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Miglia TVMicro and EyeTV: Easy TV on Your Mac

by Matthew Russell

I don't own a television for a few reasons. My schedule is typically too erratic to keep up with regularly scheduled shows, and even if that weren't the case, I abhor the way commercials continuously interrupt the flow of a good scene. Televisions usually doesn't do much for the feng shui of a sitting room either. But at the same time, who likes shelling out cash on iTMS for shows that you may not watch more than once, or worse--waiting until a show like Lost becomes available on DVD?

This conundrum recently led me to investigate the analog TV tuner market, and I was quite pleased with one product in particular that I stumbled across: the Miglia TVMicro. It's a small USB device and comes bundled with a remote control and the renowned EyeTV application, which makes it trivial to pull up program listings, schedule recordings, and more. Costing roughly $100, this is a purchase that might just pay for itself sooner than you think, if you frequent iTMS to keep current on your favorite shows. In addition to providing a great user interface, the EyeTV software seamlessly integrates with the online TitanTV service for the U.S. (tvtv for Europe or iEPG for Japan), which allows you to pull up a program guide and provides you with a summary of what's currently playing on the bottom of the screen as your surf through the channels. EyeTV also supports an extensive AppleScript vocabulary, so there's quite a bit you can do in the way of automating recordings, writing scripts to scan channels, exporting to various formats, etc.

TVMicro with Remote
Figure 1. The TVMicro is about the size of an iPod Shuffle and comes with a handy remote control and USB extension cable (not shown). Image courtesy of Miglia.

Micro Really Means Micro

TVMicro's Coaxial Input
Figure 2. Simply snap the removable metal widget into the TVMicro to connect a standard coaxial input cable. Image courtesy of Miglia.

What impresses me most about the TVMicro itself might be its size. Checking in at about the same size as an iPod Shuffle and requiring no external power, it's small enough that you hardly even notice that it's there. This small size is especially convenient when you're traveling, because it's guaranteed to fit nicely into whatever carrying case you tote around. While the side of the TVMicro that interfaces to your computer has a standard USB 2.0 interface, the other side provides an equally convenient coaxial connection that you get by snapping in a small metal widget. Although this connection might not stand up to intentional abuse, it feels like a pretty sturdy connection and should stand the test of time as long as you're mindful to take moderately good care of it. More times than not, even tripping over a cable connected to the TVMicro would probably just yank the metal widget out of its socket, resulting in a fairly uneventful mishap. This makes the separate metal attachment seem like a good design choice when you consider some of the alternatives that could happen with a more permanent fixture.

Software That's Hard to Beat

EyeTV is a native Cocoa application that's fully AppleScriptable, has a viewing interface very similar to DVD Player, and provides a library management console that's remarkably similar to iTunes. As you might expect, EyeTV intercepts the signals from the bundled remote control to change channels, adjust volume, etc. The remote control also has shortcut buttons to bring up and navigate the program guide and to toggle in and out of full-screen mode. Overall, EyeTV's interface does a very nice job of managing its complexity and provides you with what feels like a familiar, lightweight control panel that's very similar to what most cable and satellite TV companies offer.

Figure 3
Figure 3. As you surf the channels, EyeTV provides you with a nice overlaid description of the current show, its start and end time, and even tells you what's coming on next. (This station is being picked up free of charge using an old rabbit-ear antenna.)

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