Author Topic: Topfield TF7100HDPVRt vs Mac Mini + EyeTV Diversity x2?  (Read 4447 times)

Offline Marcus P

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Topfield TF7100HDPVRt vs Mac Mini + EyeTV Diversity x2?
« on: May 26, 2010, 10:44:44 PM »
I currently have a Topfield TF7100HDPVRt, but have, on occasion run out of tuners (Sunday nights can be brutal). I'm considering getting a Mac Mini with two EyeTV Diversity tuners. Before I do, I just wanted to know how the Mac Mini+EyeTV compares to the Topfield. I basically watch all TV through the Topfield (changing channels/volume through the Topfield remote, as well as the usual PVR functions)

Any thoughts? I have read that the remotes included with the EyeTV Diversity can have reception problems. If I record two consecutive programmes with padding, will it record on the one tuner, or will it record the second show on a different tuner? Are there any problems with using two diversity sticks to get a total of four tuners? How does the EyeTV software compare to the Topfield box?

Offline futzle

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Re: Topfield TF7100HDPVRt vs Mac Mini + EyeTV Diversity x2?
« Reply #1 on: May 28, 2010, 07:52:29 PM »
Hi Marcus,

EyeTV is as dumb about tuners as the Topfield 7100.  It assumes that each channel is on its own multiplex, so when you record two shows that abut each other and you have padding turned on, you'll use up two tuners.  Being smart about multiplexes, or even knowing when the same channel is being used in two recordings, has been a longstanding request with Elgato, but they haven't had it high on their priority list.  One improvement over the Topfield 5000 is that you can record two consecutive shows on the same channel, and they will both have all their padding, though you will use up both tuners as I mentioned.

EyeTV supposedly will handle two Diversity sticks—it supposedly just needs all tuner devices to be the same kind*—but I only ever had one.  I found that USB tuners are not really up to scratch on Mac OS X: their drivers sometimes uninstall themselves or kernel panic, so the Mac Mini needed daily uptime checking.  Also, USB is pretty CPU intensive, so you'll find that the Mac Mini is almost always running warm.  A recent Mini should have the grunt to handle four HD streams, and to play back upscaled 1080p, so don't worry about that.

Driving EyeTV with the Apple Remote may not pass the Wife Acceptance Test.  It's a mite fiddly, for one.  It's also unforgiving of mistakes, and doesn't integrate with Front Row without an add-on.  You pretty much have to have a keyboard and mouse in the living room for the times when the Mac crashes or tries to tell you about a software update.  I ended up buying Remote Buddy and teaching several different Apple Remote codes to a Harmony Remote, to fake a conventional remote with more buttons.  It's vaguely usable, but not nearly as clean or intuitive as a dedicated remote like what comes with the Topfield.  The EyeTV remote is IMO useless: it has poor range and the buttons feel unresponsive under the fingers.  Throw it away.

I don't actually use the Diversity any more.  Its requirements for signal quality were unattainable in my location, which is bang in the middle of suburbia in Melbourne.  You may be luckier.  I ended up buying two SiliconDust HDHomeruns, which are a lot like the new Elgato DTT Netstream in that they are network devices rather than USB.  EyeTV talks to two without a problem, and I've read that people have connected three for a total of six tuners.  The HDHomerun can cope with my signal strength just fine, as did every other device in my house; the Diversity was the only picky one.

I have been very grateful that I have four tuners now.  I laugh in the face of the TV networks' attempts to prevent my recording all the shows I want.

* This restriction has recently been relaxed, I am told.

Offline Marcus P

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Re: Topfield TF7100HDPVRt vs Mac Mini + EyeTV Diversity x2?
« Reply #2 on: June 15, 2010, 11:16:24 PM »
Hi futzel,
Thanks for the detailed response.

EyeTV is as dumb about tuners as the Topfield 7100.  It assumes that each channel is on its own multiplex, so when you record two shows that abut each other and you have padding turned on, you'll use up two tuners. 

Actually my 7100 will stop recording when the next program is scheduled, and then will start a new recording on the same channel. This means that the first episode has no padding, and spills over into the new recording. I prefer this to using two tuners. In the end, this would negate the reason for buying two dual tuners, because at my busiest, with two programs ending on one channel and new ones starting on those same channels would use up 4 tuners, while on the 7100, it would use two tuners. either way, I can't record another channel.

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EyeTV supposedly will handle two Diversity sticks—it supposedly just needs all tuner devices to be the same kind*—but I only ever had one.  I found that USB tuners are not really up to scratch on Mac OS X: their drivers sometimes uninstall themselves or kernel panic, so the Mac Mini needed daily uptime checking.  Also, USB is pretty CPU intensive, so you'll find that the Mac Mini is almost always running warm.  A recent Mini should have the grunt to handle four HD streams, and to play back upscaled 1080p, so don't worry about that.

Given the above, I won't really gain what I had hoped from this setup, but it's good to know that the hardware will cope.

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Driving EyeTV with the Apple Remote may not pass the Wife Acceptance Test. [...] I ended up buying Remote Buddy and teaching several different Apple Remote codes to a Harmony Remote, to fake a conventional remote with more buttons.  It's vaguely usable, but not nearly as clean or intuitive as a dedicated remote like what comes with the Topfield.   The EyeTV remote is IMO useless: it has poor range and the buttons feel unresponsive under the fingers.  Throw it away.

After having used a previous El-cheapo PVR, I find the Topfield a lot easier to use, and I swore I'd never take a step down in Usability. Would using something like the Sony PS3 BD Remote Control and remote buddy give a somewhat more usable interface? Can remote buddy be made to map buttons form the Sony remote to perform the equivalent of what the elgato one would have done (but be more reliable)?

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I don't actually use the Diversity any more.  Its requirements for signal quality were unattainable in my location, which is bang in the middle of suburbia in Melbourne.  You may be luckier.

Was that with a roof mounted areal?

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I ended up buying two SiliconDust HDHomeruns, which are a lot like the new Elgato DTT Netstream in that they are network devices rather than USB.  EyeTV talks to two without a problem, and I've read that people have connected three for a total of six tuners.  The HDHomerun can cope with my signal strength just fine, as did every other device in my house; the Diversity was the only picky one.

Do you control these through EyeTV using the apple remote tricks described above? Do the HDHomerun boxes require wired ethernet, or will they work over Wi-Fi? I assume I'd still need to buy the EyeTV software.

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I have been very grateful that I have four tuners now.  I laugh in the face of the TV networks' attempts to prevent my recording all the shows I want.

Which was my whole goal, but I'm hoping that it can be controlled easily, without turning into a whole mess. Thanks for your reply.

Offline futzle

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Re: Topfield TF7100HDPVRt vs Mac Mini + EyeTV Diversity x2?
« Reply #3 on: June 16, 2010, 12:17:36 PM »
Would using something like the Sony PS3 BD Remote Control and remote buddy give a somewhat more usable interface? Can remote buddy be made to map buttons form the Sony remote to perform the equivalent of what the elgato one would have done (but be more reliable)?

If you're using the Diversity's IR detector: It's possible, but I am sceptical.  Judging from posts on the Elgato forum, part of the problem with the bundled Elgato remote isn't the transmitter, but the receiver (IR detector) on the side of the Diversity stick.  Pointing the USB stick juuust the right way to receive signals from your couch, hoping it doesn't get dislodged... you can see the problem.  You wouldn't need RemoteBuddy for that scenario, since presumably your PS3 remote is emulating an Elgato IR remote.

If you're using the Mac's built-in IR detector: This is what I do, and it's a lot better than the Elgato remote, but still not as good as a Topfield experience.  Sometimes buttons aren't detected, or they are detected twice.  Careful pointing and button-pressing finesse can help, but I think that the Mac's IR receiver isn't as good as a consumer appliance's one.

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Was that with a roof mounted areal?

Absolutely.  I took one look at the "antenna" that comes in the box with the Diversity, laughed, and put it right back in the box, where it remains to this day.

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Do you control these through EyeTV using the apple remote tricks described above? Do the HDHomerun boxes require wired ethernet, or will they work over Wi-Fi? I assume I'd still need to buy the EyeTV software.

Yes, you'd need to buy the EyeTV software.  I already had it, so no extra expense for me.  Apparently the HDHomerun has an IR detector on it, but I'm not certain that EyeTV knows how to be told what's happening to the HDHomerun's IR sensor, so I'm using fake Apple Remotes with the Mac Mini's built-in infrared.  From what I can tell on the SiliconDust forums, the HDHomerun's IR sensor is useful for those who run Windows or Linux home theatre boxes, less so for Macs.

You'd need to wire the HDHomerun (or Netstream DTT) to the Mac Mini over Ethernet, but there's no need to wire the collective bundle of hardware to your home network.  For a while I had my home setup this way, with the Mac Mini connecting to isolated hub + HDHomeruns over Ethernet, and to the home network + Internet over wireless.  Of course, this presupposes that your Mac Mini is near to an antenna outlet.

Offline Marcus P

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Re: Topfield TF7100HDPVRt vs Mac Mini + EyeTV Diversity x2?
« Reply #4 on: June 16, 2010, 08:22:38 PM »
Would using something like the Sony PS3 BD Remote Control and remote buddy give a somewhat more usable interface? Can remote buddy be made to map buttons form the Sony remote to perform the equivalent of what the elgato one would have done (but be more reliable)?

If you're using the Diversity's IR detector: It's possible, but I am sceptical.  Judging from posts on the Elgato forum, part of the problem with the bundled Elgato remote isn't the transmitter, but the receiver (IR detector) on the side of the Diversity stick.  Pointing the USB stick juuust the right way to receive signals from your couch, hoping it doesn't get dislodged... you can see the problem.  You wouldn't need RemoteBuddy for that scenario, since presumably your PS3 remote is emulating an Elgato IR remote.

The PS3 remote is a bluetooth one. I was looking at Remote Buddy's website, and one of the remotes listed http://www.iospirit.com/products/remotebuddy/hardware/#sonyps3bdremote . I assumed Remote Buddy would then allow me to map keys on the remote to functions in EyeTV. is that right?

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Was that with a roof mounted areal?
Absolutely.  I took one look at the "antenna" that comes in the box with the Diversity, laughed, and put it right back in the box, where it remains to this day.

Given that I'm in Melbourne and one of my TVs has problems with Channel 9 already, that's not a good sign.

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You'd need to wire the HDHomerun (or Netstream DTT) to the Mac Mini over Ethernet, but there's no need to wire the collective bundle of hardware to your home network.  For a while I had my home setup this way, with the Mac Mini connecting to isolated hub + HDHomeruns over Ethernet, and to the home network + Internet over wireless.  Of course, this presupposes that your Mac Mini is near to an antenna outlet.

Thanks for your help. Looks like the HDHomerun is the way to go. Do you need a signal amplifier to run that many boxes? I assume you still have the subsequent programs running on different tuners problem exists using this setup still?

Thanks for all your help.

Offline futzle

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Re: Topfield TF7100HDPVRt vs Mac Mini + EyeTV Diversity x2?
« Reply #5 on: June 16, 2010, 08:45:41 PM »
The PS3 remote is a bluetooth one. I was looking at Remote Buddy's website, and one of the remotes listed http://www.iospirit.com/products/remotebuddy/hardware/#sonyps3bdremote .

Oh, I didn't know that.  Huh, looking at the website now; that looks like it could be good.  Thanks for the tip; if you end up using that remote, let me know how it goes.

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I assumed Remote Buddy would then allow me to map keys on the remote to functions in EyeTV. is that right?

Yes, that should be just the same whether the remote is IR, bluetooth or whatever.  You can map buttons to EyeTV functions; there are about a dozen operations like "button left", "menu" and "play".  You can also map buttons to Mac OS keypresses; I map a remote button to Command-G to display the on-screen guide, and another button to Command-W to close the live TV window.  You can also map buttons to AppleScript events, though I haven't had a lot of success with it.

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Looks like the HDHomerun is the way to go. Do you need a signal amplifier to run that many boxes?

My house has always had a four-way amplified splitter in the roof space.  One of those four outputs is fed into a four-way passive splitter at the HDHomeruns (each has two antenna inputs).  My home's antenna cabling is mediocre RG59 coax, nothing expensive.  This seems to suffice.

City Software has HDHomeruns on sale at the moment (http://www.citysoftware.com.au/HDHomeRun_-_HD_TV_Over_Your_Network_LAK0014.aspx).  That's where mine came from.  The Elgato Netstream DTT wasn't out when I got my HDHomeruns, so it wasn't an option for me, but if you haven't already got a copy of EyeTV that might be cheaper for what is almost the same device (and less dog-ugly).

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I assume you still have the subsequent programs running on different tuners problem exists using this setup still?

Yes, and I've come to prefer it this way.  I don't watch so many shows that it's a problem, and different members of the family watch different shows so there's no risk of one of us accidentally deleting the climax of one show that is at the start of another show's recording.  And, if you're really pressed for tuners, well, I've heard of people who have three HDHomeruns...

Offline Marcus P

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Re: Topfield TF7100HDPVRt vs Mac Mini + EyeTV Diversity x2?
« Reply #6 on: June 21, 2010, 07:21:24 PM »
Before I start, thanks for all the help futzle. I have decided that the price of switching to a Mac Mini based system, is too expensive to make switching worthwhile for now, especially given the whole follow on programs use multiple tuners thing (which is one of the situations that was making me contemplate a four tuner setup in the first place). The advantages of watching iPlayer/iView on the TV, and the times when I could have used the extra tuners just doesn't make it worthwhile for now.

The PS3 remote is a bluetooth one. I was looking at Remote Buddy's website, and one of the remotes listed http://www.iospirit.com/products/remotebuddy/hardware/#sonyps3bdremote .
Oh, I didn't know that.  Huh, looking at the website now; that looks like it could be good.  Thanks for the tip; if you end up using that remote, let me know how it goes.

If I ever get this kind of a system setup, I'll let you know :)

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I assumed Remote Buddy would then allow me to map keys on the remote to functions in EyeTV. is that right?
Yes, that should be just the same whether the remote is IR, bluetooth or whatever.  You can map buttons to EyeTV functions; there are about a dozen operations like "button left", "menu" and "play".  You can also map buttons to Mac OS keypresses; I map a remote button to Command-G to display the on-screen guide, and another button to Command-W to close the live TV window.  You can also map buttons to AppleScript events, though I haven't had a lot of success with it.

Out of curiosity, and EyeTV be programmed for a skip ahead/sip back n seconds button?

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Looks like the HDHomerun is the way to go. Do you need a signal amplifier to run that many boxes?
My house has always had a four-way amplified splitter in the roof space.  One of those four outputs is fed into a four-way passive splitter at the HDHomeruns (each has two antenna inputs).  My home's antenna cabling is mediocre RG59 coax, nothing expensive.  This seems to suffice.

I the rental where I am already has a two way splitter, probably unpowered, so I suspect a powered 4 way splitter would have been another expense (but I would have needed that for the initial diversity plan too)

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The Elgato Netstream DTT wasn't out when I got my HDHomeruns, so it wasn't an option for me, but if you haven't already got a copy of EyeTV that might be cheaper for what is almost the same device (and less dog-ugly).

Tehy are also $100 more expensive, and I'm sure I could hide the HDHomeruns. More daunting is getting the extra power points for two HDHomeruns, an Ethernet switch and a powered splitter.

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I assume you still have the subsequent programs running on different tuners problem exists using this setup still?

Yes, and I've come to prefer it this way.  I don't watch so many shows that it's a problem, and different members of the family watch different shows so there's no risk of one of us accidentally deleting the climax of one show that is at the start of another show's recording.  And, if you're really pressed for tuners, well, I've heard of people who have three HDHomeruns...

Sunday nights were the killers for me, but given that most shows that I was recording have ended, or are ending, the VPN to the UK for iPlayer, it has become less of a issue. I'll just have to wait to see for now.

Thanks again for all your help.


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