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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

You can rip DVD or BluRay movies using another Mac or PC, and play them back using Kodi or another media player app like VLC (or offer them over the network via DLNA - see the fourth tip in our Mac Tricks feature), but it's a bit of a clumsy setup.

Apple sells a DVD/CD 'SuperDrive' for £69. Read: Is it worth buying an Apple SuperDrive, CD/DVD for Mac

Streaming

Alas, none of the UK's TV show and movie streaming outfits - such as Netflix, or Amazon Prime Instant Video - have produced a dedicated Mac app to let you access their services, as you might expect to find on your iPhone or iPad. There are several third-party Netflix apps in the Mac App Store but none appear to be rated very highly and most appear to simply present the web page within an app window.

The exception is the good-old BBC, who offer a dedicated Mac app for iPlayer, although it's only used to access downloaded programmes - to watch streamed programmes you'll still need to tune-in via the website. Indeed, the best plan for most streaming services is to tune-in via its website, then choose to make the video playback full-screen.

The BBC offers a Mac download for its iPlayer catch-up service, but such largesse is sadly rare

If you've purchased movies via the Google Play store for playback on Android, you can tune-into them via the YouTube website — sign into YouTube with the account used to make the purchases, and the movies should be listed under the Purchases headings at the left.

Tuning into TV

While the excellent TVCatchup website lets you tune into most Freeview channels across the Net, in order to tune into actual Freeview channels via an aerial you'll need an add-on like EyeTV Go, which connects via the Mac Mini's USB port and includes software that even lets you record live TV. At £60 it isn't cheap but perhaps worth considering.

AirPlay

While the aforementioned Kodi offers the potential for AirPlay, you might also consider AirServer. At $14.99 it won't break the bank and will let you beam movies and audio from your iPad, iPhone, iPod Touch - including from AirPlay-compatible apps, or even from another Mac via iTunes. In each case you simply select AirServer from the list of AirPlay devices, such as those offered within Control Center on iOS. AirServer also supports mirroring so you can share your iOS game playing on the big screen, or give business presentations, if you're that way inclined. Also worth checking out are Reflector, at $12.99, and X-Mirage, at $16.00.

 

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