In case you missed my earlier note: EyeTV is a $199 US little box that you plug into your cable TV and into your Mac (it takes about 35 seconds to set up). Then, using the included software (which you can download hereif you want to try it out), you can do any of the following:
- watch television on your computer’s screen
- record television as you’re watching it
- record programmes on a schedule, one-of or things like “every Wednesday night at 9:30 a.m.” or “weekedays at 10:30 a.m.”
- do “instant replays” on live television as you’re watching it
- edit the programmes you record to remove commercials (or other bits you don’t want)
- see the results of all of this on an actual television if you plug your Mac into a TV (which takes a cable that sells for about $30)
In other words, EyeTV is a super-charged “digital VCR” that works with a Mac.
Installation, such as it is, is literally painless. There are no drivers to install, no switches to switch: you plug things in, install the software and you see television on your Mac. It really is that simple.
The user interface is quite elegant — it’s hard to make mistakes and record the wrong program. Watching live television is, well, like watching live television. There are two options for recording, “regular” and “high quality;” watching recorded programmes in the “regular” mode is a little watching television through a sock (or watching television in 1974, take your pick). The “high quality” setting is very good; not “DVD” but certainly better than a video tape.
The one downside to EyeTV, for Canadian users, is that the companion television listings website, TitanTV, doesn’t contain listings for Canadian cable systems. The EyeTV FAQ mentions this, and suggests that some users have had success using U.S. border cities as an alternative. In our case, as there are no U.S. border cities in the Atlantic time zone (and because there are many stations we watch that are Canadian), this wasn’t an option.
Fortunately, Jevon, one of the readership, reminded me of XMLTV, an open source project designed to assist with automated scraping of television listings from websites. XMLTV has no trouble scraping Eastlink’s listings (Eastlink being our cable provider) from Zap2It, and using those listings I was able to create a web-based system that displays my local television listings and lets me record programmes with a simple click, just like the canned TitanTV system allows.
I’ve not had enough use out of the system to know how it will affect my television watching habits. Oliver was able to watch Blue’s Clues at its not regularly scheduled time this afternoon, and that’s something. Stay tuned.