Mac Mini as a media center
September 12, 2008
I have a lot of video media stored on my server (almost 2 terabytes), and I need a way to stream it to my television so we can watch the stuff from a couch instead of a desk chair. Years ago I started with a basic PC running Windows, then moved to a hacked original Xbox with Xbox Media Center, then to a hacked Apple TV. Today, I replaced my hacked Apple TV with a Mac Mini running the excellent Plex media center software.
Plex is a fork of the original XBMC software that I used way back with my original Xbox. It has been updated and beautified, and definitely sports one of the sexiest user interfaces you’ll ever see gracing your screen. One of its greatest strengths is gathering information about your videos. You point it to your media, and as long as the files are named in a sane way it will go out and fetch all the metadata from online movie and TV databases — it downloads the episode/movie names, descriptions, and even cover art. This makes for a fantastic experience as you’re browsing through your media. You can see in the image here an example of this as I look at the movie “300″.
All in all, it’s fantastic using the Mini has a media center. I have full control over my huge media library using just my Logitech Harmony remote, but I can surf the web or do anything else I want with the computer just by pulling out the bluetooth keyboard and mouse from under the coffee table. Plex is a great piece of software already, and lots of improvements are planned. For digital media junkies, I think this is about as good as it gets right now.