Neil Turner's Blog

Blogging about technology and randomness since 2002

The Mac Mini Media Centre Project

I’m going to turn my Mac Mini into a media centre computer. This may come as something of a surprise, considering I only bought it less than 2 years ago and upgraded its memory as recently as December last year, but lately it’s been used less and less. This isn’t likely to change when Hari and I move in together this summer – I prefer using my MacBook as it’s more powerful and versatile (thanks to its Intel processor) and Hari’s computer is now hugely improved, so she’ll be using that. Consequently, I’ll essentially have a spare computer, so I might as well do something with it and this seemed like a good idea.

It’s also a great thing to blog about, so I’ll be devoting a few entries over the next few weeks to it.
Here’s what I need to do to turn my Mac Mini from a normal computer into a computer that can also act as a media centre:

  • Install media centre software Most new Macs come with Front Row, however mine was bought before this was standard so I’ll need some proper software. I’ve bought MediaCentral (it came with the TubeStick, see below) so I’ll be reviewing this in a later entry.
  • Add a TV tuner A media centre is a bit useless if you can’t watch TV with it. Sure, it’ll be plugged into a TV which has a TV tuner, but this is Britain in 2007 so it must be a DVB-T tuner capable of receiving Freeview. It also must be able to take input from an external aerial through a coaxial cable since I live in Bradford where the TV reception is lousy and a decent roof-mounted aerial is a must. For this, I’ve bought the TubeStick from Equinux, which I’ll be reviewing soon.
  • Add a TV output adaptor My Mac outputs DVI, and optionally VGA with an adaptor. New TVs support DVI, either natively or with an HDMI adaptor, but the TV I’ll probably be using just has a SCART socket, so I’ll need some way of converting the DVI signal to SCART. Apple sell a DVI to composite video adaptor which gets me halfway there – a composite to SCART adaptor is all I’ll hopefully need to complete the link.
  • Add a remote control My Mac also doesn’t have the Apple Remote (and even if it did I’d like more than 5 buttons preferably) so I’ll need a remote, and some way of allowing the Mac to receive its signals. Infra-red would be the obvious one here but the Mac is also Bluetooth equipped.

That’s the basic stuff. I may go further and add a Griffin FireWave, thus providing surround sound – I already have a currently redundant Creative system which got given to me by a former housemate – and I’ll need at least one extra USB 2 hub since the Mac only has 2 built-in. I’ll let you know how I progress, and review the two parts that I already have in the next couple of weeks or so.

Also, if you have any questions to ask, post them here and I’ll answer them soon. I already have an answer to ‘Why didn’t you just buy an Apple TV?’ and a couple of other related ones but please post away 🙂 .

3 Comments

  1. Them scart adapters must be ten a penny ‘cos you always seem to get one bundled with a console. I must have about 5 of them rolling around the place. It’s just the scart connecter piece with yellow, red and white phono sockets on the back.

  2. I had the same idea some time ago (although I don’t own a Mac Mini yet). Here in Finland the analogue TV transmission will end in July 2007, so I was planning to get an LCD tv and plug a Mac Mini to it, and manage it with a remote control as well as a nice bluetooth soft keyboard and a mouse (soft as well??!!) to be placed on the couch table. In this way I could see DVB-C transmissions as well as internet videos (which I think it’ll be more and more in use, noting that also the BBC has started to put documentaries online).
    Don’t know yet when my project will start (budget problems at the moment), but I’ll keep following this post!

  3. Hi Neil, maybe you could help seeing as you are up on the output capabilities of the Mac Mini!
    Just bought a Mac Mini Intel 1.6ghz.
    I also have a BenQ W100 Projector which have been using for some months with a very old PC using a VGA to DVI cable. Now comes the problem!
    I have bought a DVI-DVI cable (Dual link) and plugged the Mac into the Projector and nothing appears… No source found at all. The input on the projector is DVI-I according to the BenQ website.
    Question is, am i using the right cable? Should it be a DVI-I as per the projector?
    Thanks for any help
    BEN