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Home Theater: Thus Endeth The Project
Tuesday, 2005 January 18 - 10:53 pm
After about half a year of using an old Macintosh as a media center device, I may give it up.

Last June, I completed a project to convert an old Blue and White G3 Macintosh into a media center device. It was to play my iTunes music, record television, and maybe display photos. I painted it so it would look good in the living room; I upgraded the processor and the hard drive; and, I got a USB EyeTV device to make the machine into a DVR.

For music, it's been quite good. I've been gradually putting my whole CD collection into it. It's going to be quite handy having all my music so easily accessible. (I can theoretically play music from every room in the house, over my wireless network.)

For TV, it's been just plain awful. The EyeTV hardware/software combination is very unreliable. The software crashes, it sometimes just doesn't record shows that I want, and it won't reliably connect to TitanTV for remote scheduling. It's an utter mess. I can't depend on it at all.

So, I'm going to break down and just get the Time Warner DVR, for seven bucks a month. It should be significantly easier to use, and more reliable. The bad thing is that I won't have an easy way to get shows off the box onto a more permanent medium; I would have to play back the shows using my Firewire DV camera as a bridge to the computer. And then I'd have to re-compress the video from DV to MPEG2. Every hour of footage would take something like four hours to transfer, re-compress, and burn to DVD. UGGGH.

At some point, someone has got to make a cable-ready DVR, preferably in high definition, with the ability to transfer shows to DVD. I can accept some DRM restrictions along the way. Why isn't that available yet?

Anyway, now I have to think up some new uses for that old Macintosh. As just a jukebox, it's a bit of overkill. I thought about putting GarageBand on it and connecting it to my musical instruments, but I'm not sure its 500MHz G4 is quite up to the task. Maybe I'll put the iSight on it and make it into a combination videophone and surveillance system. And maybe a gaming system too. Hmm. Anyone else got any bright ideas? I already have a dedicated file and web server (it's an even older Macintosh).
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