MacMini Media Center Software

mac_miniHDTVs are so much more interesting when you can open up the vast wealth of internet content that can be played on them.  Combining computing power with TVs makes it possible to run any media with any codec known to man from any source.  In my own setup, I have used a Mac Mini.  There are a few key programs to make the Mac Mini media centers useful: Miro, Hulu Desktop, Netflix, EyeTV, and Pandora Boy:

Miro

I’ve been following the development of Miro since it was nascent open source project known as Democracy Player.  Miro is basically the bridge to access almost any and all online video content that comes in the form of video RSS feeds, bit torrents (yes, Miro does torrents), and podcasts.  The interface includes its own player and is setup by default to pull feeds in advance, keep track of which ones have been viewed, and delete watched content.  Miro really shines when you start loading in rss feeds ands torrents.  There are a number of websites that dutifully supply feeds that can be easily brought into Miro as a channel.

There are  a few websites that provide rss feeds of tv episodes.  Until the television companies come to some consensus about how to deal with and move forward using the internet as a distribution platform, they will continue to be onry about what content is available.  Onry in the sense that they pay lawyers to ensure their content is not available.
miro micro_screen

Hulu Desktop

Unfortunately the larger network companies have removed many of the fun features of Hulu–specifically removing hulu content from programs like Boxee.  However, they have developed their own fun desktop program known as Hulu Desktop which has an uncanny and familiar resemblance to the sleek Boxee project.

Hulu.com has many new episodes available online to view.   Hulu Desktop brings a better interface to the table that doesn’t muck around with a browser, but instead gives a streamlined way to browse and view entire TV shows, even webisodes.   Of course, Hulu will be forever limited to the type and quantity of content available on the main website.
hulu_desktop hulu_desktop_screen

Netflix

Netflix has many movies and TV available with their DVD mail content.  Simply get an account which gives you monthly access to the online content.  Netflix has a ‘watch now’ feature which loads using Microsoft Silverlight inside of a browser.  The selection is constantly being updated and expanded and there are very little limitations to the content.

netflix netflix_sreen

Elegato EyeTV

The best solutions for Macs that I have found for live content either from cable or from HD antennas has to be EyeTV.  You buy a hardware usb dongle that allows for the input of coax cable coming from a live source.

The real power of EyeTV comes with its bundled software.  The software provides a clean interface which has controls similar to a remote.  When you first plug in your cable line or HD antenna, EyeTV scans through all the channels.  There are options to record during times like a standard PVR.

eyetv EyeTV_screen

PandoraBoy

PandoraBoy is a music player for macs that logs into your pandora account and plays your pandora radio stations.  I keep one of these in the dock for quick access to provide background music through the media center’s speakers.  It is a quick and easy way of bringing the power of Pandora to a home media center.

pandoraboy

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