a central home automation closet...I just got a mid 2011 mac mini and would like to use it both as 1) a home automation PC with one display-out powering the in-closet monitor, and set up as a PC
set up as a Windows PC or running OS X? In any event, shouldn't be a problem at all to connect to an in-closet monitor with one of the video out options from the Mini. If you'll be in Windows, however, this isn't the right forum for you.
and 2) with the other display-out mirrored so I can run HDMI or component or VGA to the projector in one room and Samsung RPTV in the other. I would preferably use optical audio out for both TVs
Not often, but at times it can be a challenge to hook a Mac up properly to one display from a video out port, just the Mac to the display, especially if your HDTV is an older one, as your Samsung RPTV might be. But most accomplish this pretty easily as long as that older TV has a digital input (DVI) or VGA, then it is a matter of tweaking your display settings. Almost no one with Mac tries to do component video out anymore. It's a little more difficult to send, say, HDMI from your Mini into an AVR first and then out to a single display but that can usually be accomplished; you're really adding layers of complication if you're gonna try to send the video into some sort of splitter or distribution amp and then feed two different desktop display resolutions (on top of the first display in the closet.) Most of us here, with a centralized Mac acting as a whole house media server, do not approach things this way. That's kind of an analog "old-school AV" approach, feeding component or VGA into some sort of whole house distribution rig. Is that still done? Yes, but this forum rarely discusses it. In this forum, many of us have been distributing music around our house wirelessly using iTunes and Apple's built-in Bonjour sharing for 8 years already or so, then it was called AirTunes, you plugged the optical out of a $79 Airport Express wherever you had an AVR or set of powered speakers and bingo, you could stream bit perfect lossless audio from your iTunes ALAC library anywhere you wanted...you could even send that stream to multiple destinations simultaneously
and have it all play back in sync
. That was 7-8 years ago. AirTunes was the progenitor of what is now called AirPlay, which adds video to that whole house audio equation. Which leads me to...
Any idea how I would set this up? I'm not sure what sort of adapters to get in either case or frankly where to begin.
Most of us here embrace digital audio and video, appreciate the Apple ecosystem, love OS X, iOS devices, AirPlay, iTunes home sharing etc. Our approach to whole house audio and video relies on wired gigabit, wireless sometimes, and having a Mac or Apple TV at every display. It's up to you whether you want to have all your media in one place, and where you decide that place to be is up to you, but one of those Macs--hooked up to one of your HDTVs--could also function as your whole house iTunes media server (and presumably as your home automation controller.) I say presumably because that's not something I do, but if there was an iOS app that could run on your iPad which could control the automation software running on your Mac mini, I'd think it wouldn't matter where that Mac mini was physically located. If it is in a closet, so be it, my advice would be to connect that to just one of your displays and AVR. Then put another Mac mini or an Apple TV at your secondary display/AVR.
Apple makes it very easy to mount and share volumes over your network, your Mac minis and Apple TVs and iOS devices will "see" each other, and you can control what is played where just from your iPad. I use XBMC as my "front end" on a 2011 Mini in our living room, on a MBP in one bedroom and on a hacked Apple TV 1 in another bedroom. I also have a stock aTV 2 in one bedroom and a stock aTV 3 in the living room as well. All on our home network, all wired. Various combinations of HDMI and optical from each device. All controlled with iPads, a little Apple remote or a Mac laptop if we happen to be on one at the time.
I'd like to be able to control the Mini from my iPad or iPhone if possible. I do have a couple of wireless Apple keyboards
This will be very easy, there are many nice VNC/screen sharing and remote control iOS apps. On my iPad I use Screens, the Apple remote and Rowmote Pro the most often.
I forgot that I need a separate audio feed to the whole house audio. So the PC/whole house audio needs to be separate from the htpc part. Is it possible to have separate audio streams or should I give up on that part?
Not sure what you mean by this, but if you approach it like I'm suggesting, and you have your Mac mini up and running iTunes 24/7, that means you'll have iTunes home sharing whenever you need it--and Airplay as well. So if you're sitting in your bedroom with an iPad, you can play anything in your iTunes library "on" your iPad, you could also Airplay that music to any destination all controlled from the iPad.