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I can't justify buying an Apple TV while I have an old mac mini around to hook up to my entertainment center.

I'm currently controlling it using Air Mouse with my iOS devices, but I'd really like to be able to use it more simply. Air Mouse simply extends the mouse and keyboard, but doesn't really give you a remote-control style of functionality you might have with a dedicated streaming device like the Apple TV.

Front row seems only to care about music and movies on iTunes.

Can I use Front row and the tiny white apple remote with Netflix, Hulu, and other online services, or is there another software package that would allow me to do so?

Is there a better option for remote control than the little white apple remote?

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Why not sell the Mac Mini to fund an Apple TV? not only do you have an Applel TV you also have some extra cash. –  Graeme Hutchison Mar 22 '12 at 16:32
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@GraemeHutchison but a computer with a proper, user-accessible OS can do so much more than an AppleTV. –  Ian C. Mar 22 '12 at 17:23
    
@GraemeHutchison I hooked up a video camera and now my kids can video skype with their cousins, so I'm actually glad I resisted the temptation to splurge on the Apple TV. Also, Hulu is free. There are other reasons, but it still leaves a lot to be desired. 6 of one, half a dozen of the other, I guess. –  Adam Davis Mar 22 '12 at 20:56
    
@AdamDavis thats cool, just the way you said that sounded like you wanted an Apple TV. I have added my answer below, its a great app. –  Graeme Hutchison Mar 22 '12 at 22:19
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7 Answers 7

up vote 3 down vote accepted

I would recommend the following setup (which is what I currently use):

Plex

Use Plex as your remote-control-friendly home theatre hub. I find Plex to be much easier to set up than XBMC, but where I think Plex really shines is in how easy it is to share your mini's media with other devices.

On your mini you install both the Plex Media Server and Plex Media Center apps. If you want to stream to additional Macs or PCs, you can install just the Media Center on those.

On your iOS devices, you can install Plex Mobile to stream your mini's media to the device. Plex Mobile can also be used as a remote control for Plex.

You can add your iTunes Media folders to Plex to access your iTunes songs and videos, however neither Plex nor XBMC can play DRM videos purchased from iTunes.

Hulu Desktop

Hulu Desktop is a remote-control-friendly app for browsing and watching Hulu videos. Best of all, you can launch Hulu Desktop directly from Plex.

HippoRemote

HippoRemote is a remote control app with better integration with various media players than Mobile Mouse (formerly Air Mouse) and Plex Mobile. Plex Mobile only works with Plex, Mobile Mouse works with most things except Plex. HippoRemote works with Plex, Hulu Desktop, and just about everything else, and it even works with the Netflix player.

HippoRemote also has much smoother mouse tracking than Mobile Mouse.

Apple Remote

The Apple Remote is certainly easier to just pick up and use than using than any remote app, so it can be handy to have it close by for quickly navigating Plex and Hulu Desktop on a whim.

Logitech Harmony Remotes

I actually don't have one of these yet, but I know several people that love Logitech's Harmony remotes. If want a remote that will also control your TV and receiver, these would definitely be worth checking out.

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What you need is the right front-end and that is:

Plex

Plex is probably the most Mac-like of all the media centers out there. Certainly it gets a lot of attention on the Mac and runs very well there. Not quite as open or feature rich as XMBC but it plays a quick game of catchup.

It will work with the Apple Remote IR remote control you can buy from the Apple Store. The button mappings are detailed in their wiki.

With Plex installed and running you can access all your media, navigate on a TV-friendly UI using your Apple Remote and use plugins like their Netflix plugin to access streaming content all from one slick interface.

You can download the Plex apps for your iOS and Andriod devices and use it to connect your mobile computers back to your Mac-located content and stream it over the air.

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Was in the process of adding Plex, +1 to you –  jmlumpkin Mar 22 '12 at 17:17
    
I've tried Plex and XBMC. My vote goes with Plex. –  jimtut Mar 23 '12 at 0:45
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I'd vote for the wonderful XBMC: http://xbmc.org/download/

I love it:

it's free

it's beautiful and it can change its look easily with themes

it has a lot of custom functions that can be easily added as plugins or widgets: from weather forecasts to rss downloaders, youtube (with video downloads) and more and more

it has an app to use your phone as its remote controller (or any other kind of remote I have in my house - mostly irda)

it has automatic retrieval of art, scrapers, plots, actors names, genres and so on from the internet

it has automatic download of subtitles for films and series

...

would you ask anything more? :)

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Why do you love it. Please enlighten us as to the features you find appealing–and and any shortcomings you've found. –  jaberg Mar 22 '12 at 17:13
    
You're right: I've just edited. –  Pitto Mar 22 '12 at 17:18
    
Another XBMC fan here :-) I use mine very successfully with the Apple Remote and Remote Buddy. Plus if you've got an iPad, XBMC Commander is also a great remote. Alternatively, Hippo Remote has an XBMC (and Plex, for that matter) profile you can download. –  binarybob Mar 22 '12 at 21:24
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I use TouchPad its £2.99

This app allows the user to control a Mac from an iOS device. You can use it as an extension to keyboard and mouse as well as an Apple Remote, and a media player controller.

Below you can see images of its functions, This is the TrackPad/Mouse and Keyboard

enter image description here

The image below shows the remote function on the iPhone

enter image description here

Here you can see the iPad version and can see the different media players it is compatabile with.

enter image description here

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Nice app! I use this loads –  Gareth Mar 23 '12 at 15:07
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I have used both XBMC and Plex (http://www.plexapp.com/). I found that the Plex software is far easier to install, and it can be used with external remotes (even the Apple Remote).

Also, I like the fact that there are Plugins that you can use.

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What's difficult in the XBMC install? The drag'n'drop? :) –  Pitto Mar 22 '12 at 17:20
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To be fair, it has been ages since I used XBMC on the Mac. I still have it running on my original XBox. :D –  Mike Eggleston Mar 22 '12 at 17:29
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You could use Hulu Desktop in conjunction with Mobile Mouse ($2), which has a dedicated layout for Hulu Desktop that looks similar to the iTunes layout:

enter image description here

This only works for Hulu though.

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We suggest nessMediaCenter (http://www.nessmediacenter.com).

It is like FrontRow designed to use the Mac system features - that way it is small (8 MB) and needs less system power.

The hight contrast (white on black) and large font size allows it to recognize the content better than in other media centers. Background / foreground color and font size (aka how many entries are shown) can be setup in the preferences.

The media center offers internet content, iPhoto & iTunes media, Miro video podcasts and local media (picture / movie folder and volumes).

The local media can be accessed without adding it to a separate library - local media is organized as the Finder's folder structure.

For DVDs a preview will be searched automatically - thru "Movie Info" a preview and description can be set for DVDs and videos / movies. The "Movie Info" also allows it to save all movie informations as HTML page to share these informations with your friends.

Supported media: pictures, videos / movies, PDFs, DVDs, EyeTV movies. By installing the QuickTime extension "Perian", all common video formats are playable (AVI, DivX, MKV etc.). Protected iTunes media (DRM) will be started in iTunes, EyeTV movies in EyeTV or VLC (if EyeTV is not available).

It can be controlled by Apple remote control, "NV Remote App" for iOS (http://itunes.apple.com/en/app/nv-remote/id389343735) or keyboard.

With "NV Remote App" and the iTunes control of the media center, the music can be controlled within the local WLAN. In landscape mode the app will show the current selection - very helpful if one is sitting e.g. in the kitchen and want to change the playlist.

nessMediaCenter can be used as demo for 30 minutes after each launch. The full versions costs 9.50 Euro.

(This is a promotion - my company "FINESS UG" is selling nessMediaCenter.)

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While it's ok to self-promote your software please mention the fact (and also the reasons why you think your solution is better than the others listed already). –  patrix Feb 11 '13 at 9:26
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