Video content is readily available online for you to download, but the download process isn’t always as simple and automated as using something like a TiVO to simply schedule the content you want to watch. Fortunately, there are some great tools to help you do that with both BitTorrent and Usenet. Here’s how to set them up and turn your computer into an internet PVR.
Note: Note: This tutorial is going to mention Usenet. We’re aware that a lot of you have a problem with that. We’ve discussed this issue before (see “Regarding the First Rule and Other Issues”) so we’re not going to discuss it here.
BitTorrent and Usenet are tools that allow you to download files easily. Some of those files are TV shows and they’re not necessarily legal to download. What you choose to download with the software described in this tutorial is entirely up to you. You accept responsibility for your actions if you choose to download content you are not legally authorised to download. We’re going to provide you with the information necessary to set up and use the described software, but your ethical and legal decisions will be left up to you.
With all of that out of the way, you need to choose what you want to use. First we’re going to take a look at setting up a PVR using BitTorrent and then we’re going to look at doing the same thing with Usenet. If you prefer Usenet to BitTorrent, jump down to the Usenet section below.
The BitTorrent-Based PVR
Setting up a PVR with BitTorrent is incredibly simple, primarily because there are RSS feeds online that update with new episodes for a given show so you can easily obtain torrent files for the latest episodes. While many BitTorrent clients have RSS feed support, we’re going to look at using separate applications that intelligently read these feeds to make the downloading process even easier.
Windows and Linux: TED
That’s it, you’re all set!
UPDATE: Windows users may also want to check out TVTrigger, an all-in-one TV show searching and BitTorrent-downloading application.
Mac OS X: TVShows
To get started, first download TVShows and open it. TVShows requires a BitTorrent client to already by installed on your Mac. If you have yet to install one, it will recommend Transmission and help you download it. All that you really need to do to get it working at this point is start adding shows. To do that, scroll through the list (or search it) and click the “Subscribe” button. This will tell TVShows to watch for new episodes and download them as soon as they’re available. When it finds a new episode, it will download a torrent file and open it in your default BitTorrent client. Your BitTorrent client will then download that episode and it will be waiting for you on your computer without any effort on your part.
While that’s all you really need to do, TVShows also has some useful options. If you head into the preferences panel, you can set how often it checks for shows and also set the quality of the file. If you prefer HD, a 720p option is available. You can also set the folder it uses to save torrent files so you don’t find them popping up somewhere you don’t expect.
That’s all you need to do — it’s really that easy.
The Usenet-Based PVR
Note: Before we get started, you should know that Sick Beard requires that you have Usenet access and you use SABnzbd as your Usenet binary downloader. If you haven’t taken care of this already, read our guide on setting up Usenet, which will walk you through the entire process in three easy steps (with video).
Installing Sick Beard on Windows
To get Sick Beard set up on your Windows PC, go to the Sick Beard downloads page and download it. Unzip Sick Beard to whatever folder you’d like it to live in (it’s really up to you), then launch the installed executable. There’s really nothing to installing Sick Beard on Windows, so if you’re a Windows user, you can jump down to the Using Sick Beard section below.
Installing Sick Beard on Mac OS X
Sick Beard isn’t available as an executable for Mac, but installing the necessary software to run it and update it is very easy. While the following instructions may seem a little daunting, especially if you’re not comfortable with the command line, it’s actually very easy. In most cases you should be able to complete the installation in just a few minutes. Here’s how to do it.
First, if you’re not running Mac OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard this may not work. You can try it, but we can’t promise Sick Beard will run. If you are running Mac OS X 10.6, you’ll need to install a couple of things:
Downloading and installing Git is very easy because it’s packaged up for you. You just double-click on the installer once you’ve downloaded it, run through the usual installer screens, let the installer do its thing, and then you’re done.
Press enter, then type this command (or just copy and paste it into your Terminal window):
sudo python setup.py install
Press enter and you’ll be asked for your password. Type it in, press enter again, and then Cheetah will install. This should only take about a minute.
Once Cheetah has been installed, we can start installing Sick Beard. If any of the following does not work, try quitting and reopening Terminal and trying again. Before we start the installation, we have to decide where to install Sick Beard. I like it in my Applications folder, but you can put it anywhere you want. To put it in your applications folder, enter the following into Terminal and press enter:
Now that you’re in the folder where you want to install Sick Beard, we need to download all the files from Git. To do that, enter the following command:
git clone git://github.com/midgetspy/Sick-Beard.git
Once Git has finished downloading all the Sick Beard files to your Applications folder (or wherever you chose to put them), you’ll have a folder called Sick-Beard. To start Sick-Beard, just enter the following in Terminal and press enter:
The first time Sick Beard starts up it should take a little longer than usual, so don’t worry if nothing happens for 30 seconds or so. When Sick Beard is ready to go, it will open in a new window (or tab) in your default web browser. That’s it, you’re done!
When you want to update Sickbeard, you can do so easily with the following Terminal commands (note that the first line contains the path to Sick Beard, so if you installed it somewhere other than applications you’ll need to change the path):
Just make sure you shut down Sick Beard before you update. That’s it!
Special thanks to jetshred for the great instructions!
Using Sick Beard
http://localhost:8081. If you want to access Sick Beard from another computer, just replace localhost with the local IP address of the machine that’s running Sick Beard.
Once you get to the main screen (pictured to the right), you can add shows to Sick Beard by clicking the “Add Show” button in the episode list. This will present you with two options: Add New Show or Add Existing Show. This might be confusing at first because if you have no shows added to Sick Beard, how could you possible add an existing show? An “Existing Show” is defined by Sick Beard as a show that already has a folder on your hard drive. This means that if you’ve used SABnzbd (or something else) to download a show and it’s already in your SABnzbd downloads folder, it counts as an existing show. If you have no previously-created folder for a show, however, it is considered a “New Show” and you’ll want to choose that option.
Adding a new show is very simple. First, search for the show you want. After a few seconds, Sick Beard will return a list of shows it recognises. It will, most likely, automatically choose the show you want. If not, just select that show from the list. Click next to move to step two, which will let you select a download location. Do this, then move on to step three and select download options for the show. When you’re done, click “Add Show”. That’s all you have to do.
Additional Sick Beard Configurations
While Sick Beard will do its job without additional configuration, if you’re using SABnzbd and a NZB tracking site (like NZBMatrix or Newzbin), you can add your credentials and API keys to Sick Beard so that Sick Beard uses those tools for downloading rather than relying on the defaults (which are not necessarily as good). You can also configure Sick Beard to automatically update your XBMC (and other media centre) data when it finishes downloading a new show, among a few other neat options. While we’re not going to get into the specifics of Sick Beard’s config options, you should definitely run through them so you can configure Sick Beard to work best with your setup. To do this, just click “Config” in the Sick Beard navigation and choose the subcategory you want to edit.