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BeesTea
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join:2003-03-08
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1 edit

[OS X] Mini as an HTPC

Hey all,

I'm considering replacing my Apple TV 2 with a new Mini to use as an HTPC and am curious if others are using a Mini for the same purpose. If so, what interface XBMC, Plex, etc people are using and what people are doing to still access videos from the Apple store. My suspicion is that an Alt+Tab is the only way to get Apple content into the MC interfaces.

So.. any Mac Mini HTPC users on the forum care to share their setup / experiences?

Thanks!

Edit: removed some editorial to not distract from the question.

--
Overpower, overcome.



Nezmo
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said by BeesTea:

Hey all,

...

My primary reason for the change is to get better Netflix support. The Apple TV 2 has a native Netflix app but the performance of the app is pretty poor. Lot's of stuttering, buffering, and resolution loss. There are literally hundreds of posts on the Apple forums complaining of the issues related to the app and the number one recommendation is to move to the Apple TV 3...

Thanks!

THis really surprises me. I have never had a Netflix issue on my ATV2 and I prefer the interface over Netflix on the XBOX and Sony Blu-ray machines.

Typically stuttering or res loss is going to be a network-based issue like Wi-Fi issues.

I'm going to search for those posts you mention as you've peeked my curiosity.

I use a mini but only as an iTunes server, not as an HTPC.
--
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Formerly Nezmo


HiVolt
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reply to BeesTea

I've been using a mini for a HTPC going back to my G4 mini... At first I just used VLC, but at some point even on the old G4 mini I discovered Plex... And I've been using it ever since... I've gone thru the first gen Intel mini, but that wasnt great for HD video due to the GMA950 GPU... I have since been using a 2009 mini which has a nVidia 9400M GPU and it works just fine for anything I throw at it.

But I do not use Apple Store content.
--
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skeechan
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I used a Mini but got tired of de-authorizing and reauthorizing (because I'm at my 5 PC limit) while ATV doesn't have the limits. I just rip videos to 1080P MP4 and stream everything to ATV using iTunes on the host iMac (vids are also good for my 4th gen iPad).

Only thing I miss on ATV is Crunchyroll but that's on PS3 and XBOX.

When I did use the Mini, I didn't use any particular interface for videos or music; just VLC or iTunes depending on what I watched along with the FAVI Mini bluetooth keyboard which includes a laser pointer for harassing my dogs.

»www.amazon.com/FAVI-Entertainmen···_cp_pc_1



darcilicious
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Love the FAVI remote/keyboard.

I also love Plex -- for non-protected iTunes content, if the the Plex Media Server is installed on the same system as the iTunes library, the Plex Media Center (the playback software) will work pick up your iTunes stuff (not good for iTunes purchased video, unfortunately because of DRM, but trailers work fine for example).
--
♬ Dragon of good fortune struggles with the trickster Fox ♬



kerriskandie

join:2001-10-09
Coram, NY
reply to BeesTea

C2D 2.0 Mini for the last three years, hooked upto a Verbatim Powerbay server wirelessly via an Asus dark Knight router, HDMI'd to my 65" DLP Mitsubishi TV, Vulkano Placeshifter attatched to Cable box, and using Plex exclusively.....

Works brilliantly
EDIT: about to bite the bullet on a Intel MacMini 2011 2.5Ghz i5 with dedicated Vram.....since the C2 Duo DOES get severely taxed at times!!!!!!


Daemon
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1 edit

1 recommendation

reply to BeesTea

I considered it but ended up using the Mini as a transcoding box and media server, with the ATV as client.

I know you removed your editorializing, but Nezmo was able to quote it. Personally, I think you can fix your problems with the aTV and be more happy than you would be spending all the money on the mini and ending up with an inferior interface.

We have 802.11n, on the 5GHz band, using triplicate antennae with a maximum throughput of 450mbps attached to a 100mbps/100mbps internet connection (one perk of city living) and STILL had stuttering on the aTV. I gave up and wired the mini and atv to the 1Gbps ethernet ports on the router and that solved the issue.

In our particular case, we live in a tall building, across the street from a tall building and our living room faces the street. Whenever a car goes by, every single TV channel gets extreme interference (using an antenna). If I'm paying close attention, I can see the wifi hiccups too. I suspect we get weird reflections of all radio signals across a large spectrum range and everything struggles to decode the duplicate, out of phase signals. (One downside of city living) There isn't anything I can do to my router to get around that problem. Sometimes, a wire is the only way.
--
-Ryan
I use Linux, OS X, iOS and Windows. Let the OS wars die.



skeechan
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I'm in the same boat. I use AV500 powerline adapters that only get me about 40Mb throughput between ATV and my router and I never have any issues with Netflix. 5GHz for me doesn't give me the range I need for a reliable connection (drops and reconnects).



kerriskandie

join:2001-10-09
Coram, NY
reply to BeesTea

Try the Asus Router...previously had the Netgear WNDR 4500...and I'd say the Dark Knight Asus has it beat......5Ghz strength is almost as far reaching as 2.4 range!

We have a commercial building, very large, metal lined for the most part.....yet I can get a good 5Ghz signal and a good to v good 2.4Ghz signal, about 100 feet away.....throughput on the Wireless is about 200Mbps.....5Ghz obviously............

Previously I did run an ATV and even hacked it was still inferior...way inferior to the Mini set up...........



not quite right
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reply to BeesTea

Never had an issue with Netflix on ATV. I do run Gigabit ethernet though out my house. I'm still a firm believer in hard wiring desktops and streaming devices while leaving WiFi for the portables.
--
Not many people know this, but I happen to be quite famous...



BeesTea
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Same here. Entire house is wired with gig-e. I'm also a 15 year network engineer with plenty of experience managing networks. Like I said, the question isn't about networking or anything other than people's experiences with a Mini as an HTPC.

The issues with the ATV2 and the Netflix app are well documented with all kinds of silly fixes proposed like DNS changes to somehow affect client issues. I own more than one ATV2 and only two of them have the issue. I suspect there's some generation of them that's affected as not everyone seems to have an issue. Again though, that's not what I'm looking to discuss.

Thanks to all who commented regarding the iTunes content. I suppose having to alt-tab between plex or xbmc and a full-screen iTunes while not ideal isn't too terrible.

Thanks!
--
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skeechan
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Having used a C2D Mini and an ATV3, despite the benefits of the flexibility of the mini, I actually prefer ATV3. I JB'd my ATV2s but actually never used those added features. I transcode to MP4 and dump everything into iTunes. No problems with Netflix with any of my ATV3s (have 3 of them). For me the cost of the Mini wasn't worth the benefits over ATV3.


Daemon
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1 edit
reply to BeesTea

said by BeesTea:

Thanks to all who commented regarding the iTunes content. I suppose having to alt-tab between plex or xbmc and a full-screen iTunes while not ideal isn't too terrible.

Thanks!

It would seem to me that I could write a program that would get the contents of the iTunes library, either from iTunes or the .xml library file, then, when asked to play an iTunes file, launch iTunes playback of it.

I just chained the "Get Specified iTunes items" action with the "Start iTunes Playing" action and got iTunes to play both a DRM protected song and a movie (I don't own any DRM protected movies). Both played just fine and the movie started playing full screen.

I don't know why plex doesn't just write a little applescript add-on that enumerates the iTunes library and then uses the script to playback things in iTunes.

--
-Ryan
I use Linux, OS X, iOS and Windows. Let the OS wars die.


KoolMoe
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reply to BeesTea

I've got an ATV1, no NetFlix App
But it works fine for my ripped movies hosted on my gen1 C2D mini.

If I didn't have the ATV already, I'd use the mini directly... It came with a remote, just like the one that came with my ATV. If I press any key on the remote, the mini picks it up and starts up FrontRow.

Assuming new minis still come with remotes and FrontRow, why not just use that?
KM
--
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BeesTea
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said by KoolMoe:

Assuming new minis still come with remotes and FrontRow, why not just use that?

It was retired when Lion came out =(

»www.macworld.com/article/1161284···row.html

Thanks!
--
Overpower, overcome.


kerriskandie

join:2001-10-09
Coram, NY
reply to BeesTea

I see it that an ATV ( 1/2/3) can do about 3/4 of what a Mini can accomplish.....and I feel a Mini...even an older C2D..can offer the user about 6/5ths of an ATV............

I suppose if you are a heavy Itunes user....I
'm not...and for the bit that I am, Plex takes care of that requirement and Netflix, quite admirably...............then an ATV makes sense.......

Even jailbroken, I felt my ATV fell well short of a Mini as a HTPC.............
If needs must, i'll simply fire up Itunes, on the Mini and play content from the Cloud.......other than that, as I said, the little bit of telly I watch........mainly Footy from England/Walking Dead/Dr Who...a networked Vulkano player does an admirable job for me......obviously, it's NOT 1080p content, but for my old tired eyes, it's more than watchable!!



Squirrelly

join:2000-10-24
Harrisburg, PA

I use a Mac Mini with Plex and it is the best HTPC option for me. I also have a ATV2 (Black) that is jailbroken running Plex, I use this in my bedroom on my smaller TV



djrobx
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reply to HiVolt

My answer will make you all cringe. I'd been using a C2D mini for years. I liked that it was small, quiet, and included an optical audio port. I ran Windows Media Center as the UI, it was too slow under OSX with HD video. The same hardware had no trouble with HD playback under Windows at all (using Core AVC decoder).

I finally upgraded it to a newer mini, mostly so I could mess around with a Wii emulator. I might give OSX-based HTPCing a try again.
--
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not quite right
I'm not cool enough to be a Mac person

join:2001-06-23
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reply to BeesTea

if all you're worried about is running plex, why not get a roku for $79?
--
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darcilicious
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said by not quite right:

if all you're worried about is running plex, why not get a roku for $79?

While a Roku does a "good enough" job with Plex (I've set up a Roku 2 XS for a friend to access my content remotely), it hardly compares to a mini or similar HTPC running a full Plex client... (in the case of the Roku, you had better have a box with a bit of horsepower to install the Plex Media Server on it to help with transcoding to the Roku...)
--
♬ Dragon of good fortune struggles with the trickster Fox ♬


kerriskandie

join:2001-10-09
Coram, NY
reply to djrobx

If you'd stuck with Mac software/HTPC you'd of had no problems......my old C2D is still chugging along with almost everything I throw at it Plex/Boxee/Slingbox/Vulkano/Itunes/Qnap NAS/PowerBay NAS
....all on a wireless network.......albeit it's getting a wee bit frazzled of late...........