October 6, 2006
We bought a Mac Mini this past weekend and put it to work handling all of our home media needs. We’re using Front Row in conjunction with ElGato’s EyeTV Hybrid for recording HD content (over the air), plus sundry other codecs thrown at QuickTime to make it play most anything.
In this we’ve deposed basically all remotes other than the exceptionally simple Apple 6-button remote that ships with its new machines.
We have a 180GB external USB hard drive on the Mini for exclusive use as the scratch disk for PVR recording via EyeTV (might sound like plenty, but lossless HD is taking up about 5-9GB per hour), and we’re going to run some cable this weekend to connect it to another 400GB drive in my dual-G5 desktop via Gigabit Ethernet. We’ll use that drive for movies and other high-bandwidth content.
This setup is nearly ideal, better than anything else we’ve tried, with the following drawbacks:
* The EyeTV Hybrid hardware doesn’t “do” QAM, so we can’t decode digital cable without a cable box intermediary. Our solution is to get rid of cable.
* There has been some conflict with the native resolution of our plasma TV and the Mini’s output, resulting in what David terms “graininess” but it still looks really good to me.
* Using optical audio has disabled the ability to change the system volume on the Mini, necessitating volume adjustment via individual application or the stereo receiver. Who knows.
* De-interlacing in DVD Player doesn’t seem to work. Battlestar Galactica DVDs were showing interlacing.
* The Mini itself can be a little louder than we’d like when spinning up CDs or when the fan turns on.
Still, it’s pretty satisfying. And it’s strangely useful to have a computer in our TV and be able to surf the Web, etc.
David is right now taking the horrific Comcast DVR back to Comcast, and will cancel our cable as well. I so wish I could keep the DVR, just so I could set it on fire, or have a cathartic scene a la Office Space.