Plex Media Centre

I am still evaluating a Mac mini under the TV and decided to give Plex a go.

Plex bridges the gap between your Mac and your home theater, doing so with a visually appealing user interface that provides instant access to your media. Plex can play a wide range of video, audio and photo formats as well as online streaming audio and video. The real power of Plex is found in its library features: Organize your media into versatile libraries, automatically retrieve metadata from the Internet, and display your libraries using one of the visually stunning skins.

One way I have heard it described is, Front Row on steroids!

To get the most from it though I do need a much faster internet connection, one day soon I hope.

It installed fine and I immediately installed BBC iPlayer. Hoping to get more done with it over the next few weeks.

Serving media through the home

I really like my EyeHome device. I’ve had it a few years now and even had it fixed in Germany one time when the power supply failed. Changing to 802.11n made it much better and more capable of showing content from my Mac on my television.

It’s such a great concept I did wonder if I would be able to serve media to other devices and not just the EyeHome.

This came up recently when I put a Sony PlayStation 3 (PS3) under my television which can act as a uPnP device and serve content from an appropriate media server. Not only that, but you can pair a PlayStation Portable (PSP) with the PS3 to be able to access the PS3 remotely.

A plan was starting to form…

If I could get the PS3 to access content from the Mac, I could then watch it remotely on the PSP. The PSP didn’t like accessing content direct from the Mac, so this could work, couldn’t it?

The first issue was getting some media server software running on the Mac, the EyeHome software didn’t work; and though Elgato make a uPnP software product, EyeConnect, it appeared from the Elgato website that the PS3 as a media extender was not in the list of supported extenders, and there were a few reports in the Elgato forums which kind of put me off. There is a 30 day trial, so I might give it a go later.

What did come out in my research was Twonkymedia.

The PacketVideo MediaServer enables you to share your multimedia throughout your home. It is available for many different platforms and interworks with a large variety of client devices including XBox 360™, Sony PS3™ and Sony PSP™. TwonkyMedia requires fewer resources and is faster than other UPnP media servers, and provides more features that help users enjoy large media collections.

Installed and ran it…

Worked very well.

The PS3 picked up the iMac which I was running the software on.

The PSP picked up the PS3 – though I believe that the PSP can access the media direct, but I was trying to be clever!

I tried a few other devices.

The iPod touch through the web interface could access the media.

My Nokia N95 could access the server, and the media.

A Nokia N810 could access the media, it just couldn’t play it!

Overall I was impressed, very likely to pay the €30 it costs.

Hmm, would the EyeTV 410 make a difference?

On my  G4 Mac mini which I am using as a media centre under my television I have an EyeTV USB Freeview device for watching, pausing, rewinding and of course recording live television. I have been having a few issues with the quality of the recordings and viewing live television in terms of interference, but also when watching if a live TV window is open. I suspect that part of the problem is the speed of the G4 which is rather slow for a Mac and it only has 512MB of RAM.

I am wondering if I use the EyeTV 410 which is connected to my iMac whether that would make a difference? Whereas the EyeTV USB device is dependent a lot on the Mac for processing the video, the Firewire 410 device has a hardware encoder which in theory takes a lot of the load of video processing off the Mac.

I might give it a go and see how it works out, but will leave it till later as the iMac is going to record the final episode of Robin Hood tonight on BBC One.

Interference Issues

I have started using a Mac mini under my TV in (another) experiment in using it as a media centre.

Apart from the fact it seems rather noisy (for a Mac, but a lot less noisy then the Windows Media Centers I have tried) the main problem I my having with my Mac mini is with the USB Freeview EyeTV device attached to it, and it isn’t a problem with the EyeTV software nor is it an issue with the USB device, the problem appears to be an interference issue with  the aerial which causes interference on some of the digital TV (Freeview) multiplexes.

I have moved the aerial cable which can resolve the issue, but I think I may need to replace the cable with a shielded cable. I have changed cables and not been able to see a difference which makes me think that the EyeTV USB device I have is suspectible to interference, whilst my TV or the EyeTV 410 Firewire device are not affected to the same degree. It’s not too bad if I am recording or watching a programme from the BBC multiplex, but the ITV multiplex is particularly bad.

Hopefully will get it sorted soon with a shielded cable. Next will be some kind of remote, at the moment I am using VNC and Apple Remote Desktop, which works, but is not very portable.