PDA

View Full Version : Can someone help me validate my understanding before I drop $1100?




ringemaster
Jul 19, 2010, 06:10 PM
Hey folks.....great forum. Love the info here, so thanks in advance for reading and responding. I feel like I've done the adequate research to invest in purchasing/implementing the below plan, but it would be great if others could validate my understanding.

First, my objectives:
1. Do away with cable while maintaining the majority of the same programming/functionality (this includes watching live TV and recording two channels of TV at once)

2. Have a reasonably simple interface to play our digital movies and music - most movies would be in common formats (.mkv, TS, etc.) while a few would be in iTunes formats (m4p, m4v). ALL music would be in iTunes.

3. Automatically Sync the iTunes libraries of all the computers in the house (this would include the HTPC and our two macbook pros) so that they all had physical copies of files that were purchased on any of the computers.

4. Have access to the recorded TV and downloaded movies on our laptops.

5. Have it look cool and support all of the above up to 1080p HD res and surround sound.

Here's what I've done so far:
1. Spent $50 on an OTA antenna and validated that I get all of our local channels (CW, ABC, NBC, FOX, CBS and PBS) in HD

2. Downloaded Plex to my Macbook Pro, installed it and played around with it enough to validate that it will play my non-iTunes movies and iTunes music natively.

3. I currently own a 47" HDTV, optical audio cable, toslink to optical adapter, Airport Extreme Base Station and an aluminum unibody apple remote.

4. I currently have a Hulu Plus subscription (I've been checking it out over the last week or so).

Here's what I plan to do:
1. Buy a new Mac Mini, SiliconDust HDHomerun (dual tuner), 1TB external hard drive, EyeTV software, cable splitter and HDMI cable.

2. Connect the Mac Mini to the:
- TV using the HDMI cable
- Surround receiver using the Toslink adapter and the optical cable
- AEBS directly using a Cat5 cable
- External hard drive using FW800

3. Connect the OTA antenna output to the cable splitter and then into the two tuners on the HDHomeRun. This would hardwire via Cat5 into the AEBS.

4. Install Plex, EyeTV and Hulu Desktop on the Mac Mini.

5. In the Applications section of Plex, create a link to EyeTV and Hulu Desktop (I've been told this will eventually have Hulu Plus support) as well as download the HDHomeRun plug-ins.

6. Dump all of my non-iTunes video files onto the external hard drive. I'd also setup EyeTV to record there as well.

7. Turn on file sharing on the Mac Mini and within iTunes.

8. Configure the Macbook Pros to connect to the external hard drive via sharing through the Mac Mini.

9. Setup some automated scripts to transfer old and newly purchased iTunes files to the local hard drive of the Mac Mini. These scripts would make it so that any one of us could purchase new music on our computer or the Mac Mini and have it show up on the hard drives of each of our computers the next day.

We may end up buying a bluetooth keyboard/mouse so we can browse the internet from the couch, but this isn't a priority. Obviously we'd use the Apple Remote or any one of the iPhone remote apps to control it all.

Did I get it all? I think this should give me what I want correct?



darkgroove
Jul 19, 2010, 07:18 PM
See my thoughts in GREEN.

First, my objectives:
1. Do away with cable while maintaining the majority of the same programming/functionality (this includes watching live TV and recording two channels of TV at once)

- I have basic cable and download the shows I need. This ensures I get the live stuff I need (news basically) and then I download the rest.

2. Have a reasonably simple interface to play our digital movies and music - most movies would be in common formats (.mkv, TS, etc.) while a few would be in iTunes formats (m4p, m4v). ALL music would be in iTunes.

Plex (plexapp.com) is all you need.

3. Automatically Sync the iTunes libraries of all the computers in the house (this would include the HTPC and our two macbook pros) so that they all had physical copies of files that were purchased on any of the computers.

Enable 'Home Sharing' in iTunes, and you are good to go.

4. Have access to the recorded TV and downloaded movies on our laptops.

If all the comps are on the same wireless network, just enable sharing (System Prefs > Sharing > File Sharing) on the main computer serving up the video and every computer on the network that has the password to the main computer can access the files.

5. Have it look cool and support all of the above up to 1080p HD res and surround sound.

Plex, again.

Here's what I've done so far:
1. Spent $50 on an OTA antenna and validated that I get all of our local channels (CW, ABC, NBC, FOX, CBS and PBS) in HD

That is one option, I personally stick with basic cable and a cable internet package to avoid the hassle of an antenna (plus I live in a city where it isn't practical).

2. Downloaded Plex to my Macbook Pro, installed it and played around with it enough to validate that it will play my non-iTunes movies and iTunes music natively.

Plex is amazing, but the current version is a bit hard to use. Plex 9 is coming soon(ish) and that will fix everything. Stick with Plex though, it's the best out there.

3. I currently own a 47" HDTV, optical audio cable, toslink to optical adapter, Airport Extreme Base Station and an aluminum unibody apple remote.

Congratulations :D

4. I currently have a Hulu Plus subscription (I've been checking it out over the last week or so).

Could be avoided if you are willing to download your shows, see here: http://www.applemediacenter.com/guides/downloading-content/

Here's what I plan to do:
1. Buy a new Mac Mini, SiliconDust HDHomerun (dual tuner), 1TB external hard drive, EyeTV software, cable splitter and HDMI cable.

2. Connect the Mac Mini to the:
- TV using the HDMI cable
- Surround receiver using the Toslink adapter and the optical cable
- AEBS directly using a Cat5 cable
- External hard drive using FW800

3. Connect the OTA antenna output to the cable splitter and then into the two tuners on the HDHomeRun. This would hardwire via Cat5 into the AEBS.

4. Install Plex, EyeTV and Hulu Desktop on the Mac Mini.

5. In the Applications section of Plex, create a link to EyeTV and Hulu Desktop (I've been told this will eventually have Hulu Plus support) as well as download the HDHomeRun plug-ins.

6. Dump all of my non-iTunes video files onto the external hard drive. I'd also setup EyeTV to record there as well.

7. Turn on file sharing on the Mac Mini and within iTunes.

8. Configure the Macbook Pros to connect to the external hard drive via sharing through the Mac Mini.

9. Setup some automated scripts to transfer old and newly purchased iTunes files to the local hard drive of the Mac Mini. These scripts would make it so that any one of us could purchase new music on our computer or the Mac Mini and have it show up on the hard drives of each of our computers the next day.

We may end up buying a bluetooth keyboard/mouse so we can browse the internet from the couch, but this isn't a priority. Obviously we'd use the Apple Remote or any one of the iPhone remote apps to control it all.

Did I get it all? I think this should give me what I want correct?

You pretty much have it all set up appropriately. You could skip the whole tuner situation if you download stuff though, plus you could get shows that you can't grab over the air. While there is something to be said about doing it yourself, it's a waste of time when copies of your favorite shows hit the net 30 minutes after they air. All in all though, you are on the right track.

When it comes to controlling the whole setup there are tons of ways to go, so here is a link with most of the options available to you: http://www.applemediacenter.com/guides/keyboards-mice-remotes/

Good luck!

ringemaster
Jul 20, 2010, 11:08 AM
awesome! thanks!

Shoesy
Jul 20, 2010, 12:25 PM
Wow- what a great sounding project, would be exciting to set everything up from new! Makes my little appletv / xbmc setup feel a bit mundane...

ENJOY!

irishv
Jul 20, 2010, 11:58 PM
If you look through some of the other recent threads, I've almost finished doing just about the exact same thing. Here are a few of my comments.


1. Do away with cable while maintaining the majority of the same programming/functionality (this includes watching live TV and recording two channels of TV at once)
I have an HDHomeRun with a basic antenna from Target and pick up all the local stations in HD, no problem. Note that I'm in downtown Chicago, so reception is very good.

2. Have a reasonably simple interface to play our digital movies and music - most movies would be in common formats (.mkv, TS, etc.) while a few would be in iTunes formats (m4p, m4v). ALL music would be in iTunes.
Plex. Library management will be better when .9 comes out, but even without that it beats any other interface. I am running the PlexAeon skin and almost have it completely set up with my Harmony remote. Currently, the Movies folder in my iTunes Media Library needs to be added as a source and everything is scraped correctly. Music is automatically pulled in from iTunes (although I have an issue where it doesn't pull everything - still looking into that). TV Shows are the weak link. I have everything tagged in iTunes, and let it sort them. Plex cannot read the metadata and will not scrape because they are not named S01E01. This should be fixed in .9.

3. Automatically Sync the iTunes libraries of all the computers in the house (this would include the HTPC and our two macbook pros) so that they all had physical copies of files that were purchased on any of the computers.
iTunes Home Sharing should work for this, but I have not tried it yet. All my media and my iTunes library files are on an external 1TB drive. It is connected to my Mini and shared wirelessly to my MacBook. iTunes cannot be running on both machines at the same time, but that isn't an issue for me currently. I would like to do Home Sharing, but I don't believe it keeps playcounts up to date.

4. Have access to the recorded TV and downloaded movies on our laptops.
EyeTV will export to your iTunes library. I believe if Home Sharing is running it will then be added to all your machines. I haven't set EyeTV up yet, so I cannot confirm.

5. Have it look cool and support all of the above up to 1080p HD res and surround sound.
Plex will be ready to rock.

Here's what I've done so far:
1. Spent $50 on an OTA antenna and validated that I get all of our local channels (CW, ABC, NBC, FOX, CBS and PBS) in HD

2. Downloaded Plex to my Macbook Pro, installed it and played around with it enough to validate that it will play my non-iTunes movies and iTunes music natively.

3. I currently own a 47" HDTV, optical audio cable, toslink to optical adapter, Airport Extreme Base Station and an aluminum unibody apple remote.

4. I currently have a Hulu Plus subscription (I've been checking it out over the last week or so).

Here's what I plan to do:
1. Buy a new Mac Mini, SiliconDust HDHomerun (dual tuner), 1TB external hard drive, EyeTV software, cable splitter and HDMI cable.
I have all of the above except EyeTV is not set up yet. There is a Plex plugin for the HDHomeRun that I'm currently using to view live tv. No program guide or recording though, so that is not a long term option. Also, make sure you have a backup for that hard drive. I have two WD Elements drives and set SuperDuper to clone them whenever the second is plugged in. The backup is stored at my office, and I plan on cloning it every other month or so.

2. Connect the Mac Mini to the:
- TV using the HDMI cable
- Surround receiver using the Toslink adapter and the optical cable
- AEBS directly using a Cat5 cable
- External hard drive using FW800
Similar but I have HDMI from the Mini to my receiver and USB hard drive.

3. Connect the OTA antenna output to the cable splitter and then into the two tuners on the HDHomeRun. This would hardwire via Cat5 into the AEBS.
Same.

4. Install Plex, EyeTV and Hulu Desktop on the Mac Mini.
Not done yet. Are you sure you need Hulu Desktop? Not sure if the remote will work well going from Plex to Hulu. There is a Plex Plugin for Hulu, although I do not know if it works with Hulu Plus yet. I am having an issue playing Hulu on my Mini that I haven't quite figured out yet. I think it has to do with the version of Flash. 10.1 will not work with Plex yet, the fix for that is coming with Plex .9.

5. In the Applications section of Plex, create a link to EyeTV and Hulu Desktop (I've been told this will eventually have Hulu Plus support) as well as download the HDHomeRun plug-ins.
See above. Also look into the other video plugins. The HGTV, Daily Show, National Geographic, and South Park are all great.

6. Dump all of my non-iTunes video files onto the external hard drive. I'd also setup EyeTV to record there as well.
Same.

7. Turn on file sharing on the Mac Mini and within iTunes.


8. Configure the Macbook Pros to connect to the external hard drive via sharing through the Mac Mini.
[B]Same. Take some time to consider how you have your user accounts set up on the Mini. I had some trouble at first trying to mount the external drive on my Macbook at startup. It didn't want to login using my Mini's account.

9. Setup some automated scripts to transfer old and newly purchased iTunes files to the local hard drive of the Mac Mini. These scripts would make it so that any one of us could purchase new music on our computer or the Mac Mini and have it show up on the hard drives of each of our computers the next day.
Again, I don't use it currently, but I thought that is what Home Sharing accomplishes.

We may end up buying a bluetooth keyboard/mouse so we can browse the internet from the couch, but this isn't a priority. Obviously we'd use the Apple Remote or any one of the iPhone remote apps to control it all.
I used my old Apple Keyboard and Mighty Mouse after pluggin in the Mini but haven't used either since. For configuration tasks I just use Screen Sharing with my MacBook, works better IMO. Once everything is running smoothly the Mini boots right into Plex and my Harmony can control everything.

Did I get it all? I think this should give me what I want correct?
Not sure if you're into torrents, but there is a great Plex plugin for Transmission. It is basically the web front end, but can be controlled by the remote. Using Automatic allows you to download new episode torrents when they become available.

Take some time to learn all the keyboard shortcuts in Plex. My biggest annoyance has been figuring out what to map to buttons on the Harmony remote. For example, I can now pull up the Favorites menu from any screen to switch between sources (go from watching Hulu to watching live tv, etc). Took forever to find that the command. I would highly recommend a Harmony remote to replace the Apple one. Plex works with the Apple Remote, but you can configure many other buttons. If you don't go that route, look into getting Remote Buddy.

foranor
Jul 21, 2010, 12:14 AM
9. Setup some automated scripts to transfer old and newly purchased iTunes files to the local hard drive of the Mac Mini. These scripts would make it so that any one of us could purchase new music on our computer or the Mac Mini and have it show up on the hard drives of each of our computers the next day.


Okay, so I am at a loss on how this works. (Sorry, I don't mean to hijack your thread.

You have 3 people, a@b.com, d@e.com and x@y.com.
Each has their own itunes account, I assume?
Then how do you only use 1 library and still can play all the content? Wouldn't you have to reauthorize everything for your a@b.com if x@y.com bought it via their account?

a2applegirl
Jul 21, 2010, 07:01 AM
Okay, so I am at a loss on how this works. (Sorry, I don't mean to hijack your thread.

You have 3 people, a@b.com, d@e.com and x@y.com.
Each has their own itunes account, I assume?
Then how do you only use 1 library and still can play all the content? Wouldn't you have to reauthorize everything for your a@b.com if x@y.com bought it via their account?

Yes.

All libraries in the house will have to have all computers in the house as authorized users of the content. (ie, one of the five authorized machines allowed). But turning homesharing on will bring the libararies of the other users in the house up as a shared library in your itunes. These libraries will display in a list under yours in itunes. The other computers will have to be on.

darkgroove
Jul 21, 2010, 10:33 AM
With Home Sharing on, you will sync the entire library. So if you have 1TB of stuff on one comp, it will sync it all. This is just foolish.

iTunes is great but I honestly don't know why you would encode files so you could use them with iTunes. Your best bet would be to have the Mini serve all the files. As far as music goes, you could just connect to the Mac mini's iTunes account (through Sharing in iTunes) and just stream everything when you are in the house. If individual users want the files, then they should grab them through Home Sharing.

Forget about scripts. The goal here is to be simple, and that is just complicating things.

PurdueGuy
Jul 26, 2010, 01:44 PM
With Home Sharing on, you will sync the entire library. So if you have 1TB of stuff on one comp, it will sync it all. This is just foolish.

iTunes is great but I honestly don't know why you would encode files so you could use them with iTunes. Your best bet would be to have the Mini serve all the files. As far as music goes, you could just connect to the Mac mini's iTunes account (through Sharing in iTunes) and just stream everything when you are in the house. If individual users want the files, then they should grab them through Home Sharing.

Forget about scripts. The goal here is to be simple, and that is just complicating things.
Have you used Home Sharing? Because that's certainly not how it works.

It will not sync everything automatically. It gives you options for what you want to sync, and those options are:
"Automatically transfer new purchases from 'Mini' for:
- Music
- Movies
- TV Shows
- Books
- Applications"

It is only transfering new purchases, not all the videos (since those are TS, mkv, etc). It will only automatically transfer purchased iTunes content. Nothing more, nothing less.

The user can transfer more if desired, but iTunes won't do it automatically.

On another note with Home Sharing: I haven't left iTunes running for days, but I have noticed it only seems to check on startup (of either side) for new purchases. But maybe I just haven't had it running long enough for it go check again.

macpro2000
Jul 26, 2010, 05:17 PM
I still think XBMC works the best.

ringemaster
Jul 27, 2010, 06:12 PM
I just wanted to report back and say that I ended up buying everything. Setup is taking awhile due to my work schedule, but here's what I've learned so far:

- A preamp after the OTA antenna is necessary to effectively drive the splitter and maintain good signal quality into the HD Homerun

- Remote Management from our Macbook Pros is awesome......we don't need an separate keyboard/mouse, we just use our Macbook Pros which we normally have on our laps while we watch TV anyway. Although RemoteBuddy and Apple Remote will probably do most of the work once everything is up and running.

- Regarding Home Sharing iTunes - I was SOOOO off base on this one. I could have sworn I had this turned on before, but it only served up files over the network - it didn't actually transfer them (which was important since we each sync our iPhones to our individual laptops) so I thought Home Sharing wasn't what I needed. Turns out I was wrong - I guess you have to use the SAME iTunes accounts on all of the computers in order for each computer to transfer purchases. Additionally, as noted in one of the previous posts, it defaults to not transfer anything, so you have to actively turn on what you want to transfer before it will work. However, once you've done that, if you purchase something on one computer, it will IMMEDIATELY push it to the others as long as they're all on and running iTunes. If one of the computers isn't, it will sync up the next time it iTunes is opened. Its kind of a neat feature - I bought 3 different songs last night, each from a different computer (Mac Mini, my MBP and my wife's MBP), and within 30 seconds all of the computers had all 3 songs on their hard drive. Sweet :) I don't plan on transferring movies or TV shows from the Mac Mini to our laptops, only the other way around (e.g., if we're traveling and buy a TV show, I'd want it to sync back to the Mac Mini when we got home).

- Scripting in general will really take this HTPC setup to the next level. Things I still need to read up on and implement EyeTV triggered scripts - these are scripts that get kicked off on certain defined events (e.g., RecordingDone, RecordingStarted, etc.). For me, I will use these to do the following:

1. Shutdown network hogging activities when a recording is started (such as torrent or newsgroup applications). Conversely, turn them back on when a recording has finished.

2. Ensure there is sufficient space available when a recording starts - if not give me a warning

3. Rename and export my completed recordings to a folder scraped by Plex. Since this eats up processing power, I need to ensure the script also checks that other processes aren't running (e.g., another recording is taking place). I may end up just creating an Automator workflow and scheduling this in the middle of each night. It might take longer to get my recordings exported, but it will ensure tv shows and movies will playback without stutter.

4. Automating the commercial skipping process.

I know there are scripts already done for most of this, I just to read up on them and tweak them for my purposes.

The pros of the setup:
- Its pretty sweet to have such a customized setup in the living room.....it looks f'in sweet.

- Having a server setup to sync all of our iTunes media and act as a backup store on the network is a big plus for us - we both buy a lot of music and automated backups provide a piece of mind. I'll probably end up with a SuperDuper bootable backup of the Mac Mini at some point.

Cons -

1. Setup and configuration is a pain in the a**. It takes awhile to find the balance between form and function, automation and renaming, etc. Once we do, I think it will be a really viable system, but during this phase, the wife its not as easy for the wife, which makes it difficult.

2. Hulu Desktop does NOT work w/Hulu Plus. How did Hulu miss the boat on that one? :mad: I was told they're going to integrate at some point, but Hulu or Netflix was a big driver in getting us comfortable that we weren't going to miss content by going OTA. Until Hulu Desktop can play Plus content, we'll have to Remote Desktop in to access it via the web browser. Not a showstopper, but its really the only thing keeping EVERYTHING from being accessible through Plex (even if it is just to open an Application).

3. System resources - I may need to add more RAM. Between downloading gigs of tv shows/movies, recording live tv and playing back movies, the system can get bogged down. I"m sure it will get better when I'm not so hungry for content to fill out my Plex library and I don't download/play movies as much just to marvel at the new setup, but it can never hurt to get more RAM :)

Aside from that, I'm pretty stoked. Its been a fun process and I'll make sure to take some pics and videos when its all done.

ringemaster
Jul 27, 2010, 06:20 PM
If you look through some of the other recent threads, I've almost finished doing just about the exact same thing. Here are a few of my comments.


Not sure if you're into torrents, but there is a great Plex plugin for Transmission. It is basically the web front end, but can be controlled by the remote. Using Automatic allows you to download new episode torrents when they become available.

Take some time to learn all the keyboard shortcuts in Plex. My biggest annoyance has been figuring out what to map to buttons on the Harmony remote. For example, I can now pull up the Favorites menu from any screen to switch between sources (go from watching Hulu to watching live tv, etc). Took forever to find that the command. I would highly recommend a Harmony remote to replace the Apple one. Plex works with the Apple Remote, but you can configure many other buttons. If you don't go that route, look into getting Remote Buddy.

I've got a Philips Prestigo (or Pronto), which I'm gonna try and see if I can get working. It can learn functions, so I'm hopeful it will work.

ringemaster
Jul 27, 2010, 06:21 PM
I still think XBMC works the best.

I checked it out and it has its merits. I may revisit it after I get everything setup just to compare, but the good news is, its free, so I'm in no rush to make a decision one way or another.

vwDavid
Aug 5, 2010, 01:22 PM
I really appreciated reading the details of your goals and your follow-up for that. While my goal wasn't (yet) to eliminate cable TV I did but a mac mini to watch digital content on my TV. I've had it since May and still haven't installed PLEX on it yet.

This is partly due to time constraints and partly because I just don't know how I want to configure it. I really enjoyed reading your summaries.

I guess my biggest beef is that Front Row doesn't allow you to browse or rent from the itunes store and once you have rented from itunes store through itunes you still can't watch a rented movie from front row. Whats up with that?

Crunch
Aug 8, 2010, 09:09 PM
Can someone please tell me how to stream NON-iTunes files onto my HDTV by way of Apple TV? That's all I want to do. Thanks you! :confused: :apple: