What a mess!

Where's that DVD?!

The problem ...

There's been a revolution!  10 years ago we had all of our media in its rightful place ... CD's in a rack by the stereo ... photos in albums ... and home video/movies were on tapes or DVD's under the TV.  But times have changed.  We have MP3's, JPEG's ... and it's easy to buy and store movies on our computers or media players.  But all of this gets 'fragmented' onto different computers making it difficult to manage and, more importantly, access!

There is a solution!

I got frustrated with this about a year ago so I did some serious thinking and research into how I could get all of this valuable stuff organised.  Here's what my requirements were ...

  • It must look neat and tidy
  • If I want to watch or listen to something, I don't want to have to physically 'load' anything (like a DVD)
  • I want to be able to access all of it from my TV, iPad and iPhone (and maybe some other device in the future)
  • I want to be able to access it when I'm away from my home
  • The quality must be AT LEAST as good as it is now
  • My home movies are important to me so I want to be able to 'back it all up'
  • It's got to be easy to add more stuff

It became clear that if I wanted to access all of this media from different devices AND whilst away from home, I needed a server!

Apple at the core


I looked at a number of setups which would allow me to organise all of my media centrally and could then stream that media to any device anywhere.  There are some damned expensive options out there, but the one I settled on and is working FANTASTICALLY for me now is an Apple device, which for some strange reason, they don't shout about its capabilities as a media server.  I bought an Apple Mac Mini.  It has 1TB of storage so I can fit an astounding amount of stuff on there.  It's currently holding:

  • 250 movies
  • Over 150 hours of my home movies
  • All of my digital photos (about 12 years!)
  • Over 7000 mp3 songs

... and it's still only half full!

Just to be clear ... an Apple Mac Mini is basically a computer, without a screen, a keyboard or a mouse!  Sounds terrible but trust me, it works brilliantly.   I don't need a screen because my other devices are my screen (e.g. my iPad)!  They're also my keyboard and my mouse.

Apple Mac Mini

Apple Mac Mini

The set up

The only cable involved in the whole set up is a HDMI cable coming out of the back of the Mac Mini and into the back of my TV.  Everything else is wireless!

To watch movies on the TV ...
Of course you can use Apples own 'Front Row' but I use the excellent and feature rich 'Plex' which is free!  To control it I bought the beautifully simple Apple Remote which puts my TV remote to shame!

To watch movies on my iPad or iPhone ...
I use Air Video ... an excellent high quality video streamer.  I can use it to watch any video at home via my wireless network ... or away from home using 3G.  Actually this worked great just recently when I spent some time in Spain with some friends.  My iPad gave me access to 250 movies and I used an AV cable to display the movie on TV!

To listen to music in the house ...
The Mac Mini streams music via iTunes wirelessly to a couple of Zeppelin Airs.  I can even control everything from my sofa using the Remote app on my iPad or iPhone

To listen to music away from the house ...
 I can stream my whole iTunes library to my iPhone or iPad using one of many apps such as Plex, Homepipe or Klexi.  I tend to use Plex

To view photos at home ...
I wouldn't use anything other than iPhoto through the HDMI cable onto the TV.  Some excellent slideshow modes just bring it to life.  Passing snaps around the room is long gone when you can see them in glorious 42 inch colour with background music and clever transitions

To view photos away from home ...
Just like my music, I use the Plex app! 

Apple Remote

Apple Remote

... and finally

All of this media is incredibly important to me (especially my home movies and photos) ... so one of the great benefits of doing this is that I can back up everything all in one.  It's not spread all over the place!

It also means that I don't need to store any photos, music or movies on my iPad or iPhone ... saving me LOOOADS of room!

Wished I'd done this years ago  :)