Edit: After half day, my wife’s Mac started having the same problem. I have then applied the solution that I found in the Apple
When it comes down to watching and recording TV on a computer Apple definitely have some of the best of systems available. Previously we have covered the great Elgato range of tuners that ship with their EyeTV application and and although they may appear to dominate the market they aren’t the only great TV solution available.
Equinux produce the tiny and brilliantly named ‘TubeStick Mini’ coupled with their “The Tube” software. The first advantage to many users is that TubeStick is compatible with both Mac and PC computers and has to be one of the cheapest TV adaptors around coming in at only ?30 (including software).
The Tubestick mini is definitely ultra portable. The mini USB device comes with a small digital antenna and an adaptor to allow it to be easy connected to an external aerial system.
Setting the system up is completely painless. Insert the supplied CD and the installer application talks you through the very easy to follow process.
Once installation is complete you are met with the varied features of ‘The Tube’ software. The Tube offers a really great user interface and despite its simplicity offers a powerful set of features including my favourite, the ability to stream TV to friends via iChat using iChat theatre.
As the software supports a wide range of TV adaptors you are asked to select the device you want to use when the software loads. On first run the device searches the digital TV channels (based on the postcode you enter). This can take a few minutes to complete and longer if you opt for an exhaustive scan. Click here for a list of compatible devices.
Before watching any TV I decided to have a play in the preferences pane and discovered a surprisingly wide range of features. Just one of the great features is the ability to set TV reminders via iCal of upcoming (selected) programmes.
In addition the TubeToGo features are stunning. This service (secured via your own personal EquinuxId) allow you to remote scedule recordings via the EPG, access your recorded TV while on the move (as well as the ability to delete remote recordings) and publish your recordings to your online storage. Access can be via the web, iPod Touch and iPhone. It is even more surprising to find that such high end features are actually completely free of charge!
A second free service (again via your EqinuxID) is TubeTalk. With TubeTalk, you can join a chat about the current TV show and chat with other TV viewers. Discuss the ins and outs of your favorite shows and more. The Tube provides a chat room for every TV channel in your list. All you need is your equinux ID and you’re all set to chat.
All the standard TV software features are also included (and shouldn’t be ignored). The software obviously allows you to record, schedule recordings and Timeshift TV. Time shifting allows you to pause and rewind live TV and is great if you need to take a telephone call midway through a football match, or want to replay the action whenever you want. With Time Shift you don’t miss a second.
The main TV interface is brilliant as is the picture quality.
This screenshot was taken when using the supplied mini antenna which provided a pretty good picture on some channels but did become a little blocky on others. Connecting the system to an outside aerial did offer less disruption in the picture but not all channels were perfect although this could be down to the digital signal in my area.
The Tube’s EPG is via a free service and appeared to be accurate for each of the channels we tried out. It is very easy to scroll down the list of channels and make changes to what is being viewed. You can set a custom animation (in preference) that is played as the channel changes, such changes take 2-3 seconds). I think The Tube’s one screen feature wins over EyeTV that uses a second ‘controller’ window for recording and channel swapping.
The fact that the channels and controllers are in the one window makes managing viewing very easy. Recording programmes using the The Tube is simple and the software offers th
e user the option of adding meta to recordings on completion.
It is hard not to compare the TubeStick system to Elgato’s EyeTV but in doing so it essential to bear in mind the massive price differences. The TubeStick Mini at under ?30 for both the tuner and software shouldn’t really be expected to match the advanced features of EyeTV such as the ability to edit recordings (remove ad breaks) or series record a programme.
The TubeToGo features are well beyond that expected of an application and device of this price range.
Any computer based TV system is only as good as the signal it receives. Unlike analogue TV bad signal quality in digital transmissions are basically unwatchable resulting in jumpy sound and blocky viewing and if it is an option I would definitely recommend you connect the device to an outside aerial.
This also ensures the best range of channels possible. If you are in an area with reasonable Digital TV signal the TubeStick Mini offers a great TV viewing and recording system at a price considerably less than we would ever expect to pay.
At ?30 it is hard to fault this device, actually even at a higher price it would be hard to take issue ! Equinux are committed to software improvement and development so I suspect you will see The Tube getting better and better with each update. If you are looking to treat your Mac in the near future the TubeStick Mini makes a really great gift.
For more information and to buy the Tubestick Mini visit the Equinux Website.