In need of insight about my new Mini

Discussion in 'Mac mini' started by Trogoautoego, Dec 5, 2011.

  1. Trogoautoego macrumors newbie

    Joined:
    Dec 5, 2011
    Location:
    Gaithersburg, MD
    #1
    I have just made my first entry into the world of Mac after using primarily Pcs over the years. My Mac is a 2011 BTO middle range 2.5 ghz i5 with a 750gb HDD to which I've added 8gb of OWC memory. I'm completely fresh to this and I have no real productivity aims other than exploring and having a bit of fun. My only interest is having a machine which can live up to its potential and hopefully meet or exceed my expectations for it. I am primarily interested in using this machine as a HTPC which is able to serve all available web video (youtube, Hulu+, Netflix HD, etc in the flash world) and rips of my DVD and Bluray collection. As far as exotic inputs I will be adding through Bootcamp Windows 7 Home so that I can connect an HDHomerun Prime Cablecard device making it into a cablebox as well. Of course, I will avail myself of itunes and plex eventually when these other functions are satisfactory.

    This mini will fill out larger network of windows 7 and vista devices which are connected to either the HDhomerun Prime device (1 i7 Vaio f113 laptop; 1 HP 6 core AMD desktop; 1 Acer Ion powered 330 nettop) or an old ATI OCUR device (Vaio lt-35e dual core). This way I'll have a media system in every room, if not two for different tasks. This represents a culmination of a couple of years of massing resources and the Mac mini is proposed to operate in my basement and finish off the total build which was begun to save on rental of HD boxes from Comcast when I decided during the digital transition to move everything to HD with an eye to having some fun with a hobby project, make my home fully internet capable, and get a feel for different kinds of computers (thus, the foray into Mac.)

    Right now I am having a bit of disappointment with my new mini and I want to know if I've overestimated my expectations for this machine. I have it set up (but have yet to operate bootcamp) attached to a 42" Panasonic plasma in a setup similar to its final arrangement. My distress is related to its ability to reliably play web video. I have flash 10.3 loaded on as the latest 11.xx seems not to work well. Whenever I play any web video, it is unwatchable due to buffering. It plays SD content passably when it isn't buffering, but I expect that it should have no trouble with HD content (ie Netflix and Hulu+). It feels like I am using my Atom/Ion powered Acer 330, which I use to play everything but Netflix HD. That little guy even has no trouble with HD cablecard feed. Is the AMD card just not sufficient for this task? My Acer Revo has an Nvidia with 128 mb vram and it plays almost everything else better than my Mini! I was hoping it would be able to display netflix HD but it has yet to do this. Is this a known issue with the mini? Am I just over reaching? I had initially planned on getting the Mini Server but opted instead for the discreet graphics but now I wonder if I was mistaken. I am hoping you can reassure me that this is something that can be fixed eventually and that the i5 turbo boost and discreet graphics really are powerful enough to correct this unfortunate flaw in my scheme.
     
  2. shortcut3d macrumors 65816

    Joined:
    Aug 24, 2011
    #2
    Very nice post. I came from an opposite direction, pure Apple home environment although I started my career as a Windows developer and SE, but formerly educated in Unix. Confused?

    My goal was to use the 2011 Mac Mini as head units for each TV and connect them directly to SiliconDust HDHome Primes for ultimate flexibility, light network load, etc. That was a complete bust after purchasing four 2011 Mac Minis (2 Servers, 2 mid-range BTOs 2.7GHz i7) and upgrading them with everything from 16GB RAM or 1866MHz RAM AND 240GB OCZ Vertex 3 MAX IOPS + 750GB WD Scorpio Black.

    Current state. I'm using the 2011 Mac Mini 2.7GHz i7 8GB Kingston Hyper X 1866MHz PnP 240GB OCZ Vertex 3 MAX IOPS 750GB WD Scorpio Black as the sole Windows 7 Professional 64-bit Media Center HTPC. It is dedicated to recording up to 6 shows and watching 2 shows simultaneously. I'm using Xbox 360 Slim 4GB as extenders with Logitech Harmony One remotes. The 2011 Mac Mini Server 16GB RAM dual 240GB OCZ Vertex 3 MAX IOPS is my Windows 7 content creation workstation used for ripping Bluray disc, etc.

    Lessons Learned. The 2011 Mac Mini integrated graphics is really bad with 29/59 frame rate content. However, the 2011 Mac Mini with discrete AMD 6630M performs fair with 29/59 frame rate content. You have to disable all post processing in Catalyst Control Center to have a chance at very good playback. You need to enable AHCI for heavy recording which means 24/7 powered on machine. To save power use Balanced profile in Power Options and disable Sleep (S3), Allow the Hard Drive to Power Off, Link State Power Management to Moderate, Minimum Processor to 3-5%. This will significantly reduce the idle temperatures and this save power. Using a second system for storing media is painfully slow with extenders. Move as much HTPC network traffic as possible to the same good Gigabit switch. I use a Netgear ProSafe switch. Routers tend to have poor performing switches. Last, extenders work as you would expect for complete home DVR. Multiple Windows Media Center PCs is not optimal.

    Your Issue. I'm not seeing these problems in Windows 7. My guess is the Flash or Website is not working well with Safari. Try a different web browser and updating Flash. Also make sure that you have updated Lion and EFI. Buffering is usually more of a network issue. You might want to map your WiFi network because signal strength is not indicative of signal quality. The i5 and AMD 6630M have more than enough power for Netflix. You may also see a performance bump in the next Lion update as its rumored to have new AMD drivers.
     
  3. Trogoautoego thread starter macrumors newbie

    Joined:
    Dec 5, 2011
    Location:
    Gaithersburg, MD
    #3
    Very good info

    Hey thanks for the copious answer. It is certain that I will refer to this on the next leg of my operation. I have heard that Mac's run Windows 7 better than Pcs and I am hoping that these issues will disappear with Bootcamp. I have all my machines, including the mini, on hardline to a linksys gig switch connected to a linksys e3200 dual band wireless N router. This is why I am confused that I have playback issues on the mini. It's good to hear a Lion update with attention to AMD drivers is on its way eventually. I get good download/upload speeds (though I don't know how much Comcast 'turbo-boost' skews my results) of 32/15. It seems that any flash content just chokes the mini and I wait and wait for pages to load with many fails. It doesn't seem to matter if I have one page opened or several.

    The frame rate issue you mentioned with the Intel 3000 chipset gives me relief that I really did make the best choice and it's only a matter of working out the kinks. I'm sorry to hear that your ultimate set up didn't work precisely as it should have. They do, however, sound like wonderful machines! I am thinking about adding a couple of xbox 360 slims to round out the edges if necessary later on. I did notice that I had issues with my Prime keeping all three machines on at once on a 3-tuner model and I grappled with technical until they RMA'd it. The 8 port switch wasn't the problem, but it seems the router somehow caused only two to be able to operate at once until it was replaced (at first by a wrt54g of all things). I do love the Prime, however, and I have real love for my WMC 7 in comparison to the Comcast UI. I have the hillcrest labs loop pointer on one machine and the logitech mx air mouse on two others-- the loop pointer is by far the best.

    All the other machines are now stable and can record and playback at the same time, but require offloading content onto external HDD because of the large file sizes with regularity on the nettop and the laptop since they have small slow 500 gb 5400 rpm drives. My AMD six core dektop is my main server for when I can get extender support. Since moving from comcast with one HD non-drv box to now two cablecard devices, I haven't had my bill increase more than 5 dollars! So I feel that justifies it in a sense. The cost of putting the machines together was just fun, after all.

    Again, thanks for giving me good insight about what I will need to do to make the AMD perform properly. I have just completed a test on speedtest.net and it returned a troubling result: ping 29/ DL .98mbps/ U: .69 mbps. It was the network connection all along! I will have to re-set the router and test the ethernet connection. But at least I know it isn't the Mini!

    P.S. I went to school with some UNIX heads and they were the crazy ones. I don't think they even knew what sleep was. I had a few conversations about 4th dimensional language with one of them when he tried to describe what programmers such as himself were up to. I was taking a class where we read Benjamin Lee Whorf, a linguist, who was trying to describe the Hopi language as a 4th dimensional language because of how it integrated moving time into its lexical syntax, as opposed to the static syntactical structures of western cultures. My friend, hearing this, described how every keystroke was attached to every other keystroke in a growing web of instant interfacing-- multi-taneous / simul-taneous / instan-taneous. I came away thinking that programming must be the illuminated manuscripts of our own 'time.'
     
  4. Trogoautoego thread starter macrumors newbie

    Joined:
    Dec 5, 2011
    Location:
    Gaithersburg, MD
    #4
    my problems with video playback resolved so far

    Well, after changing out the ethernet cable with another cat6 my playback problems are resolved. I've now got multiple sessions of HD content all going at once with no artifacting or hiccups. The mac is all its cracked up to be with the sandybridge acting as a sturdy basis. I'm looking forward to putting Win 7 onto it to use with the Silicondust HDHomerun Prime. Your above advice will be invaluable to make sure it works. I think I'll invest in a Mini server sometime next year to stitch the whole network together, if I'm able. These are smart machines indeed, and worth the extra cost. The added flexibility of the Apple platform has impressed me very much. I'm not sure how to mark it as such, but I have resolved the issues which inspired the origin of this thread (and then some).
     
  5. shortcut3d macrumors 65816

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    #5
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    I've had several Cat 6 cables turn out bad when I started the HTPC project. Normal daily use doesn't show these issues like streaming or recording HD content.

    If you have not, I suggest visiting the SiliconDust forums as you setup the HDHomeRun Prime. It's very active with good support for the most part. The current 20111128 beta is fairly solid.

    I'm currently using Logitech DiNovo Mini as the keyboard and mouse for the Mac Mini.
     
  6. MendotaMike macrumors newbie

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    Aug 1, 2011
    Location:
    Twin Cities, MN
    #6
    PLEASE keep us informed of your progress with the HDHomerun Prime. I just received my new BTO iMac 3.4 GHz with the 1TB + 256GB SSD option and threw in 16GB of RAM. I also have an HDHomerun Prime and will be installing Win7 Media Center x64 in Bootcamp and Parallels. I'm not quite sure how (or if) the HDHomerun Prime will work in either Bootcamp or Parallels, at least as far as DVR functionality is concerned. For example, what if I leave the iMac booted up as in OSX instead of Win 7? Presumably, the WMC DVR won't know to wake up and initiate a recording. What about in Parallels? I've done a few searches and haven't been able to find much in the way of answers.

    Should be an interesting adventure.
     
  7. shortcut3d macrumors 65816

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    Bootcamp works fantastically for Windows Media Center. If booted in OSX, Windows 7 is essentially powered off and will not wake, shutdown OSX, etc. You can use Parallels to record from within OSX but you have to use the bootcamp partition for Parallels. Playback will not work. You may also get graphics driver errors switching between the virtual and bootcamp.

    MythTV works fine in OSX, but is really technical.
     
  8. MendotaMike macrumors newbie

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    Aug 1, 2011
    Location:
    Twin Cities, MN
    #8
    Could you elaborate on this (i.e., for a newbie)? What does it mean to use Parallels to record from within OSX but to have to use the bootcamp partition? Are you saying that if I have something scheduled to record, while the iMac is booted to OSX, that WMC will fire up from within Parallels and take care of business?

    And what about the comment that playback will not work? WMC will only play back when started in bootcamp? Sorry for the questions if the answers are obvious, but I'm brand new to Mac, and have installed Windows in my machine yet, so I'm working without any background or context here.
     
  9. MJL macrumors 6502a

    Joined:
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    #9
    I found that the mouse is not tracking properly, most noticeable in Vista, when runnning Windows virtual. (only noticed it when using it a long period)
     
  10. shortcut3d macrumors 65816

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    1. The Bootcamp application partitions your physical drives to enable dual boot of Windows and OSX. Restart or shutdown and holding Option is necessary to switch operating system instances.

    2. VMware Fusion or Parallels is virtualization software that allows you to run an operating system instance within OSX, the host operating system.

    3. Fusion and Parallels can utilize the bootcamp partition to launch the guest operating system.

    4. Windows Media Center digital cable advisor requires HDCP compliance which is not available in virtualized Windows 7. You will not be able to set up the SiliconDust HDHomeRun Prime in Fusion or Parallels. Bootcamp works just as standard Windows. Therefore, setup of DCA, CableCARD tuners, etc. is the same as a normal Windows installation.

    5. Setup Windows 7 and Media Center using the Bootcamp utility. Then use Fusion or Parallels to access the bootcamp partition when you are running OSX. Fusion or Parallels will not automatically start Windows virtual machine for a recording.

    6. The virtualized display driver will cause an HDCP compliance error watching TV in the Windows Virtual Machine. You will have to restart in the native OS using Option key.
     
  11. MendotaMike macrumors newbie

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    #11
    Thanks for the helpful reply. I think I get it.:)
     
  12. Trogoautoego thread starter macrumors newbie

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    Dec 5, 2011
    Location:
    Gaithersburg, MD
    #12
    important points

    I will be sure to give my reports on how putting win 7 on my mini progresses when I get to it in a couple of days from now. I am also glad to have a clearly written description available of the different virtualization techniques for shuttling between Mac and Win clients. Because of my having read in other places, I already plan on using Bootcamp exclusively to run the Prime. The message boards at Silicondust are very helpful and the people there are very insightful. If you have trouble, open a ticket with them and they will work with you closely to make sure your product is operating normally.

    You should be aware that they don't officially support using a Mac architecture to set up the Prime, but they did 'unofficially' know that others have had success putting the Prime into full function on a mac mini build when I had trouble setting my Prime up a couple of months ago (on unrelated issues). If you go ahead with it, they can't officially help you if you open a ticket, but you may still try to ask for pointers. I've found that Macrunors had some of the best advice about possible pitfalls on the web besides scanning the SiliconDust Prime forums itself for this cablecard topic. This is kind of a brave new world since CableLabs has just allowed Microsoft and 3rd part developers do the kinds of things that Silicondust is doing so its a bit raw in places. I love the ability to use one Prime device to send a HD cable stream to three different computers all at once (or 6 if you buy the 6-tuner model that has two cable card slots to fill).

    You will likely have a bit of trouble at first so be patient with it but I have confidence that it will resolve. As was previously mentioned by an earlier participant in the thread, it is a good idea to use the beta software which is updated just about every week. They work hard to include everyone's issues. I haven't read personally about experiences with an iMac but it shouldn't be too much different than for a mac mini so I can tell you what I experience when I proceed for my part.

    I'm sorry that there appears to be no really good way to virtually share one machine between the two operating systems while still having the full functionality of the Prime (including live tv). I must say I think, on a side note, that the Dinovo mini-keyboard looks like a great alternative to what I'm currently using. I think shortcut3d has described perfectly well what the limitations are with this process and I am personally going to follow some of his advice when I get my mini started. I think you should also inquire about the 'frame rate issue' for your iMac. I don't know if this issue affects your system or not but it is an issue for Macs using the Intel HD 3000 integrated graphics. I'm sorry I can;t be of more help myself as of yet but it looks like your having some of your most important questions answered.
     

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