Neil Turner's Blog

Blogging about technology and randomness since 2002

The Mac Mini Media Centre: an update

In April last year, which was nearly 11 months ago, I introduced The Mac Mini Media Centre Project. This was a project to convert my Mac Mini, which was becoming rather under-used, into a media centre – a computer connected to a TV and controllable by a remote control that can play DVDs, show TV channels and play recorded media (music, video etc.).

As you can tell by the lack of any news since that post (bar a promise five weeks ago that I would write an update) I haven’t made massive progress. However, the machine is now running as a media centre, albeit not how I originally envisaged it.

Right now it is missing a number of the promised features – it won’t receive TV signals, and cannot be operated via a remote control. But it is connected to a TV and I do have the relevant hardware to allow it to receive DVB-T broadcasts.

The reason for this is partly down to where we live, i.e. Bradford. The geography of the area isn’t favourable to TV broadcasts and so we only have patchy coverage via a shared aerial. As such, we opted to go for cable from Virgin Media, which requires their set-top box and makes the TV receiving aspect largely pointless as most of the same channels are available (Sky News, Sky Sports News and Sky Three currently excepted, but we don’t watch them anyway). We also have a perfectly good standalone DVD player.

The Mac Mini therefore now sits in the bedroom. It still has media centre software, in the form of MediaCentral, and outputs to a television set by way of Apple’s official DVI-Composite/S-Video adaptor. However it also acts a wireless bridge for a PlayStation 2, since there’s no network connection in the bedroom, and also is the host computer for our printer. Yes, we have a printer in our bedroom.

I am hoping to add an infra-red receiver so that I can use a remote control with it – as it is an older Mac Mini it didn’t come with one as standard. Right now we have to use a wireless keyboard and mouse which is workable but less than ideal. As far as this blog goes, I hope to do a review of MediaCentral and also the TubeStick device for receiving DVB-T broadcasts on a Mac.

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