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Monday, March 26, 2007

Apple TiVo!

Thanks to an anonymous commenter for pointing this out:

It's looking like this thing could be a new homebrew platform. People have got XviD working, SSH and VNC, and of course upgraded hard drives. Yowza!

Personally, I doubt I'll be cracking open the case or anything, at least until a year from now when the warranty expires, but this is some cool stuff, man.

I've had some minor success using the FireWire output on my cable box, and a little app called iRecord, to turn my laptop into a DVR. Converting the resulting MPEG-TS file into a 720p, 24fps H264 .mp4 file, using iSquint, allows it to sync to the Apple TV no problems. And hey presto, there's the hi-def DVR that I wanted, oh, two years ago.

I tested it with eight minutes of Nova, which is broadcast in 1080i at 30fps. Although there was of course data loss--going down to 720p and 24fps--it still looked a heck of a lot better than the 640x360 AVI you'd get from BitTorrent (well, if anyone torrented Nova, that is).

It appears that Apple has changed its "maximum playback requirements"; before release they said the box could only play "progressive main profile" H264, whatever that means, and although the specs still say that, some of the other formats have expanded, notably MPEG-4. However, iSquint creates Simple Profile videos--for the iPod--and they work beautifully.

I can say, however, that the 24fps barrier for 720p is currently insurmountable--30fps wouldn't sync, and I doubt it would stream either. But I wouldn't at all be surprised if this barrier disappeared in a subsequent software update.

For reference, here are the settings that I used in iSquint to make it work (click the Advanced... button to open the drawer):
  • Resolution: 1280 x 720
  • Video Bitrate: 5000
  • Framerate: 24
  • H.264 encoding (of course)

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