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You know that winter’s really here when bonfire night arrives. Now that the nights are getting shorter I though it might be a good idea to spend a little time chatting about hooking up a PC or Mac to your TV, and enjoying all that digital content out there!
Connecting a PC/Mac to your TV
Content – and how to get it
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I have a Mac Mini plugged into my 32inch TV in the lounge..
I use it to watch digital video content such as Movies and TV Shows, using the amazing free Boxee software. A great new app for the iPhone has appeared that makes using a lounge PC/Mac setup even easier!
It’s called HippoSoft. This is a remote control app that uses wifi to control ANY Mac/PC in your house!
There are Remote templates (or Profiles) for lots of Mac and PC programs. So in my case I have selected the Boxee template.
The first view is basically a trackpad. So you can whizz around with your mouse, (the left and right click are fitted in neatly to the top of the screen), and adjust the volume. But this app really comes into its own when you select either ArrowPad or PlayPad (shown below).
As you can see from the screenshots, the software offers far more choice than the 6 buttons on the Mac Mini remote , and even what’s available on Boxee’s own iPhone remote App. What I particularly like is the ability to play/pause, rewind and fast forward with one click. What’s even better, is that by clicking the Keyboard button, you are able to enter text using the iPhone’s on screen keyboard. Progressing to the settings option offers a choice of tracking speed, wallpaper, hotkeys etc.
Versatility should be this App’s middle name, because as a mac user there are profiles for just using OS X, where you can create macros to suit your own setup, as well as Chrome, DVD Player, Firefox, Fron Row, Gmail, Hulu, iTunes, Keynote, Plex, safari, and XBMC, PLUS for those Windows users out there, specific profiles for Windows (XP, Vista, and 7), Media Center, Powerpoint, and Internet Explorer.
Getting the app to work means installing a very small free client program on every Mac or PC you wish to control, but this takes less than a minute to set up.
Easy peasy, Lemon Squeezy!
A lovely app that really makes controlling a lounge based a pleasure rather than a chore. I’m also pretty sure that I haven’t even scratched the surface of what’s possible with Hippo Remote! It costs £2.99.
In case you missed it, last month was a manic month for Boxee, the Xbox Media Center spin-off optimized for putting content on computers and televisions. We were really impressed at how well Boxee and Apple TV helped you cut your cable. Perhaps sensing this very trend, one or more of Hulu‘s content providers/venture funders blocked Boxee from Hulu streams, pretty much killing the media center’s most killer app. We responded with other methods you might use to get those shows back, and then hackers dropped a wonky work-around—but Hulu’s coders killed it in less than 24 hours. There’s been a very user-unfriendly, semi-working hack floating around ever since, but this latest fix comes straight from the green-eyed media enthusiasts at Boxee.
Mac users of Boxee should head to Boxee’s download site to grab the latest version, while Windows users in the closed alpha should try here. Ubuntu users, you’re out of luck for now, but Boxee says an update is coming soon. Apple TV owners should head to their Launcher/Downloads section and select the new “test” Boxee download (which should show up in a new slot under the standard Boxee version).
The “Hulu Feeds” show up as a new, stand-alone icon in your Video/Internet menu when you open the new version, and the navigational menu is a bit different than before, as seen in the screenshot up top. Boxee grabs Hulu now through better RSS support, so in addition to Hulu content, it can pull down YouTube, Google Video, Yahoo, and other video streams reliably.
Boxee also added a new “App Box,” or “store,” that lets you plug in new content streams and apps to your menus, as well as add third-party repositories. And this is the last time most users will have to grab a download manually, as the latest version includes an auto-upgrade feature.
I finally did it – I sold my Apple Tv, and have invested in a new Mac Mini that arrived today. The new addition to our Apple mac family will be our Media Centre – and will be permanently plugged into our TV.
So, why have I changed form the sexy, sleek Apple TV to a Mac Mini?
It’s basically for more power. I was finding that the Apple Tv was running out of puff, especially when trying to play HD video, and running the latest breed of media software – Boxee and Plex.
So, it arrived today, as did the DVI to HDMI lead that I ordered from play.com. It was a very easy install. I borrowed my iMac keyboard and mouse, plugged into the network, connected it to the TV, and powered it up. The Mini picked up the TV straight away, and setting up the mobileme stuff took seconds. The objective here is to unplug the keyboard and mouse and run the mini using “Back to my Mac”, from my iMac or Macbook. This runs really well. The only downside being, if the mini boots up and the TV isn’t on the right input, the mini doesn’t know what screen settings to use. I’m going to leave the unit on all the time anyway.
So after updates were applied I downloaded Boxee. I must say it ran a lot faster than on the Apple TV, and when I tried an HD file it was amazing. No stuttering, great fluidity and colours. The Mac Mini starts off at twice the price of the Apple TV, but I used Quidco.com and got £12, and added a £70 printer, so I got a £60 rebate. I sold that on Ebay for £45 straight away. So the final price was more like 1.5 x the price. But don’t forget the Mac Mini comes with iLife 09 and Leopard, a bigger hard drive (80gb on mine), and a Cd writer/DVD drive.
I am going to play with Plex tomorrow and see what else I can do!
Mac Mini- available from here!
Oh Dear, after yesterday’s post extolling the virtues of Boxee, I have been led astray by another ravishing application called PLEX.
It does nearly all the same things but with a little more swagger. It doesn’t run on the Apple TV though – which at the moment is a severe drawback. It also doesn’t seem to fetch cover art – or maybe I haven’t quite worked it out yet.
Here’s a couple of screenshots to whet your appetite.
Over the next couple of days I’ll investigate this app further – and let you know which is the best – Boxee or Plex?
Ok, I’ve been using Boxee on my Apple Tv now for over a month. Just long enough, I believe, to decide how good this app really is. So…
On the plus side:
On the negative side:
What we musn’t forget though is that this product is still in Alpha. And for an Alpha, Boxee is simply stunning!
Roll on the Beta!
Apple quietly updates $999 white MacBook with unibody specs
by Thomas Ricker, posted Jan 21st 2009 at 5:27AM
Hmmm, what’s this? Did Apple just update its lowly, $999 white plastic polycarbonate MacBook to more closely align with its new unibody MacBooks? Why yes, yes it has… sometime in the last 3 days according to Google’s cache. So for the same $999 you now get that newer generation 2.0GHz Core 2 Duo processor with faster 1,066MHz frontside bus, 2GB of 667MHz DDR2 SDRAM memory standard (up from 1GB), and integrated NVIDIA GeForce 9400M graphics. Whitey is still stuck with DDR2 SDRAM though, not the speedier DDR3 found in the unibodies. Disk drive and other specs (including Firewire 400) appear to be the same. Getting ready for Snow Leopard’s OpenCL GPU support are we Apple?
Update: Bluetooth received a bump from 2.0 to 2.1 as well. Anything else?
An absolute steal, especially as it now includes iLife 09! Install Boxee and connect it to your TV for even more fun.