Probably the most useful feature in a digital television is the capability to define search terms to run automatic scheduling of recordings. That way, you can e.g. record every piece of “news” or “Buffy Vampire Slayer”, regardless of from which channel and at what time they appear. It is a small and intermediate step towards true VoD (“Video on Demand”), but a necessary one in a broadcast dominated media reality.
Our old Topfield set-top box was able (with a TAP add-on program) to make automatic search-programming, but our new Maximum T-8000 can not. My attempt at a temporary solution this weekend was to get a Pinnacle TV for Mac DVB-T Stick, plug it into our Mac Mini (sitting next to the telly), and use Elgato’s EyeTV software to handle the scheduling. I was a bit disappointed to find that the bundled “Lite” version of EyeTV did not include full-text searches into the EPG, so I was forced to upgrade into the full version. The full one supports “Smart Guides”, which is Elgato’s way of talking about flexible search terms combined with automatic recording from the EPG data. I still need to do some real testing on this, but in principle the system now looks promising. Only challenges are related to the image quality (DVB-T stick is no match for a real, premium class set-top box in that) and then to the disk space; a large USB disk connected with the Mac Mini might be a solution for that.