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-   -   Advice needed for iMac based media center (http://www.avsforum.com/forum/115-htpc-mac-chat/1396419-advice-needed-imac-based-media-center.html)

newHTowner 02-25-2012 12:42 PM

Hi guys,

I'm trying to set up my mac based HTPC and want your advices/thoughts.

I have an intel iMac running 10.6.8 with 2.4 GHz intel duo core, 2 GB of RAM - I want to get a new computer for the home and would retire this to be used as a media center running Plex - so:

1. Would this suffice in term of power, video output (mini display to HDMI), and audio output (digital toslink) vs. one of the new mac mini?

2. For movie - will use a rack mount HD storage - any suggestion?

3. I would also want to use it as a DVR (no cable box) - I want to mostly record shows from the major network only. Any suggestion?

Thanks for all the help.

chefklc 02-25-2012 02:49 PM

Quote:


I have an intel iMac running 10.6.8 with 2.4 GHz intel duo core, 2 GB of RAM - I want to get a new computer for the home and would retire this to be used as a media center running Plex - so:

1. Would this suffice in term of power, video output (mini display to HDMI), and audio output (digital toslink) vs. one of the new mac mini?

The entry level 2011 mini, often available as a refurb for $519 from Apple, is a huge step up from the 2.0-2.4 C2Ds in terms of an HTPC and media center. I'd first ask why you think you need a new computer for the home, what do you want to do with it that you can't do with your current iMac? As a general purpose home computer I'd think that iMac still has a lot of life left in it, but which exact model iMac is it, is it a core duo like you say or core 2 duo? What's its graphic card and are you sure it has a mini-Displayport? I have a 2.4 C2D 24" iMac with 6GB of RAM that's older than the miniDP iMacs and it is still a great computer--I'd never "retire" it to HTPC duty, I'd keep it right where it is for family use and games, put more RAM in it since 2GB is paltry, buy a 2011 mini for the home theater and put its power and form factor to good use there. (Or wait for the Apple TV 3.)

Quote:


2. For movie - will use a rack mount HD storage - any suggestion?

what's rack mount HD storage? how and where do you store your files now? do you do Time Machine?

Quote:


I would also want to use it as a DVR (no cable box) - I want to mostly record shows from the major network only. Any suggestion?

do you know if your local cable company passes the major networks in the clear, i.e. do you have your cable coax hooked up to an HDTV and when you do a scan can you get those channels?If so, any of the EyeTV tuners will probably work for you. Will you ever want to record two shows at the same time?

will you be connecting the HTPC Mac to an AVR? do you have any iOS devices?

newHTowner 02-25-2012 03:44 PM

Hi chefklc -

Thanks for the detailed response -

1. you're right - it is a iMac intel core3D with a ATI RatheonHD2600 graphic card. sound like the macmini is the way to go.

2. I have all the movies on a 2 TB external drive right now and want to get into blu ray storage so will need more memory. I have a mid atlantic rack for all the gears in my media room. I've been looking at this:

http://www.amazon.com/Sans-Digital-R.../dp/B00365DWBK

Any experience with it or any other recommendation?

3. I have an old hybrid eye TV - when plugging it into the coax in the home (no cable box) - only get analog channels.

I'm looking for a single channel recording capability for the major network station only in HD - a good GUI with show time, etc.. would be a major plus

chefklc 02-26-2012 06:01 AM

http://support.elgato.com/index.php?...kbarticleid=15

There was an earlier Hybrid model that didn't support QAM HD from cable, that might be the one you have? As I said, what I'd do before purchasing anything else is first make sure you get the local network channels in clearQAM HD from your local cableco, plug the cable coax into an HDTV and run a scan, does it find the major networks in HD? If it does, then just getting a newer model Hybrid or a 250+ or an HD Homerun would be fine. If you already have the EyeTV 3 software from that older Hybrid you can buy an HD Homerun on sale from anywhere. There's now a nominal yearly fee for TV Guide data with EyeTV.

Quote:


I have a mid atlantic rack for all the gears in my media room. I've been looking at this...Any experience with it or any other recommendation?

No, I've never had something as corporate as that, but I do have 4 or 5 Sans Digital aluminum USB and FW enclosures with swappable drive trays and do recommend them. What you want to be concerned about with any local storage system would be the added noise in your home theater, noise from fans mostly...many of us like a Mac mini because it is quiet in addition to its small footprint, so if your room is small or if you're at all sensitive to noise, consider that aspect beforehand. The good thing about storage is it can really be anywhere, besides directly attached to the mini you can attach storage to your iMac (presumably in a different room) and the mini can mount and share those drives over your network, you can go with network storage, a NAS device plugged into your router over ethernet or even AirDisk storage, a simple USB enclosures plugged into your Airport Extreme, which your mini could mount as a login item. Really, there are too many options these days to just casually ask for recommendations...what you should do is decide your budget for enclosure(s) plus drives, then research what's involved in setting something up...a NAS, for instance is decidedly more complicated to set up than a USB or a FW800 external enclosure which is essentially plug and play...then investigate how noisy something is. Sometimes fans can be whisper quiet, other times quite loud...that's either a problem or not depending on where you plan to stick the thing. I have drives all over our house, a dual G5 PowerMac in a closet that acts as a media server, some AirDisk storage over USB with our Airport Extreme, plus about 10TB of media directly attached to my 2011 mini in our living room--which we sit about 10 feet away from. So it is only that local storage that has to be really quiet--in order to achieve that I replaced the cheap fans in those Sans Digital enclosures with better ones.

Fortunately with storage and hard drive speeds being what they are you basically can put it anywhere, even the slowest option...a USB AirDisk drive connected to an Airport Extreme...is still "fast" enough for blu ray rips.

My advice to you is think about a backup strategy (SuperDuper, Time Machine) as well as how you're gonna store your media. A NAS is not backup, and many of us have eschewed the purchase of a single 4-5 drive expensive NAS device and instead opted for more drives and JBOD storage. Lots has already been written on those products and different strategies, Synology, Netgear ReadyNAS, Drobo, there's no one best solution for any of us here at AVS, but they're mentioned in many threads. If I have another bit of advice as you grow it is to go with separate drives and enclosures, that way you can mix and match and often get better warranties as opposed to something like a Western Digital MyBook, if you have a problem with that you have to send the whole thing back and usually can't open it up to get at just the drive without voiding the warranty.

lovekeiiy 02-26-2012 07:19 AM

Another thing to consider, since you mentioned BR rips, will be the hardware limitations of your HTPC and your HT equipment. I may be off, but last I knew, only the 2011 Minis could do HD audio (DolbyHD, DTS HD).

It sounds like you don't have an AVR that can do HD audio since you're talking Toslink. Even thought your reciever or HTPC may be able to transcode an HD audio signal, but you may find you end up with a lot buffering because of it. I have it on my late 2009 Mini running Plex on Windows 7 with my files stored on a PC in my office. It some times can do it on the PC directly attached to the EHHD the files are on.

Something to consider. So when you rip, you'll want the 5.1 core audio. I transcode my original rips from MakeMKV with Handbrake to make the files smaller, but maintain the video and audio quality I want. You can have multiple audio streams, so you could keep the HD one, and use another audio stream.

dclive 02-26-2012 08:49 AM

I'd do the following: (Let me know your thoughts and we can tailor more to your situation)

1. Keep the iMac for use as a general purpose machine; download/rip/store the media on either this machine or a cheap PC, and share it on the network to #2. If you want to record live TV, an elgato-linked solution is a good way of doing it, or a Windows Media Center solution in a virtual machine is another simple, easy path that would likely end up cheaper if you can find a cheap Windows license somewhere (you'd need that, plus a HDHomerun box on your network; that would let you record 2 shows at the same time, via the network, with a coax signal plugged into it with either an antenna signal or a ClearQAM signal from your cable company, for about $100).

2. Buy a AppleTV2 and put XBMC on it; attach this to your network and to your TV; it will be what you use to view all the media; net outlay about $95. It will play MKVs, QT4, and the other formats flawlessly, and will give you a beautiful GUI, lots of content information/pictures/IMDB ratings, and much more. It's far, far better than (and more reliable than) Plex, IMHO. Don't get me wrong - I wanted to like Plex. But it just has too many issues, like transcoding common formats rather than playing them directly and also substandard (compared to XBMC) content information.

I think the rack you show is overkill, but all that's up to you - for the above solution all you need is a way to put this information / PC / Mac onto the home network; from then onwards, anywhere in your house with network connectivity you can easily put an AppleTV2 with XBMC.

newHTowner 02-26-2012 10:48 AM

Thanks guys for all the great advices.

Good point regarding the fan noise with a rack mount system. Since I'm already familiar with the Drobo product - will get the Drobo FS and put everything on it to share over my network.

As for the Qam channel - further research shows that Comcast got a FCC waiver in the seattle area and is encrypting all the OTA channel - look like I'm getting an antenna then. I also look into Titan TV for the guide - look to be free so I would not have to pay the subscription fee for TV Guide. Have you guys use Titan?

I had looked into XBMC but went away from it due to the need for a jailbreak apple TV2 - will need to look into it again - do you guys know of a way to control xbmc via iPad. Plex has a pretty slick GUI where you can have all the covered art on the ipad, all you have to do is tap it rather than scrolling through on the screen.

Lastly, what do you guys know about aspect ratio of Plex vs XBMC - I want to be able to watch native 2.40. From what I read so far, xbmc only supports 16:9 and look like Plex can output to 2.40.

Thanks again

chefklc 02-26-2012 01:07 PM

Quote:


Have you guys use Titan?

We all used TitanTV since that was what EyeTV used, up until a couple of years ago. As far as TitanTV and EyeTV today:

http://support.elgato.com/index.php?...articleid=4055

Quote:


do you guys know of a way to control xbmc via iPad

There are several XBMC remote apps, I use XBMC Commander on my iPad when I want something engaging and pretty, most of the time I just use the Apple remote. Screenshots here:

http://xbmc-commander.com/page6/page6.html

Besides a 2011 Mini and a stock aTV2, I also have Crystalbuntu and XBMC on an aTV1 with a Broadcom card installed, it's very nice and delivers the actual 1080p of a full size MakeMKV blu ray rip rather than the 720p output of a jailbroken aTV2. (Whether you can really tell the difference depends on your screen size and viewing distance.)


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