When Tivo’s Not Enough

I love my Tivo. It’s a beauty. It’s an original Tivo Series 3 HD video recorder with dual tuners. It has two cable cards in the back, as well as an antenna input for the digital HD antenna in my attic. The picture quality is amazing, the Tivo software is second to none, and even the little “ploop” sound effect makes me happy when navigating the menus. It’s a work of art.

However, even with dual tuners, there are times when the Tivo alone isn’t enough. Somehow, all four major networks have conspired against me this season. Two nights a week, we want to watch/record more than two shows at once. It’s a weird perfect storm of programming, where ridiculously long episodes of American Idol and Dancing with the Stars (sorry, ladies… I’m happily married) conflict with Bones and 24 and Scrubs and, yes, The Biggest Loser (Is it me? Perhaps.).

Therefore, I had to come up with something else. We only have one TV in the house, so getting another cable box or Tivo wasn’t an option. “Dancey Show,” as I affectionately call it to my wife, isn’t worth buying another TV and Tivo. And sadly, there are still some shows that you can’t buy on iTunes or reasonably stream from a computer to a TV. However, I still have my wonderful AppleTV connected to my beautiful TV set, so I got to thinking.

I’ve heard much about Elgato’s EyeTV tuner stick for the Mac. It is basically a USB thumb drive-type device that has a coaxial cable input on one side and a USB connection on the other. You plug your cable into it, plug the stick into a Mac, and presto! You’ve got a new TV in the house, capable of receiving all standard programming from the cable company, as well as unscrambled Clear QAM digital signals. That means I just turned my iMac into a part-time HD television with Tivo capabilities.

Better still, the EyeTV software has built-in presets for handling your recorded shows. I can set recordings individually or by a Tivo-esque season pass, and then I can tell EyeTV what to do with the shows after they’re recorded. For example, whenever EyeTV finishes recording a fabulous! episode of Dancey Show, it automatically converts the show into a high-quality .mov file specifically tailored to the AppleTV. Then, it instantly moves the show into iTunes on my computer, which then syncs to my AppleTV in my den. The result? A beautiful HD-quality episode of Dancey Show magically appears on my AppleTV, enabling us to enjoy the dramatic ensembles of ABC’s finest constumers.

For a more manly example, I also have it set to record Hannity on Fox News Channel every night at 11:00pm. While I sleep, EyeTV records the show, encodes it into a specific iPhone format, and moves it into iTunes. So, when I sync my iPhone before work each morning, I automatically have last night’s episode of Hannity’s sharp wit and conservative tongue lashings for my lunch-time viewing pleasure.

EyeTV won’t cure cancer and it won’t make my daughter sleep more than three hours at a time, but it does meet a need. If you need to supplement your DVR capabilities, or if you want to get rid of the TV altogether, EyeTV offers a great feature set and fantastic quality, all for a single $130 outlay with no annual service contracts or subscriptions.

Learn more about Elgato’s EyeTV in this demo, available at elgato.com.

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3 Responses to When Tivo’s Not Enough

  1. Eric says:

    The other solution to your problem, slightly less technical: watch less TV.

    :p

    Definitely cool setup though, I think it would take me longer than $130 worth of time to write the scripts necessary to do what that thingie does.

  2. Troy says:

    I especially like the iPhone format conversion. I’ve piddled around with free converters trying to rip DVDs to iPhone format and for whatever reason I can’t seem to get anything to work. Maybe it’s because the DVDs are copy protected. *shrug*

  3. […] server. It doesn’t replace my Tivo by any stretch of the imagination, and although I do have Elgato’s EyeTV Hybrid TV tuner stick on my iMac upstairs, I love my Tivo too much to do away with it. It does its job […]

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