Mac Home Theater, Followup

July 5, 2006 § Leave a comment

I had some wonderful responses to my Simple Mac Home Theater article. One pointed me
to this incredibly helpful Mac mini Media Center article, which was
recently updated for the latest Intel minis. I was also encouraged to hang out
on the HTPC Mac Chat
Forum
, which has lots of juicy data. The most useful, though, was a
“pre-release” blog post, which I’m excerpting here (anonymously), from someone
who also lives in Santa Clara!

[edited and URLed by me, Ernie; any
errors are probably mine]

I have
undertaken a very similar home theatre project, and I may have some ideas you
could use. I also live in Santa Clara and have implemented a Mac mini as the
center of my project with:

? a Miglia
TVMini
HD getting HD (Clear QAM) off of standard analog cable.
? HD programming is limited to prime time
on KRONDT2, KPIX-DT (CBS), KGO-HD (ABC), KQEDDT (PBS), KNTV-DT (NBC), KTVU-DT
(FOX).
? I upgraded my mini from 1.5 Core Solo to
2.16 Core Duo, 100 GB Seagate 7200 RPM drive, and 2 GB DDR2 RAM. It is
connected to a 750 GB Seagate drive in an external CoolDrives eSATA/USB/FW800 case.
? It is driving an Olympus VP-1 (1024×768
DLP with DVI) which I picked up from Outpost.com for $500. We’re able to
project an 84″ image (in 4:3 format not 16:9) in about 12 feet of
throw.
? If we hadn’t found such a good deal on
the projector we were going to get a Sharp (1280×720) which would have been in a
16:9 format instead.
? As far as I could tell, the only
difference between the Miglia TVMini HD and the EyeTV 500 was that the TVMini
uses USB 2.0 ($250) and the EyeTV 500 uses FireWire ($350). I wasn’t able
to find any comparisons online between the
two.

I’m using the Apple Bluetooth
keyboard for when I actually need to type something, but a wired Logitech MX518 mouse with USB Overdrive for the mouse. I programmed two
of the buttons to quick skip back (7 seconds) and forward (30 seconds) to skip
commercials recorded by EyeTV. Another button is used for bringing up the
on-screen controller or guide. Another button switches between full screen mode
and windowed mode.

I have an RCA
RCU810
remote which is programmed via USB using what is known as JP-1
technology. It’s a really nice remote and I’m able to program any button to
execute a series of button presses (macros) to automatically turn on the
projector, switch the input on the receiver to the correct input, activate Front
Row, etc.

To answer some of your key
unanswered questions:

? I don’t think you need to pay $5/month
for any kind of cable box. My cable is straight analog cable — no boxes or
tuners other than the TVMini HD. I not only get HD broadcasts in Clear QAM, I
also get standard def channels broadcast in Clear QAM which can be recorded with
the TVMini HD also.
? I get 42 channels of TV, some of the time
of which are HD (generally during primetime), plus 28 radio stations, plus
additional channels which I disabled (encrypted, shopping networks, &
foreign language channels). I wouldn’t expect much more even if you paid for a
cable box since the EyeTV 500 and TVMini HD will only tune Clear QAM
channels.
? You can absolutely control all of your
devices with a JP-1 compatible remote. It takes some research (and
unfortunately Windows — running via Parallels) to program the
remote. But I’ve done it three times now after I switched components around.
Once you’ve done it, it’s really easy. Plus JP1 remotes are available in all
shapes and sizes. If you’re planning on going the iEye Captain or iRTrans route
anyway, you owe it to yourself to investigate JP1.
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