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Mac Mini, the Media Server Evolution

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UPDATED: It was only two weeks ago, I wrote that perhaps Mac Mini would lead to new kind of computer usage, and perhaps the tiny tot will evolve into a Media Server/DVR.

Now think of Mac Mini as a “home media server.” Last month when rumors were flying thick and fast, Jonathan Greene very rightfully pointed out the true potential of this device. Mac Mini is perfect sitting next to your Sony FlatScreen TV. I think just like an iPod economy sprang up around the hit digital device, it is time for peripheral makers to bring to market add-ons like TV connectors, remote control modules and the sort. Elgato can turn your Mac Mini into a nice TiVo replacement. All it needs is a little imagination.

Even Bob Cringley has caught on the concept. Looks like a lot of people took up that idea and have now set-up tons of fan-sites devoted precisely to that concept. So my good deed for the year done – I want to do some link backs to the new Mac Mini meme. First of all I am glad to see Jonathan Greene, who has become a friend-via-blogging is doing MacHTPC, which I am pretty sure is going to be a must read in months to come. He did a post earlier, which basically urged Apple to get serious about the home media center thing! Jason Sares is off to a rocking start as well on his site. And that too while in Ohio! Another one, is all forums but still good. I am worried if Rob will continue with GotMacMini! Russ has bought and installed his! Anyone interested in buying a powerbook 15, let me know. I am going Mini Mac!

How much mac you need for ElGato TV?

So how much Mac do you need to use the EyeTV 500? That turns out to be a complicated question. If you intend to have your Mac handle all of your DTV duties—watching live TV, recording, and playing back recorded shows—you’ll probably want a dual-G5 PowerMac. We tried the EyeTV software on a variety of machines, including a 1.6GHZ single-processor G5 PowerMac, a 1.8GHZ single-processor G5 iMac, and a 1ghz G4 12′ Powerbook. The experience made it clear that playing back high-def DTV (not all DTV is high-def, but one of the chief reasons to get DTV is for the high-def content) is extremely processor intensive. On both G5 machines, for example, the EyeTV software routinely accounted for between 70-80% of the processor capacity while playing high-def programs. So the short answer is: you need a G5 Mac, and preferably a dual-processor PowerMac.”

I guess Mac Mini won’t do the trick as a DVR after all!

9 Responses to “Mac Mini, the Media Server Evolution”

  1. Chris,
    I bought a Radio Shack MDMI connector but the SONY doesn’t seem to recognize the signal as I loop through the TV inputs on the remote. I pulled the power plug on the SONY to try to force a recognition. There must be some bootup sequence magic involved. Are you any further on connecting your MacMini video out to your SONY HDMI in. I’m sure I can connect it to the RGB but I wouldn’t expect high def so why bother. … John

  2. Apple is music and video production centric today, but the natural evolution must be to create a digital server for all media, live, recorded and created. I’m a long time Windows user and bought a Mac mini because I love the form factor (no more legacy ports) and native DVI. I figure there will be more to come, both from Apple and third-parties. Windows XP Media Center has unresolved hardware and usability issues. I hope Apple is learning what not to do.

    • Harry Jones

      I’ve connected my G4 Mac Mini to my 26″ Sony Bravia in that manner. All you should need is a DVI-HDMI cable…I bought one for ~$14.95 at a local computer store. You’ll also need a cable that has a mini-stereo plug on one end (Mac Mini) and 2 RCA plugs on the other (TV) to send audio.


  3. I think the Mac Mini is the perfect start to a good media center. I don’t think your media center needs to house your best computing horsepower. Why not use your desktop computer as a media server, with a TV tuner, collecting all the tv shows, movies, music, photos, etc…, serving them either wired or wirelessly (802.11g at least) to your Mac Mini media center? Personally, I would rather organize and setup all my media on a desktop and then just easily access it with a remote on my couch. Anyway, I don’t think Apple has any intentions of the Mac Mini becoming a media center. It’s just a step in the direction of one. Apple will watch what all the hardware hackers out there can concoct, collect the best ideas, and once the world is ready for a media center (ie. CableCard is ready, fast enough broadband is available in enough areas) then they will release ‘iHome’ or whatever they wish to call it, with a ‘made for tv’ interface running ontop of OS X. In the meantime, lets see what the hackers out there can come up with.

  4. The one thing that a lot of people seem to be getting wrong about this whole concept is that a Media Center machine needs to be a lot *more* powerful than a “standard-issue” machine and the Mac Mini is a lot *less* powerful. Even a dual G5 has trouble playing back high-definition video so if this “Media Center Mac” (which I hope we’ll see soon) is going to feed into Steve Jobs’ new high-definition fixation, it certainly isn’t going to be the Mac Mini.

    In order to really succeed as a media center, you need more encoding and decoding horsepower, preferably in the form of a modified chipset which includes these abilities natively. The Mac Mini, in other words, fits into the “Media Center” concept in form only… not function. Media Centers also require at least two tuners (preferably four) and generate a lot of heat… this again, would not be plausible with the Mini’s form factor.

    Give me a stackable component with on-board native MPEG4 encoding and decoding and then we can talk.