Mac mini for HTPC. What setup?

matrix07

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Jun 24, 2010
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Hi,

Someone made a good recommendation to me to use Mac mini as a HTPC and I'm about to buy it. :D (I just got 3 TB. Time Capsule, yeah!) now what setup should I do for HTPC purpose only.
No Mail. No contact. No Calendar. Not even Safari. This machine is for HTPC pure and simple. I'll let it run 24/7, but guess would use low power mode, if possible. For audio, I'll use iTunes coupled with Amara. For video, it's up to your suggestion. Maybe Plex with XMBC front end? Or Plex with Plex?
I might use TeamViewer to access it from another Mac (don't want to turn on 70" LCD every time I want to play a song). I'll buy an Apple Remote Control. And I'll run Windows in virtualization.

So how should I configure my Mac just for this task?
 

blanka

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Jul 30, 2012
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I think XBMC itself is ok. Plex server is only needed when serving stuff for iDivices. XBMC just plays from network locations like the TC.

Don't overspend. The optimum Mini for serious HTPC-ing is the 2009/2010, the newer ones are overkill. Then it's like wasting a super computer for word processing ;).

I think a 2010 with a BR modification is the king of hill. Nothing beats that one. 2010+7200rpm drive+ BR slot loading is HTPC porn at its best.

I have the 2009 with BR and 750GB scorpio black and it is awesome. Only negative of the 2009 is the separate power brick.

If you must buy new, just grab the entry. It is perfect. No options needed. If you need one option, get a 20 bucks USB powered BR player.
 

matrix07

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If you must buy new, just grab the entry. It is perfect. No options needed.
Thanks. I need USB 3.0 for my externals (and IR receiver for Apple RC?) but I'll go with the basest of the base. :D

But that is not what I'm asking though. What I want to know is how to properly set this up. To have it wake up instantly with a touch on the Remote Control, or let it sit idle without consume too much energy? Something like that. Should I uninstall Mail, Contact, Calendar, Message (Mac AppStore :D) etc.? How to get rid of unnecessary notifications?
 

talmy

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Oct 26, 2009
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I used two 2009 minis for this, only recently replacing one with a new model (old one developed flakey Wifi and its audio output failed) but I still use it as a low-end workstation. All base units bought as refurbs. I don't uninstall anything. As long as you don't configure mail, etc., you won't get any notifications. I use Plex but also need to stream through Safari for Netflix/Amazon and some other sites that don't have plug-ins.
 

matrix07

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I use Plex but also need to stream through Safari for Netflix/Amazon and some other sites that don't have plug-ins.
Ah yes, streaming sites. Couldn't you just use iPad for those? But yeah, looks like I might need to keep Safari. :p
 

blanka

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Jul 30, 2012
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The 2009/2010 models also have an IR sensor.
Are you going to put externals on the mini? Thought you had the TC for that.
 

matrix07

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The 2009/2010 models also have an IR sensor.
Are you going to put externals on the mini? Thought you had the TC for that.
TC is not enough for my HD movies so I have a 4-bays box USB 3 external.

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ALL minis have IR sensors.
I'm not sure about that. I checked official Apple website and it seems only the latest model has an IR receiver.

2012 model.


2011 model.

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Can't AirPlay to a Mac AFAIK. And it would add considerably to the cost.
Ah.. I will have Apple TV also.
 
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famous600

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Apr 8, 2010
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Time to clear some things up :)

I have a 2.5 2012 mini htpc thunderbolted to a drobo 5d. This serves everything in my entire house.

It is running teamviewer for remote access. Plex server to serve media, iTunes home sharing as well.

Also run AirServer to act as an Apple TV for airplay content. I use XBMC as my media center. This is because Aeon Nox theme is sexy and it can be controlled via apple remote which makes it easy to use for family. The drobo 5d is shared over the network via OSX Server for any file transfer needs as well as xbmc on other machines. Plex is mainly used for iOS devices and the roku in the bedroom.

So it seems our set ups will be pretty identical in nature. I have had zero problems since I started. Only thing I am planning to do is upgrade from 4gb ram to 8gb ram.

Forgot to mention, I also use rowmote pro in the event I need a trackpad or keyboard which is almost never.
 
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talmy

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I'm not sure about that. I checked official Apple website and it seems only the latest model has an IR receiver.
It doesn't show on the rear view -- the IR receiver is on the front. All my 2009 models (regular and server) and my 2012 model have IR receivers. I did find out that I wasn't completely right by saying "all minis" have IR receivers -- I did some research and only the Intel models (2006 and later) have IR receivers. The G4 models (2005) did not.
 

matrix07

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It doesn't show on the rear view -- the IR receiver is on the front. All my 2009 models (regular and server) and my 2012 model have IR receivers. I did find out that I wasn't completely right by saying "all minis" have IR receivers -- I did some research and only the Intel models (2006 and later) have IR receivers. The G4 models (2005) did not.
So they had it but didn't tell customers on the hardware spec page? Interesting. (Notices they are very upfront about having IR receiver in the 2012 model (The red arrow) but nothing on the 2011 model).

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It is running teamviewer for remote access. Plex server to serve media, iTunes home sharing as well.

I'm just thinking... How different is Back To My Mac than TeamViewer? Can I get by with only Back To My Mac turn on?


I use XBMC as my media center. This is because Aeon Nox theme is sexy and it can be controlled via apple remote which makes it easy to use for family.
So you can't control Plex front end with Apple remote? Is there even a Plex front end? Sorry, very newbie here. :p

The drobo 5d is shared over the network via OSX Server for any file transfer needs as well as xbmc on other machines. Plex is mainly used for iOS devices and the roku in the bedroom.
I'm afraid OSX server will be overkill for me, for now anyway.

How do you like your system so far? What do you want to have to "enhance" it? :D
 

phrehdd

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Oct 25, 2008
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Using the Mac Mini for an HTPC should work fairly well with either Plex or XBMC.

Here is one thing to consider - if you want to play media files (movies) that have HD audio such as DTS-Master, XBMC and Plex will only render the core audio if installed on OSX. This is not a limitation of the Mac Mini hardware but of OSX.

If you load Windows or Linux on the Mac Mini, then XBMC, it will play back the HD audio stream properly.

I have one Mac Mini with Ubuntu and XBMC and it works extremely well. HDMI to my receiver then to the TV. Being networked, it can play files from my NAS storage.

Last - only other consideration is to make sure you get the proper screen match to your TV set up properly. (see their respective sites and forums for any issues).
 

nollimac

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Oct 10, 2013
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There are some many ways to achieve what you're looking for. You already have some ideas of what you want and you'll find that changing as you explore. I believe most folks who have a Mac Mini for a HTPC also use it as a server.

I use my Mac Mini (2012 base) as a server and a HTPC. It's headless and connects to an LED projector via an emulator and a HDMI switcher. I also added a SSD and 16GB Ram. However, later I decided to install Parallels 9 with Windows 7 Ultimate to take advantage of the hard drive and the large memory.

For sure, you'll need an awesome receiver with optical and possible a Blue Ray player to complement your Mac Mini HTPC.
 

matrix07

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Jun 24, 2010
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Using the Mac Mini for an HTPC should work fairly well with either Plex or XBMC.

Here is one thing to consider - if you want to play media files (movies) that have HD audio such as DTS-Master, XBMC and Plex will only render the core audio if installed on OSX. This is not a limitation of the Mac Mini hardware but of OSX.
I'm perfectly happy to live with only DTS core at the moment since it will be some time before I'll get full 5.1 system.

Last - only other consideration is to make sure you get the proper screen match to your TV set up properly. (see their respective sites and forums for any issues).
Great advice! I'll remember to do just that.

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For sure, you'll need an awesome receiver with optical
Why optical? Why not HDMI?

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Yes there is a Plex front end and you can use the Apple Remote.
Thanks.

talmy, I want to call your attention to this again. I don't doubt your information, only that Apple isn't clear about it. (I change picture of 2011 model to make it clearer)


2012 model.


2011 model.


Are you still certain 2011 has IR receiver? If it has, I might change my plan and saving some money by buying 2011 model instead. I guess I can live with USB 2.0. :p
 

famous600

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Apr 8, 2010
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So they had it but didn't tell customers on the hardware spec page? Interesting. (Notices they are very upfront about having IR receiver in the 2012 model (The red arrow) but nothing on the 2011 model).

----------




I'm just thinking... How different is Back To My Mac than TeamViewer? Can I get by with only Back To My Mac turn on?




So you can't control Plex front end with Apple remote? Is there even a Plex front end? Sorry, very newbie here. :p



I'm afraid OSX server will be overkill for me, for now anyway.

How do you like your system so far? What do you want to have to "enhance" it? :D
You can't control back to my mac from an iphone or ipad. There is a plex front end, I personally use xbmc because of the customization options etc. MUCH better. My system works perfectly for my needs connected to the 5D. Gets the job done great. Only thing I am enhancing is my RAM.
 

seinman

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Jun 15, 2011
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Don't overspend. The optimum Mini for serious HTPC-ing is the 2009/2010, the newer ones are overkill. Then it's like wasting a super computer for word processing ;).
Hell you don't even have to go that far if you're really strapped for cash. My current HTPC is a mid 2007 Mac Mini. 1.83 c2d, 4 gigs RAM, 320 gig internal HD, about 4 TB worth of external storage. Plays 1080p video with 5.1 surround with no problems. Only downside is it only runs Lion, but I don't really care because the only four applications I ever have running are uTorrent, Safari, iTunes, and VLC.
 

talmy

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Oct 26, 2009
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Hell you don't even have to go that far if you're really strapped for cash. My current HTPC is a mid 2007 Mac Mini. 1.83 c2d, 4 gigs RAM, 320 gig internal HD, about 4 TB worth of external storage. Plays 1080p video with 5.1 surround with no problems.
I would have thought the same since the 2009 base minis I've used have more than enough power. However I was pleasantly surprised when I replaced one with a 2012 base mini and finally had working HDMI -- superior picture and sound. The 2009 didn't work properly with HDMI so I had to use VGA and analog audio.

That 2009 mini is now repurposed as workstation for documentation and programming.
 

seinman

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Jun 15, 2011
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I would have thought the same since the 2009 base minis I've used have more than enough power. However I was pleasantly surprised when I replaced one with a 2012 base mini and finally had working HDMI -- superior picture and sound. The 2009 didn't work properly with HDMI so I had to use VGA and analog audio.
I use a DVI to HDMI cable. It doesn't carry audio, so I use an optical cable to hook it up to my receiver. Yes it's a bigger pain in the ass than being able to run audio over HDMI, but hey, it works and the price was right. The picture is crystal clear on my projector.
 

talmy

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Oct 26, 2009
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I use a DVI to HDMI cable. It doesn't carry audio, so I use an optical cable to hook it up to my receiver. Yes it's a bigger pain in the ass than being able to run audio over HDMI, but hey, it works and the price was right. The picture is crystal clear on my projector.
My AV hardware could only be configured for VGA + analog audio or HDMI. I bought an adapter that presumably would combine mini-displayport + analog audio to HDMI but I could not get it to work. So I was stuck with VGA. :(
 

matrix07

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Jun 24, 2010
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Hi,

Could I connect HDMI to TV but have sound from all apps including iTunes comes out of Audio Out port? How do I set it up?