Neil Turner's Blog

Blogging about technology and randomness since 2002

Mac Mini Media Centre: Requirements

It’s Monday, so it’s time for part one of the Mac Mini Media Centre project entries – the requirements. In other words, what I actually want the thing to do.
Essentially I am converting a desktop computer for use as a set-top box plugged into a TV. So, instead of using a keyboard and mouse to control it, I’ll be using a remote control and instead of a computer monitor I’ll be using a TV. But the Mac Mini was designed as a desktop computer so some adaptations are necessary.
The core requirements, i.e. the ones that the media centre must absolutely be capable of are as follows:

  1. Can be connected to a TV rather than a computer monitor
  2. Can be controlled by a remote control
  3. Can be operated effectively from a distance

The last one is a software requirement – user interfaces on computers are designed on the basis that the user is probably no more than 1-2 feet away. Whereas I’m likely to be 2-3 metres away from a TV screen, so naturally the interface has to be readable from a distance. A standard computer user interface, especially one designed around a mouse and keyboard, is no use here.
The next set of requirements is the ‘important’ set – features I want the box to be able to do. It should be able to do most if not all of these:

  1. Play DVDs
  2. Play music from CDs and iTunes
  3. Play media stored on the hard drive
  4. Receive digital television broadcasts

And finally the ‘nice to haves’:

  1. Play media from other computers on a network
  2. Play podcasts (audio and video)
  3. Play media from sites like BBC iPlayer
  4. Be able to record television broadcasts and then be able to play them back

The purpose of the media centre is that it will be a box in my room which handles the majority of my media, whether I want to listen to music, watch something on TV or a DVD, or watch something I’ve previously downloaded. It’ll be connected to a TV screen and my stereo system, and can be controlled using a remote control.
So that’s what I want it to do. Now I just have to make it work.
Next week: hardware

Comments are closed.