Repurpose 2008 MacPro as XBMC entertainment hub and PVR?

Discussion in 'Apple TV and Home Theater' started by laurim, Mar 5, 2014.

  1. laurim macrumors 68000


    Sep 19, 2003
    Minnesota USA
    When I get my new MacPro, I will have my 2008 MacPro available to use as a home theater server. I don't have a bunch of stored media but I would like to use XBMC to get rid of the monthly Comcast dvr fee and get me access to other entertainment like foreign channels and such. I'll get my movie rentals/Netflix etc. from my AppleTV 3 (I'm selling my jailbroken ATV 2 since I have extra Macs with storage I can use instead). The MacPro will be used to get cable tv and used as a DVR/PVR. Not interested in stealing content, just expanding legit entertainment options and eliminating the monthly dvr fee.

    Here's what else I think I'll need. Any comments/suggestions?

    1. DVI-HDMI converter to get video to main Onkyo receiver
    2. Optical audio to main Onkyo receiver
    3. HD HomeRun box to get cable signal to Mac Pro. Cablecard from Comcast
    4. XBMC and MythTV add-on for PVR

    The MacPro, HomeRun and main router (and time capsules) in my hall closet that shares a wall with my other home theater components. The wall on the closet side is already open from my moving the cable outlet so it'll be easy to add electrical outlets and a component hookup panel.

    Will it get too warm in the closet?? There's a good gap between the bottom of the door and the wood floor. I could add a little fan.

    How do I use a remote with this setup? Do I have to use an IR blaster somehow to operate XBMC on the MacPro or is there a wifi solution?

    Anyone familiar with the performance of viewing cable tv this way? Any gotchas?

    I've only started thinking about this so please cut me a little slack if I'm overlooking something obvious :)

    Thanks for any input!
  2. famous600 macrumors 6502a


    Apr 8, 2010
    Personally I use rowmote pro on my ipad to connect to my Mac mini over wifi. This eliminates an IR blaster etc. Can also download xbmc remote for free from the App Store. This will allow you to control xbmc over wifi.
  3. waw74 macrumors 68030

    May 27, 2008
    you'll need to do some research, due to CCI Flags, you may or may not be able to record cable, even though you have a cable card.
    currently windows media center is the only software that can handle them.
    these are normally set by your cable providers, and can vary from city to city for the same providers.

    for remotes, on OS X i recommend remote buddy.
    if you browse the supported hardware section there, you can check out your different options.
    the cleanest in your case might be the PS3 remote, it connects via bluetooth (you may need a dongle on your mac, i'm not sure if yours has bluetooth)

    with XBMC there are free iOS apps that you can use as a remote, but there's something nice about having hard buttons, that you can pickup and hit without looking at the remote

    I currently have a linux box that i use for my media center, I use...
    Plex to handle my media library (also streams to my iOS devices and roku in the other room)
    MythTV to record my shows (it then cuts commercials and dumps to the plex folders)
    XBMC (with myth and plex plugins) as my front end as it allows access to both programs. and it's easier to setup with LIRC (The linux IR interface)

    I don't watch too much live TV as it's recording, but it does work.
    I can only record the local channels with my HD homerun, don't have the cable card version, but my provider locks everything but the locals.
    XBMC can't use Myth's commercial detection flags, should be fixed in the next version though.
  4. laurim thread starter macrumors 68000


    Sep 19, 2003
    Minnesota USA
    Thanks for the input so far. The whole DVR/PVR thing is a little more complicated than I would like. I don't think I would ever use Windows Media Center, being on a Mac and all. Don't want to run the MacPro in Bootcamp and have to maintain Windows if something goes awry. blech.

    Glad to hear I can probably use my iPhone to operate the XBMC, although I agree that real buttons would be nice for not having to look down. This MacPro does have bluetooth so I can look into a real bluetooth remote.

    keep the comments coming!
  5. westrock2000 macrumors 6502a

    Oct 18, 2013
    I have mine (2,1) in a closet and it does not generate much heat. I think the FB-DIMM RAM is actually the biggest heat generator. When mine was in the closet by itself, the closet did not get very hot, a little warmer then ambient. I did end up putting 2x 120mm computer fans in the closet door just to circulate some air, but I don't think it needed it.

    If there is room you can also get a 20" box fan that is available from just about anywhere as they are usually only like $20-30 and move a lot of air even on the lowest setting. Which in a closet should be quite. Just put it inside the closet. I have one for another computer area and I ended up attaching a 20" air conditioner filter to the back to use as a way to capture dust in the closet, helped a lot with the random dog hairs on the hard wood floors.

    The rails to hold the filter are made from foam board from a hobby store and hot glue. If you cut one side of the paper on the foam board, the other side will act as a hinge. So that's how you can make L shapes.

    Another option you have, and this is what I did, is to buy a low voltage Xeon off of Ebay for cheap and put it in the Mac. They use have the power of the standard Xeons, and for the purposes of a media server have plenty of processing strength. You would be looking for the Xeon L5408 (2.13Ghz), which are about $40-$50 on eBay.

    I have dual quad cores in mine running at 2.0Ghz and nothing it does on a regular basis saturates that. Even running ZFS, which uses the CPU to do data integrity checking on the fly is ok.

    Attached Files:

  6. phrehdd macrumors 68040


    Oct 25, 2008
    While a bit of a power hog, its a fine choice for a media server. I would strongly suggest you consider using Windows on it instead of OSX.

    1) If you use XBMC, Windows can play back the HD audio stream in an "HD" movie (such as DTS-Master). OSX will not play back the HD Audio stream and XBMC will just use the core (DTS from the example before).

    2) If you want something like the Ceton solutions to handle a cab;e "M" card to record video, OSX does not support it but Windows does. The rest of the DVR/PVR falls in place when OSX is no longer an obstacle.

    I admit I prefer OSX over Windows but Apple in its desire to make everyone an iTunes dependent media junky freak, cuts us off from "possibilities."

    Just give it some thought and ideally don't fall in to the maker fan base folly as many (of us) do. Decide what will get you the results you want given your powerful machine.
  7. Fuchal macrumors 68020

    Sep 30, 2003
    I have my 2006 Mac Pro as a media server, and it works great. Having 4 drive bays inside is fantastic because it lets you self contain really nice storage options.

    For example, in my Mac Pro I have...
    1.5 tb drive for OS / Bootcamp
    2 tb drive for Time Machine server
    2x 4 tb drives in Raid 1 to store media

    Makes me feel slightly more comfortable about actually collecting media for the long run.

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