It is however a beautiful Mac Mini that hopefully will bring my never ending media playback issues to an end. I’ll give you the background today and the update on how it went when I get setup and tried it out a bit.
I have tried multiple ways to playback my media. I don’t think I’m being unreasonable, I just want to be able to play both my digital videos as well as the ones on disc. If possible I would like to be able to play my music as well, all of course through my Home Cinema system (not that fancy but now that I got it, it sure as hell shall be used). So far I’ve tried…
TvIX 6500 HD: A cute little box that was my last attempt at salvation. It should’ve been able to give me Full HD (1080p) both from the internal HD as well as over the network from my server. Well, it didn’t. Not very reliably at least. Xvid/Divx and DVD images worked just fine though. Managed to sell it without a major loss so, problem solved. Music interface was so bad that I only used it a few times, hence a separate solution for that, and no disc drive for DVDs and Music.
Home Cinema system with DVD player: Aside from not playing my digital videos it has so far spent most of the time since my investment back in the shop for repairs. Reason for that is that first the DVD playback wouldn’t work (or the remote), got it back with a new remote. Remote works fine, plays DVDs the first few tries and then both CD and DVD playback stopped working. Back to the shop. The biggest drawback however is that I need another device to play music or digital video.
XBOX360: I have a Microsoft Windows Home Server. One would think that MS figured out that their users might want to use their shining new XBOX as a Media Center (Hey, that’s what everyone did with the old XBOX). But no. XBOX360 is quite lousy as media center. Doesn’t play xvid/divx without some hacking (works but…strangely hard to accomplish), doesn’t play DVD images at all and the music interface is as slow as a turtle without legs. Microsoft, I did everything you wanted me to, got the server, Windows 7 and the XBOX360 and still I need workarounds or 3rd party software to free my files. Not good marketing strategy.
HTPC: Tried some different solutions (running the PC version of XBOX Media Center was one) under different OS version (XP, Vista and Windows 7). The media center capabilities are still crippled and I often found a need for a full keyboard to make things work. What I haven’t tried is to buy a full HTPC of the shelf. Since my experiences from running both stationary and laptop computers as HTPC isn’t exactly great I’m not that keen to pay the huge stack of money that a decent looking, decently quiet, remote controlled and working HTPC costs (in Sweden you’ll have to pay roughly 800-1000$). The reports on usability issues, regular playback problems and angry family members not being able to start a simple DVD didn’t encourage me either.
So what do I use today then? Feels ridiculous but I’m back to using my old XBOX. Yes, that’s correct, the one launched in 2000-2001 something like that. It’s huge, ugly, sounds like a tractor, can’t play any HD material and cheap me hasn’t got the cordless remote. I use the regular joypad instead. It does however presents all the capabilities I ask for in a media center, plays (almost all) DVDs and digital video files. Since it’s really quite outdated it’s not exactly foolproof but it works most of the times, it even plays videos in compressed archives. The music interface is not awesome but works, it’s just that the joypad isn’t that great as a remote.
I write to extensive for a blog, shame on me and poor readers. That was the background, the next time I might have become a Mac fanboy, who knows? :)