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Monday, August 14, 2006

The Mini Option

My friend (lets call him "Chip" to protect the nearly innocent and save me on typing) wanted a stylish way to play movies off a hard drive. The prime motivation was the damage his small children were causing their collection of children's DVDs. With that as the main goal he also wanted to be able to access his mp3 library in the family room.

Going for small, attractive, and quiet I told him it would be hard to beat the Mac mini. As I told him I now realize how loud my IBM Thinkpad was when sitting next to a mac mini. Before getting the mini I had thought of laptops as quiet.

I told Chip that he could use (in a legal gray area) Handbrake or similar software to compress DVD movies onto the hard drive as MPEG4 or H.264 encoded video that his wife and kids could play from FrontRow.

Chip was happy to hear he could share his iTunes music from his PC to the mini for play back in the family room. He also wanted to be able to play the music through his whole house system powered by an amp in the basement. The obvious solution to that is Apple's AirTunes device.

His worst case would be using the mini as a MythTV front end to a Myth server on an extra machine in his home office. But all in all I thought he could get what he wanted from standard Apple software and hardware with-out the need for MythTV. If he did need to result to Myth it was unlikely he could find or build as elegant a host computer for less than the Mac Mini's $600 price tag.

So after these discusions Chip bought a dual core Intel based Mac Mini and an AirPort Express to connect to his whole house music system. High quality computer speakers connected directly to the Mac Mini provide music and sound for movies in the family room.

In my next post I will start to cover issues, that Chip has encountered, and their solutions.

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