Elgato EyeTV Hybrid for Mac

I recently bought the Elgato EyeTV Hybrid, which I thought would be the perfect addition for my Mac Mini home theater PC. There is also a video review. You can take a look at the basic specifications at the product’s web site – no need to reiterate those here. What you are probably interested in are all the things they don’t go into on the product site.

Overall, the EyeTV Hybrid is a decent product. For most people, it will probably work great — especially if you are covered in their programing guide (more on that later). Since there are so few TV options available for the Mac compared to the PC, it is especially heartening that the EyeTV Hybrid works so well in most scenarios. Having said that, this review is for the information you won’t be able to find on the manufacturer’s page, or any other reviews out there.

First off, the EyeTV Hybrid suffers from the same drawbacks as other PC-based DVR devices — that they won’t work with digital tv or cable boxes. This is mostly because of a monopoly by the cable tv companies. They want you to use their boxes, not your computer (you can learn more at Ars Technica).

The EyeTV Hybrid has some additional caveats:

  • It can only play HD content off of an HD Antenna, not off your cable line
  • It can only play either HD or regular cable at one time

The major networks transmit in HD in many areas — NBC, ABC, CBS. In my area, I also get things like PBS and some local stations. This can be pretty good — especially since each network typically has 2-4 HD stations. However, it doesn’t compare to basic analog cable, which may have 20 – 50 channels. Because I want to watch in HD when I can, I find that I typically end up switching to the HD antenna to watch Lost (ABC), but then have to switch back to cable to watch Battlestar Galactica (Sci-Fi. Both great shows, btw). This is very annoying because each switch means unscrewing the cable jack and plugging in a different one. I suspect it is also putting wear on my EyeTV Hybrid, which will cause it to break sooner.

Another problem with the EyeTV Hybrid has to do with the channel guide. Elgato licensed its guide from TitanTV. TitanTV licenses their guide from an undisclosed 4th party. The problem is that not all cable companies are listed in the guide. For example, my cable company is called “Econotek,” which specializes in apartment complexes in the NYC area. Because Econotek isn’t as big as Time Warner or Cablevision, they are not listed in the guide. While TitanTV claims to be responsive about this sort of thing, they have ignored my requests to add my cable company to their listings.

This wouldn’t be the end of the world if Elgato allowed the user to customize their channel lineup. Unfortunately, they don’t. What this means is that if your cable company isn’t listed in TitanTV, you can’t use any of the DVR functionality, as EyeTV won’t know what shows are on which channel at what time.

I have also found that the EyeTV Hybrid itself is just a little buggy. I tend to leave EyeTV running all the time. When I don’t want to watch it, I just turn off my TV, but EyeTV is still running. I’ve noticed that after you leave it running for a few days, it will tend to crash. Sometimes, restarting the software will fix it, but other times, I have to reboot my whole mac to get it working again. This might have to do with the fact that the Hybrid gets very hot when it runs for a while.

One final note for those of you with Mac Mini’s: I have the Intel Core Duo 1.6 Mhz one, and I’ve found that I can’t really record tv and watch a recorded show at the same time — it runs too slow. Ironically, you can do this with HD shows, since HD is already encoded. Only SD tv has this issue. However, the liveTV and standard DVR pause,ff,rw, etc work fine.

Overall, while the EyeTV Hybrid does have its quirks, I believe that these can mostly be corrected by a software update. Simply adding the ability to edit your channel lineup would be a hige difference, and many people (myself included) use this product to its fullest who can’t today. In the past, Elgato has released software updates which allow their products to read HD signal (QAM) off of regular cable lines, so that an HD antenna was not required.

If those two issues were resolved, I would be able to recommend the Elgato EyeTV Hybrid as the must-have TV product for your Mac.

Hacking Democracy

The current shenanigans going on with electronic voting bridge political parties, racial lines, or social status.

For those of you up to date on this issue, the main method which Diebold and other electronic voting machine manufacturers plan to use to protect their machines is with “tamper-proof tape.” However, this provides a method for someone to invalidate republican or democratic districts by simply scratching the tape on the machines in that district. The level of incompetence and stupidity that has surfaced in relation to electronic voting hasn’t ceased to amaze me.

I don’t think that electronic or computerized voting is inherently an impossible task. However, the current crop of machinery, and the incompetent companies which make them, should not be allowed anywhere near a voter. Certainly, the public officials who are in charge of accepting these machines have also been incompetent across the board, for allowing defective voting machines to be delivered, and not pushing back against the manufacturer.

Wherever the blame lies it is important that people be made aware of these issues. HBO has produced a documentary on the subject. It is available for free from Google Video right now.

Please, please go check it out, and tell your friends. This is too important.