Looking for decent media server (not AppleTV)

Discussion in 'Apple TV and Home Theater' started by mgpg89, Nov 23, 2008.

  1. mgpg89 macrumors 6502a

    mgpg89

    Joined:
    Aug 31, 2008
    Location:
    Belgium
    #1
    Not the Apple TV, because of its lack of supported formats.
    I had a (hacked) AppleTV and didn't like it, so I'm looking for a decent replacement.

    1) can't be HD-only. (composite supported, not only component or HDMI like with the ATV)
    2) preferrably wireless, so I don't have to hook it up to my Mac to put content on it each time.

    Thanks in advance
     
  2. virgomac macrumors member

    Joined:
    Mar 10, 2008
    #2
    As much as I hate all things Microsoft, I'm using my Xbox. You can get Xbox 360 to control it from your Mac for about 20 bucks.

    Wanted an apple tv for this at first but figured I'd try to see what it could do. So far I'm satisfied with it, there are even some hacks you can do to even improve things (if you are so inclined in that area)
     
  3. Big-TDI-Guy macrumors 68030

    Big-TDI-Guy

    Joined:
    Jan 11, 2007
    #3
    PS3 also works well as a media server. (though it can be picky with some formats)

    When the day comes that I'm employed again - I'll be getting a 2nd PS3 for the living room TV. (I'd put my current one out there - but I NEED the heat this time of year - so it's busy folding in my bedroom)
     
  4. mgpg89 thread starter macrumors 6502a

    mgpg89

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    Aug 31, 2008
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    Belgium
    #4
    The 120GB HDD on the Xbox is simply too small. I assume the PS3's HDD size is something similar?

    Any 'real' media drive suggestions?
     
  5. Big-TDI-Guy macrumors 68030

    Big-TDI-Guy

    Joined:
    Jan 11, 2007
    #5
    I believe both the xbox and PS3 both can use external drives - as well as read from your computer. (providing it's on the network)

    I've streamed videos from my iMac to my PS3 before - and it worked amazingly well. My buddy does this with his PC and xbox, too.
     
  6. danny_w macrumors 601

    Joined:
    Mar 8, 2005
    Location:
    Austin, TX
    #6
    I'd also be interested in the options here. I currently have an :apple:TV reset to the original v1.0 firmware and hacked to do 4:3 using displayutil. My tv has component inputs as does my a/v receiver (which also does up conversion from composite and s-video) but it does not do widescreen. It would be very nice to find something that can do video_ts folders with menus from an attached usb drive (drobo or ?). Also network support would be nice so that I don't have to keep moving the storage drive when I need to update it, as would dolby digital (optical or coax).
     
  7. GimmeSlack12 macrumors 603

    GimmeSlack12

    Joined:
    Apr 29, 2005
    Location:
    San Francisco
    #7
    Mac Mini Intel. Use Front Row.
    Its a little limited but by far the easiest to setup. Just run the thing via VNC and FTP to get files onto it. This is what I do and it is seamless.
     
  8. danny_w macrumors 601

    Joined:
    Mar 8, 2005
    Location:
    Austin, TX
    #8
    That is a great solution that works well but is a little more expensive than I had in mind. I already tried that same approach using an old iMac G5 and Front Row. Media Central is another good option with more configuration possibilities and a more "polished" feel.
     
  9. GimmeSlack12 macrumors 603

    GimmeSlack12

    Joined:
    Apr 29, 2005
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    #9
    Yeah I hear that I guess. I bought my Mini used (and its a G4). Otherwise I would have thought the iMac g5 option would have worked out really well. Either way, I can't really suggest any solution that wouldn't be nearly as much as a used Mini option (aka PS3 or Xbox). Or perhaps you can figure out a Linux solution?
     
  10. danny_w macrumors 601

    Joined:
    Mar 8, 2005
    Location:
    Austin, TX
    #10
    The iMac would have worked out well except that I would have to get some kind of remote for it, and the options are few and far between. It also took up far too much space in my living room, and the screen cannot be turned off. The mini would really be a much better solution in this case but for some reason even used G4's are still ultra expensive (I used to have one and should have kept it), and they still need some sort of remote to be useful. I have a Harmony remote and would want to be able to use that, so the Griffin Air Click (although cheap) is not an option. I have an original Xbox w/XBMC and a remote, but it is so loud and ungainly, and does not stream all that well b/c of 10/100 ethernet only. Oh well, I guess I am just being too picky...
     
  11. GimmeSlack12 macrumors 603

    GimmeSlack12

    Joined:
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    San Francisco
    #11
    I use the AirClick USB and it works really well with the included software. Being picky is what I was too and I got my Mini for $400 but I had to search and search to find one with Airport and 1gb of RAM (cause I didn't want to bother upgrading it myself). Maybe a bit expensive but whatever.
    Ultimately I went with a very simple setup because my roomates are not tech savvy at all and wanted the system to be accessible to anyone.

    I would be interested in upgrading my Mini to an Intel or going with a 360. Though I have no budget for any of that at the moment, and isn't too necessary.
     
  12. marklight macrumors 6502

    Joined:
    Apr 6, 2006
    #12
    I'd definitely go the mini route. If it's too expensive, wait till it's updated (hopefully in january) and then get the current model at a discounted price. For future proofness get the dual 2.0 model minimum. Personally i'd just wait to get one of the new models.

    Then install Plex on it. Plex is awesome, and plays everything very well.
     
  13. danny_w macrumors 601

    Joined:
    Mar 8, 2005
    Location:
    Austin, TX
    #13
    I think perhaps tonight was the last straw for the :apple:TV in our household. I have a 40GB original model, and far too many movies to sync, so I stream them over my AEBS-n from a Drobo connected to my Macbook. Several times already we have had it refuse to FF/REW in any kind of sensible fashion, especially toward the end, which is somewhat understandable for streaming video, but it is driving us crazy. Tonight we had paused a movie toward the end, and when we came back and tried to rewind a few seconds it basically froze and got really jerky; it took me quite a while to get back to anywhere close to where we had left off. Both my wife and I are ready to go back to using physical DVD's at this point. I am assuming that a media server with a directly connected disk playing video_ts folders should be basically the same as playing a physical dvd, and is the only thing that will be acceptable. I can't put up with this any longer! All of that time I spent ripping my dvd collection I now feel like was a complete waste of time.
     
  14. zap2 macrumors 604

    zap2

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    Location:
    Washington D.C
    #14
    PS3 can support standard 2.5 hard drives....which max out at 500Gbs(it ships with 80GBs/160Gbs, but from what I hear the upgrade isn't to hard)
     
  15. christall109 macrumors 6502

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    #15
    Wirelessly posted (Mozilla/5.0 (iPhone; U; CPU iPhone OS 2_2 like Mac OS X; en-us) AppleWebKit/525.18.1 (KHTML, like Gecko) Version/3.1.1 Mobile/5G77 Safari/525.20)

    I would have to say that there is nothing better than an xbox 360 connected to my mac via Connect360. Although I am a mace fan at heart, microsoft does have an amazing product.

    With the xbox 360, I have the ability to watch NetFlix now with the new NXE update. Additionally the xbox can play a lot of different types of media and it does not matter what resolution the media it is in. It plays divx, h.264, and MPEG 2, and more. The only problem is that it cannot play Apple's DRM FairPlay. Plus it plays back just about any type of audio.

    I briefly owned an apple tv for 2 weeks. I just did not like it and I felt that my xbox 360 plus nullrivers Connect360 got the job done. (connect360 streams all the playable content to the xbox via wifi or Ethernet, so space is limited to the hard drive on your computer. )

    Hope this helps. I love this set up, and the videos look great on my 47" LG LCD HDTV.
     
  16. obey908 macrumors 6502a

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  17. marklight macrumors 6502

    Joined:
    Apr 6, 2006
    #17
    I don't understand your logic. First of all you spent the time doing all that work so that you could leave behind disks, and not that the ATV isn't working out for you, you're through? Dude check out Plex. It'll play any file you throw at it, including vide_TS folders (so if you want to retain full DVD functionality you can) or you can just rip main feature and get a single VOB - which it'll also play (this keep original quality, strips the extras, but you still get all the audio like directors commentary etc.) or you can do the whole handbrake thing still to save space and that works fine as well. you can tag ANY of these files which is nice. And you can sort via genre, director, actor whatever. It's sweet, and while it's a work in progress, the current build destroys apple tv in most regards. the new beta build even reads your itunes and iphoto libraries and plays copy protected music.
     
  18. craigsharp macrumors regular

    Joined:
    Aug 2, 2008
    Location:
    Oklahoma
    #18
    modded xbox w/ freenas

    I had an old 800mhz AMD Athlon computer laying around along with about 1TB of HDDs. I maxed out the ram and installed freenas on a usb flash drive, RAIDed all the disks todether and now have my media server.

    I had my original xbox so I modded it with an executer 3 chip, put XBMC on there and have access to all my dvds and TV shows I have being recorded with my mythbuntu backend server box in the closet. It worked so good I bought another xbox for about $20 and modded it for my bedroom.

    The xbox can support upto 720p content, not powerful enough for fullHD, but suits my needs very well!

    as for the mythbuntu box, i've got a total of 3 tuners all crunching away day and night.
     
  19. danny_w macrumors 601

    Joined:
    Mar 8, 2005
    Location:
    Austin, TX
    #19
    What does Plex run on? I might be willing to look at alternatives but my wife walked out of the room when it hung up; she would much rather use a dvd without the problem than put up with the aggravation that we had last night, and I tend to agree with her. Unless the advantages outweigh the disadvantages then changing methods is a waste of time. My brief tests using Front Row and Media Central on the iMac were much better than this, but they were not without problems. How does Plex compare? I have used XBMC on an original Xbox and, while it worked pretty well, it was extremely crude. Is Plex an outgrowth of XBMC like Boxee is (I did not like Boxee at all)?
     
  20. Cave Man macrumors 604

    Cave Man

    #20
    Any Intel Mac running Leopard.

    Plex has a bit of a learning curve for set up, but once done it's pretty much hands-off. The key is to put it in library mode, after which it will scrape IMDB for your titles. The biggest advantages of Plex are:

    • Ability to play nearly all codecs, including Blu-ray rips that are decrypted and de-HDCP'd
    • Passthrough of Dolby Digital and DTS
    • On the fly extraction of DTS and DD from DTS-HD and True-HD
    • Transcoding of digital audio to analog (if you don't have an optical audio system)
    • No tagging required
    • Integrates with iTunes and iPhoto (and soon Aperture) running on your network
    • Works with the Apple remote

    My 1080p home theater is run by Plex. Very nice app and better than anything else for the Mac. XBMC is nice, but still clunky compared to Plex.
     
  21. danny_w macrumors 601

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    Mar 8, 2005
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    Austin, TX
    #21
    Thank you for the description. Does it play standard video_ts folders with menus without having to select the main vob?
     
  22. Cave Man macrumors 604

    Cave Man

    #22
    My understanding (I don't do this) is that Plex can read a DVD iso image from the hard drive. You might give it a try - it's a free app.
     
  23. craigsharp macrumors regular

    Joined:
    Aug 2, 2008
    Location:
    Oklahoma
    #23

    You must be talking about XBMC for OSX. Also, PLEX is a port off of XBMC, same underlying code...
     
  24. Cave Man macrumors 604

    Cave Man

    #24
    Yeah, old news.
     
  25. danny_w macrumors 601

    Joined:
    Mar 8, 2005
    Location:
    Austin, TX
    #25
    Yes, I downloaded Plex yesterday and tried it wirh some local files. And yes, it was quite obviously XBMC.I don't know if there are configuration parameters to make it perform better, but playing some video_ts folders on my Macbook did not work out very well. The movies were slow to launch (like XBMC), dialogue would sometimes drop out entirely, and I could never figure out how to ff/rew without going in chapter blocks (learning curve). So for my first try I was not impressed.
     

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