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SnApple Mac mini PVR

 
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PostPosted: Wed May 03, 2006 7:20 pm    Post subject: SnApple Mac mini PVR Reply with quote

SnApple Mac mini PVR
Wednesday, May 3, 2006

Percy, from SnapStream, has posted a nice article about turning the Mac mini into a Windows-based PVR. "When the Intel Mac mini was released, we were one step closer to our SnApple PVR. There were bountiful rumors about how Windows could now finally be installed on a Mac. This wasn't as easy a task as one would think. With EFI (a new replacement for BIOS), the Intel Mac mini wasn't a PC in Mac clothing. It was truly a new, unique PC using state-of-the-art components. This is nothing new with Apple, which is always on the cutting edge of technology. When Boot Camp was released it was the final piece of the puzzle that brought everything together," writes Percy on the SnapStream Blog. Although we strongly disagree with the Con "It's a Mac", we think Mac mini HTPC enthusiasts will find this to be an interesting read.

Thanks, MiniMoe!



http://www.123macmini.com/news/story/472.html


Last edited by admin on Wed May 03, 2006 8:38 pm; edited 3 times in total
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SOCOMRAIDER
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PostPosted: Wed May 03, 2006 7:42 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Well I'm not surprised he complained about the price. He bought a $500 home theater in a box and spent more on a 360. Along with the Zenith TV, no matter how big it is, isn't exactly the most expensive of item.
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MiniMoe
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PostPosted: Wed May 03, 2006 9:40 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Background: Dell Inspiron 8600 notebook, 2.0 GHz Pentium M, 1 GB memory, 7200 rpm 60GB HD, dual-layer burner, 128MB ATI 9600 Mobility Pro Turbo, 1920 x 1200 15.4" display... about 10% faster on WorldBench than my 1.66 Dual-Core Mini.

The FusionHDTV Gold USB is popular among the members of the AVS Forum because it works with unencrypted QAM cable. I bought it because it also does NTSC, in spite of many reports of it overloading USB port power and of poor software that causes Blue Screens of Death. But I also ordered BeyondTV4 as a backup for the Fusion software. I tried running it alone. The 8600 shut off it's USB port about half the time due to power overload, and the times that it didn't, reception wasn't good. A powered USB hub fixed that problem. I also tried using the Fusion software, but my notebook that had rarely BSODed was doing it several times an evening. That's when I uninstalled all of it except the drivers and switched to BeyondTV. SWEET! It and the Snapstream guide service are wonderful. The NTSC tuner in the Fusion USB tuner isn't very good, and the driver caused an occasional BSOD. The bottomline is that once I got used to ATSC, I couldn't care less about NTSC, so I took the NTSC stations out of my lineup and no more BSODs for a long while now. In retrospect, the VBox Cat's Eye tuner (no NTSC or QAM cable) may have been a better choice for my ATSC-only needs. There are a couple of owners who report no similar problems.

Recording is no problem (except for the 9GB/hour), but we're still on the ragged edge when it comes to Live TV, when the PC is both recording (for PVR Pause/FF) AND unencoding the MPEG2 stream. I have to reboot to clear everything up before viewing, and CPU utilization runs 55-75% average depending on motion in the programming. The problem happens if the notebook starts heating up and the Intel processor starts slowing down in response. Then CPU utilization can hit 100% and things start going squirrely. I think the problem is with the internal 7200 rpm hard drive... that's the hottest part of the notebook bottom when this starts happening. It doesn't happen too often. That's why I was glad to see a 5400 rpm drive in the Mini. The 8600 has a FireWire port and if I get an external drive for the Mini, may try it with the Dell.

The Snapstream products are highly-customizable and easy to program for, so there's a lot of user support. BeyondTV is a "10 Foot Application," meaning it's readable from 10 feet away, like Apple's "Front Row." It also works with alternative codecs, but I've found the included video one (from ATI) works better with my ATI-powered notebook than the NVIDIA PureVideo video. Others with NVIDIA video see the opposite. Many BeyondTV users have desktops with multiple tuner cards and can record one or more programs while watching another. I haven't tried it on the Mini and may not get an opportunity to do so for awhile.

Snapstream also has a 10-foot "front end" like Apple's Front Row called, "Beyond Media." IMHO, it's as bad as BeyondTV is good, but one of its features is a menu item that launches BeyondTV. The problem is that it's DVD player is functionally crippled, with no "resume play where left off feature," for example. The FF and Rewind are jumpy and don't even tell you the speed. It does let you use alternative codecs, and with the NVIDIA Pure Video codecs (from TheaterTek, see below), picture quality is almost HDTV. Unfortunately, it doesn't support ffdshow for getting that last bit of PQ. I TRIED to love Beyond Media like I do BeyondTV, but it just isn't there. The consumate DVD playing software for Windows is "TheaterTek" and I bought that with their Advanced Audio pack, which includes NVIDIA DTS and Dolby headphone support. The best part of getting the NVIDIA PureVideo codecs with TheaterTek is that they'll work with other applications. If you buy the PureVideo from NVIDIA, the audio won't work with anything except Microsoft Media Center Edition (not ZoomPlayer either). At any rate, I turned off Snapstream's own DVD Player menu item, and replaced it with a short cut to launch TheaterTek. BTW, TT is also a 10 foot app, except for the file browser to find ripped DVDs on your disk. The best solution there is to use a BeyondMedia user-developed plug-in called DVD Library. This is literally an eye-watering application for maintaining DVDs on a server. If there's any reason to buy Beyond Media, it's this (and it can launch TheaterTek instead of Snapstream's DVD player).

The other problem I had with Beyond Media is that its Music section is tied heavily to Windows Media Player. Obviously, it can't play music purchased from the iTunes Store. But worse, it finds files ripped in unprotected .m4a and puts them in "Other Media." Thanks to a member of the SnapStream Forums, I discovered "Music Bridge" which can move libraries and playlists back and forth between iTunes and WMP, which makes them accessible in Beyond Media. Before that, I'd put a shortcut in Beyond Media to launch iTunes, which is a "10 inch application" at best.

So here I am on the Mini with Quicktime Pro. Apple's QuicktimeHD trailer for Batman Begins is eye-watering on the 23" Cinema HD Display. Unfortunately, playing the DVD in the Mini is the other kind of eye-watering... crying. When it comes to PQ, Apple's DVD Player is just below the worst of the Windows players, PowerDVD version 4 or 5 (the codecs that ship with Snapstream's Beyond Media, by the way). And Front Row uses Apple's DVD Player.

Front Row also doesn't have any way of launching EyeTV. I hear "Media Central" does, but from what I hear, EyeTV is another "10 inch" application. Obviously, I'm really new to the Mini and have a lot of these things to discover for myself.

At this stage of the game, I believe those who say when it comes to Home Theater, the best thing to do with the Mini is run Windows on it. BeyondTV, TheaterTek... and maybe Beyond Media. I'll try it when I finally get time, but I really want to try to do this in OS-X.

Hope this helps,
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PostPosted: Wed May 03, 2006 10:00 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Let me add a couple of things... it seems on the Windows side, codecs for a particular format generally work with all applications, while on the Mac, applications look for one particular codec and that's it.

The other thing that bothers me is that tuners only ship with software for one platform or the other. For example, Fusion and VBox only support Windows and EyeTV only supports the Mac. Bummer.
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PostPosted: Thu May 04, 2006 3:26 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I really really like Front Row, but find myself using MediaCentral more and more every day. Right now, the ability to play VIDEO_TS files has been the major draw. It's great being able to turn on your external drive and have them all show up in the DVD menu. I just wish scrolling down those menus with the Apple Remote was a little faster. I've also had it crash on me a few times trying to escape out of a movie using the Apple Remote and keyboard, so it's far from a stability standpoint.

As far as a PVR, I was thinking about buying the new EyeTV 250. But I'm going to wait for the reviews because I'm a little concerned about the USB 2.0 interface. I'm pretty sure the EyeTV 2 software will be more than enough for my needs. Plus, I would like to do all this inside OS X. Boot Camp still has some audio bugs that need ironed out.
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PostPosted: Fri May 05, 2006 9:56 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

MiniMoe wrote:
EyeTV is another "10 inch" application.


This is by far EyeTV's biggest problem. You can get through watching a program using just the keys on the remote. But when you need to look at your recordings or schedule programs, you need a mouse, keyboard, and you have to be 10-inches from the screen in order to see all the 12-point text.

MediaCentral supposedly supports EyeTV, but (a) I don't think it supports scheduling recordings, only playback and (b) it doesn't claim to support the EyeTV 500, which is the only way to get HDTV.

The unfortunate summary is that "living room media frontend" software is much more advanced on the Windows side than it is on the Mac. I'm not surprised people are resorting to Boot Camp to build a decent HTPC.
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PostPosted: Fri May 05, 2006 11:19 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Quote:
But when you need to look at your recordings or schedule programs, you need a mouse, keyboard


put down the crack pipe ... do you even have EyeTV ? You don't need a keyboard/mouse to do that, the buttons are on the EyeTV remote.

"But it suffered from the same problem that all Apple products have—it’s an Apple product! It looked cool but you just couldn't do anything practical in terms of creating an HTPC. "

Whatever ... my Mac mini is the perfect Media Centre.

+ I can play and record TV
+ I can play DVDs
+ I can play region-free DVDs via VLC
+ I can play AVI files downloaded off the net in FrontRow or VLC
+ I can play iTunes
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PostPosted: Sat May 06, 2006 12:50 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

MiniMoe wrote:
Background: Dell Inspiron 8600 notebook, 2.0 GHz Pentium M, 1 GB memory, 7200 rpm 60GB HD, dual-layer burner, 128MB ATI 9600 Mobility Pro Turbo, 1920 x 1200 15.4" display... about 10% faster on WorldBench than my 1.66 Dual-Core Mini.

I used to have this exact same laptop. MAN do I miss that resolution! Why doesn't Apple offer some decent, high-density displays on their laptops?? That's my single, biggest complaint with Apple.
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PostPosted: Sat May 06, 2006 7:11 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Evil or Very Mad Oh, c'mon.. this is a joke! Boot Camp has been made available to help Windows serfs make the transition to the Utopia that is Mac without a hit to their wallets. Let's be honest, the petrol bowser jockeys are punching the daylights out of peoples' salaries, so a cunning inside run towards a more secure computing environment than Windows is a great coaching plan.
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PostPosted: Thu May 11, 2006 10:14 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

sikosis wrote:
Quote:
But when you need to look at your recordings or schedule programs, you need a mouse, keyboard


put down the crack pipe ... do you even have EyeTV ? You don't need a keyboard/mouse to do that, the buttons are on the EyeTV remote.


Umm....yes, I do have EyeTV. An EyeTV 500 to be precise, with the latest software.

So tell me how to browse the program guide and schedule a recording using just the remote control.

You can look at the program guide, start a live recording, and play back a previously recorded program. But no button on the remote that I can find will let you create a scheduled recording off the program guide. Especially sitting eight feet from the TV set.
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