Mac Mini DVR project

Discussion in 'Mac Pro' started by wPod, Mar 21, 2006.

  1. wPod macrumors 68000

    wPod

    Joined:
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    Location:
    Denver, CO
    #1
    I bought a Mac Mini yesterday and am planning on turning it into a DVR (you know, a TiVo like device to record TV when I want). I am starting this thread to compile a number of issues with the entire project, this way I don't have 10 different threads open! I already started one thread but I might mention that problem again here since it got no response on its own.

    GOALS:

    1) Affordable! I am a college student and have a part time job. That covers everything I NEED like rent, car payment, food and some alcohol! I have been working on a web site on the side and saved just enough for something cheap, so I can't build a quad G5 into the ultimate tv viewing experience, unless anyone wants to donate some hardware or money! heh!

    2) I want to be able to watch TV, record TV, pause TV and rewind. Typical DVR functions. I want to be able to schedule recordings as well.

    3) Must be good enough quality to watch on a normal TV which is NTCS 720x480.

    4) One day I would like to be able to export to an iPod video and use that to watch on TV. But I do not have the money for an iPod video right now.

    What I have right now:
    Yesterday I just bought a 1.5 GHz Intel Core Solo Mac Mini with the stock 512 MB RAM and stock everything else.

    For TV recording I bought a myTV.PVR.

    For storage I already had a 200 GB external firewire drive that I was using for a secondary backup and now deleted everything on it and will use it for TV shows and movies and any other sort of media I decide to put on the mac mini. I am thinking about copying all of my music and pictures from my PB to the mini so i can take advantage of the media capabilities of the mini, but I am not sure about that yet. It might get annoying to sync the to computers every time i load a picture or song (unless anyone has any good ideas on syncing the 2)

    Yes, I know this is long, but I thought 1 long thread would be better than multiple different threads. Thanks for reading so far!

    PROBLEMS:

    1) right out of the box the mini would not display anything when hooked up to my 21" flat screen CRT dell monitor (yes it is a monster but i got it free and minus the dent in the corner it looks good) i hooked it up to my 2005FPW dell monitor and it didnt work there either. after switching b/w DVI and VGA I finally got it to work for all types (VGA and DVI) then finally on the VGA of the CRT. But this morning after putting it to sleep last night, it would not display again. I think later today I will take it back to apple and demand a replacement. I am not going to sit around and wait for apple care when the darn thing doesn't work right out of the box!!

    2) the myTV.PVR only encodes in MPEG-1 and MPEG-2 formats. as people probably know quicktime does not like MPEG-2 though I could pay $20 to buy a plug in that will work. But I can read the MPEG-2 files in MPlayer which is a free app. When the myTV.PVR is encoding in MPEG-2 the picture gets extremely pixilated and sometimes freezes when there is a lot of movement on the screen. The recoding is fine, its just the live display that is bad. I dont know if the el gato eyeTV 200 is any better. any comments?

    3) what about playing on a TV? right now i am using a 21" flat screen CRT monitor for playback. Is there a way, such as a DVI to RCA adapter that I can use to plug into my TV (its an old tv that only has coaxial and RCA inputs) It would be really cool if the mini sat headless in the corner then i could 'broadcast' from the mini to the TV in a similar manner to 'broadcasting' audio to the airport express. but in that case i might as well just sit it hooked up to the TV and use a bluetooth keyboard/mouse to control it.

    thanks for reading and thanks for your comments. I know its a long post and I probably sound like a 12 y.o. b/c I didnt proof read as much as I wanted. I will post pics as soon as i get back home and take some pics. its messy right now b/c there are cables everywhere. i set it up to see if it works and didnt care what it looked like. but ill try to make it look nicer.
     
  2. liketom macrumors 601

    liketom

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    Location:
    Lincoln,UK
    #2
    i just use Front Row and i plan to get a EyeTV USB for Digital TV recording
     
  3. Abulia macrumors 68000

    Abulia

    Joined:
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    #3
    Realistically I think we're a couple of years from this.

    For example, I have DirecTV w/ TiVo (HD). Anything to replace this setup would have to be a) just as reliable and b) easy to use (for the wife) to even consider such a switch. I just don't think the mini and software (Front Row) is there yet.

    For somone who just wants to play around with DVR I suppose this is a fun project, but Apple has a long way to go to make a "real" DVR solution to gain any mainstream appeal. Considering you can get TiVo hardware almost for free now, buying an $800 mini to do the same thing seems...well, short sighted.

    Good luck with this, though. I believe this is the direction that Apple needs to be heading towards (digital entertainment and convergence).
     
  4. wPod thread starter macrumors 68000

    wPod

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    Aug 19, 2003
    Location:
    Denver, CO
    #4
    doesn't that use software based encoding? which might be a little rough on the 1.5 intel core solo of the mini? or do you know it works well on a mac mini?
     
  5. liketom macrumors 601

    liketom

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    #5
    has to be said i would use my Mac Mini Solo for Front row playback and ripping my DVD's and my Powermac Dual 1.8 3gb ram for Recording TV
     
  6. wPod thread starter macrumors 68000

    wPod

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    #6
    heh, well I dont want to pay a subscription fee. . . and well, its just fun! plus i cant tack on a 200 GB drive to TiVo and put all of my pictures and music on it. maybe this should be more of a multimedia hub rather than pigeon holing it as a DVR only.
     
  7. i.Feature macrumors 6502

    i.Feature

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    Montreal, Canada
    #7
    I have to say though. TIVO while nice will never end up in my home beacause i don't like to pay monthly subscriptions. And that $800 mini will also allow you to do other things in your living room that a TIVO couldn't evn come close to.
     
  8. liketom macrumors 601

    liketom

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    #8
    trust me as i have found out already 200gb is not enough space

    itunes - 70GB
    Movies - 400GB +
    Photo's 2 -3 GB

    i'm already planning my 2 TB Data solution to house my media 4 x 500Gb drives 2 as main drives 2 as backups , man if there is a time that we need HD DVD and Blu Ray it's now
     
  9. wPod thread starter macrumors 68000

    wPod

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    #9
    heh, thats the nice thing about an external drive. you can always upgrade and get a newer/larger one. too bad apple seems to be ditching FW800 !! 200 GB is enough for me right now. im not a big movie guy, i think i only have like 6 movies. which is not much space when scaled down to fit on an iPod video

    anyone with more input on the el gato? or does the myTV.PVR sound good?
     
  10. evoluzione macrumors 68010

    evoluzione

    Joined:
    Jul 19, 2002
    Location:
    down the road, that's where i'll always be
    #10
    TiVo will play your iTunes and iPhoto over the network.

    TiVo subscription costs are way less than the cost of a Mac Mini.


    seriously, you people aren't willing to pay for that? yet are willing to buy a Mac Mini for way way more (and way inferior at the task in hand)?

    wow
     
  11. i.Feature macrumors 6502

    i.Feature

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    #11
    Like i said i can do alot more with the mini. Web surfing during ads is fun. Video chat on the big screen way cooler than you can imagine. Plus movies, plus itunes, pluse photos, plus games, plus,plus plus.
     
  12. andiwm2003 macrumors 601

    andiwm2003

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    Mar 29, 2004
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    Boston, MA
    #12
    i would buy a used 1.25ghz G4 Mini for ~$500 or a used one for less.
    add the elgato eye tv 200 for ~ $250.

    that's it. it does all you want for $750.

    i have that setup running on my PB G4 instead of a mini. that allows to have the output directly from the PB to the TV. so if you replace the mini with an old used 12"PB you might still pay under $1000 and there is no need for your 21" CRT monster anymore.
     
  13. wPod thread starter macrumors 68000

    wPod

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    #13
    its not just the monthly fee for the TiVo. . . its also the fact that the current generation of TiVo has the ability to prevent you from recording certain shows.

    but of big importance the project is for FUN, i want to see if i can get something to end up as simple as TiVo, yet it can do many more things. like im going to set up an ssh serve on the mini so i can download my programs from anywhere (similar to the slingbox. . .add another $250 to the price of your tivo) but anway. . . lets stop talking price. im trying to do something FUN with a mac. so maybe its not the cheapest option in the world for a stand alone TiVo, but im looking to do a lot more with it than JUST a TiVo.
     
  14. ClarkeB macrumors 6502

    ClarkeB

    Joined:
    Jan 24, 2005
    #14
    Plus...as hyped as TiVo is...oftentimes your local cable provider's DVR solution is much nicer! Honestly...I had the Humax TiVo DVR+DVDR and it was "great"...then about 9 months later I got a high def TV and got the DVR as part of the HD service. Needless to say...my TiVo was replaced immediately! Not only can the non-brand name DVR record in high def, but it also records all shows in the same quality! (as opposed to TiVo where you choose between low, medium, and high...with high still being worse than if you were watching TV straight from the cable).
     
  15. Le Big Mac macrumors 68020

    Le Big Mac

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    Location:
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    #15
    Although the next Tivo (series 3) supposedly will have a firewire port so you can add on as many hard drives as you want. And it will be HD.
     
  16. wPod thread starter macrumors 68000

    wPod

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    #16
    right-o

    i solved one of the problems. my DVI to VGA adapter that came with the mini seemed to be the problem. i am currently using the DVI to VGA adapter that came with my PB and it works. though I will probably go to the apple store and swap for the broken adapter when i get some free time.
     
  17. wPod thread starter macrumors 68000

    wPod

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    #17
    Pictures - Step 1

    ok heres a pic of what it looks like right now. pretty sloppy with cables everywhere!!! im still thinking about swapping the myTV.PVR for the elgato . . . everything i read says the elgato totally rocks. but it costs twice as much as the myTV.PVR so i dont know.

    [​IMG]
     
  18. MacTruck macrumors 65816

    MacTruck

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    #18
    EyeTV EyeTV EyeTV EyeTV EyeTV EyeTV EyeTV EyeTV EyeTV EyeTV EyeTV EyeTV EyeTV EyeTV EyeTV EyeTV EyeTV EyeTV EyeTV EyeTV EyeTV EyeTV EyeTV EyeTV EyeTV EyeTV EyeTV EyeTV EyeTV EyeTV EyeTV EyeTV EyeTV EyeTV EyeTV EyeTV EyeTV EyeTV EyeTV EyeTV EyeTV EyeTV EyeTV EyeTV EyeTV EyeTV EyeTV EyeTV EyeTV EyeTV EyeTV EyeTV EyeTV EyeTV EyeTV EyeTV EyeTV EyeTV EyeTV EyeTV EyeTV EyeTV EyeTV EyeTV EyeTV EyeTV EyeTV EyeTV EyeTV EyeTV EyeTV EyeTV EyeTV EyeTV EyeTV EyeTV EyeTV EyeTV EyeTV EyeTV EyeTV EyeTV EyeTV EyeTV EyeTV EyeTV EyeTV EyeTV EyeTV EyeTV EyeTV EyeTV EyeTV EyeTV EyeTV EyeTV EyeTV EyeTV EyeTV EyeTV EyeTV EyeTV EyeTV EyeTV EyeTV EyeTV EyeTV EyeTV EyeTV EyeTV EyeTV EyeTV EyeTV EyeTV EyeTV EyeTV EyeTV EyeTV EyeTV EyeTV EyeTV EyeTV EyeTV EyeTV EyeTV EyeTV EyeTV EyeTV EyeTV EyeTV EyeTV EyeTV EyeTV EyeTV EyeTV EyeTV EyeTV EyeTV EyeTV EyeTV EyeTV EyeTV EyeTV EyeTV EyeTV EyeTV EyeTV EyeTV EyeTV EyeTV EyeTV EyeTV EyeTV EyeTV EyeTV EyeTV EyeTV EyeTV EyeTV EyeTV EyeTV EyeTV EyeTV EyeTV EyeTV EyeTV EyeTV EyeTV EyeTV EyeTV EyeTV EyeTV EyeTV EyeTV EyeTV EyeTV EyeTV EyeTV EyeTV EyeTV
     
  19. andiwm2003 macrumors 601

    andiwm2003

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    Location:
    Boston, MA
    #19
    i didn't get it. can you please say it again?
     
  20. heffledave macrumors newbie

    heffledave

    Joined:
    Mar 22, 2006
    Location:
    Boston, MA
    #20
    Mac Mini as a DVR cheap???

    I just bought a refreshed Mac Mini (G4 1.42 w/ Superdrive) with the sole purpose of using it as a DVR. Along with it I purchased an Elgato EyeTV200, which allows you to watch record using the built-in 125-channel analog tuner, OR through any other composite/s-video input you have. The problem with the EyeTV200 is that it's kind of pricey ($329, unless you can find it at an Apple Store as a refreshed item, which would save you $280.) EyeTV, however, is very easy to use, works just like a TiVo, and lets you extract commercials and burn programming to a DVD, as well as easily export to the iPod without having to use Quicktime Pro.

    MY biggest problem came when I wanted to output video to both a television and a VGA computer monitor. Basically, NTSC resolution (US television standard) is horrible compared to a computer monitor, but who is honestly going to crowd around my 17" computer monitor to watch a movie? Since I want to use my computer as an all-in-one media device (ie movies, music, television, and internet access) I want the flexibility of a higher res monitor, but the size of my tv set. After a bit of searching I found an adapter to do the job. The GXP-200 Ultimate XP Pro PC-to-TV Converter ($70-$100) allows you to do is use a television (or VCR, or other device with a composite/s-video/rgb input) simultaneously with a computer monitor.

    Bottom line is that if you're trying to build an effective DVR using a Mac Mini, it's going to cost you some cash no matter which route you go. So far, my rig has cost me $660 ($530 for the Mini, $50 for the EyeTV200 (both refreshed items at an Apple Store,) and another $80 for the GXP-2000.) If you have to choose between recording your favorite tv show and eating, I'd choose that which would keep me alive (whichever that may be.)
     
  21. wPod thread starter macrumors 68000

    wPod

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    Denver, CO
    #21
    so, you are in favor of the EyeTV?!?

    heffledave seems a little more clear on the subject:
    wha? huh? how? $50 for the EyeTV 200?!?!?!!! its like $330 new how can they mark it down to $50!!! i totally want one for $50, but i also want one because of the commercial extraction you mentioned.

    and dont worry about me eating or not. if i spend a little extra money on the project (330 for the eye tv vs 150 for the myTV.PVR) then i will only have less money for alcohol at my bar

    so it pretty much sounds like i should go for the eyeTV, maybe ill search around for it somewhere thats not the apple store. or maybe for the magical $50 price!
     
  22. wPod thread starter macrumors 68000

    wPod

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    #22
    arg. . . so everyone finally convinced me to go for the elgato eyeTV 200. so i returned the myTV.PVR to compUSA then went to the apple store, which on monday had an elgato eyeTV, and they said they were out. then they said they didnt even cary it anymore, they only cary the eyeTV EZ not the 200!!! (the 200 has an encoding chip with the EZ lets your computer do all of the encoding, not a task for the Intel Core Solo chip :-/) so now im trying to track down a place to find the elgato for cheap. . . should i check e-bay??!?!?
     
  23. mrichmon macrumors 6502a

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    Jun 17, 2003
    #23
    FrontRow is nice, but if you want access to a broader selection of your media files take a look at MediaCentral.
     
  24. wPod thread starter macrumors 68000

    wPod

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    #24
    cool, looks like an interesting option to play around with. but right now i seem to be in a desperate search for the eyeTV 200!!! arg!!! even the elgato site says "Currently unavailable" what do i do???? it seems since monday the EyeTV has been outdated. i dont want to get the EyeTV EZ b/c it does not have a hardware encoding chip!! Now I am worried about going to an online retailer such as Amazon or MacMall or such. If they say they have one, and suddenly elgato is not supplying them, then i am out of luck! yikes any ideas!?!?!
     
  25. wPod thread starter macrumors 68000

    wPod

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    #25
    well, it seems that people have lost interest in this. but, i upon everyone recommendation I finally ordered an elgato EyeTV 200. i had the hardest time finding one. the elgato online store says they are not available. of the 3 apple stores in/near dallas (knox, northpark and willowbend) NONE of them had the eyeTV 200 they only had the eyeTV EZ or the 500 :-/ i ended up finding the 200 at microcenter, but they had it marked up to 380! the MSRP is only 330! i noticed a couple other video capture devices were also marked up an extra $50 from the MSRP . . . so yeah, microcenter is off of my shopping list now! (except they sometimes have really good deals on some stuff, but apparently only when its marked down! heh) i also orderd a miniStack that will look a little better than the generic external enclosure i bought.
     

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