Mac Mini as Media Center set up ideas?

Discussion in 'Apple TV and Home Theater' started by dalv, Nov 19, 2012.

  1. dalv macrumors newbie

    Nov 19, 2012
    I recently purchased my first Mac Mini (2011 with 8 GB) – a major step in the right direction:) I plan to use it as a Media enter with Plex. My previous Media Center was a PC, but it is going into retirement :D

    As I have no experience with Macs, I need some advice as how to set it up.

    What I’d like to be able is to set an automatic download of some TV shows we watch (I just read online it is possible, but I am not sure how). I need to have the shows display the proper meta information (Plex can do that), and be able to control it with iPhone/iPad.

    The Mac comes with no keyboard – do I really need one, or can I use an App on the iPhone for the initial set up? Also, do I need to upgrade the iOS? I may be eligible for a free upgrade.

    Any ideas about software, apps and set up, etc. will be greatly appreciated!
  2. AppleDApp macrumors 68020


    Jun 21, 2011
    I can help you with some of this. To do the initial setup of your mac you will need a keyboard. See if you have a spare keyboard (PC keyboard works) or can borrow one from a friend. Once Plex is up and running you can control it from the plex app for iOS which I believe is 4.99$ You are eligible for an OS upgrade it is up to you to decide whether or not you want to upgrade. If you are using the mac strictly as a media centre, there are no features that would benefit you to upgrade.
  3. pmcdunnough macrumors member

    Oct 15, 2009
    You might want to take advantage of the OS upgrade to Mountain Lion. You don't have to install it now though.

    There are quite a few keyboard trackpad apps for the iPhone/iPad which allow you to not have a physical keyboard. One is Rowmote Pro. There are quite a few others though. I also use a Lenovo Multimedia Remote (the backlit one) with my Mini. It's small and great for XBMC, Plex, etc... Not expensive. It has a keyboard and mousepad built in. Well worth it. A great app to allow you to control the Mac via a remote is Remote Buddy. There is a version in the Mac App Store which is slightly less powerful but does everything you would want. You can launch Plex or anything else from a menu that pressing on a remote button brings up. The contents of the menu are user definable, so you could have Plex, XBMC, VLC, iTunes, etc ... in your menu.

    There's much more but I am not at my Mac so ...

  4. AppleDApp macrumors 68020


    Jun 21, 2011
    Do you plain on using any other functions of OSX or will this computer strictly be for Plex use?
  5. dalv thread starter macrumors newbie

    Nov 19, 2012
    Thanks for the tips! Much appreciated!

    For now, the plan is to use it as a media center, but it may act as a back up work/play computer. So Adobe CS, GarageBand, etc. might be installed too.

    I am quite excited, actually. If I like this Mac as much as I love all my other Apple devices, I might just throw out my other computers. :D
  6. PaulKemp macrumors 6502

    Jun 2, 2009
    Sure we will help, but we will not help you download illegal material. :)

    I set up a mini as a Plex server this weekend. Very easy. Make sure you use the Plex Naming Scheme to make it easy to discover all the metadata. Other than that its very easy.

    And if you have another computer, setup screen sharing on your new mini, so you can access that destktop from another computer in your network.
  7. duky macrumors 6502

    Jun 25, 2007
    North Carolina
    I've got the same setup and it works great you'll really love it. The keyboard suggestions others have given are great but if all else fails I usually go to my nearby best buy or target, buy a wired keyboard and mouse that I usually need only for OS installs then return the same day. For everything else I just use Screen Sharing/Remote Desktop from my laptop to control the Mac mini.

    As for Plex, you should take a look at xbmc. I switched over about a year back and have liked xbmc quite a bit better. If you are big on good-looking themes then you will def want to look at xbmc because the theming community is much more active on this side than for plex in terms of updating and making new themes. Xbmc has lots of cool features like AirPlay integration that I'm not sure if plex has or not as I haven't used it in a while but you should definitely check it both before settling on one.
  8. AppleDApp macrumors 68020


    Jun 21, 2011
    Plex can airplay from the app to any ATV. I don't recall if you can do it from the OS X app.
  9. pmcdunnough macrumors member

    Oct 15, 2009
    No, you can't but you can set the ATV as the output display/audio from Mountain Lion. At that point you basically have Plex on your ATV (or any Mac app you want). Rowmote can initiate this AirPlay mirroring and control Plex or XBMC or whatever so that it is pretty seamless. Neat actually, though it would be nicer to have a Plex client on the ATV.

  10. AppleDApp macrumors 68020


    Jun 21, 2011
    Why would OP do that if the mini is connected to the TV.
  11. X5-599 macrumors regular

    Oct 28, 2012
    I'm currently looking to switch back from Plex to XBMC. Since the AppleTV interface for TV Shows is totally unacceptable for me it seems like the only option I have.
    What I don't like about Plex:
    - No way to import/export the library to xml
    - Doesn't play .iso images of my DVDs

    Ok, it's just two points. But they mean a lot to me. Import/export would be great for reinstalling after hdd crash. Also, it would be a neat way to fix wrong Episode ordering (TheTVDB I'm looking at you!)
    The iso image only applies to my Movie collection. It would mean I could save myself a lot of work because I wouldn't have to encode them. The DVD Extras would have to be treated individually. Pain.

    Tell my more about the Airplay capability of XBMC. I actually haven't heard about that before.
  12. SINC macrumors newbie

    Nov 21, 2012
    My Mac Mini Setup

    Hey mate.. so for me - i bought a mac mini, put 8 gig in it and run plex from it. You can assign your apple remote so when you press the menu button, it launches, works beautifully, can even access my playlists from itunes from another mac and playback my music through my surround amp.

    As far as Airplay, I bought a little app (somewhere free if you look for it) called AirServer. With this app, I can stream anything from my iphone, ipad or even play games with mirroring directly on the mac mini in full screen, even while plex is running. It goes into full screen then when it's done, plex is still there, no quitting or having to tinker with the keyboard. just the remote is all I use and you can have your mac mini auto load plex and airserver at boot.

    Hope that helps buddy :) living the mac-mini media centre dream :D
  13. anvikapur macrumors member

    Nov 11, 2012
    There are a number of good tutorials on setting up a Mac Mini Meia Center. For me a good starting point was the Mac Mini Media Center Project series by Youseph Tanha or tuaw[dot]com/2009/07/24/behold-my-mac-mini-media-center/

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