A few people asking by email and in comments about my home PVR setup so here’s the dish:
Western Digital 500Gb MyBook Pro connected via Firewire. This is a sweet drive, living-room-pretty, plenty of space for media.
Elgato EyeTV 200. (via firewire) This is the analog TV tuner, comes with TIVO-like software. Elgato don’t make this one anymore – they now make the EyeTV 250 and EyeTV Hybrid (see < a xhref="http://faq.elgato.com/index.php/faq/more/453/_" mce_href="http://faq.elgato.com/index.php/faq/more/453/_">the Elgato FAQ. I’d go for the EyeTV 250 if I were buying now – it has two inputs, important for hooking it up to a dual feeds (see below)
Philips 32PF9830 LCD (PDF review). An absolute gem of a TV, the level of image processing this box does on the fly is incredible. Importantly it has a DVI input and the Mini recognises it as set the resolution correctly (to 720p). There a few pixels of desktop missing at the top and bottom. say 1/3 of the OS X menu bar but it is usable.
Bluetooth keyboard and mouse. I bought the white apple ones, but I’d imagine most would even work with the Mini.
NLT digital box. This is the bit I am least happy with but I have no choice in the matter. Basically NTL don’t want 3rd party boxes connected directly to their cable so they tie the decryption card to the box they give to you. Otherwise, I’d be able to buy an EyeTV DVB-C box and chuck the NTL STB in the bin. Anyhoo, I ended up:
- The Mac Mini. The hub of the whole setup. There are two specs but buy the maxed out one:
- 1.83Ghz Dual Core. The CPU needs to be this fast to decode 1080i quality HD video streams (not common yet but they will be).
- 1Gb RAM. Definately needs at least 1Gb to be able to play a DVD while recording from the EyeTV at the same time. Also note the graphics cards (Intel GMA950) on the Minis use system memory, usually somewhere between 64Mb-128Mb so OS X ends up getting < 1Gb at runtime.
- Larger 80Gb+ HDD (you’ll need it!).
- SuperDrive for burning DVDs.
- 4 USB ports. You’ll use them for phone (iSync), camera (iPhoto), attaching your mates Mass Storage Devices (USB keys).
- Firewire Port. Unfortunately the Mini does not yet do Firewire 800 but don’t worry, Firewire 400 is fast enough (faster sustainable transfer rate than USB 2.0).
- Getting NTL to put a splitter onto the co-ax cable between the wall and your NTL Digital box. The splitter produces primary/secondary analog feeds. Plugin the master into the NTL box – apparently it needs that one to be able to decode the digital channels. Plug the secondary into your EyeTV box – it can use that to tune into the 15 analog channels carried by NTL.
- Make sure your NTL box has two SCART connections – you’ll need them both, one to feed directly to the LCD, one to create a second link to the EyeTV tuner so it can watch whatever channel the NTL Digi box is currently tuned into (thereby allowing it to record that channel). Buy a (cheap) SCART-To-CompositeVideoIn cable for this. This is a bit sucky but to be honest it is rare that I want to record things that are not on the 15 analog channels so it’s not impossible to live with.
A few pieces of software you’ll end up using all the time from your sofa:
- FrontRow – for your photos, music, dvd playback and video clips (works with the Apple Remote)
- EyeTV – for using the Mac as a DVR (works with the Apple Remote)
- Mac The Ripper – for backing up DVDs on your hard disk (needs mouse)
- Matinee – for playing back ‘archived’ DVDs (needs mouse)
- Firefox – for browsing de Internet (needs mouse). Casual browsing on any large LCD is decent, the fonts in OS X can be a bit small from 12 feet but its usable for bits and bobs. You wouldn’t work on it, put it that way, but I’d never want to as it’s in my living room…
Amazing statistic of the day : 35,000 people are (apparently) being held in secret prisons around the world.
To put that figure in perpective, the combined population of prisoners in Ireland (that we know of!) is around 3,199 (Irish Prison Service – 2004 figures) + 1472 (NI Prison Service) = 4,571 people (and no leprechauns) at any given time.
Now that I have installed Mozilla Lightning Thunderbird can finally read all those meeting invitations (
text/calendar mime attachments) that the marketing and sales folks in work are so fond of sending from their Outlook/Exchange system. It can also read Google Calendar generated events that you receive via email.
To compliment the HTTP EFS plugin I created a while back I have created a simple “New Link” wizard extension that can be used to create link resources in projects. Manually adding
linkedResources elements to the eclipse project descriptor (
.project) file is no longer required!
The wizard page implementation class extends
org.eclipse.ui.dialogs.WizardNewFileCreationPage (the standard New File wizard page) and just adds an extra control at the bottom to prompt the user for a target URI location. Thanks to the platform ui folks for designing thar page class in such an extensible way.
Plugin source and binary available at Cape Clear Developer.
I know people who bought a Creative Zen player instead of an iPod because they have FM tuners. The Zen players are also cheap and they can timeshift radio by recording FM broadcasts – handy for picking up news or current affairs when it suits best – some of the users I know are sports nuts that just want to listen to programs like the sports shows on NewsTalk 106 or Gift Grub on their own time. Â I almost bought a Zen recently but instead I upgraded my phone to a k800i to get both MP3 playback and FM receiver into one pocket device. (Alas, Sony being members of the OMA implement OMA DRM 1.0 in the k800i so recording from the radio is a no-no.)
Today there is a storm brewing because Creative, at the bidding of the RIAA apparently, have released a software update that removes the player’s FM recording feature. How about that for an update, something that removes functionality! Man, I’d be pretty annoyed if I owned one. Hybrid software/hardware devices and their draconian EULAs eh, who needs them. Me, I’d want my money back. I also wouldn’t buy Creative again.
Via the excellent TamperData plugin I just noticed that my Firefox browser was sending a HTTP request (with a cookie!) to http://toolbarqueries.google.com for every page my browser loaded, even when the toolbar is not visible.
It is bad enough that a user interface component would remain active even when not visible, but even worse that it is silently doing so. And what’s that cookie for?
Isn’t it diffucult to trust a software vendor that produces a component like this, no matter how they justify what it is doing? Bad, invasive, sneaky, dishonest software. Uninstall the Google Toolbar (if you have it installed) by making it visible (briefly!), clicking on the Google logo on the toolbar, choosing Help and then Uninstall…
On both of my macs, every time I reboot I get a dialog asking me if I want to install Smart Crash Reports. I always refuse but the dialog even reappears regardless of a “Don’t Ask Me Again” tick box that it presents. It took me a good hour to figure out that VirtueDesktops was responsible for presenting the dialog – it does not mention VirtueDestops at all.
No matter how useful SCR is to the developers of VirtueDesktops the integration was clearly not well implemented. Desktop software should never a) present anonymous dialogs and b) ignore preferences specified by user. And to boot it turns out SCR is a source of some concern.
I nearly uninstalled VirtueDesktops but I noticed they have ‘fixed’ this by removing SCR from more recent builds of VirtueDesktops – which ones I’m not sure though so I cannot verify the fix. But there you go, an hour of my life gone tracking this down (and writing this post to hopefully save others similiar pain).
Google Reader redirected me to the end of the internet today.
Oh well, it was good while it lasted.