I’ve been playing around with an Mac-based TV setup for a few months, and I think I’ve found a good configuration. Here are the major components:
- Apple 12” PowerBook
- Apple Bluetooth keyboard and mouse
- Apple 23” Cinema HD Display
- Elgato eyeTV 250 plus (elgato.com)
- Apple iPod touch, 16GB
- RPA Tech Air Mouse (rpatechnology.com)
Is this less expensive than an Apple TV? Probably not. Is it easier to setup? No. Is it easier to use? Probably not. Still interested? Keep reading…
The eyeTV and the Cinema Display are connected to the PowerBook, the former via USB. With the eyeTV and the associated software one is able to watch TV and use Tivo-like functions such as pause, rewind, skip commercials and scheduled/live program recording. The eyeTV includes a remote to handle most operations, though the lag between a button push on the remote and the action of the screen is annoying. Overall, the Elgado eyeTV is an excellent video capture device and works well for TV viewing and recording. Other attached peripherals include the PowerBook’s built-in DVD player and a VCR. Aside from the Elgado remote, the Air Mouse handles the rest of the input.
Air Mouse is an inexpensive application that allows the iPod touch (or iPhone) to function as a wireless mouse and keyboard for a Mac or Windows system. Air Mouse running on the iPod is far more convenient than the Bluetooth mouse/keyboard combo as the iPod is smaller and does not require a mousing surface. Air Mouse can be configured to use the iPod’s accelerometers for mouse movement or the touchscreen. I prefer the touchscreen as the accelerometer control requires wild arm movements and potential injury to nearby people or animals. The Air Mouse software is a small contribution to the system, but it really does tie everything together and provides convenient and easy input for the Mac.
This setup functions well, and when paired with VisualHub (techspansion.com) one can export captured/saved video to just about any device. I’ve used the eyeTV to capture family videos from VHS and DVD. This captured video was then processed with VisualHub and saved for use on my iPod touch. VisualHub also has presets for real Apple TVs as well as non-Apple video players and other digital formats. On a side note, VisualHub is no longer available. I haven’t found anything comperable, but I’ll post an update if I do.
Future improvements could include a larger LCD TV (connected via DVI) or swapping the 12” PowerBook for a Mac Mini to save space and free the 12” PowerBook for other uses. I don’t necessarily suggest building a system like this, but it does work and, save Air Mouse, I had all of the pieces already.