Mac Mini as a Mediacenter?

This is work in progress, as the project most likely will be completed in the coming winter. But so much for now: I will mostly use my Mac Mini for viewing photos on a plasma TV, but would like to extend it’s use towards a mediacenter. It’s clear that the mini is not a mediacenter and laks some base-functions to be so. E.g. a more sophisticated sound system with multiple channels or space for additional cards. But it’s compact asize and good look make it quite welcome and undisturbing on the TV-desk.

These are the tasks I see coming, or have already done:

Connecting to the TV: As most modern TVs have HDMI inputs, this is no big deal. You need the adapter of the mac to connect a DVI monitor cable and then combine it with a DVI to HDMI cable. Works perfect!

Sound: I use just simply iTunes and Front-Row to play sound. The library can be used from another computer over the Network or directly from the installation on the mini. Output goes in stereo, but not multi-channel, directly to the speaker. Currently only the TV-speakers, but soon an external speaker set from Logitech.

TV-receiver: coming soon…

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Useful software-tools for the Mac (post-Windows)

After many years of using Windows computers and being quite familiar with them, running under Windows XP, I was kind of shocked when my first laptop ran Vista. In addition, I was in the need of upgrading my main desktop and had just passed a summer full of heavy computer use, including long nights of re-installations due to system slow-downs. I was fed-up and very motivated (and admiringly inspired by several creative wedding photography colleagues) to move to a Mac System.

That’s what happened last fall. But when changing OS, a whole lot of other things have to be changed, especially lots of small programs. I’m not talking about programs like those of the Microsoft Office and all the Adobe imaing stuff, it’s more the small things – an here now are some I came upon and use now on the Mac. One thing I realized when entering the Mac-World: There are fewer free programs and more really reasonable priced offers compared to the windows world with lot’s of either expensive or freeware tools.

FTP – sending and downloading files to your servers:

Lot’s of FTP tools out there. I’ve started using these two:

RSS and Twitter stuff – things you need to stay up to date:

  • NetNewsWire is an offline RSS-Newsreader. You can also synch it with an online-service, to access your subscribed feeds anywhere with a browser.
  • TweetDeck is one of the most popular Twitter-application for the Mac (and PC). It’s free and also comes with an iPhone App, to which you can synchronize your settings via the TweetDeck server. TweetDeck is mostly known for its capability to sort Twitter-friends into groups.

Business Stuff:

  • Billings is what its name suggests: It’s great for tracking time and billing your time to your clients.
  • Things is a fairly simple ToDo-List and task management tool. You can also get an iPhone App that synchronizes with the desctop program.

System Admin extension:

There’s a lot under the hood of Mac OS X that you can’t access via System Preferences. TinkerTool is one application that gives you a bunch more settings to change. And it’s free.

Backup – you need it to survive as a business:

  • ChronoSynch – A synchronization tool that verifies files after synching directories. E.g. usefull for synching directories to external discs for off-site storage.
  • Retrospect – A powerful backup tool, that allows you to have a backup history in which you can recover to certain timepoints. Files are not just mirrored, but rather written into Retrospect’s own format. Personally, I’m a big fan of the Mac’s own time-machine for temporal back-ups. Probably Retrospect would be the choice for a server, rather than my individual MacPro.
  • SuperDuper – Another synchronization program, supposed to be very fast and reliable, though it does not verify copies (which they claim is not needed due to how hard-discs work when reporting write-read errors).

Sure there are many more, but I thought these are some that may be of use for you!;-)

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Setting up your headset for use with Skype on the Mac

This may be trivial for some or many, but as I stumbled upon it just recently, I though I share it here: Making your headset work with Skype on the Mac (and maybe also on Windows) requires that you choose your input and output device in the Skype preferences.

Sounds as no surprise, right? But my first attempt was to just set-up the headset in Mac OS X System preferences, which was not sufficient. While I heard some sound and in my Logitech headset I could even hear my own voice, the other person at the other Skype end could not hear me.

So, you don’t need to go to system preferences, you have to set input and output devices in Skype > Preferences:

skype-audio-prefs

Happy phone calls!:-)

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