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March 17, 2006

Hey, Any Mac mini Users Out There?

Peter Burrows

I'm doing an article for the magazine, and could use some help. I'm hoping to hear from anyone that owns a Mac mini--particularly the new Bonjour-equipped, Intel-based models--and are using it as a way to get media into their living room. Could be to play music, or to watch videos, or whatever.

Let me hear from you--and quickly, if you don't mind. I'm trying to file the story today, so I don't have to work on it while in Disneyland with the family next week. You can send comments to this post, or email me at peter_burrows@businessweek.com

01:03 PM

The Digital Living Room

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I received duo intel chip 1Gig RAM Mini Monday and have replaced my desktop B/W G3.

I am not using Bonjour but write to correct an impression distributed elsewhere. One does not need wired keyboard nor mouse to set up the mini. On initial booting the Mini immediately searches for remote (Bluetooth) mouse and keyboard. Pairing did take a couple minutes.

The mini did immediately locate wired Planar PL1910M monitor and displayed image to maximum resolution of that device.

I had transferred the harddrive from G3 to a MiniStack connected to the Mini by Firewire. Mini asked if I wished to import settings, applications, and files from elsewhere. It initially predicted several hour transfer but completed over 40 Gig transfer in less than hour, them completed boot to previous G3 desktop including changing background photos, files left on desk, and even remaining trash. The only problem has been access to analog video from a remote security camera. The Power PC driver and application do not currently work on Intel chip, but authors are working on fixes. All else works superbly.

Posted by: David Trapp at March 17, 2006 03:01 PM

My Core Duo arrives Monday and I'll be up all night Monday setting it up as my media hub. (Darn -- I knew I should have had it sent overnight.)

That's probably too late to help you. If by some freak chance you still need help on Tuesday morning please feel free to contact me.

Posted by: Scott at March 17, 2006 03:28 PM

I drove from Missoula, MT, to Spokane, WA, to buy a mini. It's a duo 1.66 GHz machine. It comes with 512 MB of RAM — far too little. I've used Macs for years and use their top-end desktops at work. The mini is equal to these work-horse machines with native Intel software but, if you need to use non-Intel software such as Adobe Creative Suite, Quark Xpress, Bias Peak, etc., the mini suffers. I'm adding 2 gigs of RAM to it tomorrow and I think it will make a difference but how much I can't say.

Overall, the tiny machine is technically very cool and is very quiet. If all I did was use iTunes, browse the web, send email, etc. the machine would be very adequate.

There are some limitations to the machine — it's hard to updgrade and doing so isn't for the weak of heart. I'm also adding a NewerTech MiniStack v2 to it. If you want to check back with me next week (if you haven't already filed) I can fill you in on how much the upgrades have affected the original mini's performance.

Michael Deme

Editor, Adventure Cyclist Magazine

Adventure Cycling Association

150 E. Pine St., Missoula, MT 59802

406-721-1776, x 222

Adventure Cycling Association

Inspiring people of all ages to travel by bicyclehttp://www.adventurecycling.org

Posted by: Michael Deme at March 17, 2006 03:30 PM

I use a mini in my living room as the front end for all my media content. It's hooked through DVI to a 42" plasma hi-def (1080i) monitor.

I use it as my itunes player (the ultimate party accessory), movie player (movies are compressed down to play on the ipod video and the mac at near dvd resolution, and a Skype server! Yes, hook a bluetooth headset to the mac and use it to take and initiate calls from the couch.

When the Texas branch of the family is in, they get on the couch and we use the isight to video conference with the East coast branch. So for example Thanksgiving, everyone gets together via myself and my sister. We are both geeks (if it's not painfully apparent already).

anyway, I could go on... mail me if you want more info or background.

Posted by: Craig Negoescu at March 17, 2006 03:43 PM

I use a PowerPC Mac mini that I got last year as our entertainment hub. I've been ripping my CD's to it and stream those using iTunes (Bonjour enabled even on the PPC platform) to my home office.

We also use the mini as a DVD player and to listen to webcasts (e.g. NPR via RealPlayer, and XM over the Internet).

Posted by: Jay at March 17, 2006 05:12 PM

I have a mini that I use for a all in one theater. I use it with an older EyeTV USB Receiver. FrontRow and EyeTv are great for the overall Media Experience even though they have to run seperately. A few downloads are needed to support media like Dvix, Xvid, etc, but they all work.

Not a 100% Tivo experience, but there is no monthly reoccurring fee and I can export my Shows to a lot of different formats.

Great for a college student looking to concentrate a quasi all in one solution.

Posted by: Jr Aquino at March 17, 2006 05:26 PM

It's working great! I have a Duo Core Intel Mac Mini connected via DVI cable to my 32" Samsung LCD TV. I'm also using the Elgato Eye TV 200 device to record, pause and rewind live TV. It's recording is far superior to VCR quality and is amazingly simple.

My Mac Mini is now my DVD player, music player, photo-sharing system, VCR, and more - all wrapped up in that beautiful and reliable Mac OSX operating system. The whole collection is plugged into a Logitech 5.1 powered speaker/sub woofer.

Lastly, to complete and simplify the entire package, I use the Belkin Media Pilot wireless keyboard with integrated mouse. It is also a learning universal remote! This one compact, USB-rechargeable keyboard has just eliminated a mouse, a keyboard, the Mac "Front Row" remote, a TV remote AND the Elgato remote.

The end result? Less clutter, fewer cables, better quality, more flexibility.

Posted by: N. Burris at March 17, 2006 05:45 PM

I use my Mini core solo as an HTPC. working great so far especially with today's elgato eyeTV update. tv reception is great with my eveTV wonder 2.0 as is HD 720p performance and FrontRow. i have a gb of ram in it.

Posted by: Brian at March 17, 2006 05:48 PM

I have a core duo mac mini connected to my HP 32" lcd tv and it rocks! All I need is a universal binary of elgato's eye TV software and I'm set. Eye TV is too slow for HDTV playback using the ppc emulation.

Been watching the daily show via itunes and that's nice. Frontrow is extra sweet for viewing movies.

Posted by: Blake at March 17, 2006 05:50 PM

I have long awaited the mini's transition to "MacIntel". I purchased a 42" Plasma in preparation for the little guy that arrived Wednesday 15th. I have the mini connected via DVI to HDMI and am currently running it at 720i (for resolution reasons). I purchased the smaller mini as I am streaming all of my media over GigE from a FreeNAS box. I highly recommend FreeNAS (www.FreeNAS.com) if you are going this direction. The mini w/ frontrow puts microsoft in the dirt from ease of use to functionality! Enjoy =)

Posted by: Haskel at March 17, 2006 05:54 PM

I have a Mac mini which I'm using as a front end for all kinds of media. It's hooked to a plain old TV set. This is what I'm using it for: Digital cable TV receiver and PVR using an EyeTV 610; DVD Player using MediaCentral; Movie player (MediaCentral); Music playback (MediaCentral); Internet radio (RealPlayer);

All my music resides on a server. I manage my music library with iTunes. On the server runs a mt-daapd which streams music to the Mac mini via WLAN. For headless use, I have a Palm T|T connected via Bluetooth and Salling Clicker as remote control software. Additionally I have a ATI Remote Wonder and the Harman/Kardon SoundSticks II attached to the Mac mini. An external 300GB firewire for extensive PVR space ;-) hard disk is on its way; I hope that I will receive it tomorrow.

Posted by: Thomas Bonk at March 17, 2006 06:27 PM

i got a mac mini connected to my big screen and a imac i want to share files with through bonjour . . . pick me pick me :)

Posted by: caMiNation - iMac Users Unite at March 17, 2006 06:33 PM

I bought the Mac Mini Intel specifically for a media center. I have it hooked up to a JVC HDTV via DVI to DVI cable. I'm also using the wireless mouse and keyboard and the set-up was flawless and I was up and running in a matter of minutes. I did have to tweak the dispay settings a bit to get the best color. The great thing about the new Mac Mini is that it's HD ready out of the box. Downloading HD movies from Apples Quicktime site is nice and the playback is so crystal clear. To complete it all, I'm going to look into the newest release of EyeTV to see if I can integrate it into my media center.

Posted by: Tim Humphrey at March 17, 2006 06:41 PM

I am not sure if you will find this or any use, but I have the original MAC Mini. It is in the family room and used by the whole family.

Mainly we use the machine to surf the web, iTunes, iPhoto, iMovie and iDVD.

* The wife uses iTunes to stream her online radio shows via Realplayer -> Airfoil -> AirportExpress -> Onkyo Receiver -> Infinity speakers.

* I use iTunes to play and purchase my music collection via VolumnLogic -> Airfoil -> AirportExpress -> Onkyo Receiver -> Infinity speakers.

* The 3 year old uses iTunes to play here kid music.

* The 3 year old plays kids/educational games (I can not for the life of me figure out why the makers of these games can not port these Flash applications to native OSX instead of always using Classic mode)

We love the Mac Mini in the family room for the following reasons:

* No Buttons on the front!!!

* It is an easy multi-user environment (the 3-year old has her own account)

* Kids can play games without the cd (copy the cd, create an Automator script to set resolution, mount the game and launch the game)

* Good enough for iLife

* Great for the basics

What I don't like about the original Mac Mini:

* Make that fan shut off once in a while

What I would like from Apple:

* A portable music player that would use Bluetooth or WiFi to connect to iTunes

* Stream video from iTunes through AirportExpress

Posted by: Joe Dille at March 17, 2006 07:04 PM

I have the core duo Mini with 1GB RAM and 100 GB hard disk.

I have the mini attached to a Panasonic 42" plasma TV via the DVI to VGA adapter. I needed to use http://www.3dexpress.de/ ($12) to set the resolution and timings correctly to make the picture fit on the screen (parents, your kids put it together).

When using FrontRow my main problem is that the wireless network connection (802.11b) I use to connect through to my powermac drops out occasionally (and doesn't come back unless I force the mini to use that network again). So I need to exit front row which then, promplty, forgets where I was at in the video.

When using Front Row streaming for the first time it failed as I needed to go back to iTunes to enter the sharing password I had setup on my Powermac. It failed again as I then needed to enter my Apple itunes password to authorize the machine to view my FairPlayed videos.

My other beef is that I have to run itunes and iphoto on my powermac before I can stream to the mini. I can ssh to the powermac from the mini and launch itunes/iphoto remotely. However, ideally the powermac should run streaming daemons so I don't need to do this.

Quality wise, it's pretty good. The movie trailers look great. I do wish that I could stretch 4:3 content to fit my 16:9 screen (like I can do when watching regular TV).

Overall I like Front row, but I think it's one or two patch releases away from being a killer home media app.

Posted by: Dave Parker at March 17, 2006 08:26 PM

Additional comment:

I'm using a Scorpius P20 Wireless Thumbstick Mouse Keyboard with my mini. RF 2.4Ghz.

It's cheap: ($42.95 at overstock.com) and the rage is good enough to use from any distance where you can actually read what's on your TV.

I'd love it if Apple came out with a wireless keyboard with a built in trackpad (and < 1 button)

Posted by: Dave Parker at March 17, 2006 08:30 PM

I just got the Mac mini and am installing Windows XP Media Center Edition on it. I will have it working in the living room (and my old MCE computer out) by Sunday. I can post more details then.

Posted by: Usman Rashid at March 17, 2006 08:37 PM

There is a big community of Mac mini users on http://www.123Macmini.com

Posted by: Stan at March 17, 2006 10:14 PM

We are using our new Mac Mini (souped up 1.66 Intel Duo Core with 2GB ram and 120 GB Hard drive) hooked up in our living room as a Media Center Computer. What a pleasure. Everything was recognized automatically and we were on the network looking at our shared music and photo libraries without a hitch. The picture is great on our 50" Pioneer Plasma tv and today we finally got the digital audio hooked up by finally finding the TOSlink adapter for the cable for the mini plug on the back of the Mac Mini. The darn piece was 98 cents from Radio Shack -- but my local apple store didn't carry the cable. Anyway the sound is GREAT. This is going through our Denon AV Media Receiver and working quite well.

I have programmed our Logitech remote to do everything our apple remote can do (easy). We especially enjoy the Front Row interface, although there are a few glitches with it that I'm hoping apple resolves in some updates.

First of all, itunes or iphoto need to be running on the computer with the shared media or Front Row just hangs for quite a while. Through much trial and error I learned that I couldn't play my itunes downloaded files (music or movies) until I went through my network connection and tried to play a shared library through itunes on the Mac Mini -- where it told me I needed to authorize the computer to play the files. Once I did this I was able to play everything. Don't you think that's the message you should receive while using Front Row -- instead of some message saying the server couldn't play the file?? Good thing I didn't just give up on it (like my spouse) and tried long enough to figure out what the problem was.

The new Mac Mini is a great addition to our apple computer collection (already run a first generation Mini in our kitchen, I use a Power Mac G5 with 30" Cinema Display, my husband uses his new MacBook Pro, my daughter has iMac (before intel) and my son uses my husbands old 15" PowerBook. The all play together quite nicely.

Posted by: Debbie Ripps at March 17, 2006 11:27 PM

We've got a mac mini hooked up to a projector in the living room with a pull-down screen that disappears into the ceiling. We use it for DVDs, iTunes TV, music, and games. We use a wireless keyboard and mouse, and have VNC on a nearby laptop for futzing with it without the screen down. I'm trying to get VNC to run reliably on my Palm Zire71, just for seeing the song name currently playing in FrontRow, but it's a little overly Unix-y, and I can't figure out why my pppd keeps crapping out.

We haven't had an actual TV in a couple of years, but it'll be nice to have access to the Daily Show when my father-in-law comes to visit. Mostly Netflix keeps us busy with video content, but if iTunes comes up with a cheaper option, we'd switch in a second. Most video I'd rather rent than buy.

We've been mac people for many years, and I've been planning toward the projector/computer living room for a couple of years. We ordered the new mini the hour it was released. There are a couple of apps that are a little slow until the universal binary comes out: VLC and MacMame come to mind. I was a little skeptical of the whole Intel move, but it seems to be working out great.

Posted by: Rik Schell at March 17, 2006 11:33 PM

Got my MacMini for Christmas and love it!

Posted by: Geri Barron at March 18, 2006 08:48 AM

I started with a single core mini hooked to a Sony XBR 1080p rear projection 60 inch TV. The mini doesn't seem to play well with this display - the picture is offset to the left such that the margin of the screen is cut off by about a 1/2 inch. Playing with resolutions, tv menus, overscan settings and an hour long call to Sony tech support have failed to resolve this problem. Sony is sending a technician out to check the set, and I may have simply received a lemon (to their credit, Sony's support for this issue has been refreshingly professional). All in all this is more of a nuisance issue than a deal buster, but I do hope the tech is able to resolve it.

The single core mini was a joy to set up - I basically just plugged it into my network and it found the media in my MacBook and G5 seemlessly and immediately. For my needs however I found the single core a little wanting. Overall it did a great job with music and playing DVD's , and also surprised me by being very usable as a web browser and mail system - the display is that sharp. I like to watch a lot of video podcasts, and here the single core began to choke. It would drop frames, and lose sync with the picture and sound. A RAM upgrade helped enourmously (just to 768MB). Still, I wanted to keep my HD options open, so I returned it and exchanged it for a dual core which I bumped to 2GB of RAM. This system is very responsive, and routinely outperforms my G5 tower (2 x2.0) when running native apps. The display issue hasn't improved, but I'm still waiting on a technician and this is likely a problem with the Sony, not the Mac. Video playback, even with 1080p files, is great. My only pet peeve now is that I'm having a hard time finding a wireless mouse that doesn't seem to suffer from lag. I have tried both an Apple bluetooth mouse and a Logitech Laser 1000, but both have about a 1/2 second lag that I find very annoying. I suspect this is because of the 15' distance between the mouse and the Mac, as both of these mice work reasonably well with my MacBook. Hopefully someone will release a bluetooth 2.0 mouse soon that will resolve this issue.

I had a media PC in the past, but the Mac and FrontRow provides a far simpler and more satisfying experience. Despite the little problems I'm still working to resolve, the mini is a very welcome addition to my home theater.

Posted by: Scott Leddy at March 18, 2006 10:09 AM

I was going to buy a Mac mini but because I have been so happy with the Elgato EyeTV connected to my iMac G5, I decided to connect an Elgato EyeHome to our living room TV. I can stream all my media files from the iMac - iTunes, iPhoto, iMovie/DVD and any recorded video - even Bittorrent AVI's that I've downloaded from the internet. It has a great remote and at $150 I think it was worth every cent!!

Posted by: Hilton Wolman at March 18, 2006 05:36 PM

I bought the 1.5gh Intel Core Solo Mac Mini with no upgrades just to play around with and hook up to my tv. I can playback all types of video except DIVX and XVID for some reason the beta version of the codec does not work for me. I have seen some problems such as mine on DIVX's website, but I suspect that once the codec is out of its beta stage it will clear up any problems. I can even playback 780i/1080i given it is on my small 23" flat screen tv, it will play it back without choking or pixilation. The bonjour feature through front is great! Although via Airport is very very slow, I wouldn't recommend it unless you have it on ethernet ultimately you would want gigabit. I also picked up a D-Link gigabit router that also has wireless on it for $130.

Posted by: Chris Purcell at March 18, 2006 06:27 PM

I Brought a core duo mac mini with i gigabyte of ram. As i have it in my bedroom when i go to bed i just use front row to play podcasts or tv shows captured with my eye tv. Sonetimes the video playback stutters when watching my highly compressed video podcasts butapart from that it is perfect in front row. MY only other complaint is that there are not many universal binaries

Posted by: nerdacous at March 19, 2006 04:37 AM

I bought a core duo mac mini for a home media center. I already have a satellite PVR so am looking to share ITunes from 2 other computers (one mac, one windows) and photo slideshows as well as replacing a flaky DVD player.

I bumped the memory to 1 gig and the hd to 100 meg. So far it works beautifully. I had no problems with the wireless that some have reported but I recently wired it via ethernet for better speed.

The only disappointment is that the bluetooth keyboad (3rd party) that I bought only has about a 10 foot range to the mini rather than the theoretical maximum of 30 feet. I am now using a gyration wireless mouse and keyboard instead.

Set up was very easy and the mini finds my other Itunes from upstairs on the windows box or from my other mac (a g4 IMac).

Setting it up to my Sharp Aquos 32" LCD set took some doing - To get full resolution dot for dot, I had to use a utility - switchresx to get rid of the black bar around the default resolution of 1280 x 720. The utility had a bug in its Intel mode and I had to run it via rosetta to get it to work - which it did.

Now everything is running smoothly. The most difficult part was getting the LCD tv in its full res.

Hope this is helpful!

- Mike

Posted by: Michael Taylor at March 19, 2006 12:49 PM

Here is the block diagram of my (now intel-based, previously 1.42 G4) Mac mini as HTPC setup, plus Sharp Aquos 37" LCD TV and Sony 7.1 receiver. I have been using this setup for about a year now. On the new intel-based mini I really appreciated the optical output. Now that Elgato has released a Universal version of EyeTV 2, I'm all set up.

http://www.unithom.com/avstuff/

Posted by: Thom Brooks at March 20, 2006 08:46 AM

When Front Row was announced, I thought its sleek and minimalistic interface would look perfect on my widescreen TV. I wasn't a fan, however, of any of the third-party remotes available for Macs without a built-in infrared port.

So when the Intel Mac mini was released, I was one of the first to jump. Connecting it to my HDTV was a cinch--I used a DVI-to-HDMI cable, and soon I was scrolling through the collective shared libraries of all the copies of iTunes running on my home network. Front Row looks gorgeous at 1080i.

That's not all, though. I watch TV shows (captured and encoded to XviD from HD on a G5 tower in the other room) in Front Row, and they're pristine. Others have reported some issues with the DivX plugin in Front Row--I haven't had any issues with it.

I use VNC for remote administration, and I transfer the files over SFTP (I've found this to be faster than the network file-sharing on the new Intel macs).

Posted by: Aaron at March 20, 2006 02:06 PM

Above, N. Burris claimed that Belkin Media Pilot works with his Mac Mini Intel Core duo... that is wrong... The Belkin Media Pilot, to date does NOT have an intel compatible driver... I experienced this first hand, bought it and hope it'll be a cool addition to my Mac Mini HTPC... it didn't work, at all...

Posted by: dkarjadi at January 16, 2007 09:25 PM

yeah i just got a Belkin Media Pilot for my mac mini intel, and it "works" in the basic sense, but the belkin system prefs can't be launched nor configured.. so not sure if i'll be able to use the AV RF remote features that i bought it specifically for. lame!

Posted by: imijes at March 29, 2007 04:45 PM

Wish I knew all this an hour ago. I just purchased a MediaPilot for my Intel mini, and was led here through a search for an updated driver. Really dissapointing, as I was really excited about all the great features of the keyboard. GRRR!

Posted by: MC at April 24, 2007 08:59 PM


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