Interesting to see Babelgum are setting up shop in Dublin. It is nice to see them cite the availability of skilled technical people as the key reason for locating here though I suspect that favourable corporation tax rates may also have been a key factor.
A few people asking by email and in comments about my home PVR setup so here’s the dish:
- 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…
This just blows me away – grab Democracy from the folks at the Participatory Culture Foundation, browse the various RSS feeds and end up watching content like this or this (yes, Democracy loads torrents too). Then check out their sister site Video Bomb and if have your own content set up a Broadcast Machine or your own.
Awesome stuff, with quality free software and content like this, who needs broadcast TV?
Excellent, Elgato have released an EyeTV 2.3 update that adds a full 10-foot user interface. And it can be controlled using the Apple Remote just like Front Row. It’s not quote TIVO yet but it’s a huge step forward – kudos to Elgato for listening to their users!
I’m now that close to buying a Logitech Harmony remote for my living room – the Apple Remote is cute but the 6-button design is slightly too minimalist to control a Mac mini based HTPC (and control a Philips Cineos TV and a NTL STB). The only blocker at the moment is this damn NTL DVB-C STB (a Pace Micro DC221. Two problems:
- It uses an odd IrDA based infra-red signal protocol that most learning remotes cannot transmit. Red-Eye solves this problem with a “translator” and the same guys also have a Red-Eye Serial that specifically mentions support for the DC221.
- There doesn’t seem to be much/any support in EyeTV for changing channels on the external digital STB. I did find a tool called EyeCaptain that does support mapping external channels to the EyeTV composite or S-Video input but it doesn’t say anything about controlling the current external channel.
Of course if NTL would just let me use my own DVB-C receiver then I’d be give them back their Pace box, and all my problems would go away. All I can say is roll on the arrival of DTT in Ireland (yes, I know, I’m not holding my breath)…
Oh, this is trÃ¨s cool. Tom Coates writes that the BBC Programme Catalogue prototype is live. So far it is just a catalog, thereâ€™s no media content (yet!). Quick searches: Match of the Day , Matt Lucas, start digging, and youâ€™ll see how rich the catalog data isâ€¦
Talk about opening up! How long will it take for other broadcasters (or content producers) just have to open up their content catalogues to survive?
So I picked up a Core Duo Mac Mini last week while over at EclipseCon. Dinky isn’t the word, and quiet too, although that power brick is a monster. Elgato also released universal binaries for EyeTV (v2.1) last week so I’ve got my EyeTV set up already.
I really need to buy a few accessories though. First up was, err, a new 32″ accessory that is getting rave reviews. (The mini has both DVI and S/PDIF outputs so it should be able to make full use of the it). My aging JBL Pro-Logic amplifier also needs to be replaced with a unit that does 5.1 Digital box (with optical and coaxial digital I/O) but that’s not quite as urgent.
Initial benchmarks of the Core Duo Mac Mini’s performance relative to it’s Core Solo underling. There is not much of a difference that can’t be accounted for by the extra Ghz but wow that spare core proves very handy for those multithread tests.
I’ll be picking one up at the end of the month regardless, they seem to be reasonably capable of decoding 1080i HD streams (using VLC) from what I read so that makes it future proof enough for my living room for at least few years…
From the OSGi blog, this is just too true:
However, sometimes I wonder if our skills are not blinding us from the
complexity we put on the rest of the world. And this is not because we
are so clever and our users are not, it is actually often the other way
around. Users are often too clever to learn unnecessary details and
complexities, they just refuse to bring up the patience.
Too true, most of the time they just will not bother. This isn’t a new phenomenon either – JVC invent VHS and thirty years later the vast majority of users still cannot program the damn video recorders with any degree of confidence. Then they do it again with DVD players and recorders that are built for geeks.
Apple fuelled a revolution in the audio industry with the iPod and it will take a similiar revolution (possibly driven by Intel/Viiv this time) to bring time shifted video to the masses. No matter how good the content is, the interface needs to be seriously dumbed down.
Sky are providing some downloadable videos that illustrate the picture quality of their soon-to-be-released HD channels. Go to the Sky HD homepage and then navigate to “Explore Sky HD”, then “More to Explore”, then “HD Video Clips”. Check out the “Rugby in the Rain” video on a big monitor first – yikes!
Windows Media Player on my laptop (a 2Ghz Tecra M2 w Nvidia GeForce Go 128Mb graphics chipset) can barely decode these clips smoothly and I’ve never noticed this machine to be CPU bound before (apart from when I’m doing builds) I must go read the math but HD streams must be _huge_. Fancy that, my next TV will probably have that much (or more) raw processing power.
Not very energy efficient I guess, perhaps it will heat my living room? And I see this when I recently spotted my next TV – I think I’ll wait until it drops in price though, just a little.