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Mac Media Center - Part 3

July 28, 2010 - Dave Hecei

If you get a TV tuner device it will likely come with capture software. Devices from ElGato come with their own software called Eye TV. There are several other tuners out there, some that work on Windows PC machines, which can also work on the Mac by using Eye TV. ElGato’s Eye TV software is available separately and works with a decent selection of hardware. Of course all this hardware will only get you so far. There are some other software titles necessary for the Ultimate Mac Media Center.

Out of the box, the mini can play many of the media files you will come across. As good as OS X and Quicktime, Apple’s media player, might be, it will not play them all. There are some free programs that I think are essential for a Mac media center.

 Video Lan Client [ VLC ]  - video player software

 Handbrake  -  video and DVD converter

 Perian - Quicktime plug-ins/converters

 Boxee  -  Front End software

 Plex   -  based on XBMC

 Mac the Ripper  -  DVD ripping software
 try Google

To go along with these I also recommend a couple of commercial programs. The two that I couldn’t live without are Toast 10 and Quicktime Pro. Toast is one of the best disc burning programs out there, but it has many more extra features. It will burn CDs, DVDs, and Blu-Ray discs. It will even let you burn HD content in Blu-Ray format on standard DVD and DVD-DL discs. This comes in handy if you want to start archiving HD content without the expense of a Blu-Ray burning drive or blank Blu-Ray discs, which are much more expensive than standard DVD blanks.

Toast also comes with software to create labels, record analog audio (like cassettes, 8-tracks, or LPs), audio fingerprinting – the ability to name a tune even if you don’t know it, save most streaming web videos, convert video formats, shrink DVDs, stream TV shows to your iPhone/Touch/iPad, stream video to a Tivo, grab highlights from DVDs, and this is just naming a few of the big features.

Quicktime Pro is another program I couldn’t live without. It is easily the best $30 you will spend on your Mac media center. With Quicktime Pro you can save files you watch online. You can even edit, cut, copy, paste, media files. The export and share functions are the power behind QT Pro.

Whether you have one of the new aluminum Mac minis, the one with HDMI and power supply built-in, or you have an old school mini (make sure it’s an Intel based mini – G4 minis need not apply), the mini can easily be made into the ultimate media center.


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