The Mac Mini media center.
I needed a new media/home server as my old one is on old huge PC. Seeing I have moved in to the mac world in the past year I decided on a Mac mini,
I decided on the base model at £510,
The only thing I upgraded was the ram, I went up to 4GB for an extra £70, looking around at the time Apple were cheaper than most other places.
The reason for the extra RAM is HD content, the graphics card shares the main ram so it would help all round to jump up to 4GB.
The hard drive is not the biggest for a media center / server but UBS/Firewire drives are now cheap and easy to use.
So now I have the main hardware picked it getting it connected to the TV, Amp and rest of the computers.
The Mac has 2 outputs for video, mini-dvi and mini display port, they are basically the same but one you get an adaptor to dvi and the other you have to buy. I already have a DVI to HDMI cable to don’t really need to buy anything for this, you can pick up mini-DVI to HDMI convertors for next to nothing. Both options will not give you sound on HDMI, this is a pain in the ass until Kanex released a few devices that would help you out on this, check out Kenex’s web page
Personally this would not work for me and I’ll explain why.
The Mac mini has 2 main ways of getting sound, analog and digital, the bump in the read is they both come from the same audio plug on the back.
I have a AV amp which is happy to take the optical from the back of the mac mini and play 5.1 all day long, but sometimes you dont want all 6 speakers going just to enjoy a little tv so it would be nice to have the mac mini just playing good old stereo through my TV, well I can do this but not both without a little work. I have got an optical splitter so I can have a feed going off to my amp, the problem comes with the connection to the TV, the only input would be 3.5m 3pin jac which a very easy to come across but its getting the optical to analog, you can get convertors but they are not as cheap as I would like so for the time being I was going to plug/unplug the cable from the rear of the mac, but I will up date if I ever sort this little problem out.
This is where I hit a little wall, im sure like most People you dont wait and wait and buy 5 of the same hard drive, I have a mix of drives and 99% of them with USB and firewire so there is no problem in getting them connected. My problem was with my 4 Bay external caddy, its great and quite but only has Esata out, perfect when connected to my old PC media center not so great with a Mac mini and no Esata in, if you have a look on forums you will see people taking there mini to bit to get access to the esata on the inside but for me the last thing I want to do with my new, shiny mac mini is drill holes in the back. So after a little checking around port multiplier is needed in a Esata to USB device and agin I found a few online all for £40 or so, I did find a few on ebay for £3 to £4 and thought at that price its worth a go and what do you know it worked.
Before you start to type in the reply box yes I think everyone know USB is slower than firewire or Esata but 1, the drive is not firewire or Esata and B, its about storage not speed.
Now one good thing about the mac mini is the amount of power it uses, not a lot in a nut shell but start adding 4/5/6 hard drives that stay on all the time and you will see your green mac sat next to some CO2 hard drives. The Standby saver now has a USB version, there are 2 sockets that say on all the time so you can have your mac wake from lan and your remaining hard drives can plug in to the saver sockets, as soon as you mac powers down the hard drives turn off.
I have been a pc user for years and had many pc media centers and looking at frontrow windows (for a change) wins, windows media center is easy to use and will do more things than the mac equlivent but its not just about software, hardware plays in to this and this is where the mac wins, its a very quick system and not bogged down with the windows OS speeding things up, there are some mac media centers available to download (plex) but it would be nice to see apple update frontrow to something with a bit more punch, seeing the mac mini is a beautiful computer and perfect for a small media center i’m still shocked that they have not updated this end.
Finally got the Mac mini,
Things you will need to start off with-
- usb keyboard, yes you may have one but if not your joy will be shorted lived, this is just for the 1st boot after this you dont need it.
- Hard drive space, if you are moving form a windows system you are going to have to reformat your drives, you can read NTFS but not write to. It can take some time to moved everything round to free up a drive to them format it and copy everything back.
- A week to get over how nice it is.