Just acquired a 2007 Mac Mini to add to my home theater, my first HTPC. School me? - AVS Forum
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post #1 of 6 Old 01-28-2013, 07:25 AM - Thread Starter
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Hi all,

I've been building a home theater in my basement. It's still a work in progress, but I have a functioning system with an Epson Powerlite Home Cinema 8350 making a ~120" image on the wall , 4.1 speakers, a DVD player, and a Denon 2313ci at the center.

To be added:
AppleTV
Electric ceiling-mount screen
Replace my main and surround speakers, add a center
Blu-ray player

Most of those purchases are on hold for budget reasons. In the meantime, I've been watching movies every chance I get, and fidgeting with the details of the setup. Anyhow, some years ago my Grandpa told me he wanted to get a computer and start using the internet, so we went out and bought a Mac Mini, Mid 2007 model. He recently decided to get a laptop instead, so now I've inherited the Mini. It's a 1.83GHz Core 2 Duo version with an 80GB hard drive and 1GB of RAM, and it had Tiger on it when I got it. I've upgraded to Snow Leopard. It's too old for Mountain Lion, but if I upgrade to 2+GB of RAM I'll be able to install Lion. That's in the works.


So, I have a few questions:
1. I'd like to be able to use the Mini to watch TV and movies downloaded from iTunes. The video side of this is simple enough; the Mini has a DVI out, and I have a DVI-to-HDMI cable. For audio, right now I've used a stereo-mini-to-RCA jack, which works fine but limits me to stereo sound. I know that many iTunes HD downloads have full 5.1 audio. How do I get that out of the Mac and into the receiver? I assume it would involve USB. I can do optical or coax audio in, or if there's some way to merge the audio signal into the video and have it all end up going into the receiver over HDMI, that'd be sweet. I know that this particular use case is easier with an AppleTV, but I really want to wait and see what Apple does next with respect to that product before I buy one.

2. Is there a good input device out there for Mac HTPCs? I think what I'd like is a bluetooth combination keyboard + trackpad -- something I can hold in my lap and use easily. I'd like to be able to use this setup to browse the web and do other general computing, so I want a full- or near-full-size keyboard. If it has a charging station or something like that, that'd be cool too.

3. What other cool/interesting things have you done with your Mac HTPC? I'm new to the whole HTPC thing, so I figure there must be some uses I haven't thought of. Where else do you get your content? Is there anything else I should know?


Thanks!

Living Room: Denon 2113ci + BIC V1020 + Panasonic BDT220 + AppleTV + uVerse DVR + Panasonic P42S2 plasma
Theater: Denon 2313ci + Klipsch RW12d + Panasonic BDT220 + Mac mini + uVerse wired receiver + Epson 8350 PJ + 100" screen
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post #2 of 6 Old 01-28-2013, 07:52 AM
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I don't know that I'd bother upgrading that machine to Lion, SL should work just fine on it.

I would check to make sure HD content plays on that machine, it may play fine, I'm not sure. I think that'd be on the lower end of supporting it.

The mini has a optical out, you just need a special cable to access it, you can get them on Monoprice pretty cheap, just do a search for Mini Toslink.

If you want a full size BT keyboard with a small trackpad built in and a recharging stand, the Logitech DiNovo may be what you're looking for. I barely use mine though, the rare times I need to control the mouse I just use a free iOS remote (Logitech TouchMouse has worked well for me). I have RemoteBuddy set up and use my Harmony to control all my HTPC functions.
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post #3 of 6 Old 01-28-2013, 08:14 AM
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That seems like a nice projector, 120" is a pretty large image and yet your 1.83GHz Core 2 Duo Mac, these days, is a pretty poor Mac for HTPC. The crappy GMA950 underwhelmed when it was released, I lived with a 2.0 C2D w/ the GMA950 for a while so I know, but that was 5 years ago, now? So, my advice right off the bat is fight your excitement, don't spend too much on upgrading just yet because you may realize that Mini is not going to work out for you long term. By all means, set it up, start figuring some things out, just don't invest much because you may be much better off selling that model, taking the proceeds of that sale and putting it toward a 2011-2012 model, which will suit you in the long term much better.
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I've upgraded to Snow Leopard. It's too old for Mountain Lion, but if I upgrade to 2+GB of RAM I'll be able to install Lion

Do max the RAM, that model (I think) can see 3GB of RAM, which again, isn't all that much. Stay at SL for a while, don't be in too much of a hurry to go to Lion. SL with XBMC got to be a very stable very good home theater OS. Lion won't improve the "home theater" performance of that machine, so don't upgrade just to upgrade.
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The video side of this is simple enough...

Rarely is the video side simple enough, though you're right, what you're planning should work. Best to avoid USB for audio as well, USB typically can't pass DTS or DD 5.1, but that mini-jack on your Mini is also optical, so just use an optical cable with an adapter tip and you'll be all set with digital surround to your AVR.
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if there's some way to merge the audio signal into the video and have it all end up going into the receiver over HDMI, that'd be sweet

Keep things simple and straightforward for now. There are ways but the added expense usually isn't worth it, plus those devices are fraught with bugs and poor user feedback, whereas running optical separately to your AVR will work just fine. Here's another area where you do not want to throw good money after bad, spend as little as possible while you're experimenting because you might realize you want to step up to a more powerful Mini and when you do it will come with HDMI built-in, and then you'll be stuck with a crappy DVI and optical into HDMI converter that you don't need anymore. Buy that Apple TV instead of spending anything on this, and frankly, for your needs, the Apple TV is exactly what you need since you're only interested in iTunes and perhaps Netflix. You're an ideal Apple TV owner.
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Is there a good input device out there for Mac HTPCs

I use an iPad with various remote control or screen sharing apps depending on what I want to do. I also suspect you're not going to enjoy surfing the web or doing general computing much looking up at a 120" wall with a keyboard in your lap. But by all means, do it and see for yourself. I've had the Apple BT keyboard for years and rarely used it on the couch in a home theater context. There have been tons of threads over the years about how to control your Mac, so just look back.
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Where else do you get your content?

CDs, DVDs, Blurays, and recording TV content over cable. The only time I ever put a physical disc in a drive is to rip it. I don't get much content from iTunes, over the years I may have rented a grand total of a few hours of movies and TV and only bought a handful of albums.
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post #4 of 6 Old 01-28-2013, 01:33 PM - Thread Starter
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Thanks guys. I didn't realize the audio out jack was ALSO an optical port. That's cool! The monoprice cable is only $2.10, so I'll order one of those. Thanks much!

As for upgrading to a newer mini, I may at some point, but that's a good ways into the future. The only reason I have it at all is because it was free. biggrin.gif I do want an AppleTV and I'm fully aware of how much nicer that would be for movies and TV relative to doing them on the Mini through iTunes. I guess I was thinking more along the lines of being able to pull up YouTube or other video sites (streetfire, vimeo, dailymotion, various national TV network sites, whatever). I know some of those have built-in support on AppleTV, but some don't and that's where the Mini would come in. The idea is basically to have it connected in such a way that when/if I do stumble across content I can't play some other way, I have the mini as a fallback.

As for upgrading the mini itself, I will almost certainly do the 3GB upgrade (by putting 4GB in it -- you get better performance with matched pairs, even though it can't address the 4th gigabyte). I will also almost certainly upgrade to Lion, simply for more compatibility with more apps -- a lot of newer stuff doesn't work in SL. I already paid for Lion back when it came out, so it's only a time cost for me once I have enough RAM. smile.gif

The Logitech diNovo doesn't seem to be what I had in mind. First of all, I'd prefer an Apple-specific keyboard with all the right modifier keys and F-key overlay functions. Ideally, what I want is an Apple bluetooth keyboard with an Apple Magic Trackpad affixed on one side. I did find a product that holds those two products together: http://www.amazon.com/MeshWe-Bluefin-Seamlessly-apple-white/dp/B006M7IDTA . Does anyone have any familiarity with that product or know of anything comparable? I'm curious to know how well it holds the two devices together.

Thanks again. smile.gif

Living Room: Denon 2113ci + BIC V1020 + Panasonic BDT220 + AppleTV + uVerse DVR + Panasonic P42S2 plasma
Theater: Denon 2313ci + Klipsch RW12d + Panasonic BDT220 + Mac mini + uVerse wired receiver + Epson 8350 PJ + 100" screen
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post #5 of 6 Old 01-28-2013, 04:20 PM
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Not that I'm pushing it (the trackpad is tiny and not the greatest), but there is a Mac version of the DiNovo, just to let you know.

http://www.amazon.com/Logitech-diNovo-Edge-Cordless-Keyboard/dp/B001U0WQJM/ref=sr_1_2?s=electronics&ie=UTF8&qid=1359418583&sr=1-2&keywords=DiNovo+Mac
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post #6 of 6 Old 01-31-2013, 08:04 AM - Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by slopduck View Post

Not that I'm pushing it (the trackpad is tiny and not the greatest), but there is a Mac version of the DiNovo, just to let you know.

http://www.amazon.com/Logitech-diNovo-Edge-Cordless-Keyboard/dp/B001U0WQJM/ref=sr_1_2?s=electronics&ie=UTF8&qid=1359418583&sr=1-2&keywords=DiNovo+Mac

Thanks. Yeah, I'm really not interested in such a tiny trackpad. I remember when laptops had trackpads that size. It was miserable, and I have no interest in spending money making myself miserable. biggrin.gif

Living Room: Denon 2113ci + BIC V1020 + Panasonic BDT220 + AppleTV + uVerse DVR + Panasonic P42S2 plasma
Theater: Denon 2313ci + Klipsch RW12d + Panasonic BDT220 + Mac mini + uVerse wired receiver + Epson 8350 PJ + 100" screen
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