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Mac Mini HTPC

Create a Complete and Cutting Edge Media Center with your Mac Mini

With the switch to HDTV last summer, we decided it was time to upgrade our media experience. Our old system of rabbit ears and a VCR was not going to work out with an HD signal. After some research I learned that many are using the Mac Mini as a driver for their home theater setups, and it sounded great to me. My primary requirement is that it have a user-friendly experience that compares with traditional TV/VCR/Remote setups – I didn’t want to be using a keyboard and mouse on my living room couch. The transition is now 80% done and I have chronicled my experience so far, including many useful resources I found helpful along the way.

You’ll find how-to videos, reviews of PVR (personal video recorder) and other media-related software, discussion forums, and more. I’ll also be learning the Mac OS in the process, so will probably include mac-specific content as well. Contributions of additional resources are welcome! This is a work in progress, and still in it’s infancy.

The Mac Mini appeals for several reasons. It is possible, in theory, to use this one tiny computer to replace the functions of your VCR/DVR and DVD/CD Player. The Mac platform is stable thanks to it’s UNIX roots.The new 2009 Mini’s have plenty of horsepower to process the video, especially with an inexpensive RAM upgrade to 4GB (see the video below for more on that).

I am using iTunes for music on the mini, Plex for movies and video, and EyeTV for recording and watching live tv. My goal is to have one integrated application but right now I’m switching between these. The mac comes with FrontRow, but you’ll see in some of the links below that Plex is widely regarded as superior. The main advantage to Plex is the stunning visual interface. But it takes some time to set up and load your files into the library. Go for the Aeon skin – it’s very nice.

My HP MediaSmart Server provides storage for music, movies, TV shows and photos.
The network is mixed Wireless-N and -G. We have two HP Pavillion laptops running XP and Vista, respectively. The Mac Mini is set up in the living room and hooked up to my HDTV.

Next Steps:
– Purchase antenna for attic and run cable to an HDHomeRun device, which will convert the HD signal to ethernet and run through the wireless router to all nodes of the network.
– Refine remote control to really give full control of all menus in EyeTV and Plex.
– Research and implement optimal solution for playing recorded TV on bedroom tv.

1 Comment

  1. kc2008ls says:

    Mac Mini makes a good media center, but you really need to automate the procress by installing sickbeard and couchpotato. http://www.totalhtpc.com has some great guides.

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