Home media centre: a Mac Mini?

Discussion in 'Apple TV and Home Theater' started by harveypooka, Jan 9, 2010.

  1. harveypooka macrumors 65816

    Joined:
    Feb 24, 2004
    #1
    I need some advice on building a media centre, preferably Mac based, but open to suggestions.

    I've around 600 DVDs, over 100GB of music and thousands of photos. Me and my wife, we're always transferring music and photos between the desktop and the laptop, resulting in multiple copies of stuff. Basically, I'd like to consolidate the bloody lot!

    I don't really know the practicalities of this or if there's some great products out there, but here's what I'd like:

    A media centre (or Mac Mini) linked to the TV, amp and speakers. All the music and photos on there, viewable through the TV and playable through the amp and speakers. I'd like to copy all of my DVDs to the centre, would be cool if they're searchable via genre, etc. BluRay will have to stay in their silly sized cases for the time being and be played via the player, until Apple decide BluRay is fit for us... :p

    Apple TV seems expensive and limited. Mac Mini seems like a good bet, but I'd have to get a lot of external storage.

    Thoughts?
     
  2. Jason Beck macrumors 68000

    Jason Beck

    Joined:
    Oct 19, 2009
    Location:
    Cedar City, Utah
    #2
    I would (if losing your warranty isn't an issue), make a Mini Monster. Then
    you can use 3.5" drives. I'm going to be modding mine like this pretty soon.
    Right now I have 500 gigs in the mini, and 500 in a WD My Passport Essesntial. When I mod my Mini I will probably get the 3.5"
    Hitachi 7200rpm 2terabyte hard drive.
     
  3. harveypooka thread starter macrumors 65816

    Joined:
    Feb 24, 2004
    #3
    I don't mind opening one up and replacing the HD.

    If I wanted to copy the entire DVD over, is it literally 8GB per DVD? I know nothing about DVD ripping or about fancy compression algorithms. I'd like to get all the audio and subs in other languages.
     
  4. Jason Beck macrumors 68000

    Jason Beck

    Joined:
    Oct 19, 2009
    Location:
    Cedar City, Utah
    #4
    Yah the mod process is pretty darn easy too. As long as your careful with the antennas and the internals. Most DVD ripping programs have different settings for compression. Usually an uncompressed DVD movie is around 4 gigs. The you can output to AVI in your ripper and other formats, and bring that down to 700 megs or less even.
    So a few terabytes on a Mini, with most of your movies being 750-2 gigs, you could fit a lot. Also pair it with an Apply remote for awesomeness. I'm going to be getting one of those soon. Just google for tutorials on ripping
    DVD's in Mac. You'll find some good stuff.
    As far as the Mini goes, you could even take the SuperDrive out of it for an
    additional hard drive bay. I really want to mod my mini for desktop drives
    though. 2TB 7200 rpms sounds sweet.
    =)
    A good ripping program for Mac is Rip it. Or so i've heard. I just downloaded a trial and I am going to check it out.
     
  5. R.Youden macrumors 68020

    R.Youden

    Joined:
    Apr 1, 2005
    #5
    I have done this, used a mini as a media centre. With regard to storage, I have gone 'the whole hog' and have stuck a Drobo in there. Now I know a Drobo may seem overkill and it is a bit but twice I have external HDs fail on me and I lost months, if not years of DVD rips.

    Yeah it is expensive but, in my opinion, worth it. Over Christmas I had a HD fail in my Drobo, if that had been my only HD I would have lost everything. As it was, swapped the drive out and few hours later everything was great.
     
  6. kinesin macrumors regular

    Joined:
    Jun 10, 2006
    #6
    Do you want a ability to record/watch TV via the box? Do you plan on keeping(requiring) the DVD drive? or will it be rip elsewhere and upload?
    For a media center on OSX I would look at XMBC or Plex (a modified more OSX version of XBMC).

    While the mini might be make a great media server it doesn't have HDMI (great for HD, DTS etc amp passthru), costs a lot to dedicate as a media center. It may be better value to go for a vesa mountable ION nettop (Acer Revo 3600 etc) running XBMC live and a drobo/NAS combo for storage/itunes server/bittorent clients etc. An MCE remote/receiver would provide better usability than the Apple remote, and it all looks dam nice.

    An example of xbmc
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Rf5h6QxFleE

    I would recommend downloading xbmc for your current Mac and have a play.
     
  7. sapporobaby macrumors 68000

    sapporobaby

    Joined:
    Sep 27, 2007
    Location:
    3 earth minutes from your location....
    #7
    The lack of HDMI is not a deal breaker as there are easy alternatives. I use the Mind DV Port to HDMI adapter to my Sony and I am set. I was too lazy to open up the case and put in a bigger drive but I did hook up a 2TB Western Digital External HD via USB and it works without a hitch. I tried Plex but could not get it to play properly. I have very few ripped movies and more iTunes purchased content so iTunes or Front Row is it for me. I with Apple would fix Front Row and make it a real jukebox type of app similar to the way the Apple TV works.
     
  8. Jason Beck macrumors 68000

    Jason Beck

    Joined:
    Oct 19, 2009
    Location:
    Cedar City, Utah
    #8
    ahhah! You rock! Excellent. I totally didn't think about that. Plus Firewire is
    fast too. I may get one! hehe
    On a side note, I feel yah on losing stuff and then backing it up. =) Since
    moving to Mac (longtime PC IT guy of 10+ years), 6 months ago, I have
    been more than satisfied with time machine backing my stuff up constantly.
    Neatest thing ever. I never really liked the "restore" feature in Windows.

    Anyways, thanks for reminding me about the Drobo. The OP should take note of it. It's a great product.
     
  9. prostuff1 macrumors 65816

    prostuff1

    Joined:
    Jul 29, 2005
    Location:
    Don't step into the kawoosh...
    #9
    A FULL DVD rip will usually be somewhere between 4.5GB and 8GB. I do not have any DVD that I have ripped (to .iso format) that are less then 4GB. I currently have 230 DVD's ripped and stored on an unRAID server. Those are full DVD rips with nothing removed and it is taking up 1.65TB of space. If you want a full DVD rip of all of your movies you are going to need a considerable amount of space. I went the unRAID route because it allows me to add storage as I need to. It is not a small or "pretty" as the drobo but it has its own benefits that I think put it ahead of the drobo.
     
  10. harveypooka thread starter macrumors 65816

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    Feb 24, 2004
    #10
    Not bothered about TV, don't watch it at that much.

    The Acer Revo seems quite interesting - much cheaper than the Mini, seemingly better featured than the Apple TV. But it's Windows! Maybe I can live with that if I'd be running another app on top.

    Don't feel like shelling out for a Drobo, but there needs to be external storage and regular backups as I once I've ripped 600 odd DVDs, it will not be something I want to repeat!

    I ran a Hackintosh a while back but the kernel messed up and I can't figure the solution. It's a powerful little thing and would be perfect for a home media centre, but I need the reliability.
     
  11. Donar macrumors 6502

    Donar

    Joined:
    Jul 12, 2008
    Location:
    Germany
    #11
    Install XBMClive on it. I think it is based on Ubuntu. HW Accelerated vide decoding does work in my ASRock 330 AtomIon

    You can go the cheap route and just add storage to the media center itself or share the media that resides on your computer via smb.

    I for myself have bought a Synology NAS as i want access to my media from different places in the house.
     
  12. harveypooka thread starter macrumors 65816

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    Feb 24, 2004
    #12
    I like the idea of being able to access from around the house on different machines.

    Accessing via SMB, is it as simple as the drive/computer appearing on your desktop?
     
  13. kinesin macrumors regular

    Joined:
    Jun 10, 2006
    #13
    Get the os free/linux version of a Revo/asrock/eb1501 etc no need for windows.
    As Donar says run XBMClive, it's build on top of ubuntu 9.10 and makes ION based systems (revo, asrock etc) as close to an appliance as possible. Lots of people within the community are running the same hardware making it very well supported. The Hardware decoding is actually better than the windows versions thanks to VDPAU, (they are still working on implementing directX's DXVA support). Try the live version on that Hackintosh machine :)

    Backup will not be an issue. Run a automatic rsync to backup to USB external drive, or copy from one external drive to another. The hardware supports wake on RTC so it can even be done at 5am in the morning.

    As both OSX and Linux are Unix is quite easy to set up some nice integration such as auto cloning/syncing of itunes libraries. Oh and XBMC remote for iphone is very nice.
     
  14. harveypooka thread starter macrumors 65816

    Joined:
    Feb 24, 2004
    #14
    Ah right, I misunderstood. I use Ubuntu in my university - I like it!

    I'll check out that link, thanks.


    My god, just looking at XBMC - it's amazing! I mean, I don't know what the performance is like, but the interface - so clear and refined - looks like a commercial product.

    I'm dying to try this now! :D
     
  15. kinesin macrumors regular

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    Jun 10, 2006
    #15
    Sounds exactly like how I felt! :D
     
  16. prostuff1 macrumors 65816

    prostuff1

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    Jul 29, 2005
    Location:
    Don't step into the kawoosh...
    #16
    XBMC is very nice and with the newest Camelot update they changed the skin and it looks even nicer. I run the previous version (Babylon I think) on a soft modded original Xbox. It works great for playing the ISO rips of all my DVD's. It is lacking a little as HD becomes more popular as the Xbox can not handle the HD material. I am doing a lot of research right now to figure out what way I want to go for my next media center machine.
     
  17. mingoglia macrumors 6502

    Joined:
    Dec 10, 2009
    #17
    I'm in the process of building out my media center. I'm in the beginning stages. I wired some cat6 behind my TV last weekend for my the Mac Mini, and started ripping DVD's. Anyway, I'm planning on ripping and not encoding my DVD's since HD space is so cheap. Just doing a quick search earlier Best Buy has 1TB external HP drives for $109, and 2TB (forgot the brand name) are $169. My plan is to buy a couple of these drives off the bat and start ripping. I'll label each external drive and have a similarly labeled tupperware storage box with the original DVD's in my storage unit. I'm going to do this in case I lose a drive I'll know exactly what DVD's were contained on that external drive. I see this as a short term solution though as drive space comes down even more I'll just buy additional drives and mirror them across the network.

    Mike
     
  18. Spanky Deluxe macrumors 601

    Spanky Deluxe

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    Mar 17, 2005
    Location:
    London, UK
    #18
    I've been using a mac mini as a media centre for about a year now. However, I don't store my media on there apart from music and photos. My Mac Pro is my main media machine. That's where I do all my iTunes stuff (purchasing etc) and all my video data is stored on drives in my Mac Pro. I've written a simple script that I can use to automatically sync all of the iTunes and iPhoto data on my MP to the mac mini and another to do the same to my laptop. My Mac Pro and my mini are connected together with gigabit ethernet and I have some automatic shares set up to share all the video. I then use Plex on the mac mini to access it all (but I still use normal Front Row for music).

    It all works pretty well. The scripts I wrote to keep the shares up live are detailed here and here's the script that I use to sync up iPhoto and iTunes:

    Of course, this does mean that you must always make any iTunes library modifications from the one machine (in my case Mac Pro) but that's no real sacrifice compared with having the same stuff available everywhere.
     
  19. dekinseattle macrumors newbie

    Joined:
    Dec 24, 2009
    #19
    In October 2009 I cancelled my cable service in favor of setting up a Mac Mini system to use - I have 500+ dvd's I've run through handbrake that I had on various harddrives that I would attach to my iMac depending on what I wanted to watch at the time - and I would stream these to the Vizio flat panel on the other side of the room via :apple:TV - was just getting cumbersome and I really didn't like my cable provider ... SO .. .

    I borrowed a Dell Optiplex from the office for a few weeks which was painful to tell the truth - things just never really worked the way i wanted for Hulu and Netflix Instant Viewing ... so to help with the Netflix I bought a Roku for 100.00 to get me through until I could afford the whole setup I wanted ...

    so in Dec I finally bought a Mac Mini, Sony 7.1 channel receiver (to replace an old mini stereo system I was using) and a Drobo with 2 1.5TB drives - this runs like a hot knife through butter on a warm day down south ..

    I do have EyeTV for local over the air broadcasts here in Seattle - CBS, NBC, ABC - all in decent HD quality

    I went with Plex for all the DVD content - it will allow for Mac the Ripper rips of DVD and plays all the torrent download content I have thrown it's direction - all of which is stored on the Drobo attached directly to the Mini via FW800

    via File Sharing I can get to any of the hard drives associated with the Mini and the iMac so getting files organized and shared the way I wanted was easy as pie

    and to top it all off - Everything is controlled with my Logitech Remote ... still fine tuning this out but thanks to these forums I've found some great help -

    one happy chick-a-dee here for doing this ... so totally worth it!!
     
  20. Jason Beck macrumors 68000

    Jason Beck

    Joined:
    Oct 19, 2009
    Location:
    Cedar City, Utah
    #20


    Nice. I have been wanting a Mac Pro. Just don't have the dough for it. My little Mini is rocking my desktop nicely though, and works good for Photoshop. That I upgraded the ram helps immensely. =) I do like the Mac Pro though, wish I had one.
    I was toying with the idea of making a hackintosh this year.. who knows.
     
  21. ARF900 macrumors 65816

    ARF900

    Joined:
    Oct 30, 2009
    #21
    obviously the macpro would be ideal for this, but if you want a cheaper alternative just shell out for a 2 huge external HDDS, one for use one for backup.

    Or you could even go with the mac mini server, just ignore the server and use the dual 500GB HDDS if thats enough for you. If you really want to squeeze the life out of this thing you could even delete some default apps. All youll need to keep is Safari, itunes, DVD player, iDVD, iphoto, and front row.

    Personally if i were in your situation I would get 2 of these http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16822204083&cm_re=1_TB-_-22-204-083-_-Product

    and upgrade the mac mini to 500 GB HDD

    That should be plenty for your 600 DVDs plus 100 GB of photos and music. Add in the price of a wireless keyboard and mouse + speakers and its still cheaper than the Mac Pro
     
  22. Spanky Deluxe macrumors 601

    Spanky Deluxe

    Joined:
    Mar 17, 2005
    Location:
    London, UK
    #22
    Yeah, to be honest, I just replaced my Mac Pro with a Hack Pro - Apple's pricing structure has just moved way beyond my reach! I built it into the Mac Pro's case though. :-D

    The remote shares will work with pretty much any machine. In fact, I just redid my connecting shares script on my setup to use Windows shares (SMB) instead of Apple shares (AFS) because my hackintosh's ethernet has some issues with AFS sharing and I don't have the time right now to fix it.

    The connect scrips are pretty much the same but with "mount -t smbfs" instead of "mount -t afs" and the shares start with "//" instead of "afs://". Any spaces in share names have to be replaced with %20 in the terminal scripts too. Works just fine after that.

    So you could always buy a cheap second hand Dell that still has gigabit ethernet and sata (or get a sata card) and throw in a load of big hard drives - would be cheaper than a drobo.
     
  23. srexy macrumors 6502a

    Joined:
    Nov 19, 2006
    #23
    Storage on the vanilla Mac Mini is pretty straightforward. You can add quite a few drives in there and just use something like Carbon Copy Cloner to manage all of your backups.

    In my setup I pressed an OWC Mercury Elite dual HDD enclosure that I've had for 3 yrs now into service. To allow room for my expanding library I updated the 320gb drives I had in there to a 1tb and a 1.5tb drive. I have the enclosure setup as JABOD and Carbon Copy Cloner is scheduled to do a backup of my media drive every other night and my Mini drive once a week. You can easily mimic this kind of setup using 2 external drives.

    My thinking behind doing the above is that down the road I will need a Drobo or something of its ilk but that for now I may as well use what I have and I can either put the current drives into the Drobo or buy whatever the high capacity drive du jour is at the time of purchase.
     
  24. HE15MAN macrumors 6502a

    HE15MAN

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    Sep 3, 2009
    Location:
    Florida's Treasure Coast
    #24
    This is something I have already begun implementing, but I have to figure out the best way for the massive storage of files and backups that are easy and cost efficient :(
     
  25. prostuff1 macrumors 65816

    prostuff1

    Joined:
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    Location:
    Don't step into the kawoosh...
    #25
    There are many ways to do this, but I use a product called unRAID. It allows for easy expansion and protection from a single drive failure like a RAID5 or Drobo does.
     

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