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Hi,


I've been lurking and hanging back for long enough - yesterday I bought an EyeTV 410 (Firewire terrestrial digital TV adapter) and started testing with my Powerbook in the living room connected to a projector and an LCD panel. My plan is to order a Mini soon after any MacWorld upgrade announcements in mid-January.


Up to now we have been living with a motley assembly of boxes (DVD, receiver/amp, video player, digital terrestrial TV box) integrated through a Philips Pronto programmable IR controller with a purpose-designed interface.


The Mac Mini + EyeTV combo should sweep away all of those boxes except the amp. But my major outstanding question is how to control it.


Front Row seems a very good first version of an interface for controlling a media centre via a simple IR controller with just a few buttons. But it doesn't do the whole job, and maybe it never will. Here's why:

- it only provides access to a few of the functions of programs such as DVD Player, iTunes, iPhoto

- it doesn't interface at all with the EyeTV software other non-Apple apps such as VLC

- living room activities are bound to include internet browsing and maybe other network apps (e.g. Skype).


There seem to be two aspects to solving these problems:

1. What type of remote device to use for interaction with a media centre Mac

2. How to configure and adapt the interface to suit our needs


Concerning aspect (1), options for the remote device include:


* Bluetooth mouse & keyboard

I think it's inevitable that these tools will be lurking somewhere in the living room, but they're too big and require a flat working surface. They should be viewed as fallback devices, for use on the relatively few occasions when we want to use the media centre as a full-blown computer.


* Gyration 3D mouse

I have no experience with this, but it seems to offer a way to interact from an armchair without a flat surface nearby. Does anyone have enough experience with it to say how it works out in practice?


* Bluetooth phone + Sailing Clicker

My limited experience with this suggests that it's very good for those applications that it supports and those parts of their interface that have been integrated with Clicker, but there are major gaps.


* Bluetooth PDA + Sailing Clicker

I have no experience with this. Are the Clicker implementations more complete for PDAs? One advantage would be the ability to control the mouse pointer directly via the PDA stylus. Another big advantage to the Sailing Clicker approach is that the interface device (phone or PDA) becomes context-aware, displaying information about the current playlist, for example. Maybe a PDA with a full miniature keyboard such as the Palm Tungsten C could even remove the need for keyboard and mouse mentioned above.


- Programmable IR controller

I'm loath to buy a Keyspan IR input device and start reprogramming my Philips Pronto because (a) it doesn't seem to be a mainstream approach for the future and (b) although I'm willing to do a limited amount of Applescript programming, I'm not clear how much access the Keyspan IR device would give me to Applescripts. And the Pronto (or any other conventional IR device) can never be context-aware because the communication is purely one-way.


- Apple's iMac IR controller

This device is attractive in its simplicity and seems to be designed to compliment Front Row - but can Front Row be extended to meet (most of) the additional needs listed above?


Concerning aspect (2) configuring and adapting the interface for local needs, there seem to be at least the following open questions:


- Can Front Row be extended by its users?


- Can a programmable IR be used to control Front Row? (the answer must be yes - just get the device to learn the Apple IR controller codes)


- Can a Bluetooth controller (such as a phone) be used to control Front Row's interface?


- If the answer to those questions is 'yes', simple tools for constructing and programming custom interfaces will be required and I'm not aware what's available at present at a level higher than Applescript code.


- Perhaps Front Row isn't the best choice - what other options look promising?


Comments and suggestions please.


With season's greetings!


Georgio
 

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Discussion Starter #2
Quote:
Originally Posted by Georgio
I've been lurking and hanging back for long enough - yesterday I bought an EyeTV 410 (Firewire terrestrial digital TV adapter) and started testing with my Powerbook in the living room connected to a projector and an LCD panel. My plan is to order a Mini soon after any MacWorld upgrade announcements in mid-January.
I've been testing this setup (EyeTV + 1.67 MHz PowerBook hooked up to a Sony LCD monitor or an Infocus X1 PJ) as my main TV receiver. I'm not yet satisfied with the quality of the video. One or more frames seem to be dropped freom time to time, evidenced by a very brief freeze. As if the CPU was overloaded and the EyeTV software dropped a frame or two.


The Powerbook is a little more powerful than the 1.42 MHz Mac Mini, so I'm now wondering whether the setup I've got in mind will be up to the job of replacing my existing setup (Nokia Freeview receiver connected to the same display devices via a ProV scan converter). That setup never freezes frames, although the picture will sometimes break up very briefly.


So my question is, does anyone have positive, glitch-free experience of using an EyeTV + Mini as a main TV receiver?


Thanks for any feedback.


Georgio
 

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Hi Georgio, your plan is a good one. Being in the UK your 410 seems closest to the 500 here in the US, and there is a long thread within this forum on using your Mac with EyeTV, mostly about the 200/500 models. It seems your model records standard definition DVB broadcasts at about 3.5 MBit/sec - 5 MBit/sec all the way up to 18 MBit/sec (HDTV) for MPEG-2--have you noticed frozen frames in all your programming or just the higher bit rate captures? Do you get gltiches only when you play back fullscreen?

Quote:
One or more frames seem to be dropped from time to time, evidenced by a very brief freeze. As if the CPU was overloaded and the EyeTV software dropped a frame or two.
well yes, you're still just using a single G4, be it in a Powerbook or a Mini, which is fine for capture but not powerful enough for higher bit rate playback--and why lots of folks here with 500s have turned to a separate device for playback to offload some of the work, like the AVel Linkplayer2, even if they have a dual G5. Machound has done some great writing within this forum on his experiences with this device as an adjunct to the EyeTV 500. Despite what the "minimum" system requirements may be as far as El Gato specs, the key for you is to find out from other 410 users (or from El Gato itself) whether your 410 is more like the 500 in terms of real world requirements--and if that's the case, a G4 as Apple has things configured currently won't be able to handle fullscreen higher bit rate playback glitch-free.


As far as your other main question--how to control your evolving Mac home theater via remote in the living room--we've been happy with the Apple BT mouse and keyboard for the Mini (and everything connected to it via firewire: external storage, an M-audio interface and a NEC 3550A burner, since the superdrive in my Rev A mini sucks) and a Harmony remote to control everything else (AVR, HD display, my LG 3410A HD DVR, a coupla dvd players, a DVHS deck, etc.) I should say I've been happy with this, my wife really only streams iTunes via her Powerbook and leaves everything else to me. Our leather couch has wide flat arms, a matching ottoman is also hard and flat, so the mouse works fine on it--since we have a couple of Powerbooks in the house I don't surf the net too much (if at all) with the Mini--so for A/V it's mostly the BT mouse and the Harmony in use and not the keyboard. The other options you listed, especially Sailing Clicker, a PDA, a cell phone, appeal to some but always held very little appeal for me. I'm waiting for Front Row to officially migrate and waiting for whatever new announcements/products are released next week before changing anything.


This, and especially the Rev A mini, has served me well for a year--but then unlike some others I'm 1) not yet trying to have any Mac control everything home theater-related and 2) I don't archive much SD or HD material from cable or OTA, though we capture a lot of HD network stuff, we watch it and delete it. Long term, the only thing I store and use Macs to control besides lossless music are backup video_ts files of commercial dvds, though I've verified I can archive HD if I want via my G4 Macs using VirtualDVHS, the FirewireSDK, my LG 3410A and JVC deck.


If I happen to have my laptop open wherever I am in house--working, surfing, whatever--I sometimes control my Mac-related audio or video through it over the network, via ethernet or wireless. (I have a printer on the network as well via the USB port of an Airport Extreme basestation.)


Frankly, there's too much on the table that none of us knows yet about the next revision of the mini, and since you're pre-purchase, some of this hopefully will be moot for you anyway. Patience is tough, though. Note, some AVS folks with G4 processors capture with an EyeTV 500 then use Toast 7 to burn dvds of their high res content--it's not true high def but reports from those users are that the quality is quite good on large displays. With your 410 in hand and some firewire storage, picking up a cheap refurb mini now might still be a viable solution for you while you wait for things to shake out--you could always move it to network a secondary display once the capabilities and bugs of a new Intel mini are revealed. Remember, too, there will likely be a lag time between whatever is announced and when it actually ships. I bought a Rev A mini on day one and still waited weeks (granted, it wasn't a stock configuration.)


The more you find out about the functionality and performance of your 410, the more you should share.
 

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Hi chefklc,


Thanks for the helpful reply.
Quote:
It seems your model records standard definition DVB broadcasts at about 3.5 MBit/sec - 5 MBit/sec all the way up to 18 MBit/sec (HDTV) for MPEG-2--have you noticed frozen frames in all your programming or just the higher bit rate captures? Do you get gltiches only when you play back fullscreen?
We don't (yet) have HD digital broadcasts in the UK. I just checked all the available channels on the 410 and they're all in the range 2-5 Mbit/sec (with frame sizes of 500 x 576 to 720 x 576). The glitches seem to occur regardless of window size. Signal stength 98% and quality 100%, so it shouldn't be a signal problem.


I've sent Elgato support a message about the glitching. It's only slight, but it spoils what would otherwise be an excellent system. Are there any other EyeTV 410 users who can report on their experience here?


I have been mainly watching live broadcasts. The one recording I have made to date doesn't seem to show the same glitchiness.


Thanks also for your comments on the control and interaction issues. I'm determined to get something that won't require using a mouse just to change channels when viewing. I'm leaning towards getting a KeySpan remote. It looks quite flexible. I can imagine that the keyboard/mouse would then only be needed for setting up scheduled recordings.
 

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Have you taken a look at the Motion Computing Bluetooth keyboard w/ integrated trackball yet? I just picked one up about a month ago and it works great. Mouse motion is a little choppy, but the connection is good and the keyboard works great! Definitely check it out.
 

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Ha. Ha. GMTA :D I just updated by post about my experiences since the change. Can't wait to get the Motion keyboard in the mix. Then I'll work on complete ir control. Had to buy a pronto fast for DVHS scheduling funciton when the 7500 wasn't quite yet available.


I think a combo of the bluetooth motion kb/trackball plus a Pronto 7500 will make everything much easier. Unfortunately, EyeTV and the "media centers in training pants" still need a keyboard for the most part.
 

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Originally Posted by ablauer
Have you taken a look at the Motion Computing Bluetooth keyboard w/ integrated trackball yet? I just picked one up about a month ago and it works great. Mouse motion is a little choppy, but the connection is good and the keyboard works great! Definitely check it out.
Thanks for the pointer. The Motion Computing keyboard doesn't seem to be available in Europe yet, but maybe I'll buy it direct. Glad to hear you get good connectivity because the only 'user review' I found gives it one star on account of a 'terrrible connection'!

Quote:
Originally Posted by Joseph S
I think a combo of the bluetooth motion kb/trackball plus a Pronto 7500 will make everything much easier. Unfortunately, EyeTV and the "media centers in training pants" still need a keyboard for the most part.
I have a Pronto, it's what I use for controlling my current non-HTPC system. I got it (and spent about a week programming it) as the only way to escape the madness of 5-6 badly-designed remotes.


But a Pronto doesn't seem very useful for a Mac-based system. Why use a controller with an LCD display to interact with a menu-driven interface on a big screen? For example, I can't see how the Pronto would help you to select a program on the TV guide for recording.
 

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Quote:
The Motion Computing keyboard doesn't seem to be available in Europe yet
It's available in the UK at least under the "inpace" name brand.

Quote:
But a Pronto doesn't seem very useful for a Mac-based system. Why use a controller with an LCD display to interact with a menu-driven interface on a big screen?
For the HTPC it's perfect I can use the control pad to navigate through Meedio and have macros to switch Projector, KVM, DVI switch and amp settings for HTPC use. On the Mac it isn't that simple because we don't have the OSDs in place, but I could use it for playback control of various apps on separate tabs as well as the receiver/projector/switch box control specific for playback from the Mac.

It wouldn't
 

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Originally Posted by Joseph S
It's available in the UK at least under the "inpace" name brand.
Thanks, I found the keyboard/trackball it at an 'importers bonus' price of 129 UK pounds ($225 dollars!). But it does look just the ticket for livingroom use.

I've also been wondering about the 'virual keyboard' device - nice and compact when not in use and a big 'wow' factor. Has anybody tried it?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Joseph S
For the HTPC it's perfect I can use the control pad to navigate through Meedio and have macros to switch Projector, KVM, DVI switch and amp settings for HTPC use. On the Mac it isn't that simple because we don't have the OSDs in place, but I could use it for playback control of various apps on separate tabs as well as the receiver/projector/switch box control specific for playback from the Mac.

It wouldn't
I still don't see what the screen on the Pronto doing for you, nor how you could use a Pronto to effectively control an EyeTV, e.g. to setup a recording.
 

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Originally Posted by Georgio
I've been testing this setup (EyeTV + 1.67 MHz PowerBook hooked up to a Sony LCD monitor or an Infocus X1 PJ) as my main TV receiver. I'm not yet satisfied with the quality of the video. One or more frames seem to be dropped from time to time, evidenced by a very brief freeze. As if the CPU was overloaded and the EyeTV software dropped a frame or two.
I thought I'd post a progress report on this.

Executive summary: Things got worse, then they got better.


Detail: I was getting whole-frame stutters of up to 1 second using an EyeTV 410 on my Powerbook. After trying quite a few things, it occurred to me that the problem might be related to the use of FileVault. I created a new account not protected by FileVault especially for viewing TV and I selected the Preferences>Storage> 'Keep live TV buffer in RAM' option.


Everything is now a lot better. No whole-frame stutters, just occasional part-frame picture damage. I don't yet know which of the two changes i made is responsible for the improvement.


Question: Have others found it necessary to use the 'Keep live TV buffer in RAM' option to get smooth picture display?
 

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Quote:
Mouse motion is a little choppy
You can say that again. Can't wait for USBOverdrive with bluetooth support. This thing will take some getting used to.
 
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