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Old 04-07-2011, 11:42 PM - Thread Starter
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Hi, some questions from a HTPC newby who's about ready to take the plunge. I already have a 2010 Mac Mini hooked into my main system and I'm using it as a music server. However, I'd like it to do double duty as a PVR. Right now I'm using a Tivo, but I understand with an external tuner and a program like EyeTV, I'd be in business.

First, I'll need more HD space. The boot volume is an internal SSD drive so it doesn't have much room. My music library is on an external firewire drive, but I don't think it has enough room for TV recordings. I'm thinking about getting another external drive and using firewire to daisy chain it with the other drive. I was thinking about this case. http://eshop.macsales.com/shop/firew...W800_FW400_USB Would that work well, about how much room should I shoot for and would there be a difference between a 7200 and 5400 speed drive for this application?

Also, with regard to tuners, I use an over the air antenna and was waiting for the Mac version of the SiliconDust HDHomerun Dual. SiliconDust used to list the Mac version on their site as coming out April 15. Now, it only lists the regular Dual but indicates its Mac compatible. http://www.silicondust.com/products/hdhomerun/atsc/ Does anybody know if they still plan to release a Mac version? If not, wouldn't it make sense to buy the regular Dual and a new copy of EyeTV? It seems like that would be easier and still cheaper than buying two Elgato stick tuners.

Any suggestions or other tips would be greatly appreciated. Thanks.

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Old 04-08-2011, 07:03 AM
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My music library is on an external firewire drive, but I don’t think it has enough room for TV recordings. I’m thinking about getting another external drive and using firewire to daisy chain it with the other drive

What drive/enclosure do you presently have your music on? How do you have your music library backed up?

Will daisy-chaining probably work just fine, yes, but, first question, why not get a bigger drive that can handle DVR content and simply move your music over to it as well?

That said, there can be conflicts sometimes between chipsets and bridges in different enclosures, and for several little reasons it can be advantageous to keep your music and video on separate buses anyway, i.e not daisy-chaining. When it comes to mounting and dismounting volumes, waking from sleep, reading and writing to drives, all of that is a little more complicated in a daisychain--and you won't know for sure how it'll all work out for you until you hook up whatever you buy and test it. But yes, many of us have successfully gone 4 to 5 firewire devices deep in various home theater daisy-chains, though it can be a compatibility challenge.

If I were you, I'd put my iTunes music library on USB, and dedicate video storage to firewire.

You realize that's a bus-powered 2.5" drive enclosure you linked to, right? Any particular reason you aren't considering a standard, big, powered 3.5" external? I don't think it'll matter whether you choose a 7200rpm drive or a "green" drive to record to, both can handle DVR duties, but green drives do tend to be more quiet and cool. It's more important that your boot drive be fast, and I have no trouble recording two EyeTV HD programs simultaneously to "green" externals while watching a third.

Cheap bus-powered USB stick tuners suck, go with the HD Homerun.

I also wouldn't wait for any Mac software from SiliconDust, it would probably be crap anyway. EyeTV, unfortunately, really is the only game in town unless you are very nerdy with too much time on your hands. So, pick the HDHomerun up as cheaply as possible, and acquire the EyeTV software as cheaply as possible as well, either standalone or by buying an EyeTV tuner, since the EyeTV 3 software ships with El Gato tuners. Sometimes you can find used, closeout or refurb model El Gato tuners and that software would work with any supported tuner, which your HD Homerun is. By me there are used EyeTV tuners on Craigslist all the time as they become less and less useful with cable--since you're going ATSC anyway why not benefit?
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Old 04-08-2011, 07:57 AM
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To piggy back off of chec, the link you provided on the HDHR3 is a bundle situation. What it is saying is that El Gate will sell the HDHR3 with EyeTV.

On Silicondust's site, the software for mac is just the configuration program to find channels. No PVR or TV viewing software. For Windows, it's the configuration and QuickTV, which only lets you watch live TV. Silicondust does not include any PVR software for any OS.

As for waiting for the 15th, you may want to wait. I've read the HDHR3 has some better hardware, so you may be better performance. Also, you might save a little money since the new HDHR3 is $130 and EyeTV3 is $80, last I checked. Plus, it's only a week. From the your link, you need to check El Gato's site since they're the ones selling the combo.
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Old 04-08-2011, 08:18 AM
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Years ago, when El Gato first supported the HD Homerun dual ATSC/clearQAM tuner, it actually sold a "bundle" of the device with two EyeTV software licenses on their website. They discontinued selling the device after about a year but still officially support the tuner.

Whether EyeTV will support the new HD Homerun w/ CableCARD tri-tuner is an open question, but I doubt it ever will.
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Old 04-08-2011, 09:30 AM
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Originally Posted by LejfK View Post

Hi, some questions from a HTPC newby who's about ready to take the plunge. I already have a 2010 Mac Mini hooked into my main system and I'm using it as a music server. However, I'd like it to do double duty as a PVR. Right now I'm using a Tivo, but I understand with an external tuner and a program like EyeTV, I'd be in business.

First, I'll need more HD space. The boot volume is an internal SSD drive so it doesn't have much room. My music library is on an external firewire drive, but I don't think it has enough room for TV recordings. I'm thinking about getting another external drive and using firewire to daisy chain it with the other drive. I was thinking about this case. http://eshop.macsales.com/shop/firew...W800_FW400_USB Would that work well, about how much room should I shoot for and would there be a difference between a 7200 and 5400 speed drive for this application?

Also, with regard to tuners, I use an over the air antenna and was waiting for the Mac version of the SiliconDust HDHomerun Dual. SiliconDust used to list the Mac version on their site as coming out April 15. Now, it only lists the regular Dual but indicates its Mac compatible. http://www.silicondust.com/products/hdhomerun/atsc/ Does anybody know if they still plan to release a Mac version? If not, wouldn't it make sense to buy the regular Dual and a new copy of EyeTV? It seems like that would be easier and still cheaper than buying two Elgato stick tuners.

Any suggestions or other tips would be greatly appreciated. Thanks.

My suggestion is to incorporate your TiVo(s) into your network. Note: I am a confirmed TiVo user. I've tried EyeTV (thinking it would save me the TiVo fees) but it just didn't do all I wanted (or maybe, all I was used to) in a pvr. My TV reception is OTA antenna, not cable or satellite, and the TiVo channel listings are usually quite accurate. I like TiVo's ease of access to any part of the recording, being able to make season recordings, just ease of use.
I do use Toast 10's TiVo Transfer to automatically store (onto a 3.5" FW800 connected to my mini) any TiVo recordings that I want to keep past their erasure point. It's not instant transferring to return them to the TiVo, but planning ahead works... or I can view them via the mini using Toast's Video Player (which actually uses EyeTV's "remote"), but that's not quite as simple as using the TiVo directly (sometimes skipping advertisements can be problematic with Toast Video Player, and I never watch ads if I can help it). I have two HD TiVos which easily communicate (exchange videos with each other and/or the mini) via my home wireless/wired network (Airport Expresses & Extremes & direct wire).

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Old 04-08-2011, 09:34 PM - Thread Starter
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Lots of great feedback, thanks. The reason I'm using a bus powered external drive for the music is because the audiophile obsessive on another forum stressed avoiding adding additional power supplies to the chain thinking it adds more noise to the system. It's obsessional, no doubt. But, since I was taking the original hard drive out and dropping it into an external case, it wasn't a big deal.

I think I'd prefer a second drive rather than move everything to one, big drive. I guess I could always experiment with daisy chaining and, if that doesn't work, move one drive to firewire and one to usb. For backup, I have a NAS which works on the Mini and the other computers in the house.

Also, the Tivo/Toast option is interesting option. Are the Tivo transfers automatic? I want to be able to transfers recording easily to either the plasma in the other room or to the iPad? Having to transfer each recording I want to watch on a secondary system sounds like a pain. Also, when you transfer the recordings, what format are they in?

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Old 04-09-2011, 07:54 AM
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that reminds me about the EPG, EyeTV is or will be soon $20 a year for TV.com; the first year is free. They no longer use TitanTV. Maybe someone has a hack, but you have to research it.
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Old 04-09-2011, 11:30 AM
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--snip--

Also, the Tivo/Toast option is interesting option. Are the Tivo transfers automatic? I want to be able to transfers recording easily to either the plasma in the other room or to the iPad? Having to transfer each recording I want to watch on a secondary system sounds like a pain. Also, when you transfer the recordings, what format are they in?

With TiVo Transfer you can have the recordings saved (TiVo->Mac/HD) either automatically or manually. When you open TiVo Transfer window, you have a view of its recordings and also the TiVo's (s'). When you want to transfer TiVo->HD, you select the relevant TiVo recording and then select START TRANSFER or CREATE AUTO TRANSFER. If you auto, it will transfer any recording of that show that appear on the TiVo's list. It does not transfer a TiVo recording that has been previously transferred (so it essentially doesn't duplicate recordings... if you want to do that, you need to select the TRANSFER button).

The recordings are ".tivo". As far as I've found only the Toast Video Player will play them, but you add PyTivoX to share the TiVo Transfer recordings back with your TiVo. It shows up on the TiVo's Playlist as "My Share".

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Old 04-09-2011, 05:20 PM - Thread Starter
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With TiVo Transfer you can have the recordings saved (TiVo->Mac/HD) either automatically or manually. When you open TiVo Transfer window, you have a view of its recordings and also the TiVo's (s'). When you want to transfer TiVo->HD, you select the relevant TiVo recording and then select START TRANSFER or CREATE AUTO TRANSFER. If you auto, it will transfer any recording of that show that appear on the TiVo's list. It does not transfer a TiVo recording that has been previously transferred (so it essentially doesn't duplicate recordings... if you want to do that, you need to select the TRANSFER button).

The recordings are ".tivo". As far as I've found only the Toast Video Player will play them, but you add PyTivoX to share the TiVo Transfer recordings back with your TiVo. It shows up on the TiVo's Playlist as "My Share".

Interesting. So, Toast doesn't let you convert the format into some thing else, say, something an AppleTV can read?

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Old 04-10-2011, 07:03 AM
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Comparisons like these come down to several factors, which we each have to prioritize:

1. what you want to record
2. ease of use when setting up or playing back recordings
3. what you want to be able to do with the recordings
4. cost

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EyeTV is $20 a year for TV.com; the first year is free

And well worth it compared to the monthly Tivo service fees and tedious restrictions applied to recordings. If you want to do what you want with your recordings, when you want, and move or transcode them at will for iOS devices, stay with EyeTV. If you're primarily recording ATSC, it doesn't seem prudent to choose Tivo over EyeTV, but that's based on my priorities. Everyone has to decide those priorities for themselves. (This coming from someone who LOVED Tivo many, many years ago. I left Tivo back when they botched the transition to HD clearQAM from cable.)

As I see it, the main Tivo advantage at present for the Mac home theater user lies not with capturing ATSC but in recording certain HD channels which require the use of a CableCARD...there's no Mac solution for those channels except running all that programming through a Hauppauge or EyeTV HD over component, and that can add up to a real hassle if that content is your main interest.

For ATSC and clearQAM, though...despite its by now bloated software, despite its failure to implement the most basic of requested features like official support for multiple tuners...EyeTV is still the way to go if you prioritize low cost and unencumbered access to your files.
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Old 04-10-2011, 08:50 AM
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Originally Posted by chefklc View Post

...come down to several factors, which we each have to prioritize:

1. what you want to record
2. ease of use when setting up or playing back recordings
3. what you want to be able to do with the recordings
4. cost
...

I couldn't agree more.

As for the cost, I'm use to free since I'm using Windows 7 Media Center, and only watch maybe five hours of live tv over cable, and that's if there is a sporting event. Otherwise, it is over the internet.
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Old 04-10-2011, 11:31 AM
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Interesting. So, Toast doesn't let you convert the format into some thing else, say, something an AppleTV can read?

I don't know, I've never tried to do that. Wait a second...

OK, here's what I just did:

1. Select a recording in the TiVo Transfer list. 2. Click on TOAST IT button in the TiVo Transfer window. 3. Select SAVE AS A DISC IMAGE button in the Toast 10 window that opened. 4. Opened the disc image on my desktop. It contains a VIDEO_TS folder and an AUDIO_TS folder. 5. Open the VIDEO_TS folder in DVD player and Bob's-your-aunt-Marie's-brother (it plays perfectly, and quite good video too). I assume one could use Handbrake to alter it any way one needs.

I have to say I appreciate that you asked the question. I will most likely use that method to view TiVo Transfer recordings from now on... no waiting to transfer them back to the TiVo or having the odd behaviors that occur when trying to fast-forward using Toast's Video Player (which says El Gato on the remote icon, BTW).

Also, vis-Ã*-vis costs/use needs:
-my OTA viewing cost nothing after the initial outlay.
-My Lifetime TiVo costs nothing after the initial outlay.
-I am currently using TiVo Transfer as essentially a back up in case my TiVo's disk drive fills up (can happen, especially at Olympics time). However, now I know how easily I can convert the .tivo to a VIDEO_TS I may use it for most of my recording/viewing.

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Old 04-10-2011, 05:42 PM
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Originally Posted by LejfK View Post

Hi, some questions from a HTPC newby who’s about ready to take the plunge. I already have a 2010 Mac Mini hooked into my main system and I’m using it as a music server. However, I’d like it to do double duty as a PVR. Right now I’m using a Tivo, but I understand with an external tuner and a program like EyeTV, I’d be in business.

First, I’ll need more HD space. The boot volume is an internal SSD drive so it doesn’t have much room. My music library is on an external firewire drive, but I don’t think it has enough room for TV recordings. I’m thinking about getting another external drive and using firewire to daisy chain it with the other drive. I was thinking about this case. http://eshop.macsales.com/shop/firew...W800_FW400_USB Would that work well, about how much room should I shoot for and would there be a difference between a 7200 and 5400 speed drive for this application?

Also, with regard to tuners, I use an over the air antenna and was waiting for the Mac version of the SiliconDust HDHomerun Dual. SiliconDust used to list the Mac version on their site as coming out April 15. Now, it only lists the regular Dual but indicates its Mac compatible. http://www.silicondust.com/products/hdhomerun/atsc/ Does anybody know if they still plan to release a Mac version? If not, wouldn’t it make sense to buy the regular Dual and a new copy of EyeTV? It seems like that would be easier and still cheaper than buying two Elgato stick tuners.

Any suggestions or other tips would be greatly appreciated. Thanks.

Since Minis don't come with SSD HD options (even as BTO) I have to assume you installed it yourself.

You realize that, even with all the money you've invested in upgrades, you're still pimping out a Corolla, performance-wise. It can only do so much, even with all the upgrades and tweaking you've done. Video is so much more resource-intensive than audio. So much more the first time you want to manage and view HD video (and 5.1 audio).

Why not sell it as is and invest in an iMac? It will have more horsepower (read the right subsystems) to do what you want and then some.

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Old 04-10-2011, 09:09 PM
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You don't need an iMac if all you want to do is record. Recording doesn't take much horsepower, you do need the storage.

My current PVR machine is a Mac Mini Server with 2 HDHomeruns and 3 EyeTV 500s. The HDHomerun tuners are accessible by my other Macs for live TV viewing as well. That machine also is serving up Plex and iTunes files from a FW Raid box. I have used USB devices before with mixed to poor results. Firewire and ethernet based tuners work great with EyeTV aside from the occasional "0 second recording."

The main limitations of EyeTV for recording:
1) Limited to 3 of each device (EyeTV 500, EyeTV 250...)
2) You can't pick the tuner for shows which means you need to pick either OTA or QAM for automated scheduling
3) No cablecard support
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Old 04-11-2011, 05:21 AM
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I agree with the above. HTPC don't need to powerful compared to other uses. I believe the mini will be sufficient for your needs, unless you're going to be doing video editing.

Yes, the video aspect of this is the resource intensive. A lot of programs now, such as Plex, use the video hardware acceleration, so it's not nearly as bad as it use to be. I haven't tried to directly play a blu ray disc, so maybe that could push it, but I didn't have issues with blu rip files that were 4Gigs with lower bit rates (yes they were not videophile perfect, but as good as a good Netflix HD stream). The issues I encountered were usually all related to drivers.

As it is true EyeTV does not support CableCards, I would look into this further since Silicondust is coming out with a three tuner Cablecard supported device, the HDHR3-CC (prime). It will go for $250 MSRP. In theory, it is possible EyeTV may have future support for certain devices. The HDHR3-CC has not been released yet and is still going through certification. Best guesses says sometime late summer to end of year.

On a side note, if you have Tivo, and especially if you have a life time subscription, EyeTV looks really redundant. I would just look what is the best way to offload the few recordings you may want to keep.
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Old 04-11-2011, 07:58 AM
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Wow, I hope that we hold Blu-Ray rips to a higher pq standard than Netflix HD streams!

I'm wincing. Yeah, see, now it makes sense that you're finding the Mini acceptable performance-wise:

you're either downrezzing BR rips and/or lowering the bitrate.

When I look at using a Mac for a set top box, I think of it more as a poor-man's alternative to Kaleidoscape. Fast-loading movies in 1080p with lossless audio where available, at the same bitrate as native BR, eliminating trailers and other crap that slow down the load time of the feature.

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Old 04-11-2011, 10:32 AM
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The mini works fine in Windows 7 with higher bit rates with 10 to 15 gig file sizes as well. XBMC says it's only using 2 to 7% cpu with that rips. I use a lot more power when watching 7 HD live sport streams from NBA, ESPN3, MLB, and so forth. I tried to keep my statements to my experiences when I was using OSX. There are several reasons why I switch to Windows 7. I was able to play 1080i 5.1 auido files fine in Plex 8.5 that were recorded with SageTV. I couldn't play the same files in SageTV without severe audio and video lag and skipping. I assumed it was some kind of driver conflict or issue since others did not have the issue.

And by the way, Netflix does 1080p and 5.1DD on the PS3. I believe they may now, at least have announced it's coming to AppleTV2. I don't expect the bitrate of a BR disc, but if you have the bandwidth, it would be pretty darn good and exceed a DVD.

End of the day, I don't think you necessarily need a very powerful PC to watch movies. Just need to have the proper drivers and everything setup right. Not to say you don't need some power. A good mini should be fine for his needs.
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Old 04-11-2011, 11:30 AM
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When I look at using a Mac for a set top box, I think of it more as a poor-man's alternative to Kaleidoscape. Fast-loading movies in 1080p with lossless audio where available, at the same bitrate as native BR, eliminating trailers and other crap that slow down the load time of the feature

Irishman, I understand where you're coming from, but you have to realize you stepped into the middle of a conversation helping a guy interested in 1) music and 2) recording high def TV. Why divert this thread to a discussion of playing back 1080p with lossless audio? That's changing the goalposts a bit too much from what the OP asked about, don't you agree?

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You realize that, even with all the money you've invested in upgrades, you're still pimping out a Corolla, performance-wise. It can only do so much, even with all the upgrades and tweaking you've done. Video is so much more resource-intensive than audio. So much more the first time you want to manage and view HD video (and 5.1 audio)

I loved this comment when I read it the other day, but didn't have the time to respond then...unfortunately, you're wrong, at least as far as the needs of the OP, which are trying to replace his Tivo by adding DVR tasks to his Mini. A small, silent, pimped out Corolla is perfect for the OP. Perhaps you don't record HDTV with your Mac, but a stock 2010 mini can easily handle recording multiple streams of...and perfectly playing back...ATSC and clearQAM with DD 5.1. He doesn't need to step up to an iMac in order to do the DVR thing, even older model minis than the 2010 handle EyeTV with AC-3 passthrough just fine.

Quote:
now it makes sense that you're finding the Mini acceptable performance-wise...you're either downrezzing BR rips and/or lowering the bitrate

Now, like you said, playing back full size 1080p blu-ray rips are another matter, but the majority of users report that even the 2.4 2010 mini can play them back in Plex or XBMC either 1) perfectly or 2) darn close to perfectly, depending on who you talk to (and which display they're connected to.) The thing is, you risk potentially changing the goalposts again when you talk of "HD audio" from blurays since most of us DO NOT try to play back the high res audio, we simply let MakeMKV do its thing and extract the downrezzed core audio. We're not using Macs that can pass the HD audio anyway, but video-wise, I assure you many of us find Macbooks and Minis very acceptable for full blu-ray video, neither downrezzed or transcoded. MakeMKV merely puts the video into a different container and doesn't alter it one bit.

If you are currently playing back your blu-ray rips WITH HD audio, which iMac model and software are you using? We haven't had someone verify this in OS X yet.

Quote:
End of the day, I don't think you necessarily need a very powerful PC to watch movies. Just need to have the proper drivers and everything setup right. Not to say you don't need some power. A good mini should be fine for his needs.

No, Irishman is right on the mark here with his advice, you'll be happier with as powerful a Mac as you can afford in order to play back full size 1080p blu-ray rips with DD 5.1 or DTS 5.1, but the low end 2010 mini at 2.4GHz should be able to handle it. I do notice an improvement playing the same MakeMKV rip back on a 2.4 Macbook and then our 2.4 iMac, the iMac, despite being a little older than the MB, does have the better subsystem and can handle the extra bit of oomph required. If you're not interested in playing back 30-50GB 1080p movie files, you can use any mini from last few years and be perfectly happy. But I wouldn't go as far as Irishman goes and recommend buying an iMac specifically for the home theater, though it would do a very good job there, there's just no need.

I'd suggest we keep this thread about recording HD TV and DVR and maybe talk 1080p blu-ray playback on another thread? Apple and oranges...
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Old 04-11-2011, 08:23 PM
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I certainly didn't mean to derail the thread with my comments.

I suppose I was trying to offer a reminder to consider things you might want to do down the road, all the while realizing that, even though the Mini can do some amazing things, being a full-on HD media server ain't one of them (it's close, and the next rev might see enough horsepower to do so).

Didn't mean to paint a dire picture.

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