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Media fail

Last weekend I bought a Mac Mini to use as a media server to replace my modded Xbox running XBMC. I love XBMC, it is nearly my idea of a perfect media manager. It plays a wonderful selection of codecs and containers, very responsive and quick interface, and it supports mounting of remote shares. The problem is, it doesn’t have enough CPU to play 720×1280 much less 1080×1920 video files. While the XBOX itself can output a 1080i signal (set through the MS Dashboard) it can’t render frames to keep up. It either flat out drops them or has nasty artifacts.

The Mini has no problem with 1080p output. In fact, it looks rather nice on my Mitsubishi. The Leopard “Aurora” wallpaper looks sweet! So, I installed Perian to give me a ton of format support for QuickTime, which then gives me that support in Front Row. Front Row handled all of my content, surprisingly even DVD and VIDEO_TS folders.

Front Row lacked many things I was accustomed to in XBMC. FR is very pokey trying to scroll through 100+ items. No streaming support either, so no Nederlandse TV for me. For whatever reason, I couldn’t get Joost working; I don’t know if it was a Leopard problem or what. I would’ve really liked to see it on the big screen. Even better would be a way to launch the application from Front Row (or vice versa).

Handling HD content on the other hand, sucked. Nothing existed that would play true HD images. VLC, Mplayer, weren’t quite there yet. I could fish a version out of their Subversion repositories and try to build myself, but that sort of sucks. Downloading HD content sucked too.

In the end, I gave up. I returned the Mini and bought a Toshiba HD DVD player. I was really torn between Blu-Ray and HD DVD. I had planned on buying a PS3 for the Blu-Ray support. I don’t have great confidence that Blu-Ray will win out in the format war. Even if Blu-Ray is technically superior, history has shown the population will buy the lowest price device to get the job done. This holiday season is seeing HD DVD players being sold at fire sale prices. Wal-Mart and Amazon are putting HD DVD players into the hands of people for under $200. This is a good indication to me that it’s the format that’ll come out ahead. Best Buy had a great deal this weekend where I got 300, Bourne Identity included with the player, in addition to three more discs of my choosing. I would’ve bought these anyways, so it helped with the price tag.

In other news, I bought Guitar Hero III for the Wii. In the past I wasn’t interested in it. Somehow I got to playing it with Rob, Bob and Brady, and got hooked on it. I finally beat the easy level, yay! It’s the next Tetris as far as I’m concerned.

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