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Set up a Mac mini as a TV server, create a Mac mini media centre

Keir Thomas | Feb. 16, 2015
Macs are superb for any context – including in the living room acting as a hub for your video and music enjoyment. Here's how to set you Mac mini to use as a media server with your TV

Unfortunately, Apple discontinued the excellent Front Row software a few years ago and it's no longer possible to hack old copies to work on OS X. A superb replacement that also happens to be free of charge is Kodi (formerly known as XBMC). This turns your Mac Mini into a fully-fledged set-top box able to play just about any type of music or video file stored on your Mac's hard disk, or offered from other computers on the network via most network sharing technologies - including DLNA, which is used to share media files from Windows Media Centre.

To install Kodi, download the 64-bit version of the app, then copy it to your Applications folder as usual. Open Applications and then right-click the Kodi icon, selecting Open. Then click Open in the dialog box that appears. To make Kodi start automatically each time the Mac Mini boots, open System Preferences, click Users & Groups, select your user account, click the Login Items tab, then drag the Kodi icon from the Applications list within Finder. You might also want to click Login Options, and enable Automatic Login.

Kodi turns any Mac into a multimedia powerhouse, and turns a Mac Mini into an excellent set-top box

Kodi is designed to be ultra-easy to use and there's little we can say that won't be revealed by simply clicking around. However, there are two useful pointers for using Kodi. The first is that, in theory, Kodi is AirPlay compatible, allowing you to play music and videos from your iPhone, iPod Touch and iPad. However, support is also a bit patchy since Apple upgraded to iOS 8. To enable AirPlay within Kodi, you'll need to click System > Settings > Services > AirPlay, then click the radio button alongside Allow Kodi To Receive AirPlay Content. Your Mac Mini will then appear as an option within Control Center on your iOS devices, or within iTunes on another computer when playing back music and videos.

The second pointer is to download one of the Kodi remote control apps from the iOS App Store. There are several available, including numerous free-of-charge examples - just search for "Kodi Remote".

Disc playback

The modern Mac Mini lacks an optical drive. Therefore, to play back DVDs or even BluRay discs you'll need to buy a USB external drive. OS X includes the DVD Player app for DVD playback but has never supported BluRay.

You can buy add-on software such as Macgo's Mac Bluray Player, but the combined cost of buying an external drive plus software is similar (or perhaps even more) than it would cost to buy a dedicated DVD or BluRay player.

 

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