The Theatah!

I have a Macintosh. My SO has a Macintosh. I have all our music ripped to MP3 and MP4 on my spare hard drive. Primarily this was so I could listen to everything on my iPod (which I do), but lately I’ve found I’m more inclined to play a song I want to hear on the crappy speakers on my Mac, rather than use the stereo.

Obviously I need to find a way to play my music from my Mac to my stereo and make it accessible so my SO can have her Mac play music from my Mac to the stereo. My problem is that my stereo has no damn input and my TV no output. I have miles and miles to go.

The more I thought about this, the more I realized what I need for all this is a media center. Not today, but as a future ‘I can control the vertical and horizontal FROM MY MAC.’ This is for the future where I have TiVo or something. I know my current stereo is ‘passable’ (it’s okay, it was $50, so I’m not really all into it). I get just as nice reception off my TV’s FM tuner, though, tragic as it may be, and the only real reason to keep the bugger is for all our tapes. That we almost never listen to. Hmm.

The current TV setup is an old school daisy chain with my 20″ Panasonic TV/VCR. Cable to the VCR to the TV’s back end. DVD player to the TV’s front end. Turn on the DVD player and go to Line In for DVDs, turn on the VCR and go to Channel 2 for the VCR. It works. The problem is that my stereo doesn’t have a Line In. No, seriously. The only Line Out it has is for (you guessed it) headphones.

At this point, if I really want to go with a home theater system, Radio Shack or Best Buy is going to have to be my answer. The most well respected one I see around seems to be a TERK VS4 MOD+ 4 Device Modulator & Switcher. Four. DVD, VCR, TV, Stereo, Mac. Well. If I use the Mac as the DVD player (and … give the DVD player to my grandmother!) that’s Mac, VCR, TV, Stereo. Okay. That’s workable, especially since the Stereo is going to be output only (it will keep on keeping on as it is). Keep in mind, the Mac is theoretical right now.

The problem here is that all this really does is act as that old, TV/Game switch we all used to have for our ColecoVision. Shut the hell up. I loved that fucking gamesys! I can send all the output to one location, the stereo, but I know for sure my stereo can’t do that. Option B is to get a long cable and drag it’s ass over to my stereo and … well listen to the ‘beep’ from my computer on my stereo. Not appealing. The media center idea, with a dedicated Mac for it…

I still want to explore this media center as a theoretical ‘This is where I want to end up.’ The idea is for this to be a Mac Mini. It’s $500 and it has an S-Video adapter, so I know I can hook it up to my TV. This also means we can watch DVDs off the Mac. Now, I think I’d also want to set it up so I could ‘remote control’ the Mac Mini from my Mac, so I could handle any software updates etc without having to deal with a keyboard or mouse. I have a copy of RDC (remote Desktop Control) from Microsoft, but I’m also going to check out OSXvnc and possibly Chicken of the VNC. I’ve heard good things about them. As for the actual connection, I could either use Bluetooth, AirPort, or just hard plug a network cable. I have enough network ports, so that’s probably going to be my option.

Thanks to Mike, who also is doing this sort of project, I found Browser Tunes to which I say FUCK YEAH. I set it up on my Mac just now and it works great. So for the Mini, I’d set up iTunes, BrowserTunes, and then use the webpage to change songs etc on the Mac at will.

There are drawbacks to this set up, but I think as a ‘I will get here one day’ future thing, I could get down with it.

But I’m not there today. Today, I have a TV losing color in the upper right hand corner, a good VCR, a weird VCR (hooked to my Mac), a cheapo DVD player and a crappy stereo.

Step one is obvious. Upgrade what we have. Get a new, good, stereo. Then get Airtunes. Since I don’t actually have wireless, this one will be a network cable strung along the wall to the Airport, which then has an analog cable from the Airport dohickey to the stereo. Turn on the computer and wham. I could set up playlists for gaming sessions.

And at this point? I’m a geek. Shit, I don’t even run the game! Michael, if you’re reading this, what I’m proposing for you is a way to use your iTunes playlists without having to burn a CD for theme music. Save money. Talk to me, I’ll explain further.

For me? I know I need want a better stereo. I’ve wanted a Tivoli for ages, so I think I’ll get that for $360. The Tivoli Radio Combo is cheaper than the Bose (which Cousin Dan suggested) and sounds better than Bose. Dan agreed here, as we both liked it and were surprised. Also, it has more input/output options than the Bose, so there we are.

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