How to build a super-low-cost, HD-PVR out of any Firewire-equipped Apple Mac

“I found that any Firewire-equipped Mac can be made into an HD-PVR for unencrypted content at the expense of an appropriate firewire cable. Apple even provides the necessary capture software that you need, provided that you know where to look,” Rob blogs for “motivated.”

The Project

Building a super-low-cost, HD-PVR.


1. A cable box with Firewire output
2. A Mac (with an available Firewire port)
3. A Firewire cable for connecting the cable box to your computer (with appropriate connection interfaces)
4. Some spare hard drive space (HD required ~100MB/min)
5. Apple Firewire SDK
6. MPlayer (or, alternatively, VLC)

Rob explains, “In my case, I used a Scientific Atlanta 3250HD Cable Receiver, a 12 inch 1.33Ghz Aluminum Apple Powerbook, and a spare Belkin male-male firewire cable that I had laying around from a Mac-to-Mac data transfer I did at some point. The Apple Firewire SDK is downloadable (free registration required) from the Apple Development Kits Page. MPlayer and VLC are also free downloads. In theory, any combination of 1-3 should work. If your cable set-top box lacks Firewire connectivity, ask for it. The FCC mandates that all cable services provide firewire output (on request if necessary) as of April 1, 2004.”

Full article with instructions here.

[Thanks to MacDailyNews Reader “Mike H.” for the heads up.]

Related article:
Apple updates QuickTime Broadcaster (and how to turn your Mac into a PVR) – March 16, 2006


  1. Only a neanderthal would think that anyone in their right mind would be so stupid as to type a post asking if the USA’s laws applied to us on this side of the pond.

    What type of a person calls a huge ocean a pond? It’s a British colloquial euphemism, I know – I’m just asking.

  2. @something to argue about: How do you unilaterally sign a treaty? Um, doesn’t there have to be at least two parties to make a treaty?

    You would think so wouldn’t you? But Tony Blair’s Labour government signed an anti-terror extradition treaty that US Senate Foreign Relations Committee has yet to, and then made it domestic law under the Extradition Act 2003; but US has used to extradite British citizens for non terror related crimes (e.g. NatWest bankers from London, check the link in original post).

    Plenty of people in UK are unhappy about this one-sided treaty, and it being law in UK, although it’s hardly front-page news in USA.

    Layman politics and armchair dysfunction or not, a simple Google search would provide you with more information. e.g. Ancient Order of Hibernians are the primary group who are blocking the ratification of the US/UK Extradition Treaty by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

    Here’s the ‘Extradition Act 2003: Chapter 41’ in UK law:

    Here’s an analysis of current UK Extradition Arranges with the US: Reid Letter.doc

  3. > 1. A cable box with Firewire output

    Make that an OPERATIONAL Firewire output. Many cable providers have converter boxes with dead Firewire outputs. The content creators (i.e. Hollywood) are paranoid about people stealing content (have a listen to this Podcast as evidence) Consequently, Firewire outputs on converter boxes are often rendered useless because of this.

  4. Actually, you can do this just as easily on Windows. The great thing about the Mac method, though is that it also works with my TV’s firewire, and I can control rec, rew, ff and play from my TV’s iLink interface.

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