mode USB TV tuner for $14.99, plus $4.99 for shipping. It's new, not refurbished, and it might just be the cheapest DVR solution you'll ever see.
A tuner like this requires only an antenna to pull down over-the-air (OTA) broadcasts. It actually comes with one, which may be sufficient depending on where you live. But you might need to dig out an old set of rabbit ears, or even look into an outdoor antenna. A site called AntennaWeb can help answer that question in advance.
Sabrent bundles software for viewing and recording TV, but trust me: you don't want it. Instead, use the TV-USBHD with Windows Media Center. As I mentioned the other day in my post about the Ceton InfiniTV 4 tuner, Windows Media Center has killer DVR features. And it works perfectly with OTA tuners.
Just one small catch: the bundled remote isn't compatible with WMC. Thus, if you want to control your PC from afar, you'll need another solution. (Try eBay; there are plenty of inexpensive WMC-compatible remotes out there.)
Here's the full scoop on the TV-USBHD from Sabrent's Web site.
Something like this is a great way to dip your toe into cord-cutting waters, to see if an antenna-based solution can keep you happily watching your favorite network shows without paying for cable. For less than 20 bucks out the door, not a bad weekend project, methinks.
Bonus deal: Is this Cheapskate looking a little blurry these days? Sounds like you need glasses. (On the other hand, I probably look a little better out of focus.) Goggles4U is currently offering your choice of 1,200 eyeglasses, with prescription lenses, for just $1. That's after applying coupon code 1dglasses at checkout, and not including shipping. If you'd had experience with eyewear from the Internet, discuss!