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Media (Apple) Businesses Media Apple

Mac PVR Coming Soon 182

mgrochmal writes "One of the items bouncing around the rumor mills is EyeTV, a TiVo-like device for Apple computers. Made by El Gato Software, it hooks up to one of the Mac's USB ports and captures MPEG-1 video, with a choice between a VideoCD-compatible recording, or a higher quality recording. You can read about a preview build of it, as well as read a comparison between it and a TiVo." It doesn't come with a hard drive; and here I was, thinking I wouldn't fill up my new 160GB hard drive any time soon. Silly me.
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Mac PVR Coming Soon

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  • ATi has marketed a couple of their cards with TiVo-like capabilities, and they are awful. It's not a driver issue this time (a first for ATi), but the software iself is crappy and unreliable. Without a Mac it won't do me much good, but it's nice that someone's going to give it another go.
    • My TV burned up 4 years ago, and thanks to ATI. VirtualDub, and recently GATOS gatos.sourceforge.net I haven't seen a commercaial or an annoying network logo for YEARS. Maybe you just stuck with the CRAP software that ATI ships, I haven't. 5 mins of clipping, 15 mins of processing, and an annoying 60 minutes of TV turns into 40 mins of unfettered joy. And I get to keep it for those dull TV nights! Ted Turner can kiss my ass!
    • How does bad bundled software make the cards awful? Although I haven't found the ATI TV tuner bundled software to be unreliable, it isn't as full-featured as the standalone PVRs. But, since there's a fair amount of better WDM-compatible PVR software out there, it's not like you're stuck with the quality of ATI's bundled solution...
    • ATI's Mac PVR products are nearly useless. Their PC All-in-Wonder AGP and PCI cards are, however, the best such cards available, and will easily blow the doors off a Mac-based PVR with this new EyeTV thing. Why? For one thing, as mentioned on ArsTechnica, EyeTV is limited to MPEG-1 bitrates suitable for transmission over USB--in other words, low resolution crap.

      Real PVR solutions with highest quality capabilities--MPEG-2 in full resolution with decent bitrates, for example--are only possible over the AGP or PCI bus. Such solutions are commonplace in the PC world, and many work wonders. They're almost unknown in the Mac consumer space because so many Mac users have iMacs that can't use them, or wouldn't want to tinker inside their towers, that it hasn't been deemed profitable enough yet.

      Of course, it's possible a Firewire solution could provide high quality TiVo-like abilities for the Mac, but as of yet no one has tried.
  • USB? Ick. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Space Coyote ( 413320 ) on Tuesday July 16, 2002 @11:15AM (#3894415) Homepage
    Give me FireWire, please. MPEG-1 video quality isn't going to cut it on a Mac, I'm afraid.
    • USB has more than enough bandwidth for a TV video and audio signal.

      I SO want one of these, seeing them just yesterday on their website. A friend's dad just got one for HIS Mac, and loves it, rejoicing in being able to get rid of his TiVo ;)
      • A friend's dad just got one for HIS Mac, and loves it, rejoicing in being able to get rid of his TiVo ;)
        Are you serious? This thing is nowhere close to replacing my TiVo. I didn't see any mention of it being able to control DSS receivers or cable boxes.
      • USB has more than enough bandwidth for a TV video and audio signal.

        You're kidding, right? Maybe if it's compressed...and given the way USB was designed, I wouldn't expect to be able to do much with your computer while it's capturing. For an external gadget, FireWire would've been much better. DV would be a better capture format than MPEG; it's more easily edited (which is good for cutting ads out of stuff you want to archive). Sony has a device that converts analog video (composite or S-video) to DV and puts it out on FireWire...add a computer-controlled tuner to it and you'd be all set.

        (Do Macs have AGP slots? If they do, why couldn't someone drop in any old video card that the rest of us use? Failing that, I know most of 'em do PCI, and you can still find video cards and capture cards that use PCI. I capture to Huffyuv-compressed AVI (720x480, 29.97 fps) with an All-In-Wonder Radeon. The video goes to MPEG only after all the ads are edited out.)

        • there's this exellent external firewire tv/dv-in + tuner device from Formac

          http://www.formac.co.uk/html/products/av/stud_1. ht m

          (too bad it costs more than a small tv)

        • Re:USB? Ick. (Score:3, Interesting)

          by foobar104 ( 206452 )
          Of course the video would be compressed. By some standards, 8 Mbps MPEG-2 is broadcast quality (for SD, of course), so the 12 Mbps bandwidth of the USB connection is way overkill.

          And as for DV, at 25 Mbps it's about five times the bandwidth that a consumer piece of gear should have to deal with. If it weren't 4:1:1*, it'd be better than DVD in a lot of ways.

          An inexpensive consumer PVR really only needs to deal with MPEG-2, at bit rates around and below 4 Mbps. Anything more than that is too dang much.

          * This notation refers to the number of samples taken from each color component channel. TV is expressed in the YUV color space, meaning one channel of luminance (a black-and-white signal, essentially) and two channels of color. It's not like RGB where each color is a primary hue, so don't bother trying to think of it that way. The very best way to sample is 4:4:4, or four samples per cycle of each channel. A good compromise is 4:2:2, or twice as many luminance samples as color samples. This maintains both good image resolution and good color resolution. DV samples at 4:1:1, which means the colors are ``squashed.'' Two shades that are close to one another on the uncompressed video will come out of the DV process as the same hue. So DV, despite its high bit rate, isn't quite good enough for broadcast work. At least, that's the prevailing opinion among the folks I work with.
          • > Of course the video would be compressed.

            That's the problem you just don't seem to understand. It has to be compressed BEFORE it goes over the USB bus, meaning it has to be done either by cheap low-quality hardware or expensive broadcast-quality hardware. Guess which kind comes on sub-$500 dongles like this POS? So, the video will be poorly compressed and low-quality. What good is that supposedly superior PPC processor if it doesn't even get to do all the compression, and instead gets a stream pre-compressed by a cheap lossy EyeTV chipset?

            Contrast that to the AGP All-in-Wonder solutions and the many PCI solutions for the PC, which have ten to fifty times more bandwidth and can let the CPU handle most of the encoding duties to produce high-quality realtime MPEG-2 or other captures at full NTSC or PAL resolution, not comparatively crappy 320x240 or so MPEG-1.

            Seriously, go rad the ArsTechnica A/V Club FAQ and forum before you spout this ill-educated nonsense. Better yet, go mention it on the AVSforum website, this idea that crappy MPEG-1 over USB is going to rival a real encoding card. Bah.
            • First of all, you're being kind of an asshole. There's no need at all to use phrases like ``ill-educated nonsense,'' particularly when you know that's not the case.

              But what's worse, you didn't even understand my post. The assertion was made that USB isn't good enough for a video device. I refuted that idea, completely. SD at 8 Mbps MPEG-2, MP@ML, is considered (by most) to be broadcast quality. USB's bandwidth is 12 Mbps. QED.

              As for the device in question, I have no opinion at all. Never seen it, don't know. That said, I've never seen a software MPEG-2 encoder that could work in real time, so I can't really have an opinion about those, either.

              If you want to throw more bits at the problem, go right ahead. It's your money. Hell, if you can find a way to get SDI to your house, you can store 270 Mbps of raw data, if you want. But don't take an extreme position and then argue that everybody else's position sucks. That's just annoying.

              You know what I think? I think *all* compressed video kinda sucks. I don't enjoy watching sports in OTA HD as much as I wish I could because I can see the compression artifacts. Dealing with uncompressed HD on an Inferno all day makes it hard to come home and watch HDNET at 15 Mbps. But just take a deep breath and repeat after me: It's just television. It doesn't matter.
              • > First of all, you're being kind of an asshole.

                Sorry if I was, but I see so many ill-educated posts here that could be cured by a quick trip to the ArsTechnica A/V FAQ or the AVS Forum that it's quite annoying. These issues of USB-based video capture devices have already been discussed ad nauseam and demonstrated conclusively. This has even been pointed out on Slashdot before. Yet for some reason, a large number of Slashdot's newer Mac users are completely ignorant of such issues and discussions.

                > SD at 8 Mbps MPEG-2, MP@ML, is considered (by most) to be broadcast
                > quality. USB's bandwidth is 12 Mbps. QED.

                Not QED, because to compress it *before* it gets sent over the USB bus into a quality MPEG-2 stream would take *expensive* professional-quality encoding equipment. That's not what EyeTV is; it's yet another consumer USB MPEG-1 encoder so by definition its picture will be rather poor. There are already comparable devices for both the PC and Mac, such as the ATI TV-Wonder USB, and such devices are roundly panned as low-quality, with noisy pictures and bad artifacting and too-low bitrates. PCI and AGP solutions are worlds better. Here's a quick primer on some of them, with the ATI All-in-Wonder line being pretty clear winners:


                > I've never seen a software MPEG-2 encoder that could work in real time,
                > so I can't really have an opinion about those, either.

                That's what devices like the ATI All-in-Wonder Radeon 8500 and similar can do when paired with a fast processor. Powerful CPUs are cheap these days--may as well put them to use more intensive than word-processing. Depending on the settings, picture quality can be quite impressive.

                These issues I've witnessed first-hand because I not only use an older PCI-based capture card, I've also taken to downloading many of the TV shows I watch regularly and would probably want to keep a day or two after they've been aired from USENET, rather than having to watch them at a particular time. That's exposed me to a lot of different captures with the whole spectrum of equipment. Depending on the equipment and capture methods and quality of the source some captures look *almost* DVD-quality, while others look (and sound) horrible. People often list their equipment in the readme files for their posts, and the equipment that provides the worst-quality video is USB. It just isn't suitable for such devices, at least not until a truly cheap broadcast-quality MPEG-2 encoder chipset is invented for them. Even so, remember that USB's top throughput listing is a *burst* speed, unlike Firewire's, and that the bus will be shared between any other USB peripherals connected. This just makes the USB bus a risky method of realtime A/V data collection, particularly on Macs where USB speakers and hard drives and CD devices are so common. As Apple themselves point out, USB is for low-bandwidth peripherals like keyboards and mice and webcams and the occasional digital camera or such. Firewire is much better for more intensive uses.

                > But don't take an extreme position and then argue that everybody else's
                > position sucks.

                It's not an extreme position in the least. Go to sites populated with people who use consumer capture technology, and there's about 90% agreement with my position. Start by going to the ArsTechnica.com forums' "A/V Club" and reading their FAQ if you disbelieve what I'm saying. My position is mainstream in the community which buys most of the consumer video capture devices.
                • So... after I tried to explain, without ambiguity, that I have nothing to say about the EyeTV thingy specifically, you decided to just hop up and down on the same point again? That's no fun.

                  Let me just put the last nail in this particular coffin. I don't know everything, but I work with broadcast video every day, so I have some working knowledge at least. We're talking about the width of the pipe, here, and that's all. I have seen a USB hard drive sustain reads of about 900 KB per second for an hour, so it's clear that USB is capable, in the most literal sense, of sustaining transfers in excess of 10 Mbps. Since you can squeeze an awful lot of broadcast-quality video into 10 Mbps, USB is therefore not inherently unsuited to compressed video transport.

                  You seem to be arguing-- for reasons that baffle me-- that the fact that the video must be compressed outside the computer sucks and that only internal, software-based compression is okay. Based on the rack of SD and HD MPEG-2 encoding gear in my lab at the office, I'd have to call ``bullshit'' on that assertion. As I've said before, I have never seen a professional application of a software-based real-time MPEG-2 encoder, so I can't really form an opinion. But they're conspicuous by their absence, I think.

                  I mean, let's put this in perspective. There are two kinds of compressed video: broadcast quality, and horseshit. On that scale, everything I've ever seen south of a Minerva VNP is horseshit, and that includes both USB encoders and consumer PCI cards.

                  You find the variety of horseshit compressed video you can squeeze out of your PC to be acceptable, but you find the kind you can get out of the EyeTV widget to be unacceptable. That's a valid opinion, and I respect it. But don't let that develop into a superiority complex. It's still horseshit.
                  • > Based on the rack of SD and HD MPEG-2 encoding gear in my lab

                    Again, this is my point, and this is why you're so heartily mistaken. That is expensive non-consumer-level equipment that you're discussing. Consumer-level equipment *cannot* compress into a good-quality MPEG-2 stream, period, and without any extant exception. "Real" PVRs can do so because TiVos and such are produced on a much larger scale than PC or Mac based USB devices and have economies of scale to reduce component costs; PC and Mac USB devices do not. And no, I was not talking only of the EyeTV device specifically, but of *every* consumer USB-based video capture device yet devised--and there are many. Go research them. All are inadequate.

                    > But don't let that develop into a superiority complex.

                    It's not a superiority complex. It's simple observation from personal experience. Well-made MPEG-2 captures with good equipment from a quality source such as a high-quality satellite broadcast can almost rival DVD quality. MPEG-1 from a USB device cannot. You may work in broadcasting, but you're talking out of your ass about a market segment of which you are ignorant. Go advise broadcast houses on what to purchase, but don't presume to say that because the peak bandwidth of unshared USB is high enough to accomodate a broadcast quality stream has *anything* to do with whether consumer USB video capture devices (not this one in particular, ALL of them) could produce a decent picture. They can't, period, and I've provided links earlier explaining why.
                    • Again, you're arguing a point that I haven't said anything about. We're talking past each other. If you want the last word on the subject, have at it. I can't see any benefit coming from discussing this further.
              • The assertion was made that USB isn't good enough for a video device. I refuted that idea, completely. SD at 8 Mbps MPEG-2, MP@ML, is considered (by most) to be broadcast quality. USB's bandwidth is 12 Mbps. QED.

                ...and do you believe that those lightweight speakers down at the computer shop for $10 really deliver 80 watts per channel? As soon as your computer has even the slightest brain fart, you're going to lose some of what the USB dongle is spitting out. I'm not sure I'd trust it to get through a one- or two-hour video capture, unless you're content to do absolutely nothing else with the computer while it's running and you're sure there are no background processes that could interfere. USB wasn't designed with this kind of use in mind. It's like sticking a scanner on a parallel port. You can do that, but is it really the best way to get the job done?

                As for the device in question, I have no opinion at all. Never seen it, don't know. That said, I've never seen a software MPEG-2 encoder that could work in real time, so I can't really have an opinion about those, either.

                The software that comes with the All-In-Wonder Radeon does on-the-fly MPEG-2 encoding at up to 720x480. I usually capture to AVI with Huffyuv compression, though. I cut the ads out before burning to SVCD, so the fewer times a lossy compression method like MPEG is applied to the video, the better.

        • And they've had PCI for quite a long time now as well.

          iMacs, of course, lack slots (except for RAM and AirPort), although the built-in video cards have been AGP-based in them for several years now.

      • USB has more than enough bandwidth for a TV video and audio signal.

        So long as this device is the only one on that USB interface.
    • I would tend to agree. The only reason I could see them going with USB is if they want to see this device in the PC market as well.

      • Re:USB? Ick. (Score:2, Interesting)

        by dthable ( 163749 )
        Most PC users should start seeing IEEE 1394 in the near future. Sony is really pushing to use it with their new digital hub like PCs and in their products. Besides, now that the Mac users have paid with their first born for FireWire devices, the market is prime for PC cheapskates to pick up on our trend.
    • I agree. I use Macs at school for video editing (Final Cut Pro, not that iMovie stuff), and the footage captured is exactly like the real deal. Granted, thats just raw footage, and takes up an obscene amount of space. However, when we need to use cameras without FireWire ports, it becomes a pain in the arse to import it. From camera to DV tape to Mac, and there is a quality loss, since the camera is analog. This would be awesome, but MPEG-1? Granted, its for a PVR function, but still. If they made it FireWire, it'd give the option of importing the raw footage. Yet another cool gadget for a Mac that fails because it doesn't use the Macs full potential.

      Now, if only I could convince them to put OS X on the machines...Then I'd be really happy. No more crappy OS 9!
    • Re:USB? Ick. (Score:5, Informative)

      by jht ( 5006 ) on Tuesday July 16, 2002 @11:36AM (#3894625) Homepage Journal
      I think for the design goal, MPEG-1 should be fine (it's just a cruddy NTSC signal, after all), but I'm not nuts about using USB for yet another device. I've already got enough USB devices, and some play nicely with a hub and some don't. USB is almost the second coming of SCSI as far as voodoo goes.

      Just as an example, on my TiBook 667 I have 2 USB ports. On them are:

      Port 1 - a MacAlly external keyboard and MS optical Intellimouse.
      Port 2 - Belkin 7-port powered USB hub.

      Then, attached to the hub I have a Palm USB adapter, one of those Griffin iKnobbie things (it's useless, but cool) a Microtech Smartmedia/CF reader, and a gamepad. But I also have several devices that'll ONLY work when either hooked up to the free port on the keyboard or directly attached to the PowerBook:

      -DiskOnKey (128MB)
      -Epson Stylus Photo 785EPX
      -Olympus D-3000 digital camera
      -Compaq iPaq 3765

      So not only are my USB ports pretty darned busy, but I have devices that'll only work in a particular order and/or port. OTOH my Firewire port has only two devices that I connect, and then only when needed: an external hard drive and a Canon DV camcorder. And I could always get a Firewire hub if I needed one.

      In general, most people are using their Firewire ports less, and if/when El Gato attacks the PC market there's a decent (and growing) number of PC's with that port (or you can add one for about $30). For their application, I think Firewire would have been a better choice.


      • my word, that's a lot of gadgets.

        I'm glad there is slashdo.. Makes me feel like my gadget consuption is low by comparison.
      • Re:USB? Ick. (Score:2, Interesting)

        by cdrj ( 556227 )
        What exactly is a Griffin iKnobbie thing? I tend to like useless and cool things, but I couldn't find what you were talking about.
        • Re:USB? Ick. (Score:2, Interesting)

          by jht ( 5006 )
          It's the Griffin PowerMate [griffintechnology.com], but at the time I couldn't remember the name of it (and I'm at work, so it isn't in front of me).

          I thought iKnobbiething was a good stand-in under the circumstances... In fact, maybe there's a market for a device with that kind of name!
      • Formac has a firewire dv/tv-in (+ tuner) - too bad it's a bit more expensive and lacks PVR software

        http://www.formac.co.uk/html/products/av/stud_1. ht m

        • Isn't there good third party PVR software for Mac? There's a fair amount of PVR software for Windows, and presumably there are a comparable number of Macheads wanting PVR capabilities on the cheap; although perhaps Mac folk would have a strong preference for the polished all-in-one-product-ness of Tivo-type systems despite the expense and lack of digital video access.

          And, another obstacle: Apple doesn't sell systems with built-in video I/O anymore. I find this kind of strange, given their kitchen sink attitude towards feature integration, and their historically good pre-G3 PowerMac AV models. Their adoption of standard PCI and AGP slots on the bigger boxen should make this a non-issue. However, many companies market PCI/AGP hardware separately for Mac and PC, sometimes even to the point of selling similar but incompatible (and sometimes feature-reduced, e.g. Apple TV tuners) products on the Mac side. Anyone know why that is? It doesn't make any sense to me.
    • Actually, MPEG-1 video quality can be very good. You're right about USB though. If you had a dedicated USB channel just for the PVR, then it might be OK; but if you have that, then odds are you're a PowerMac user with a couple extra USB PCI cards, and you expect more.

      However, I think it should be possible to do a FireWire PVR on a Mac with currently available hardware. See this post [macslash.org] of mine.

  • here I was, thinking I wouldn't fill up my new 160GB hard drive any time soon. Silly me.

    Seeing as the disk drive industry is in some pain, they gotta be cheering stuff like this on! A 160GB drive ain't so tough when you stuff it with hours of [your favorite TV shows / movies] :-)

    • I've gone past saying bye bye to disk space a long time ago. My MP3 collection alone takes up 160 GB (and all are legal...I have the CD's for any RIAA twit who wants to check). For this I'm going to need a whole new computer.
      • Care to back up that claim? You would have to have ~1000* CDs in your posession.

        This is assuming that the MP3s are at 320kbps and each CD has 74 minutes of audio, both of which are unrealistic assumptions.

        Under realistic circumstances (160 kbps, each legitimate CD having an average of 60 minutes on audio) you would need 2276 CDs to fill 160GB with MP3 files.

        Of course, you could just have 50 CDs and 20 copies of each song, but this doesn't seem like something you'd do.

        *The actual calculated number is 922.5, and I can state the calculations that I made to prove this upon request.
        • To the point, I have a lot of music. I don't really keep track of the exact number of CDs or the exact number of bytes I consume. So I guess and that's all I did.

          For the disbelievers, I collect CDs. That means owning all of the imports, early CDs and some strange music that I can only find at small shops. I frequent Atomic Records [atomic-records.com] and always on the hunt for new sounds. You didn't think it was 1000 Top 40 CDs?
    • Yep, there goes your computeter disk space and processing time in support for another device with cut-rate hardware features.

      IF it was something that hooked to an iPod, THEN you would have a hot product, as you don't need to have the computer on and running a task to intercept those shows, added portability, etc. etc. etc.

  • How does this differ from any of the other hundreds of capture cards out there? Is it different just because its apple? (This isn't a troll... I'm seriously curious =) nems
    • Re:Apply Capture? (Score:3, Informative)

      by pudge ( 3605 )
      Well, it is USB, so it is not a card, which means it will work with iMacs, iBooks, PowerBooks that don't have capability to use cards. Other than that, probably not too much different, though I don't know card specs. It mostly just captures the video, converts to MPEG-1, and is controllable via software to some extent (to change the channel or input source, for example), apparently. I sure want to play with one ...
    • The difference is... (Score:4, Informative)

      by chris_martin ( 115358 ) on Tuesday July 16, 2002 @11:32AM (#3894584)
      That it works on Mac OS X. The PVR space is well covered on wintel, but there isn't anything out there on the Mac. There are tons of video capture cards/devices on the Mac, but nothing (until now) that does PVR with scheduling and such. Plus it does MPEG1 encoding in the box so it'll work on any Mac with USB. Sure, it's not the best by todays standards, but it's lightweight and works. Plus, it's less that $200US so it's a thrid the cost of a ReplayTV or TiVO. It's missing some features compaired to ReplayTV, but not enough to make me want to spend 3 times more for it. Plus, since it creates standard MPEG1 files, I can off load them to CD/HD/whatever and save them as long as I want.
  • by guttentag ( 313541 ) on Tuesday July 16, 2002 @11:25AM (#3894501) Journal
    it hooks up to one of the Mac's USB ports and captures MPEG-1 video... and here I was, thinking I wouldn't fill up my new 160GB hard drive any time soon. Silly me.
    I have a USB TV Tuner (Eskape's MyTV, which produces abysmal video) that requires separate hardware for the audio because USB couldn't handle full-screen video plus audio. If the maker of this PVR is trying to squeeze video and audio into a USB (not USB 2) cable, I imagine the quality will be even worse.

    This doesn't make any sense. If the Macintosh is really the target platform for this, why didn't they use Firewire? All current Macs ship with Firewire (even the $799 G3 iMac).

    • USB is adequate for streaming MPEG-1 video & audio - most of those cheap USB TV tuners just send the raw video stream becuase they don't have hardware MPEG encoders.
    • As someone else has also pointed out, running uncompressed video over USB is a problem, but if you have a box that's doing hardware compression and just sending the compressed file over USB for storage then you shouldn't have any problems.

      The review mentions that the standard (only?) compression results in about 650MB of data for each hour of recording. Basing an estimate of USB bulk data transfer capacity on the fact that you can get 4x USB CDR drives, this thing is only using approximately 1/4 of the capacity of a USB connection.

      • USB isn't Firewire though--sharing USB's processor overhead and low bandwidth between devices will quickly cause problems when you're dealing with something as chunky as a video signal over USB. Since Macs use so much crap over USB, this is a recipe for disaster--imagine if you're trying to save the video stream to a USB drive while listening to the audio on your USB speakers and using your USB mouse and keyboard which are next to your USB CD-RW, etc.--not good. Even if you're saving to the internal drive or a Firewire drive, that still leaves a lot of devices sharing the USB ports--even though some are low-bandwidth low-overhead like your keyboard and mouse, that video signal needs as much bandwidth as you can get.

        Sorry, but internal AGP All-in-Wonder cards will always be the best PVRs--you can encode FULL NTSC or PAL resolution into MPEG-2 or anything else, not just lowly 320x240 or thereabouts MPEG-1. And as processors become more powerful, realtime MPEG-4 encoding of full-quality signals will become an option for such cards. But never for lowly USB devices.
  • by motardo ( 74082 ) on Tuesday July 16, 2002 @11:27AM (#3894526)
    I remember on the iPod commercial at the end and in very small print (like any disclaimer) it said "Please don't steal music". I wonder what it'll say now, probably "Don't steal anything disney related or we will hunt you down and shove lilo and stitch related crap down your throats"
  • by benwaggoner ( 513209 ) <ben DOT waggoner AT microsoft DOT com> on Tuesday July 16, 2002 @11:27AM (#3894529) Homepage
    Alas, MPEG-1`is a lousy format for PVR use of any quality. MPEG-2 only stores video as progressive scan. However, TV is broadcast as interlaced, where the even lines are captured 1/59.94th of a second off from the odd lines. The difference between fields includes half of the video compression information.

    Since MPEG-1 can't store data like this, one of the two fields will have to be discarded before capturing. This means you'll lose half of the temporal information automatically. This will leave anything originally shot of film looking jerky on playback, and anything shot on video less "present."

    Good PVR systems use MPEG-2, which can store fields. There are good MPEG-2 hardware cards for Mac, even, that they could use instead. Heck, a Dual G4 can encode MPEG-2 in software in significantly faster than real time with the DVD Studio Pro Codec.
    • It stores it as MPEG-1 so it's easy to burn to a VideoCD for storage and playback on my DVD players.

    • by Nomad7674 ( 453223 ) on Tuesday July 16, 2002 @11:38AM (#3894645) Homepage Journal
      Keep in mind that the selling point here is NOT just a PVR. If all you want is a PVR, it would be just as good to invest in a Tivo or ReplayTV unit which is dedicated and, as you say, provides higher-quality video. This is also a VCR replacement by providing a cheap way to both record programs in a PVR-style and then save them to a cheap disk-based media. With this unit and Toast, you can easily record your favorite Simpsons episodes, then burn then to a VCD for playing on your DVD player. It makes it sort of a poor-man's DVD recorder (since component DVD recorders are still in the $1000+ range).

      This is why my brother is looking hard at buying an EyeTV. Course, he could also look for a solution with a DVD-burner built into it and a MPEG-2 encoder card, but that costs a lot more than the $200 he would be spending to add this to his exiting iMac + External DVD-burner setup.

    • Maybe this is an ignorant question, but why not just de-interlace the video before compressing it? De-interlacing NTSC-resolution video is a fairly trivial task in the digital realm, although I admit I would have no idea how to go about it with an analog signal.
    • Might it be possible that the h/w is performing some sort of basic deinterlacing to get around this?

      That said, MPEG-2 would be the best approach.

      Or even better, if someone released Bt8x8 drivers for OS X - Then you'd be able to use one of the many PCI tuner cards which give FAR better performance at a lower price.

      Shouldn't be that hard... Just a matter of someone porting the BTTV drivers...
  • I can do video capture on my Mac in iMovie with a DV bridge, without even using a special video capture card; that doesn't make my Mac a PVR... does it?
    • Set up a cron job to record the simpsons when you're not at home and you've got everything this does. (assuming you have a way of tuning a TV signal, of course)
      • cron jobs in OS9? :)

        Yes, I know there's cron-type software out there... could probably write an applescript for it, too. But, I'm not running OS X on the box I'm doing the video stuff on, since it won't play nice with the SOnnet G4 upgrade.
        • What system are you running? Have you used Sonnet's OS X installer [sonnettech.com] to go with their upgrades?

          I've installed OS X on my stock 8600 (300Mhz 604e)and would be a little surprised if you couldn't make the G4 upgrade work. Of course there is often other issues out there.

  • This is not a rumor; this is an announced, real, for-sale-today product. www.elgato.com.

    This will work with a Mac, but is not an Apple product. Just to be clear.
    • This will work with a Mac, but is not an Apple product. Just to be clear.

      I'm not sure the lead could have been any more clear on this point. It says right there that the product is "Made by El Gato Software" with a direct link to their homepage, on which the featured product is EyeTV. How exactly is that deceptive at all?
  • A friend of mine has had a Dazzle USB for like 2 years. It's a nice little curvy box with composite + audio and s-video i/o and a usb connection. I dunno if it works on a Mac, but I dont see any reson why it wouldn't. (unless they were just bone-headed and didn't make drivers)

    Newer models have DV connections & the USB product is now sold as the lower end (MPEG-1) solution.

    • I believe they were bone-headed and didn't make drivers.

      Not that it matters, because (as you said) Dazzle has a Firewire based DV bridge (the Hollywood model) that works great. Composite / s-video in and out, just like the usb, only running a much higher thruput with the Firewire. That's what I picked up, and it works great. I can patch it into my vcr and record live tv, too! See my previous comments about my Mac possibly being a PVR ;)
  • Not a Rumor (Score:5, Informative)

    by robertchin ( 66419 ) on Tuesday July 16, 2002 @11:29AM (#3894551) Homepage
    Well, I hate to break it to you, but this is not a rumor. See: http://www.elgato.com/eyeTV/index.html [elgato.com] for more details.
    • Re:Not a Rumor (Score:1, Flamebait)

      by Asprin ( 545477 )
      Well, I hate to break it to you, but this is not a rumor. See: http://www.elgato.com/eyeTV/index.html [elgato.com] for more details.

      Ok, so if it's designed to be plugged into a Mac, why does it have a USB port instead of FireWire? [elgato.com] Don't tell me Apple's given up already!

      • Well, it's not coming out of apple, it's from a third party. It's basically the same thing that has been out for several years on the PC (on the fly MPEG-1 converter, such as the one made by Dazzle), with the addition of scheduled recording and a TV guide. I don't think MPEG-1 requires that much bandwidth, Dazzle made a device that transferred data over the parallel port!
    • /. was just trying to get their press pass to MacWorld rescinded by claiming it's a rumor.

  • by bitmason ( 191759 ) on Tuesday July 16, 2002 @11:35AM (#3894609) Homepage
    The difference between a Tivo and all of the PC hardware/software combinations is like night and day. Tivo (usually) just works and fundamentally lets you break away from being tied to program schedules.

    By contrast all the PC software that I've tried is still fundamentally based on pointing at a programming ggrid and asking the software to record something. That's when it works. I've had a lot of problems with, not only drivers, but also the software itself doing things like having problems recording adjacent programs -- to say nothing of crashing on a fairly regular basis.

    I've come to believe that we'll move toward having a "digital entertainment center" that may be (hopefully will be) based on as open an architecture as possible but will be optimized for specific types of entertainment-related functions as opposed to general computing. We all like the idea of this infinitely hackable, totally open computer device, but -- at least for now -- I think Tivo has demonstrated rather convincingly that specialization has some advantages too.
  • USB is not going to cut it for quality video and audio. Really isn't a PVR as much as it is a toy. I was excited, at first, when I heard rumors of the device but I was hoping for a Firewire device. I expect "ElGato" will have a bunch of these puppies sitting in pallets in their warehouse for a long time.

    My major beef with Mac OS X right now is no TV-in card. I like to have CNN/CNBC/Fox News in a little window running while I type away at my work. With a three monitor Mac system, I have plenty of places to put that window. I have an ATI All-In-Wonder card that works beautifully in Mac OS 9 but has no drivers for Mac OS X and ATI doesn't give a damn if it ever does. It just runs one of the monitor like a plain RagePro 128. Which is fine, because I will never buy another card from ATI nor will my business until ATI provides TV-in/out drivers for the All-In-Wonder for Mac OS X. Unfair? Maybe so, but I am the customer, so I am always right. Nvidia is now my sole Mac Video Card supplier.

    • I got an XClaim VR (Rage 128) when ATI was closing them out, and I got an external TV Tuner with it. As you mention, it works under 9 but the Mac OS X drivers don't recognize the TV Tuner. Too bad, because if ATI had offered some decent Mac OS X software to support this tuner I'd certainly buy it. Heck, they could simply give specs to the creator of BTV and he'd be happy to do it.

      This is always the strongest argument for OSS for me: When hardware makers stop supporting their hardware. I've got a nice little pile of perfectly good hardware that simply needs driver support. Everytime I look at my pile I'm reminded which vendors don't support me - and I avoid supporting them right back.

      By the way, USB has enough bandwidth for MPEG-1 compressed video. According to the specs I've read, an hour of the smaller video size takes up about 650MB. That's about 185K bytes per second which USB can easily handle.
  • http://www.archos.com/us/products/product_jbmm.htm l

    It's a 20 GB mp3 player with support for firewire, usb 2.0. Drooling yet? Well it also has extension modules for turning it in a camcorder and a pvr and compact flash reader (to copy photos to the hd). Pretty cool price too :-). If it works as advertised, I might want one.
  • I just hope it is compatible with European TV signals...
    • Re:Cool (Score:3, Informative)

      by MatSimpsk ( 580539 )
      From the FAQ on their website [elgato.com]:

      "Q. Does EyeTV support PAL format and work internationally?

      A. Not yet. EyeTV currently only supports NTSC format for use in North America."

  • Perhaps they're using USB 2.0 [usb.org]. If so, I still don't see why firewire wouldn't be a better choice.
  • by superid ( 46543 )

    I'm thinking of building a dedicated linux based PVR, but I know very little about video capture. All I want to do is timeshift broadcast TV. I know there are many capture cards, and when I read the specs I don't get a feel for what is the most important. I think that I'm moving towards a hauppauge winTV-pci because that is in my pricerange. However, I'm not sure that a P2-266 (my spare box) is up to the encoding challenge in a reasonable amount of time.

    Can anyone point me to a very generic linux PVR project or page?


    (no, I don't want a TiVo)
  • by medcalf ( 68293 ) on Tuesday July 16, 2002 @11:43AM (#3894681) Homepage
    OK, so you take an iMac (or a G4 tower or even a PowerBook), hook up one of these gadgets as an input and a digital TV that takes a SVGA hookup as an output. Hook the audio out to the big speakers. All that's needed is a good AM/FM tuner card, and you could get rid of the entire audio component stack (other than the turntable) and the DVD player.
  • I can see them now

    "Bob Gangreene - I used to own a Tivo. I felt so boxed in. It's like I had no choices. Also, all of my actions were being recorded and sold. But now I have Apple's new PVR and I'll never go back"

    "Janice Manson - PVR? What's that? Oh, you mean my personal recorder. It's so easy to use I don't even know what it's called"

    "Hillary Rosen - This is off the record right? Well, personally I love this thing. And since it's from Apple we definitely have an easier time of chopping their little company into pieces over copyright issues. Just between you and me MS really looking into supporting the RIAA if we plan on going that route. All I can say is that Mac users are THIEVES"
    • Well, personally I love this thing. And since it's from Apple ...

      This might be funny if it was an Apple product. In reality, it's just a PVR peripheral targeting the Mac market.
  • I haven't researched it, but I don't think USB 1.0 will support the bandwidth for really good quality video.

    To this day, I've never seen a good USB 1.0 TV tuner
    and I think thats the reason.
    • VCD data rates are around 1150 Kbps, and since this device most likely compresses the video on the fly on-board and uploads it to the computer, there's theoretically plenty of bandwidth in the 12 Mbps spec of USB 1.1, even allowing for lots of overhead and other data streams.
  • by smagoun ( 546733 ) on Tuesday July 16, 2002 @11:46AM (#3894704) Homepage
    I have a Powermac 7600, which shipped with built-in RCA audio + video inputs, as well as an S-Video input. The video quality is excellent (for a consumer device), and it does full-screen (640x480) playback without any of the ugliness I've seen from most USB capture devices. Granted, this new doodad seems to do MPEG-1 encoding on the device, but I'll take a raw stream over MPEG any day.

    So that's the video input part, on a machine that's 6+ years old. The Tivo part can be done with a bit of script magic (Applescript, perl, whatever) or tools like BTV from bensoftware [bensoftware.com]. You can encode to MPEG/cinepak/whatever on the fly, or later on. If you don't need the Tivo part, Apple's software does a good job of recording things.

    Total cost is about $50 these days, and I'll bet the quality is better.

    • Total cost is about $50 these days

      The only problem with that scenario is that the 7500/7600 had only SCSI on the motherboard, so you'd probably also want/need to slap an IDE card in there so you could use large cheap IDE drives -- and that factor runs up the cost appreciably.

    • The 7600 may be capable of realtiem capture, but not at 640x480, and certainly not while simultaneously decoding a similar stream.

      That's part of the magic a TiVo does...it has a built-in MPEG2 hardware codec, so the 50 MHz PPC (in series 1) or 200 MHz MIPS (series 2) can focus on the UI and doing all the *other* stuff a TiVo does.

      Also, don't discount the "scripting" work the TiVo folks have done. The system is simply *amazing* on a technical level. For example, know what happens if you take out the drive and zero it out? The next time you power up the unit, the ROM takes over, dials in to the service, and re-downloads the entire OS. It then re-installs as necessary. After some simple configuration, you are back to your previous state. The ability of a TiVo to repair itself is only one of the rather impressive features.

      It also has best-of-breed conflict management, automatic updates to teh recording schedule, and a simple but powerful UI.

      Now, I'm nto saying that sort of thing isn't possible with another system. In fact, the TiVo is a very customized Linux system. It's proof that it's possible...but much like an office suite or web browser, it's not the kind of open-source project that a person can tackle on his own.
  • What I really want is a PVR that includes satellite (Dish and DirecTV) tuners without being tied to a particular provider's service and pro-advertising whims.
    • What I really want is a PVR that includes satellite (Dish and DirecTV) tuners without being tied to a particular provider's service and pro-advertising whims.

      Don't worry once the DISH and DirecTV merger goes thru your wish will be granted.

      • If I have to accept even less competition in an already stagnant market (two satellite companies with nearly identical plans and completely incompatible equipment, one cable company in each market with ridiculous pricing) all just to be able to buy a Satellite-ready PVR, I'd rather just keep my VCR. At least my Dish receiver can automatically activate the VCR to record programs.
    • Use an existing (cheap) sat tuner and use the composite out. Then you connect a COM port to the data port on the sat tuner, leaving you with just one problem: software support for tuning via the COM port. Maybe they'll include that later in a software update, who knows. That's what the TiVo does anyway.
  • In the never ending MS vs. Apple game of "Dueling Banjos", this sounds similar to Microsoft's "Freestyle" [microsoft.com] version of XP (aka XP Media Center). Without violating an NDA, I will say that Freestyle is a pretty slick product but doesn't compare to my TiVo. It did finally give me an easy way to play MP3 in the living room though, something I've been too lazy to put together myself. The hardware specs include MPEG-2 encoding card, TV-out connection, firewire, USB, DVD-ROM, CDRW, remote control. It's certainly nothing one of us couldn't do with any PC though.
  • Remember, this isn't an Apple product - it's just an OS X-compatible PVR device. Nothing to see here, folks, move along...
  • by jeffehobbs ( 419930 ) on Tuesday July 16, 2002 @12:02PM (#3894840) Homepage

    http://www.apple.com/quicktime/products/broadcaste r/ [apple.com]

    QuickTime Broadcaster not only encodes video in real-time to MPEG-4 over a network, but will also save a file to disk as well. And the app is AppleScriptable! -- so the only problem now is getting the video (tuned to the appropriate channel) into the machine at the right time. Too bad there's no cheap PCI TV tuners for the Mac...

    I've got to think that this approach -- and the El Gato "PVR" for that matter -- is vastly inferior to a "set-it-and-forget-it" tivo.

    • Too bad there's no cheap PCI TV tuners for the Mac...

      Speaking of which, how hard would it be to port some of the video4linux code over to Darwin/BSD anyway? Seems like a weekend job for someone who knows a little about how Darwin works..

  • I've had an old ixMICRO TV tuner card in my B/W G3 for a couple of years. Works well, but has a slight problem in that the company that made it went belly up, and there is no Mac OS X software for it.

    Since then, there were next to ZERO Macintosh TV tuners out there for Mac OS X use. ATI appears to have one, but its feature set is limited. Eskape Labs has been working on its MyTV OS X software for over a year now, and was in the running for my money until EyeTV showed up.

    A USB TV tuner is a good fit. It doesn't suck up a precious PCI slot. It can be moved to any computer with cable hookup and USB. Works great with older or laptop Macs. Fits everyone I need for my new home.

    The PTR features are a bonus, but will be very much appreciated. The price can't be beat, either. Competitive products will cost up to $1000 since they have internal hard drives. EyeTV appears to balance the abilities of the Mac with the features of a basic PTR.

    The RCA video inputs also allow you to use the computer as a quickie display for today's game consoles such as PlayStation, or a basic video input for your camera.

    Not a bad price at $199 (during Macworld, only $179), and the product quality looks good. While FireWire may seem a logical choice, it's overkill--USB has more than enough bandwidth. The only thing you need is to keep some drive space clear.
  • The biggest problem with the EyeTV is not its choice of USB over Firewire but its lack of RCA/S-Video outputs. I don't want to watch TV on my computer!

    From what I've heard the software is top notch, free TV guide, ability to pause live TV, etc... but its useless unless you like to watch all of your shows in a tiny window on your computer's screen.
  • More information (Score:4, Informative)

    by ruiner13 ( 527499 ) on Tuesday July 16, 2002 @12:40PM (#3895111) Homepage
    There is some information lacking in people's comment's i've noticed. First of all, the lower quality setting is compatible with Toast VCD, as it captures at 320 x 240 resolution. This stores about an hour of video on one CD. The unit also has a higher quality setting which they say is "double" the resoultion of the regular video. I assume they mean 640 x 480, which is really 4x resolution, but we'll see. From what i've seen on screen captures of the quality, looks pretty decent. And this unit is different than a regular capture card because it has a cable ready coaxial connector, not just composite and s-video (although it has those too). So, whereas with a standard vid cap card, you'd ned a vcr to tune the stations, this one just hooks up to the wall jack. Seems like a pretty good solution to me!

    I got most of my info from this link: http://www.macintoshdigitalhub.com/reviews/eyetv/i ndex.html [macintoshdigitalhub.com]. Hope this helps clear stuff up!

  • No DRM, no Microsoft! What could be nicer? Now when will the PAL version be coming?
  • With the new harddrives coming out at such large sizes combined with the Superdrive available in the G$ towers, who needs it. Record all week to your HD. Take a couple of hours and write it to DVD. Repeat.
  • This only does part of what a real PVR does. Half the attraction of a Tivo is how you can pause and rewind live TV, which it is always recording 24/7. Also it searches the programming constantly to bring you your favorite shows where- and whenever it shows.

    Not that there is anything wrong with a product that only does one thing, but people should understand what it is and is not.

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