Macbook to media server.
October 10, 2013 2:05 PM   Subscribe

What's the best way to utilize this busted up macbook (and other bits and pieces from the house) as a media hub/server?

My old faithful 2008-ish white macbook finally reached the point of retirement for daily use. The screen is going out (uhg, again) and the superdrive doesn't work, but everything else works just fine (video card is fine, as when plugged into another screen. the machine works great). Currently we have snow-leopard installed on it, and it has a 750g hard drive living inside.

I'd would like to use this little machine as long as possible, and repurpose it as a media server-ish/pipeline for our living room.

Things we would like to accomplish, in order of importance
-Netflix and Amazon streaming
-Hulu streaming
-Youtube watching
-DVD viewing (and possibly storing ripped copies of movies we own)
-Wii gaming (which we still do occasionally)
-Itunes streaming/housing audio library

Things we have in the current setup:
-Optima 66 HD Projector
-a Wii (which currently acts as our netflix hub, and occasionally we dust off and play games on).
-a vintage harmon kardon receiver in great shape that everything is piped through for sound.
-a 2nd gen ipod touch runs directly into the stereo aux port for music playing

Other technology in the house that could be used for the setup
-1st gen ipod touch with a broken audio out line (remote maybe? I'm willing to jailbreak this)
-1st gen ipad that mostly is used by the child
-wireless keyboard
-2 iphone 4S's live in the house
-a new-to-us refurbished june 2012 13" macbook pro (with working superdrive!)
-another 2008-ish white macbook that had a pint of coffee spilled on it, that could be canibalized for parts if we needed

Assume any reasonably priced software, cords, cables or other peripherals would be purchased for the setup (with a max budget of like $80 bucks, but less is better).

I've seen a couple tutorials online on how to accomplish this, but we have such a mish-mash of technology that's half busted and older-gen stuff, that we're trying to utilize, the tutorials don't seem all that applicable or we have key pieces missing. The different options for software to run pretty far and wide too, so i'm pretty confused by all that. Our desire is to have something fairly unified in appearance and use...Ideally, we'd love to stream everything through something like the Wii, but it doesn't do DVD's, and only pipes in hulu-plus., which we're not willing to pay for.

How should we go about unifying all these different media streams into one pipeline, using this old busted up macbook? I'm having trouble mapping it all out.
posted by furnace.heart to Technology (2 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
At home, we have a projector, MacBook Pro and a few video game consoles. I'll describe what you could do in general terms, based on my experience:


To connect your MacBook to the projector, you will need two cables: a mini-DVI-to-DVI adapter plugged into the MacBook and a DVI-to-HDMI cable running between the adapter and the projector.

Once the projector is connected, set up video mirroring on the MacBook. What you see on the MacBook screen will be mirrored to the projector.

To connect your Wii to the projector, use a S-Video adapter to get 480p quality. This video signal option looks really nice on the screen and will free up the HDMI port for your MacBook.

You'll use the projector's control panel or remote to switch between HDMI and S-Video signals, depending on which device you want to use.

The MacBook will play whatever you can run through its network feed: Netflix, Hulu, YouTube, Amazon Prime, iTunes, etc.


We run a headphone audio cable from our MacBook Pro to RCA jacks on the receiver. Likewise, we run RCA cables from the video game consoles to the receiver.

If your receiver has only one audio input, you either need to swap out cables manually (not as painful as you'd think, unless you switch between Wii and MacBook frequently) or get a switch or new receiver with multiple inputs.

We have a receiver with multiple inputs, but it is located at the front of the "theatre" underneath the projector screen. So I run one cable from the back of the room where the computer and video consoles are located, and I manually swap out audio patch cables depending on what I want to use. If I wanted to make it fancy, I could go to Radio Shack or Monoprice and get a $20 switchbox.


The cables and adapters listed above are under your $80 budget. However, to watch DVDs, you'll probably have to go over budget to replace the Superdrive or buy an external optical drive.

Assuming your MacBook has a USB 2 port (I think it does, but you'll need to check) then you can get most any external optical drive to play DVDs through Apple's DVD Player application.

If you want to play BluRay discs, too, then you can get (for example) a Samsung BluRay/DVD player/writer.

It will play DVDs out-of-the-box with Apple's DVD Player application, but to play BluRay discs, you will need to install some open-source BluRay libraries and run VLC.

This is just another optical drive, as far as the MacBook is concerned.

To back up my DVDs, I use RipIt. Dead simple. However, that might take you over budget a little more, too.

I haven't yet tried out the BluRay recording functionality on the Samsung. If you don't need this feature or you just want to play DVDs, you can shop for external optical drives that have fewer features. I suspect you'll pay about the same, maybe a little less, depending on what is available at online vendors like Newegg and Amazon.

If you want fancy, you can get Apple's external USB Superdrive, but that will definitely take you over budget. Other options will generally work just as well, at the expense of looking clunkier.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 3:38 PM on October 10, 2013

I think XBMC will do just about everything you want:

-Netflix and Amazon streaming
-Hulu streaming
-Itunes streaming/housing audio library

I believe there are plugins for this.

-Youtube watching
-DVD viewing (and possibly storing ripped copies of movies we own)

These definitely work

-Wii gaming (which we still do occasionally)


But as above, you'll need cables to connect the video out. The standard MacBook remote works will with XBMC but I don't see that on your list. The wireless keyboard should work, but obviously won't be as "handy".

(Some people prefer Plex as a simpler, out of the box solution over XBMC, but I'm less acquainted with it's abilities and plugins. The community around it is smaller.)
posted by outlier at 3:30 AM on October 11, 2013

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