"Do It" with your Mac

How to actually "do stuff" with your Mac. For when you'd rather accomplish a task than learn an application.

Location: Daly City, California, United States

Saturday, September 09, 2006

Size does matter

Is it just me or is everyone missing one of the most obvious considerations when putting together a home media setup – size. I mean, which one of these would you want sitting in your living room next to your HD TV?

For the moment lets set aside the technical hurdles required to set this up and just consider this from a purely aesthetic standpoint. Which one of these is more appealing in terms of appearance, the Windows Media Center PC or the Mac Mini?

When putting together your home media setup please, please, please keep in mind that the focus is the TV and what is currently on it. Everything else should support and enhance the viewing experience.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

How can i stream music wirelessly to any location in my house?

It seems like the ultimate goal of any music lover is to be able to listen to their music from anywhere in their house. Ah but wait... you can't just listen, you also must be able to control the playback and even access alternate playlists remotely. Is this asking too much? No, of course not. With a Mac anything is possible, it's just not always obvious.

Who is this for?
Just about everyone. Unless you live in a tin can I can't imagine not wanting this functionality from your audio system.

What you need
~ Any wi-fi enabled Mac (i'm assuming you have this)
~ A stereo system or a set of self-powered speakers (i'm assuming you have this as well)
~ A bluetooth enabled phone or PDA. see supported devices
~ An Airport Express – This is where the "stream wirelessly" comes in.
~ Salling Clicker – This is where the "control remotely" comes in.
See online version of this list

Total Cost:
Airport Express $99 (refurbished from Apple) buy now
Salling Clicker $23.95 buy now
TOTAL is $122.95

The setup.

How to do it
coming soon

Thursday, August 10, 2006

How can I replace my entire A/V system with a Mac?

VCR, DVD Player, CD Player, Radio... hmmm, there must be a better solution than having all these components tied together with bundles of cables. Wait a minute, there is! I can use my Mac.

Who is this for?
~ Anyone who is sick of the mess of components and cables required to have a traditional A/V setup at home.
~ Anyone interested in an alternative to paying cable providers an exorbitant amount of money.
~ Anyone who recently bought a Windows Media Center PC and realizes it doesn't actually work.

What you need
~ A Mac Mini or any current Mac that supports Apple's Front Row software
NOTE: Instructions for older Macs coming soon
~ A DVI to HDMI cable
~ A mini to RCA cable (or a toslink cable if your tv supports it)
~ External Hard Drive (trust me, you'll want this)
~ ElGato's EyeTV Hybrid (only if you'll be recording broadcast TV)
~ Griffin Technology's Radio Shark (only if you'll be recording broadcast radio)
See online version of this list

The setup.

download pdf Click to download PDF version

More info coming soon.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

How can I put my downloaded videos on my iPod?

The iTunes Music Store isn’t the only source for videos for your iPod. You can convert almost any downloaded video into a format that is viewable on your iPod.

Who is this for?
Anyone who finds the selection of videos on iTunes unsatisfying.
Anyone who want to put their own videos on their iPod.
NOTE: This will not work for converting Movie DVDs directly to iPod format. I will be posting a tutorial for that shortly.

What you need:
This is by far the easiest way to convert movies/videos to iPod format.

Total Cost:

How to do it
STEP 1, Drag your video to iSquint
Doesn’t get much easier than this. Just click and drag. I understand that if you are a recent Windows convert you may have some trepidation, as “drag and drop” has always been a tad sketchy on the Windows side. Rest assured, it will work on a Mac.

Click and drag. Easy.

STEP 2, Choose your settings
Choosing your settings boils down to one simple question, “Will you be playing this on a TV or not?”. If no, then select Optimize for iPod. If yes, then select Optimize for TV.

This slider can be left to the default, “Standard”. Unless you want to end up with bigger files that use up more space on your iPod resulting in less files and thus less hours of entertainment. Your choice... up to you.

Add to iTunes
Do you want a copy of the converted movie to be automagically added to iTunes? If yes, click it. If no, don’t.

Do yourself a favor, check this box! The quality of the final video will improve dramatically if this is selected. What’s the catch you ask?... well, it is sloooooooow. And I mean slooooooooooooooooooooooooooooow. But in my opinion the increase in quality is worth the wait.

Nooooo, don’t touch it! You may think you know what you are doing, but rest-assured you DO NOT. In my personal opinion this button shouldn’t even be included in the interface.

Saving In
This should default to saving to your desktop. If you want to save elsewhere knock yourself out.

STEP 3, Start
Click Start, go get a cup o’ coffee, read a book, relax and think happy thoughts. You are now minutes away from having the content that you want on your iPod.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

How can I download TV shows with my mac?

The internet is the perfect distribution model, but for what?... for TV!

Who is this for?
Anyone interested in being able to decide when and where they watch TV.
Anyone who is sick of watching 20 mins. of commercials for every 40 mins of content.

What you need:
Download and install the following applications.
Azureus (Universal Binary for Intel Macs)
VLC Player
VLC Player (Universal Binary for Intel Macs)
DiVX player (optional)
DivX is only necessary for files that are specifically saved in the DivX format.

Total Cost:

How to do it
STEP 1, Download Torrent
The first step in downloading videos is to get a “torrent” file. A torrent is basically just a pointer that tells Azureus where to get the actual video file (or files) that you will end up watching on your computer. To get a torrent you need to first visit a "tracker" site - a site that lists available torrents.

Although there are many “tracker” sites, my favorite site for downloading torrents of the latest TV shows is eztv @ efnet, www.eztvefnet.org

eztv@efnet’s homepage lists all the current torrents.

Click on a show title to download the torrent file

The downloaded “torrent” as it will appear on your desktop.

STEP 2, Download Movie File using Azureus
Now that you've downloaded a torrent file you are ready to download your first TV show. From the “File” menu choose, “Open > Torrent File...”. Then select the torrent you downloaded in the step above to begin downloading the video.

Choose “Open > Torrent File...” from the “File” menu.

The "Open Torrent File" window

In the window that appears click “Add Files” and select the torrent file from your desktop

Click “Browse” to select where you want the downloaded file saved

Click "OK" when finished

Azureus Main Window

STEP 3, Playback Movie
Because the majority of files available via bittorrent are saved as XVID movies, you will not be able to view them using Quicktime. Instead you will need an XVID-compatible player such as VLC Player. Luckily you installed it at the beginning of this tutorial, right?

VLC Player. Click to download

download pdf Click to download PDF version