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You are here: MacNN Forums > Hardware - Troubleshooting and Discussion > Mac Desktops > Mac Mini as a complete home theatre system?

Mac Mini as a complete home theatre system?
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ShortcutToMoncton
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Apr 4, 2012, 01:12 PM
 
I have the Apple TV2 - it would be great for a "second TV" sort of system, but for various reasons it doesn't work as a primary/dedicated multimedia hub (basically because it has to link to a "server" computer in order to do anything non-iTunes/Internet related).

Of course, the best thing about the ATV is the iOS-like interface - it simplifies computer tasks which would just be painful to do in a non-desk environment. As everyone knows, hooking a computer directly up to a TV is just an exercise in frustration - current OS GUIs simply aren't meant to be used while sitting on a couch 12 feet away.

The simple answer to all this would be to have a Mac Mini with an AppleTV-like interface. However, while Apple sort of went that route at one point with that theatre-like interface, that's pretty much dead I understand. I've heard of things like XBMC and PLEX that one might be able to run, but (although I haven't used them) I just imagine that they would create their own difficulties with trying to sync with all the different things the Apple TV can now do - web browse, play iTunes music/movies, play Netflix, play movies from a personal HD, etc. I've also heard of something called RemoteBuddy that makes it easier to control the OS with a remote, but I haven't used it.

Does anyone use their computer as a dedicated multimedia hub to their TV? How? Any pros/cons?

Many thanks.
( Last edited by ShortcutToMoncton; Apr 4, 2012 at 01:30 PM. )
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Apr 4, 2012, 02:59 PM
 
I did, for the longest time, although not right now. It was a Win XP box. The advantage is that you can watch EVERYTHING. Strange Flash website? No problem. Video file with a codec noone has heard of in 20 years? Just install a codec. I just used a wireless desktop setup to control it. You can also make it work with anything - send output audio to a receiver in one of the few formats it supports, apply filters to video or audio, etc.

The downside is the control scheme. Either you move something on a desktop, or you "type" with a remote with arrow keys. I have a coffeetable with a lower "shelf", where I put the keyboard and just pulled it out as needed, but it was big and didn't look too nice. My new TV supports ALMOST everything I want from a computer, so I haven't connected a computer to the new setup. I still might, but so far, it's working.
The new Mac Pro has up to 30 MB of cache inside the processor itself. That's more than the HD in my first Mac. Somehow I'm still running out of space.
     
besson3c
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Apr 4, 2012, 04:13 PM
 
Yeah, I toyed with this too, but I think the best you can do is enlarge your fonts and setup Synergy to control your desktop OS via a keyboard and mouse.

I've yet to find a solution that allows you to watch Netflix, play iTunes stuff, play personal movies (transcoded movie files and/or DVDs/BluRay discs), and everything from within a self contained environment, and I don't think we'll ever see something like this. Netflix requires Silverlight which includes its own DRM, iTunes requires Apple stuff, and the personal movies requires an application such as VLC to handle this. There are solutions which handle each of these three things just fine, but no all-in-one solution, and I don't think there ever will be something that will do this that isn't made by Apple.

I'm not really understanding your reasons behind not using your AppleTV though. What do you mean by a link to a server computer?
     
subego
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Apr 4, 2012, 05:17 PM
 
I have a Mini Server as the hub of my home entertainment setup.

The big pro is everything native. iTunes, Netflix, Hulu, Amazon, YouTube, Pandora, Spotify, you name it.

The downside is control, though a touchpad is much better than a mouse. You can also control a lot with an iDevice.

Ask me questions.
     
ShortcutToMoncton  (op)
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Apr 4, 2012, 05:25 PM
 
Originally Posted by besson3c View Post
I'm not really understanding your reasons behind not using your AppleTV though. What do you mean by a link to a server computer?
Well the ATV doesn't have any storage. Anything you "own" has to be located on a base computer - and that computer has to be turned on at all times to access it from the ATV. Apple is now doing some cloud things but that has definite limitations.

One of my biggest peeves is that Airplay apparently doesn't "do" high-resolution audio. Everything is converted to some 16-bit, 44Khz format. Audio straight out from a dedicated computer will play 24-bit audio of course. For all Apple's goodness, it's mind-boggling to me that they create a device that's close to perfect for audiophiles, and then randomly limit it so. (Other wireless audio streaming devices can play audio in the original hi-res format.)

I've yet to find a solution that allows you to watch Netflix, play iTunes stuff, play personal movies (transcoded movie files and/or DVDs/BluRay discs), and everything from within a self contained environment, and I don't think we'll ever see something like this. Netflix requires Silverlight which includes its own DRM, iTunes requires Apple stuff, and the personal movies requires an application such as VLC to handle this. There are solutions which handle each of these three things just fine, but no all-in-one solution, and I don't think there ever will be something that will do this that isn't made by Apple.
Well, it's called the "AppleTV" - it has a singular interface and does all those things once jailbroken and with something like Firecore installed; it also has a web browser etc. And it can be controlled with an iOS device so you don't have the painful one-click typing process mentioned above.

Apple actually had the right idea with the original ATV, which had on-site storage. It's totally weird that they got the GUI and media applications down, and then decided to make it completely dependent on a separate computer.
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ShortcutToMoncton  (op)
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Apr 4, 2012, 05:26 PM
 
subego - do you own RemoteBuddy or know why it's apparently very cool?
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Apr 4, 2012, 05:27 PM
 
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abbaZaba
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Apr 4, 2012, 05:49 PM
 
I own RemoteBuddy and have used it on my mac mini media center for 5 years. I used to use SofaControl but RemoteBuddy really is the best option. it's incredibly powerful and I will admit that I don't even use all its potential

I use Plex as my media frontend with a Logitech Harmony remote and sometimes using a virtual touchpad on an ipod touch. I don't have an iPad yet, but that would be ideal. For controlling iTunes and the speakers, I don't even bother with using RemoteBuddy or a mouse/keyboard I just use the Remote app on the ipod touch and it works beautifully, being able to stream to my 3 different speaker systems.

I toyed with the idea of picking up a Magic Trackpad, but you'd still need something for keyboard input (if you don't use an onscreen keyboard), so it seems to be "nice" but not necessary. The new version of XMBC (11.0, Eden) seems really nice but I have no problems whatsoever with Plex so I don't see a reason to switch. I can also stream whatever is in Plex to an iOS device and this works quite well- it transcodes on the fly depending on your connection. I have ~3TB of media and Plex handles everything quite well. Plex runs fullscreen and when I switch to the mini on the TV, all I do is hit the Menu button to bring up RemoteBuddy and switch over to Plex. pretty simple.

As for the internet radio, I use Last.fm, Pandora, but mostly I've been using Spotify. Those things are a bit harder to control. but RemoteBuddy handles things like that. The problem is that you can't have a sports match on mute while listening to Spotify/Pandora/8Tracks/Last.fm unless all you're doing to using Next Track- if you need to pick a new playlist or browse tunes you need to be able to see it. I end up just using screen sharing on my macbook in cases like that.

I've had this setup for about 6 years and I've fiddled with a lot of things. Ask me anything you like
( Last edited by abbaZaba; Apr 4, 2012 at 05:57 PM. )
     
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Apr 4, 2012, 06:03 PM
 
sometimes if I don't want to use screen sharing, I use another app called Teleport which enables me to use my keyboard/trackpad on the macbook as if it were connected to the mini. If you're doing anything in a browser or trying to run webapps, internet radio it's pretty hard to get by without a keyboard.

I decided on the mac mini for the media center before there was an Apple TV but through 3 generations (and some impressive bumps to the mac mini) there's no way I would give up the freedom of having a full-fledged operating system. I could hack it and whatnot but mini over appletv is something I'd definitely spend the extra cash on.

before I got the Logitech Harmony remote, I used a Keyspan RF remote but it was much simpler to use the same remote I use for the TV that I use for the mini. no sense in having extra remotes.
( Last edited by abbaZaba; Apr 4, 2012 at 06:11 PM. )
     
ShortcutToMoncton  (op)
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Apr 4, 2012, 06:23 PM
 
Yes, I do have an iPad so will also be able to use that for control. Great post, need to track down to learn more about some of the stuff you've referenced....
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subego
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Apr 4, 2012, 06:27 PM
 
I vaguely remember trying Remote Buddy and not liking it.

My problem (IIRC) was it's solving last generation's problem.

If you had a bunch of discrete components, it'd be great, but the whole idea of using a Mac Mini is you're getting rid of all those discrete components.

The only thing you'll be doing which really maps to an old style remote is play/pause, and for me, I just lean in to the coffee table and hit the spacebar. It's easier than futzing around with my phone.
     
abbaZaba
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Apr 4, 2012, 06:28 PM
 
since you have an iPad, download the free Logitech Touch Mouse (I think that's the name) with the iPad, you'll be able to have the onscreen keyboard and a trackpad. you'll have to install a small server on the computer you want to control, but with that big onscreen keyboard and trackpad, it'll be well worth it and should be perfect for any input situation you come across



Originally Posted by subego View Post
I vaguely remember trying Remote Buddy and not liking it.

My problem (IIRC) was it's solving last generation's problem.

If you had a bunch of discrete components, it'd be great, but the whole idea of using a Mac Mini is you're getting rid of all those discrete components.

The only thing you'll be doing which really maps to an old style remote is play/pause, and for me, I just lean in to the coffee table and hit the spacebar. It's easier than futzing around with my phone.
I really only use Remote Buddy to bring up Plex if Plex isn't already up... I use the AJAX remote sometimes, but not often. I also use Remote Buddy to bring certain apps to front or hide them.
     
subego
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Apr 4, 2012, 06:31 PM
 
I've also toyed around with stuff like Plex, but what keeps me going back to iTunes is how freakin' awesome the iTunes visualizer is on the TV.
     
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Apr 4, 2012, 06:33 PM
 
that is very cool. I'll go into iTunes and throw that on just for fun sometimes. it does kind of make my 1.8 GHz C2D choke though- it's not the smoothest. I really want one of the new minis, they blow mine out of the water haha

just checked and Plex does have its own visualizer... I'll have to take a look at that


Originally Posted by subego View Post
I've also toyed around with stuff like Plex, but what keeps me going back to iTunes is how freakin' awesome the iTunes visualizer is on the TV.
I love how Plex automatically pulls episode synopsis, opening theme music, and series art from internet sources. I don't even bother putting any video into iTunes, Plex does such a good job of handling it
     
subego
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Apr 4, 2012, 06:36 PM
 
Originally Posted by abbaZaba View Post
I really only use Remote Buddy to bring up Plex if Plex isn't already up... I use the AJAX remote sometimes, but not often. I also use Remote Buddy to bring certain apps to front or hide them.
What's worked best for me, if I have something specific like that, is to whip up a macro in Keyboard Maestro, and then use the Keyboard Maestro app to trigger it. One nice thing about it is it boots and authenticates really quickly. As much as I like the Apple Remote app, it has to scratch it's ass for what feels like an eternity before it authenticates.
     
subego
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Apr 4, 2012, 06:42 PM
 
Originally Posted by abbaZaba View Post
that is very cool. I'll go into iTunes and throw that on just for fun sometimes. it does kind of make my 1.8 GHz C2D choke though- it's not the smoothest. I really want one of the new minis, they blow mine out of the water haha

just checked and Plex does have its own visualizer... I'll have to take a look at that
If it can use iTunes compatible visualizers, I have a copy of Magnetoshpere, which is the visualizer Apple bought and turned into the default. It's just as awesome, but way more hyper than the iTunes one. I can hook you (or anyone) up with a copy should you want.
     
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Apr 4, 2012, 06:43 PM
 
Originally Posted by subego View Post
What's worked best for me, if I have something specific like that, is to whip up a macro in Keyboard Maestro, and then use the Keyboard Maestro app to trigger it. One nice thing about it is it boots and authenticates really quickly. As much as I like the Apple Remote app, it has to scratch it's ass for what feels like an eternity before it authenticates.
I know exactly what you mean. The screen turns off and then you have to wait a second or two for the playlist or whatever to come back up. Extremely annoying and my biggest complaint with the Remote app
     
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Apr 4, 2012, 06:44 PM
 
Originally Posted by subego View Post
If it can use iTunes compatible visualizers, I have a copy of Magnetoshpere, which is the visualizer Apple bought and turned into the default. It's just as awesome, but way more hyper than the iTunes one. I can hook you (or anyone) up with a copy should you want.
does it work in Lion?
     
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Apr 4, 2012, 06:51 PM
 
Originally Posted by abbaZaba View Post
does it work in Lion?
I'll check. I haven't reinstalled it since I upgraded.

Also, on the iTunes visualizer, if you touch the "N" key (for "nebula") it shuts off the gas effects, which are a way bigger CPU suck than they should be.
     
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Apr 4, 2012, 07:04 PM
 
You guys are a gold mine here
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Apr 5, 2012, 11:30 AM
 
I too use a Mac Mini as a central home theater device. Since I don't use iTunes much for movies, I prefer the XBMC interface for daily media browsing (the media is stored on a RAID in another room), though it's often used through good 'ole Mac OS X, via a wireless keyboard and mouse. I've toyed with the various iPhone/iPad remote control apps, but always come back to the keyboard and mouse. Overall, the Mac Mini is the best home theater device I've used. There's also a Windows 7 PC hooked up to the TV, but it constantly has usability issues, sound hiccups, and constantly needs rebooted.

Mac Mini + XBMC + wireless keyboard and mouse = home theater bliss!
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subego
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Apr 5, 2012, 01:05 PM
 
Have you tried a trackpad?

Not only does it have a small footprint, the three finger swipe between full-screen apps is pretty sweet.
     
abbaZaba
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Apr 5, 2012, 01:14 PM
 
I've been thinking about it and the Magic Trackpad would be pretty great once you're inside Plex/XMBC swiping through lists, scrolling through shows, etc. I know Plex doesn't have gesture support (on trackpad, its iOS app has gestures) but you can map gestures, taps, number of fingers to different keyboard commands (which Plex has a ton of) with BetterTouchTool.

of course, an iPad with a virtual trackpad/keyboard would be best but compare $80 to $500
     
ShortcutToMoncton  (op)
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Apr 5, 2012, 06:16 PM
 
Yeah, I just hate the idea of having to use a keyboard. Keyboards really suck in a home theatre setting. And also my place is highly classy so having a keyboard lying around would be a big no-no.

I could certainly keep a Trackpad sitting on the arm of a chair or something, but that's only half the battle. The iPad idea is great but essentially that would require a "dedicated" iPad - if the wife brings it to another room suddenly you can't control the damn thing! I supposed buying a used iPad 2 or something might be possible, but it's still probably $300 which would be a pretty significant cost for a remote. And not to mention that it's sort of ungainly...remotes are meant to be dropped (my ATV one gets thrashed regularly). The days of tossing a remote back and forth would be in the past.

Seriously, if Apple made an AppleTV-like GUI program, the Mini would suddenly be the coolest thing going. How has this not happened yet? (It's almost like they were thinking about it with Front Row, but then that just sort of disappeared.)

This whole issue of finding an elegant way to control the thing has been the only reason why I haven't bought one. It seems like things are slowly headed that way, but I just really don't have time anymore to fiddle around with different programs and mapping buttons and shit like that - I just want my shit to work. The 25 minutes it took me to jailbreak the ATV2 stressed me out enough as it was.
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Apr 5, 2012, 06:45 PM
 
I built a Windows 7 HTPC with XBMC using an Intel i3 CPU. I control it with HippoRemote (iPod Touch app) and with a Windows Media IR Remote ($15). Love it and not bad for $350.

Upside: Plays anything and is infinitely customizable
Downside: Prone to Windows issues (have had none in 1 year) and needs updates (which I turned off other than Avast Security updates).
     
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Apr 8, 2012, 12:07 AM
 
Originally Posted by abbaZaba View Post
does it work in Lion?
Just dug it out, and indeed it does. However, it's 32-bit.

Speaking of bits, there's also some kind of 16-bit looking dither going on with the color, which I'm almost positive didn't used to be there. It doesn't look bad at proper viewing distance, but with the iTunes visualizer you can jam your face in pretty close.
     
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Apr 8, 2012, 12:20 AM
 
Here's an example of the dithering, but for whatever reason it looks more like macroblocking in the screencap:



It's still a wicked cool visualizer though. No complaints.

     
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Apr 8, 2012, 12:54 AM
 
If you could send it my way, that'd be boss
     
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Apr 8, 2012, 08:07 AM
 
Originally Posted by abbaZaba View Post
If you could send it my way, that'd be boss
Your bio says Pittsburgh but only scousers talk like that in my experience.

I have plenty of more important things to do, if only I could bring myself to do them....
     
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Apr 8, 2012, 08:36 AM
 
Originally Posted by osiris24x View Post

Mac Mini + XBMC + wireless keyboard and mouse = home theater bliss!
Mac Mini + XBMC PLEX + wireless keyboard and mouse = home theater bliss!

A minor edit and it's the same set-up and enjoyment.

I've also been impressed with the number of "channels" available, which covers most of a previous posters desire for Netflix, Hulu, TED, etc. Overall, I've been very happy with PLEX.
     
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Apr 8, 2012, 11:35 AM
 
Originally Posted by abbaZaba View Post
If you could send it my way, that'd be boss
My pleasure!

http://dl.dropbox.com/u/8898391/Magn...ere.bundle.zip

Unzip and pop in ~/Library/iTunes/iTunes Plug-ins.
( Last edited by subego; Apr 8, 2012 at 03:26 PM. )
     
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Apr 8, 2012, 02:40 PM
 
Make sure that you have a Mac mini that can store and play your Bluray rips (makemkv), amd of course get a bluray drive.

No matter what Steve said in the past, digital distribution is not going to critically take off because of wired internet caps coming for everyone in less than a year.
     
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Apr 8, 2012, 03:24 PM
 
That can be an issue. My Server doesn't even have a drive.

PS3 is how I deal, but it gets little use.
     
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Apr 8, 2012, 04:22 PM
 
I've never watched a Blu-ray movie. Don't own anything that plays them, no 1080p screens either.
I have plenty of more important things to do, if only I could bring myself to do them....
     
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Apr 9, 2012, 08:49 AM
 
Originally Posted by ShortcutToMoncton View Post

Apple actually had the right idea with the original ATV, which had on-site storage. It's totally weird that they got the GUI and media applications down, and then decided to make it completely dependent on a separate computer.
Original ATV ran too hot, cost too much and was too limited in capacity not to mention flaky with purchases occasionally vanishing having never synced with my main Mac

With the ATV2 I now have a system that finally offers what I expect

One big advantage of the following setup is minimal training for the family

The hub of my system is a white MacBook acquired for $0 thanks to a broken screen
Attached to this is a 4tb USB hard drive
While I could run video from the MacBook to my tv, I don't bother since my tv cannot handle the separate dvi to hdmi video and optical audio from the MacBook (I might have replaced the MacBook with a Mac mini for its hdmi output except for the improvements to iTunes/iCloud)
The MacBook runs iTunes continuously with home sharing active on my account (other family members have and use their own iTunes accounts for apps etc. but all use my account for home sharing)
Home sharing allows each member of the family to access music and video on the MacBook (plus apps purchased on the main account) to easily be viewed or copied on their Macs, iPods, iPhones, iPads etc (each Mac must be authorized for my iTunes account and it is also helpful that they are all authorized for all family accounts since this allows any family member to copy items from any computer for adding to their own iOS device etc.)
The existence of an ATV on each of our tv sets allows this same media to be accessed from any of those devices too
iTunes on the MacBook automatically downloads some purchases (music, iOS apps and season pass tv shows)
Other media must be purchased on the MacBook (using screen sharing) or later moved there by dropping files onto the 'automatically add to iTunes' folder
Ripped DVDs are also added by dragging onto the same folder (having first been tagged with iDentify, available in the app store)

I have connected the MacBook to my airport with Ethernet, other devices connect with a mix of Ethernet and wifi (wifi used to be problematic until I purchased a new airport express to extend the range)
The only issue I seem to have at the moment is when iTunes on the MacBook pops up a dialog and becomes unavailable until this is dismissed (I could turn off automatic updates, but the issue is infrequent and easily solved via screen sharing)
The only other issue I have is my wife buying a new reality tv series about once a week (when I was using plex/atv1 she was buying nearly as many on DVD and I have yet to rip most of them (no incentive to do so either) and she has to watch them on our solitary DVD player)
     
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Apr 9, 2012, 12:19 PM
 
Well sure, the ATV had its physical limitations. I think we can agree that those could be solved by now if Apple had continued with its form.

Besides the issue of limited audio/video output (the ATV3 now does 1080p at least, but I all audio is still sampled to 16 bit/48k output), it's still very, very limited unless jailbroken, and it's still annoyingly dependant on a "home" computer being kept on at all times to access music/movies that you, you know, actually own. I turn the screen off whenever possible but having to keep a 27" iMac running continuously is not ideal to say the least. And as I've stated, it's simply a bother to have to effectively use two different systems - rip/download/encode movies on one computer, play them somewhere else. If anything goes wrong, back to another room to fix....

Essentially I'm looking for an elegant solution which I envision as the point/click ATV GUI married with Mac Mini power/capabilities, but it doesn't sound like that system exists in Apple's world just yet.
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Apr 9, 2012, 01:28 PM
 
have you looked into Plex's media channels, and the iOS remote/streaming app? In addition to it being an a remote for the Plex system, you can select various "channels" (netflix, hulu, pandora) from the Plex app and have them play on the mini but I have not used this feature as I don't often use channel

you might not have seen the extent of the features Plex for iOS: Plex Mobile for iOS on the iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch

sounds to me like that might be right up your alley if you've got a dedicated iPad/iPod Touch for the TV room. you can easily get Hulu, Netflix, Pandora, etc on the TV and control/search each service through the iOS app
( Last edited by abbaZaba; Apr 9, 2012 at 01:39 PM. )
     
ShortcutToMoncton  (op)
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Apr 10, 2012, 10:20 AM
 
Yes, that certainly looks great actually. I find that when I look up Plex, I end up getting lots of people saying that XBMC is so much better and pointing out all the problems with Plex, and vice versa...it may just be a matter of having to install them both and play around, but of course that's annoying as well.

Also, I don't currently have a "dedicated" iPad - I've got one, but it's technically the wife's and she takes it with her wherever she goes. So I can't really use it as a remote. I suppose I could pick up an iPad 2 but again, the size sort of bothers me for remote use. However, the iPod touch as a dedicated remote does interest me, especially in terms of size...can the Touch do everything the iPad does from a remote perspective?

Greg
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subego
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Apr 10, 2012, 10:39 AM
 
That's a yes for the iTunes Remote app.
     
abbaZaba
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Apr 10, 2012, 12:25 PM
 
Originally Posted by ShortcutToMoncton View Post
Also, I don't currently have a "dedicated" iPad - I've got one, but it's technically the wife's and she takes it with her wherever she goes. So I can't really use it as a remote. I suppose I could pick up an iPad 2 but again, the size sort of bothers me for remote use. However, the iPod touch as a dedicated remote does interest me, especially in terms of size...can the Touch do everything the iPad does from a remote perspective?

Greg
the Logitech Touch Mouse and Plex apps are the same functionality. but I personally think the Touch is a bit small, especially if I am trying to use the trackpad and keyboard functionalities at the same time.

I need to take a look at xmbc 11. I fired it up for all of two minutes and it seemed very nice. I just prefer plex's standalone media server way of handling media and data fetching
     
ShortcutToMoncton  (op)
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Apr 12, 2012, 11:04 AM
 
Good points - looking at some screen shots and youtube vids etc. I see what you mean about the trackpad/keyboard being on the same screen if it were the Touch. Something else to consider.

I'm actually thinking about selling my 27" iMac and getting a HTPC (TV-based) mini instead. Since I've been considering this I've thought about what exactly I need the iMac for - casual surfing/internet research is done on the iPad and probably could be done on the HTPC via the TV screen, no? Okay, so I might need to pick up a Superdrive for the mini...but torrents, music, photos and photo editing, all that stuff can be done on a TV-based mini with ease, no?

The only thing I can think of is document editing. But, I rarely use Word at home - I'm on it all day, so the only thing could be the occasional use, which might be done on the mini at some inconvenience, or perhaps even the iPad if those iWord rumours are true.

(The attraction of course is that my 2.5GHz i5 27" iMac might fetch enough to get a mini and a Touch, or perhaps a used iPad 2.)

The prospect of not having a dedicated "computer" in the house - for the first time since 1987. Isn't that weird? Anyone else thought about this?
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Apr 12, 2012, 12:11 PM
 
It depends on your screen size to viewing distance ratio, but with my setup of 48" at 11 feet, browsing is very fatiguing on the eyes.

OTOH, I do 98% of my browsing on a mobile, so it's not like that's a bad setup.

Problems you'll have with it:

No Flash, obviously.
Sites with poorly behaved mobile versions.
Low RAM can cause pages to reload way more than they do on a desktop. Not really a problem unless you enter in text and expect the thing to keep it. I've had numerous posts eaten that way.
No seamless 1Password integration if you live the 1Password life.
( Last edited by subego; Apr 12, 2012 at 12:19 PM. )
     
ShortcutToMoncton  (op)
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Apr 12, 2012, 01:31 PM
 
Yeah, most browsing will probably be done on the New iPad.

I also find TV browsing fatigueing but I have enjoyed the ATV2 "hacked" browser called Couch Surfer provided by Firecore - it has a very reasonable screen ratio and I must say I enjoy it. Does XBMC or Plex have a "full-screen" browser app such as that?
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abbaZaba
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Apr 12, 2012, 10:27 PM
 
Originally Posted by ShortcutToMoncton View Post
Good points - looking at some screen shots and youtube vids etc. I see what you mean about the trackpad/keyboard being on the same screen if it were the Touch. Something else to consider.

I'm actually thinking about selling my 27" iMac and getting a HTPC (TV-based) mini instead. Since I've been considering this I've thought about what exactly I need the iMac for - casual surfing/internet research is done on the iPad and probably could be done on the HTPC via the TV screen, no? Okay, so I might need to pick up a Superdrive for the mini...but torrents, music, photos and photo editing, all that stuff can be done on a TV-based mini with ease, no?

The only thing I can think of is document editing. But, I rarely use Word at home - I'm on it all day, so the only thing could be the occasional use, which might be done on the mini at some inconvenience, or perhaps even the iPad if those iWord rumours are true.

(The attraction of course is that my 2.5GHz i5 27" iMac might fetch enough to get a mini and a Touch, or perhaps a used iPad 2.)

The prospect of not having a dedicated "computer" in the house - for the first time since 1987. Isn't that weird? Anyone else thought about this?
I'd personally be wary about not having a dedicated computer, in a room where if need be you can close the door and close out distractions (sounds dirty, but let me explain). The problem with having a computer connected to your TV (and I'm assuming the TV you're trying to use is in a living room area?) is that if you want to do photo editing or going through your library or whatever is that you have to "take over" the TV and if there's anyone else with you, they have to sit and watch you do whatever you are doing on the screen. It's awkward. How many times have you had the TV on but doing something on the laptop/ipad/iphone? If you're trying to do all the tasks you would have normally done on the iMac, on the HTPC mini, eventually someone is going to be with you and be "hey I just want to watch TV, get out of iPhoto."

at the least, you would leave the TV input and VNC into the mini and go from there which brings up my recommendation of the iPad over the Touch because of the larger screen.

also, the Logitech Touch Mouse was pretty much the first trackpad/keyboard app I found for the Touch and I've never tried anything else as it has served me perfectly and it is free. There may be other paid apps which are better but I don't have any recommendation other than the Touch Mouse (though at one point I was trying to find a trackpad/keyboard for an Android tablet....WOW their app selection is horrendous. I literally couldn't find a facsimile for Touch Mouse no matter how much I searched the Market or google or bing)
( Last edited by abbaZaba; Apr 12, 2012 at 10:40 PM. )
     
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Apr 12, 2012, 10:42 PM
 
as for a Couch Browser for Plex- no. Plex handles media and various media sites (netflix, hulu, youtube, internet radio, etc)

you'd have to customize chrome or firefox or use Reader in Safari extensively
     
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Apr 13, 2012, 02:57 AM
 
how do you guys resolve the fact that there is not native way of outputting ac3, dd, or dts from various movie containers?

I know that the apple dvd player and iTunes allows for surround sound capability if available.

i've searched the web high and low and there seems to be no real solution for users in lion. this is mildly annoying since its obvious that its possible, apple just hasn't allowed users to readily access it.
     
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Apr 13, 2012, 04:10 AM
 
There is a way to enable passthrough, although I haven't tried it with Lion.
The new Mac Pro has up to 30 MB of cache inside the processor itself. That's more than the HD in my first Mac. Somehow I'm still running out of space.
     
ShortcutToMoncton  (op)
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Apr 13, 2012, 08:10 AM
 
Yeah, I'm wary of ditching a dedicated computer as well, but I still don't know what I do on it to need one - honestly, we sat down and talked about it last night, and my wife hasn't sat down at the iMac since we got the iPad a few weeks ago. I use it mostly for sports highlights, news, basic web surfing, and then media collection/storage and photo editing/storage (using Aperture). At least 95% of that stuff could easily be done on an iPad or even a HTPC I think.

I'm not too worried about my wife watching TV because I don't have cable. The ATV2/iMac/iPad is our sole source of video entertainment. I cut cable out of my life last year and haven't missed it, other than not being able to waste my time watching sports like I want to. Of course the advantage is that all shows are on-demand or downloaded - so there's rarely (if ever) a moment when one of us "have" to use the TV to watch something, unlike if your favourite cable show is coming on at 8pm or something.

I've heard that the new iPad is pretty solid for doing the type of basic photo edits that I would be doing, although I haven't used it. And to be honest, if I can sell the iMac for a decent price, I'd probably get the refurb Mac Mini (altho there are none at Apple Store currently) and a base iPad 3 for not a lot more - that would make a lot of sense I think. So for basic web browsing/stuff, we'd have an iPad each (one or both of which would be used as a dedicated remote to control the Mini), the HTPC to supplement, and then my actual 14" work laptop if necessary - I don't usually bring it home but can if needed for actual work (Word, intense web research, etc.).
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Apr 13, 2012, 01:09 PM
 
Originally Posted by ShortcutToMoncton View Post
I'm not too worried about my wife watching TV because I don't have cable. The ATV2/iMac/iPad is our sole source of video entertainment. I cut cable out of my life last year and haven't missed it, other than not being able to waste my time watching sports like I want to. Of course the advantage is that all shows are on-demand or downloaded - so there's rarely (if ever) a moment when one of us "have" to use the TV to watch something, unlike if your favourite cable show is coming on at 8pm or something.
I've debating getting rid of cable for some time. The only thing I watch broadcast for is ESPN channels and games. Not watching steelers/pens/pirates games is not an option so the cable has stuck around
     
ShortcutToMoncton  (op)
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Apr 13, 2012, 02:38 PM
 
Haha yeah I've found it's a good excuse to get out of the house and down to a bar if I want to watch some sports - which is generally the best place to do that sort of thing anyway. But it is annoying, especially when there's no game to put on in the background when people are over.

Many NA leagues are setting up online streaming features now anyway - MLB, NBA and NHL all have fairly decent ones (not sure about NFL). With the unfortunately and utterly stupid exception of regional blackouts, it's a pretty good option for an internet-only sports experience.
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