Suggestions for building the ULTIMATE Mac-Mini/AppleTV Media Center



**I know this post is long, but I AM BEGGING YOU TO PLEASE CONTINUE READING…I could really use everyone’s help with this…

To make a long story short, my main objective here is to build the ideal Macintosh Home Theater Media-Center (that suits my specific needs…as described below)…I would like to have easy access to see and hear all of the movies, music, and photos that I have stored on my computer via all of the televisions throughout my house…In addition to the media I already have, I would like to somehow find a way to integrate an AppleTV (which I already own) into this solution so that I could have quick and easy access to all of the movies, podcasts, trailers, etc. that are available for purchase/rent via the AppleTV (iTunes) Store…

I am going to breakdown the rest of this post into sections so that it’s easier to read, and doesn’t wind up being an over-sized jumble of senseless ramblings…

Content I’d like to be able to access:

VIDEO_TS Folders
I currently have hundreds of VIDEO_TS archival DVD backup folders stored on external hard drives that I would like to be able to browse through using either FrontRow, or any of the dozens of other Mac MediaCenter applications available…Seeing as how Leopard’s FrontRow is capable of recognizing and playing back VIDEO_TS archives, this shouldn’t be too tough to accomplish, so long as an actual OS X Mac (such as a Mac-Mini) is somehow integrated into the solution somehow

[U]All (or at least almost all) standard computer video files (i.e. mov, m4v, mp4, mpg, avi, wmv, etc…)[/U]
In addition to the wealth of VIDEO_TS DVD’s I have stored on my computer I’ve also downloaded, ripped, converted, or otherwise accumulated tons of regular videos on my computer as well, all of which I would definitely like to access on the TVs throughout my apartment via my soon-to-be “HTPC-Mac”

Many of which are stored in iPhoto Libraries, but I have even more stored in regular old folder hierarchies on external hard drives (and being able to access online photos I have stored on Flickr, Picasa, etc would be ideal as well ~ and I believe this can be done via the AppleTV)

All of my iTunes music (protected and/or unprotected)

[U]EyeTV 250 DVR for LiveTV[/U]
I currently use an Elgato EyeTV 250 that I have connected to a cable box in my office (on a completely separate A/V system than my apartment’s primary A/V system), but I’d like to figure out a way to incorporate the EyeTV into my home’s primary A/V Media Center instead. I do have an old TiVo Series2 located in my A/V system rack, which I could theoretically replace with this EyeTV.

Inventory of my current hardware:

[li]Mac-Mini (2.0GHz Intel Core 2 Duo; 160GB Serial ATA drive; SuperDrive; Leopard 10.5.3)
[/li][li]AppleTV 160GB (Take-2; latest firmware)
[/li][li]Three 1TB Hard Drives (filled with all of the media formats listed above; can be connected with USB, Firewire, or SATA)
[/li][li]50" Plasma (Panasonic TH-50PWC3 - 16:9 aspect ratio; HD at 720p at full resolution, or 1080i at reduced resolution. Pixel Dimensions: 1366x768 px; 3000:1 contrast ratio)
[/li][li]2 Denon Receivers - an AVR-3805 & AVR-2805 (these multi-zone receivers allow me to the various share various sources (i.e. DVD player, DVR, TiVo; Mac-Media Center) to be shared on all of the various TV’s throughout my apt.)
[/li][li]EyeTV 250 Plus

Remotely controlling my MediaCenter from 3-stories away…

All of my current A/V equipment is currently stored in an rack located in a basement closet on the bottom floor of my three story apartment (and this is where my Mac-Mini~AppleTV MediaCenter will eventually be located as well). The TVs that I would like to be able to access the Mac-Mini~AppleTV MediaCenter are scattered throughout my house (four TV’s in total)…

Before I go to much further into this, let me also point out that my cable modem and network router are also located in this same A/V closet, so connecting the Mac-Mini or AppleTV via ethernet cable to my LAN would be extremely easy to do…

Obviously, the chosen location of my MediaCenter – being in a place where there can be no direct IR remote control signals sent/received – might prove to be a bit tricky (in regards to how I will eventually go about controlling my Mac-Mini~AppleTV MediaCenter, which will also be housed in this basement closet)…My current A/V system is controlled using multiple Universal Remote MX-850 radio-frequency remote control clickers.

Possible solutions to remote controlling my Mac-Mini~AppleTV MediaCenter:

Idea #1 (via my Laptop):
I’ve used a piece of software for quite a while now called SynergyKM, which is a software based KVM switch that lets you use one mouse and one keyboard to control multiple machines on your LAN (it’s basically identical to another piece of software called Teleport, though SynergyKM is cross-platform…and free) - both of these software packages basically allow you to roll your mouse off one of the edges of your screen and onto the screen of another Mac that you’ve setup in the system preference configuration (at which point the mouse and keyboard work to control that other mac)…

It seems like this software might be a fantastic solution for remotely controlling the MediaCenter (because I keep a laptop on the thrid floor of my apartment at all times - the same floor that my main livingroom TV is located on)…I could configure the Mac-Mini and my Laptop to use SynergyKM so that when I was in my living room and wanted to tap into the music, movies, and photos on my MacMini, I could simply break out my laptop and via my WiFi LAN network I could the use the Mini’s mouse and keyboard to control FrontRow (or even iTunes or Safari or anything else on my MacMini)

Idea #2 (via my iPhone):
Another idea which might be just even more effective in providing remote control capabilities from the top floor of my apartment would be to use my iPhone as a remote control device (which I could do using either iospirit’s Remote Buddy iPhone AJAX remote control software, or even TouchPad Pro on my jailbroken iPhone).

This idea might work out better than idea #1 because of:

[li]the small size of my iPhone (asking someone to “pass me the remote” won’t mean that I have to pass over my Macbook Pro);
[/li][li]also, the fact that it’s almost always on me or at least nearby;
[/li][li]the fact that my wife and I both have one;

Idea #3 (via my Laptop, using Leopard’s built-in ‘Screen Sharing’ application):
Just like idea #1, only using Leopard’s ‘Screen’ instead of SynergyKM

Specific Questions I have related to this proposed configuration…

Neither of my Denon Receivers have HDMI inputs…That being said, how would I go about outputting HD from the Mac-Mini? Is there some sort of DVI>>Composite adapter that would be required?

Will the Mac-Mini be able to provide HD output to my 50"; Plasma? I know I won’t be getting HD when viewing my ‘plain-jane’ .mov, .avi, etc. files, nor will I get HD when viewing my ripped DVD VIDEO_TS folders…but what about when I start ripping Blu-Ray, or when I download some HD content…Will the Mac-Mini be able to output the HD resolution required to get true-HD quality on a screen as large as 50"

How can I integrate both my Mac-Mini and my AppleTV into the MediaCenter? Would this require using two separate A/V inputs on my receivers and treating these two components as completely separate devices?

Can anyone think of a way in which I can avoid having (approximately) 3 completely separate MediaCenter GUIs (which as far as I can see would currently include: FrontRow on my Mac-Mini; AppleTV’s built-in GUI; EyeTV’s proprietary GUI for browsing live TV and DVR recordings)?

Is there somehow a way to consolidate all of these GUIs into a single ‘master’ GUI to control them all? If the AppleTV’s built in GUI is unavoidable (which I think it may be), is there any way to somehow either replace (or integrate) FrontRow with EyeTV’s GUI?

If anyone can foresee any possible problems with my general game-plan, or if anyone can offer any suggestions or things I should consider (such as things I might want to potentially include and integrate into my MediaCenter, I would really appreciate it if you would share that with me…

Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated… Thanks!


Th emac mini has what gfx card?