Old Mac Mini as media center?

Discussion in 'Apple TV and Home Theater' started by AWDBat, Jan 13, 2009.

  1. AWDBat macrumors newbie

    Joined:
    Dec 4, 2008
    #1
    I currently have an ATV 2.1 hacked for external USB hard drive (1TB Western Digital) as my main media center and it is working very well on our 40" Samsung 1080p LCD TV. I use Sapphire with Perian to watch movies and Boxee for Hulu, etc.

    We have an old Mac Mini (PPC G4 1.2, 1.25GHz processor and 512MB RAM, OS 10.3.9) that the kids use. I am planning on getting a new iMac for the kids and am thinking of using the Mac Mini as a media center for our 32" 720p Vizio upstairs. I will need to get a USB/RF Remote (Probably Griffin) and could use Boxee (I have several .avi files that probably won't work through Frontrow if I upgrade the OS).

    Is this something that would work well or do you think that it would be too much of a headache. Any upgrades to the Mini I should consider?

    Much obliged,

    A
     
  2. AWDBat thread starter macrumors newbie

    Joined:
    Dec 4, 2008
    #2
    Well, the bullet has been bitten and we have a shiny new iMac.

    I set up the Mini and using Quicktime all of my movies play great in full screen mode. I have a bunch of avi files that are not accessible and the version of VLC I downloaded seems to crash everytime I try to open a file. I think I'll upgrade to OS 10.4 and use the latest version of VLC to see if that works better. Of course I had to get a 4 port USB hub since the older Mini only has two ports. I'm also going to order the Griffin USB remote.
     
  3. Cave Man macrumors 604

    Cave Man

    #3
    Congrats on the new buy. Not sure how well a ppc Mini would have worked. Perhaps fine by ethernet, and maybe even 802.11g. But alas, it's all water under the bridge now.
     
  4. dav146 macrumors regular

    dav146

    Joined:
    Dec 21, 2007
    #4
    How did you connect the TV to the mini?

    Just wondering how you get the sound & picture to come out of the TV??

    I am thinking of purchasing a mac mini to use as a media centre, can the mac wireless keyboard & mouse connect to the mini via bluetooth??

    Your help is appreciated!
     
  5. DavieBoy macrumors 6502

    DavieBoy

    Joined:
    Jan 8, 2009
    Location:
    New Jersey
    #5
    Most new tv's have a cpu monitor input and maybe a minijack for audio.

    If not then all new TV's have dvi/hdmi in and analog audio. The worst thing you would have to do id spend $40 on a mini jack to composite audio and a dvi to hdmi cable.

    My mini is in my car hooked up to a flip out tv. My job gave me a macbook but i didn't need it so it is plugged into my 46" samsung. works great. love watching hulu on it. You can use it for netflix too.

    Dont forget there are iphone apps that you can use to remote control the computer....
     
  6. blackfx35 macrumors member

    Joined:
    Jul 11, 2008
    #6
    Where do you work? Are they hiring?
     
  7. DavieBoy macrumors 6502

    DavieBoy

    Joined:
    Jan 8, 2009
    Location:
    New Jersey
    #7
    That's what all my friends from Apple ask...

    A school system, IT, Left apple for double the pay and half the work, do that work/pay ratio...

    Best job in the world, new computer every 6 months or so, whenever we get a new batch I give mine to the next new teacher and take a new one. Ha
     
  8. AWDBat thread starter macrumors newbie

    Joined:
    Dec 4, 2008
    #8
    The Mini has a DVI output and came with an adapter for an RGB cable to input to a standard monitor. Like Davieboy said most new TVs have an RGB input so it looks great, just no sound. I have a JBL sub and speakers that I connected to the Mini which sound awesome. Highly recommended. Front Row would be nice but that would mean putting down some cash for Leopard 10.5. I think Quicktime/VLC is a fine option and the picture looks great.
     
  9. millar876 macrumors 6502a

    millar876

    Joined:
    May 13, 2004
    Location:
    Peterhead, Scotland UK
    #9
    everything plays in front row. IF, you install perian, and Flip4mac and organise everything properly.

    For my setup, i use this file structure - Home folder>my account>movies folder>alias to external hard drive.

    on the external HD - MyBook 1TB > TV > (series name i.e. bones) > Season 1 > 101 - episode name

    so when you go into front row all you see is...
    Frontrow > Movies > Movies Folder > Mybook 1TB > TV > Bones > Season 1 > 101 - the body in the whatever

    you get the point.
     
  10. Cave Man macrumors 604

    Cave Man

    #10
    OP has a G4 Mac Mini. IIRC, that computer does not run Front Row without a mod.
     
  11. AWDBat thread starter macrumors newbie

    Joined:
    Dec 4, 2008
    #11
    Word. I wish it did though - would make life a LOT easier. Although there is an iPhone remote I can use with 10.4. I'll report back and let you know how it goes.

    A
     
  12. AWDBat thread starter macrumors newbie

    Joined:
    Dec 4, 2008
    #12
    Okay, I have everything set up and it seems to be working pretty well :) :

    Mac Mini G4 1.25GHz PPC 512MB RAM "upgraded" to OS Tiger 10.4
    Belkin 4 port USB 2.0 hub
    External Western Digital MyBook 1TB external hard drive
    D-Link Wireless G122 USB dongle (no airport card in this Mini!)
    JBL subwoofer and speakers
    Vizio 32" 1280x720p TV with RGB input
    jfControl iPhone remote (controls Finder, Quicktime, VLC, DVD player, etc)

    All my video files (mp4, avi, m4v) are playing through Quicktime which, once the computer is awake from sleep, I can control using jfControl for the iPhone. jfControl seems to be a pretty good remote app to use Finder to get to the file I want to play and then switch to the Quicktime remote or VLC remote to play/pause and go to fullscreen. Compared to Frontrow for Mac or Apple TV it is pretty ghetto, but given this is for our second TV I think it works well. The UI for jfControl needs a little work, but good enough for now.

    Of course we get more mileage and simplicity with our Apple TV 2.1 hacked to external USB 1TB Western Digital hard drive with Sapphire, NitoTV and Boxee, but it's nice to see technology works!! :D
     
  13. itickings macrumors 6502a

    itickings

    Joined:
    Apr 14, 2007
    #13
    I'd be very interested to hear how well that old G4's holding up in real life - i.e. is the videos playing smoothly, or do you experience frequent or occasional hiccups?

    The reason I'm asking is that i have a very similar Mini collecting dust. It'd be nice to know if there is a possibility it's worth the hassle to dig it up and connect to the TV. :)
     
  14. Ninja Dom macrumors 6502

    Ninja Dom

    Joined:
    Feb 12, 2007
    #14
    This is very interesting to me.

    I was using a G4 Mac Mini as my main computer. 1.42 GHz with 1Gb Ram and running Leopard 10.5.6. In December I got myself a white Macbook so that is now my main computer. I think I may hook my Mac Mini up to my 42" Toshiba HDTV and watch movies on that.

    A few questions.

    My Mac Mini currently doesn't handle 720p content too well. How is your Mac Mini handling 720p content??

    I use VLC and Quicktime. Is there any way that I can improve the video playback quality somehow??

    What are the resolutions of the movies that you play back on your Mac Mini?

    Thanks in advance.
     
  15. AWDBat thread starter macrumors newbie

    Joined:
    Dec 4, 2008
    #15
    The Mini is holding up fine. It handles playing DVD rips in mp4, m4v, avi format without problem except the slight hiccup at the beginning of some files (mostly avi's).

    As for HD content, it doesn't handle them well at all. I have a couple 720p mkv files converted via Handbrake to m4v or mp4 and they don't play the video well. It doesn't bother me too much as I don't have much HD content and besides I'd play that down on the AppleTV hooked to the bigger Samsung TV.

    I don't know anyway to improve the video quality from VLC or QT, but maybe someone on the forum does.
     
  16. DoFoT9 macrumors P6

    DoFoT9

    Joined:
    Jun 11, 2007
    Location:
    Singapore
    #16
    hhmm yes i thought it wouldnt have been able to handle the HD rips very well.. have you tried it with plex?
     
  17. geoffreak macrumors 68020

    geoffreak

    Joined:
    Feb 8, 2008
    #17
    Plex is Leopard only. Why don't you try playing in MPlayer OSX? I don't know how compatible it is with older systems, but it handles video much better than VLC can ever hope to.
     
  18. DoFoT9 macrumors P6

    DoFoT9

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    Jun 11, 2007
    Location:
    Singapore
    #18
    wow good point.
     
  19. AWDBat thread starter macrumors newbie

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    Dec 4, 2008
    #19
    Haven't tried MPlayer, but it's worth a whirl.
     
  20. itickings macrumors 6502a

    itickings

    Joined:
    Apr 14, 2007
    #20
    Thanks for the info, much appreciated. Sounds like it works as well as one could hope for considering the dated hardware.

    I'll go dig up my old Mini sooner or later. :)
     
  21. gdeusthewhizkid macrumors 6502a

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    Nov 14, 2008
    Location:
    NY|NJ
    #21
    Hey guys im using my mac mini with leopard as a media center. I watch a ton high quality avi movies and regular movies that i buy from i tunes. I get no hiccups at all. It works very well with leopard and a gig of ram. I would definately recommend the upgrade if that is the mac mini u have..

    I barely even surf the net on it anymore. I use my iphone for that. It's constantly on just downloading music and movies.
     
  22. gdeusthewhizkid macrumors 6502a

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    Nov 14, 2008
    Location:
    NY|NJ
    #22

    dust it off and use it. It's a great machine for media.
     
  23. gdeusthewhizkid macrumors 6502a

    Joined:
    Nov 14, 2008
    Location:
    NY|NJ
    #23

    thanks for that tidbit . Im gonna go use that jfcontrol for iphone right now once i get home. :cool:
     
  24. AWDBat thread starter macrumors newbie

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    Dec 4, 2008
    #24
    It is a little cumbersome, but much better than using the keyboard and mouse.
     
  25. gdeusthewhizkid macrumors 6502a

    Joined:
    Nov 14, 2008
    Location:
    NY|NJ
    #25

    downloaded and used it to watch a few movies. It is a bit cumbersome but it does work.. I will use remote for i tunes but front row and quicktime movies jc works great.
     

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