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Ask Max: Setting Up Your All-In-One Media Center

Asked on 10/02/2008:

Your latest question and answer on home media network was right on. It answered most of my questions, but I'd hoped you'd go a little further addressing some of the media content.

I have a very similar situation (G5 iMac in office, an older mirrored door G4 dual 1.25, and several MacBooks running around the house). I'd like to use the G4 (with daisy chained hard drives if necessary) to store all my media, but not just music and pictures. I'd like to be able to rip my DVD library (via handbrake, mactheripper, or toast) to hard drive and have them, as well as TV media, available to be played on any of my TVs (via Apple TV?) or laptops with the slick front row or Apple TV interface. I'd also like to be able to share with the multitude of iPod touches we have running in the family.

Finally, do I need to get an EyeTV system to get my TV media to digital or can I get it directly from the HD cable box and/or DVR (Comcast)? I know it is a lot of questions, but I think I am basically wanting what most people want ... an all in one media storage that can be accessed from any TV, computer, or iPod in the house with a user friendly interface. One last thing (sorry), obviously backing up all of our music, photos, and video will be extremely important. What do you suggest?


Like any complex system, an Apple-enabled home entertainment system can be configured more ways than could ever be described in a short article. The basics of using all Apple equipment (with an EyeTV for good measure) makes it easy to add components as needed. The base of your setup is the central iTunes server. To keep prices low while protecting your iTunes library, look at the Drobo external drive enclosure.

Once you have a new destination to store your library., copy it over and then use Apple's alternate iTunes library instructions to associate with the new library location.

Start sharing that Library and make sure that iTunes will always startup when the computer is turned on by [option] clicking on the iTunes Dock icon and selecting "Open at Login." For adding new TV content I recommend using an EyeTV device. Most cable companies prevent you from importing shows off the DVR. An EyeTV 250 Plus will let you take control of your DVR needs without fighting the copy protection of most cable content.The EyeTV software will take care of getting your iPod Touch content in proper format and allow you to export Apple TV ready iTunes files. Consider adding an Elgato Turbo.264 Video Encoder to help speed up your video conversions on that G4 tower.I know there are many more options for you but starting with a good media server and building from there is the best way to start.

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