So I created a Media Center PC. I decided I would collect my thoughts / links here in one place.
There are two levels of implementation: The first is to completely cut Cable TV. This saves a bunch of money per month and the setup is listed below and is what I opted to do. The second is to have the PC also become a DVR, which requires continued cable service, a TV tuner SiliconDust HDHomeRun Prime TV Tuner (~$160) and EyeTV3 software ($80). So that combo would give me 3 tuners and an easily expandable DVR. Also requires $20/year for program guide.(Instead of $16/month for tivo)
- Mac Mini (2012) – It is a very compact form factor, it comes with support for the simple Apple remote and thanks to some software (below) will allow me to use AirPlay and mirroring should I choose to.
- Apple Remote – That simple, elegant, and very losable silver remote.
- Keyboard/touchpad – Logitech K400 its a compact, easy to use keyboard and trackpad in one. Doesn’t have the elegance I’d like, but at $29 (at WalMart) it is half the price of an Apple wireless keyboard by itself.
- Plex app – a very elegant full screen media interface. It has plugins for all the major streaming services and allows playing of various different media from a TV-like interface. This would become the main TV interface.
- Remote Buddy app, allows you to control many applications with the Apple remote or Logitech Harmony remotes. Best of all: you can (re)define all the keys on the remote to use functions inside programs! (lifted from: this article)
- AirServer – Allows your mac to be an AirPlay server. Stream music / video to it same as an Apple TV.
- teleport – Lets you use one Mac to control another Mac’s keyboard/mouse/touchpad. I use my laptop to type and control my media center. It allows me to easily flop back and forth controlling one PC or another without needing to have a laggy remote control stream.
~$600 for the Mac Mini
$29 for the keyboard
$0.00 for plex
$15 for AirServer software
(It’s kind of slow and the guy has a thick accent, but the implementation is great. Plex can do way more now, so there is less hopping between apps as well)