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EyeTV 2.5 offers free slingbox-style video streaming

As we posted last week, Elgato's new EyeTV 2.5 upgrade (free to existing customers) offers WiFi video streaming. Today I finally had the opportunity to sit down and put the update to the test: to see how it worked and to see where the new technology could take me. I found that this update turned my Mac Mini into a free, low-rent slingbox. I can now bring my home TiFaux with me on the road, just by tuning in using my iPhone, iPod touch or laptop.

Setting up Wi-Fi Access

To get started with video streaming, you must first enable Wi-Fi access in the EyeTV software. Open EyeTV > Preferences (Command-,), tap the Wi-Fi access icon, and click Start. When you do this, EyeTV prompts you to decide whether you want to prepare all your existing recordings for streaming.

So what do you do? Here are some things to keep in mind:

  • Wi-Fi streaming takes space. You'll need to store all those converted videos somewhere on your disk. So if you're short on space, you may want to think twice.
  • Wi-Fi conversion takes time. Converting each hour of video may take a couple of hours on your computer if you don't have access to Elgato's turbo.264 graphics accelerator. I do not, so I decided to skip this option and choose which videos I wanted to convert by hand.

To prepare all your videos, click Prepare All. Otherwise choose Don't Prepare, which is the option I picked. If you choose Prepare All, EyeTV automatically starts converting your videos to make them available for streaming.

Manually Converting Videos

Should you choose the convert-by-hand route, you'll need to select each video you want to stream and tell EyeTV to convert it. To do this, open your EyeTV Programs window and select your Recordings list. Right-click (or Control-click) any recording and choose Prepare for Wi-Fi Access from the pop-up menu. EyeTV begins the conversion, which will take some time.

To convert more than one video, choose the Prepare for Wi-Fi Access option again. EyeTV queues the additional video conversion requests in order to convert just one video at a time.

Streaming Locally

Once converted, you can use the local IP address listed in EyeTV's Wi-Fi preferences to select and stream video to your private network. For example, my Wi-Fi streaming address is http://192.168.0.101:2170/eyetv/. Point your browser to the address, select a video and play it. You can do this from your laptop, from your desktop computer, from your iPhone or iPod touch, or any other Internet-capable QuickTime-enabled browser and device. To take your shows with you on the road, takes a few more steps.

Creating a free DynDNS account

DynDNS offers free domain names that work with dynamic IP addresses--the kind of address most of have with our cable or DSL service that changes once or twice a day. When you sign up for a free account, you select a domain name. DynDNS assigns this to your current IP address. They offer a free Mac tool that updates your IP address whenever it changes. All together, this allows you to create a domain name that always points to your home Mac.

Start by creating an account. This entitles you to create a single hostname using a variety of domains. I'm particularly fond of the "is-a-geek.com" varieties. Set up the IP address using the auto-detected remote IP. Then install and use the DynDNS Updater tool to keep that IP current.

Setting up your Modem and Router

After creating and setting up your DynDNS account, your new domain name will point to your cable or DSL modem. You must then access your modem and set it up to forward port 2170 to your Mac. Doing this obviously varies by manufacturer. If you use a router in addition to your modem, you will have to do the same on your router. Make sure your Mac firewall is either disabled or you have added an exception for port 2170 to allow access. You can read more about this at Hackint0sh.

Remotely accessing your videos

Once you've set up your modem, router and/or Mac for port 2170 access, you can point your browser to the new address, for example http://ericasadun.is-a-geek.com:2170/eyetv/. (This is not a real URL) You will see the same menu you saw when using your local IP address. The difference is that now, you can access this menu from outside your local network.

Playing back videos

If you intend to watch your videos on the iPhone or iPod touch, decide whether you want to play back your videos in portrait or landscape orientation. Adjust your iPhone/iPod touch accordingly and load the EyeTV Wi-Fi video menu.

Select any converted video and tap it. This opens a video description page with a summary of the episode, as gleaned from Titan TV listings. To play the video, tap the image at the top-left of the page with the small play button in it. Your system opens the video and uses its native QuickTime player to stream the video for playback.

Conclusions

EyeTV's new WiFi streaming abilities elevate the system to new levels. If you're already an EyeTV owner, it gives you slingbox-level capabilities for essentially no further investment. If you're not an EyeTV owner, it offers you a compelling reason to become one. And as for Elgato's turbo.264 sales? After this new software update, I expect turbos to start flying off the shelf. I'm seriously considering buying one.

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