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One of the biggest complaints I heard about when cutting the cord is the complexity people face when switching between watching live TV and their HTPC media center software for local or internet-based content. Boxee recently addressed this by offering their Live TV dongle. But given that Boxee is a distant third in our user survey of which media center software you use, we thought we’d see if the other, more popular platforms, XBMC and Plex offer a solution as well, and for Plex users, there isn’t just one, but two options.
Eye TV Live
Plex user Shirk developed a plug-in for Plex, Mac-based users that enables them to watch live TV through EyeTV. Found in the Plex Forums, setup is not quite straightforward, but only takes a few minutes to setup. What’s nice about Shirk’s plugin is that EyeTV doesn’t have to be running on the Mac on which you are watching Plex, it only need be on the same LAN. Additionally, the plug-in pulls in information from the EPG within EyeTV, and gives the user information on what’s playing on each channel. The downside of the plugin is that its using EyeTV’s mobile quality stream, and as such the picture isn’t the same caliber as if watching directly from the EyeTV app, but given that it pulls in EPG info, its a fair trade-off. User Shirk indicated in the forums that he is working on being able to access the higher quality stream.
HD HomeRun Plug-in
The other option is for users who are using Silicon Dust’s HDHomeRun to convert the OTA signal to your network as we describe in our Cutting the Cord: Part 2 guide. The plug-on is found in Plex’s app store, called Plex Online, and is installed with the click of your remote or mouse. All that’s required is the device ID, which can be found on the bottom of the HDHomeRun unit. Once input, the plugin will scan and download the OTA streams and any other information provided through the signal. Relative to the EyeTV Live plugin there are two major differences. First, given that the plugin directly accesses the HDHomeRun, it provides access to the full, high quality MPEG-2 stream the HDHomeRun outputs. But second, it does download and display EPG info, as such, there is no on-screen info as to what show is playing on any given channel, and unless you know the call letters of each channel, you have to manually re-name each channel to a station name you recognize.
Having tested both, I currently switch back and forth between each. When watching football on the weekend, where I find picture quality to be more important, and I know what’s on, I use the HDHomeRun plugin. If I’m channel surfing, watching sitcoms or junk, where picture quality isn’t as important but its nice to see EPG info, I use the EyeTV Live plugin. Both are nice, but only the EyeTV Live plug-in is being actively developed. Either way, its nice to have a solution that allows Plex users to watch live TV without having to leave Plex, and as such, dramatically improves the spouse-acceptance-factor. Give them both a try and let us know your thoughts. Happy cutting….