Help with converting Mac Mini into Media Server

Discussion in 'Mac mini' started by brilor04, Aug 29, 2011.

  1. brilor04 macrumors newbie

    Joined:
    Oct 21, 2009
    #1
    So my boss had one of the newer slim Mac Mini's sitting around his office not doing much so I bought it off of him. I already have a brand new 13" MBP and a newer 27" iMac. I have a newer slim Apple TV (hockey puck) and have a ton of media strewn around between the MBP and a 1TB Network HD that is new but IMO, not very fast.

    Point is, I decided to hook up to my 63" plasma and use that as the monitor for now and then thought about turning the Mini into a media server! So I looked up Plex and downloaded it and lo and behold, all the movies my daughter likes to watch are protected and won't play in Plex. DAMN!

    2 questions.

    1. Is there any work-around to get the media to ALL play through Plex instead of 2 or 3 other places?

    and

    2. I have the Mac Mini hooked up to the TV via HDMI yet if I were to play one of the movies on iTunes and blow it up full screen, the quality is AWFUL on my plasma. At least the Apple TV turns it into somewhat HD. Is there a work-around for THAT?

    Any help would be awesome!

    brilor04
     
  2. KScottMyers, Aug 29, 2011
    Last edited: Aug 29, 2011

    KScottMyers macrumors regular

    Joined:
    Jul 17, 2009
    Location:
    Orlando, FL
    #2
    Best solution I've found so far.

    Use the Apple TV for what its good at... Streaming.
    Setup the Mac Mini as your streaming server.
    You can remote into the mini - so it doesn't even need a keyboard or mouse.
    Use Handbreak to rip all movies to ATV compatible format and store on the mini.
    Organize all movies, music and photos in iTunes on the mini.
    Use Home Sharing and share all movies to ATV.
    The mini doesn't even have to be near the TV - just on the network.
    Leave the mini on 24/7 - it sleeps when not in use and wakes when a movie is accessed.
    Use the Apple TV interface to view all movies in their organized category and/or playlists.
    Watch the same movies from a Mac, PC, iPhone, iPod touch or iPad as well.
    You can do all of this with basically no additional software except Handbreak - which is free.

    Apple's ecosystem definitely works well when used the way it was intended.
     
  3. blevins321 macrumors 68030

    Joined:
    Dec 24, 2010
    Location:
    Winnipeg, MB
    #3
    ^^ Exactly :)

    One addition that I made to the above setup is that I created an Automator action to automatically mount the necessary network drives before opening iTunes on boot. I'd be happy to post it later if you'd like it (at work at the moment). My iTunes library is on the network share, so it's annoying to do it manually and have the error window appear that it can't find the library. And the advantage to using Automator instead of just links in your Login Items is that it doesn't open the Finder windows for each shared location.
     
  4. kirkster501 macrumors newbie

    Joined:
    Aug 20, 2011
    Location:
    Nottingham, UK
    #4
    Guys, what spec mac-mini to act as the streaming server?

    Thinking of picking up a mini off the ebay and using it to:
    a. As a SS as above.
    b. Host my web site.

    Rgds, SK
     
  5. blevins321 macrumors 68030

    Joined:
    Dec 24, 2010
    Location:
    Winnipeg, MB
    #5
    IMHO, any of last year's models or this year's models are great for it. I'd do 8GB aftermarket RAM; especially with Lion. You can get it for $40-50 on Amazon and NewEgg.
     
  6. tbayrgs macrumors 603

    tbayrgs

    Joined:
    Jul 5, 2009
    Location:
    Florida, USA
    #6
    I'm using an early 2009 base model Mini (2.0 GHz C2D) and it works just great as both a HTPC and media server. I've tested and it will play .mkv that are straight BD rips just fines in most cases (struggles a bit with really high bitrates ). Only downside with this machine is trying to do any tasks that are remotely CPU intensive while watching media on the Mini causes video to hiccup quite a bit. I used to do all of my video ripping/encoding on it and couldn't try to watch anything on the Mini at the same time (although streaming simultaneously to :apple:TVs was not affected).
     
  7. hankdore macrumors newbie

    Joined:
    Aug 29, 2011
    #7
    Automator action

    blevins321, I would love to see that automator action if you would share it. I've got several NAS scattered around my house and I get annoyed having to re-mount them now and again. A script that could do that for me would be great.
     
  8. blevins321, Aug 29, 2011
    Last edited: Aug 29, 2011

    blevins321 macrumors 68030

    Joined:
    Dec 24, 2010
    Location:
    Winnipeg, MB
    #8
    Automator Action is attached. The reason that I used AppleScript instead of the actions Get Specified Servers and Connect to Servers is because there is a bug in Lion automator that makes the server paths erase themselves for some reason. I reported it. Anyway, the AppleScript can be adapted to suit your purposes :)

    Edit: I geeked it out a little and made my Mini speak to me when it gets ready :D
     

    Attached Files:

  9. hankdore macrumors newbie

    Joined:
    Aug 29, 2011
    #9
    awesome

    this is great! thanks for posting this for us to use!
     
  10. US3INUK macrumors newbie

    Joined:
    Jan 2, 2011
    #10
    Would using a the MC815 or MC816 mini as a media server work with standard AVIs. I have numerous acquired movies that seem to play fine on my iMac, could I assume that if it is something that plays on my iMac it will be able to play on a mac mini displayed to my TV via HDMI? The last thing I want is to purchase a mini for streaming and find out later I need to hack the system to make it work.

    Thanks

    And to second brilor04's question concerning the playback quality... Could we expect a decent quality picture on a 50+ inch screen in regards to movies played in full screen mode?
     
  11. blevins321 macrumors 68030

    Joined:
    Dec 24, 2010
    Location:
    Winnipeg, MB
    #11
    Any of this year's models or even last year's would work perfect as a media server/HTPC. I'd max out the RAM after-market; especially if the system comes with Lion. The playback quality would be great as long as the videos are of a high enough bitrate. You can get 8GB for $35-45.

    The only concern about playback ability with HDMI is if your television supports HDCP. Any recent one does. If your TV doesn't, you won't be able to play iTunes purchased/rented videos and I believe Netflix won't play either on a non-HDCP display.
     
  12. class77, Sep 1, 2011
    Last edited: Sep 1, 2011

    class77 macrumors 6502a

    class77

    Joined:
    Nov 16, 2010
    #12
    Does this mean that HD streaming for athletic events, when played on a TV, are going to look really bad on a Mini, in addition to streaming movies from Apple? That's the reason I'm getting a Mini in the first place
     
  13. ReggaeFire macrumors 6502

    Joined:
    Mar 19, 2003
    #13
    It depends on the source quality of the signal.
    If it's a direct HD television feed (like cable line to EyeTV), it will look perfect.

    If it's streamed via a service like Slingbox, it will depend on the upload ability of where it's being sent from (if you have a good connection and a Slingbox HD then it looks pretty good, not quite broadcast quality, but close enough).

    If you're speaking about a streamtorrent, the quality is tyically so-so. Watchable, but clearly not broadcast quality.

    If you're talking about flash streams from websites, then the quality is typically blocky, enough to see the action, but not particularly good quality.
     
  14. brilor04 thread starter macrumors newbie

    Joined:
    Oct 21, 2009
    #14
    I have mine hooked up to a year old Samsung 3D plasma via HDMI to the DVI port, opened either VLC, QuickTime or iTunes, opened a movie and played it and the quality is sub-par. I watch animated blurays with my 3 year old daughter a lot and they came with digital copies but look awful when streaming from the Mini to the Plasma. They look even lesser quality than that of a DVD and the color (which i'm REALLY surprised coming from Mac) is way off. The richness just isn't there. Very disappointing IMO.
     
  15. ReggaeFire macrumors 6502

    Joined:
    Mar 19, 2003
    #15
    ???

    This probably says more about the movie file you're playing than the Mac. What is the quality of the movie file you're trying to play? The last few minis are able to playback 1080p movies at nearly full bitrate (there is some disagreement about this, I think the final opinion was the video can playback at full blu ray quality, the audio track however causes the machine to choke). If you try to play a 500mb theater cam .avi then yes, it'll look terrible. If you play a 1080p bdrip mkv, it will look perfect.
     
  16. emaja macrumors 68000

    Joined:
    May 3, 2005
    Location:
    Chicago, IL
    #16
    Unless something has changed, those digital copies are not HD. I don't use them anymore for just that reason. I grabbed a BDROM and rip the BDs now.
     
  17. japtor macrumors regular

    Joined:
    Jun 29, 2010
    #17
    The digital copy videos I've seen are pretty low resolution and have bad encode quality, you'd get better results just ripping a DVD, and obviously much better if you rip the BD.
     
  18. bearcatrp macrumors 68000

    Joined:
    Sep 24, 2008
    Location:
    Boon Docks USA
    #18
    Unless you like using external drives, suggest you build or buy a cheaper PC with win7 and stream your videos (for those contemplating buying a mini). I used to use my mini to stream but got tired of messing around with external drives. Put iTunes on my win7 64 build, which has plenty of internal storage hooked up to an airport extreme. Works better with less hassle. Plus, since I dual boot ubuntu 64, I rip using handbrake for ubuntu. For BD, rip using makemkv under win7 then convert to m4v with handbrake on win7. All done on the same computer. Funny thing is iTunes under win7 64 works better than from my mini using SL.
     
  19. talmy macrumors 601

    talmy

    Joined:
    Oct 26, 2009
    Location:
    Oregon
    #19
    My son, who refuses to have an Apple anything, bought a Shuttle computer as a media center. He tried to get by with Linux but found it didn't offer the performance (the computer uses an Atom processor). He ended up having to install Windows 7. Ended up costing him nearly what a refurb mini would have cost.

    No external drives on my two mini media centers -- I have a central mini server with the external drives sitting on a shelf in my home office.
     
  20. Bye Bye Baby macrumors 65816

    Bye Bye Baby

    Joined:
    Sep 15, 2004
    Location:
    i(am in the)cloud
    #20
    I split my library between iTunes stuff I purchased and my own BD rips. I store the rips on my Drobo and the iTunes on a NAS.

    I access the iTunes content from an ATV and the rips from Plex mac mini.

    The ATV is also running Plex- but I do not get HD audio from the ATV so I prefer Plex.

    A very good system.
     
  21. Noek macrumors newbie

    Joined:
    Aug 20, 2011
    #21
    Love the idea of a Mac mini as a media server but....

    Only 500gig? I'm currently using my MacBook pro as my media server and upgraded my HD to 750 but I'm slowly creeping up on that. 2T would be perfect, how are people getting around this? External hd with Mac mini?
     
  22. emaja macrumors 68000

    Joined:
    May 3, 2005
    Location:
    Chicago, IL
    #22
    I am planning on getting one of THESE from OWC. It has a ton of storage and will look nice in a HT rack. Very non-computer looking which is my goal.
     
  23. MonkeySee.... macrumors 68040

    MonkeySee....

    Joined:
    Sep 24, 2010
    Location:
    UK
    #23
    I'm hoping on getting a Mini to use on my tv as I can't be bothered to convert a TB worth of movies and tv shows.

    My understanding was to keep my TB drive connected to my iMac and then get plex on the Mini and then point plex at the drive connected to my iMac.

    I'm sure that right as my bro is doing it right now.
     
  24. talmy macrumors 601

    talmy

    Joined:
    Oct 26, 2009
    Location:
    Oregon
    #24
    Close to "right". You run plex on both systems. That starts the Plex server on the iMac. The mini will see it via Bonjour.

    The best way to run the Plex server is to add it as a startup item on the iMac. You can find the server app in your Library folder (the one that is now hidden in Lion!) at Library/Application Support/Plex.
     
  25. MonkeySee.... macrumors 68040

    MonkeySee....

    Joined:
    Sep 24, 2010
    Location:
    UK
    #25
    Ahh ok. Yeah i have Plex set to "always running" or something. Unless Apple release some magical TV that plays all my media, I think this is the best option.
     

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