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Mac mini All About Movies?

michael posted more than 9 years ago | from the could-be dept.

Desktops (Apple) 787

bikerguy99 writes "Robert X. Cringely, who had a good nose for the Mac mini from the very beginning, has published another bit of his thoughts on PBS. This time he speculates that Mac mini is all about movies - his thoughts on the subject are quite logical and provide intriguing insights into Apple's interest in producing a cheap headless Mac in the first place."

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Another Cringley? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11439625)

What? New Cringley column, Submit to Slashdot, Posted to Front Page, profit?

Huh (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11439626)

And here I thought the mac mini was all about pyramid scams []

they don't market it for the movies. (2, Interesting)

gl4ss (559668) | more than 9 years ago | (#11439629)

and most won't even hear that marketing.

of normal joe's that is. for others it's a good start for a small computer if you either want it to be a mac or don't care about the os(but it's just a start still, if you just want to view movies on the tv you're better off buying a stand alone player or heck, even xbox.. and most people won't ever edit movies).

Re:they don't market it for the movies. (3, Interesting)

dn15 (735502) | more than 9 years ago | (#11439649)

That may not be how it's marketed, but why would they do that if such a store doesn't exist (yet)? If someone wanted to use the Mac mini as part of a home entertainment system, its size (and presumably low noise level, though I've never seen one in person) make it perfect for such an application.

Re:they don't market it for the movies. (5, Informative)

Golias (176380) | more than 9 years ago | (#11439734)

Let me give you an idea of how quiet this little sucker is...

Most of the time when it's in operation, the fan does not appear to run at all, meaning it's as silent as a laptop.

By way of comparison, the eMac has a big, slow-turning fan (about 4" wide) in order to ensure fairly quiet operation. It's quieter than some of the amps in my music studio... When the fan on the mini does engage, it's actually somehow quieter than the massive fan on the eMac.

The loudest component on the whole darn thing is the DVD drive, which is far from the loudest drive I've heard, but still about what you would expect from a slot-loading computer drive.

Re:they don't market it for the movies. (1, Interesting)

jagmandan (739434) | more than 9 years ago | (#11439668)

who cares about the marketing? This is a market waiting to be tapped. I've seen the photos; that much Mac potency on one PCB is money in the bank.

PC competition for the Mini-MAC? (0, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11439630)

When MAC announced their "Mini", it caught my eye. Wanting to buy/build a small computer for my already cramped breakfast bar, I started pricing out similar hardware. The results startled me. Most of the configurations I found were more than the humble US$499 of the "Mini", often much more. To match price I had to configure with a much bigger shuttle-style case.

My question is this. What real computers are currently on the market to compete with this? When my wife asks for the "cute little MAC", what PC can I buy instead?

Re:PC competition for the Mini-MAC? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11439643)

Dell Dimension 3000 [] . So it's not that "cute" but for its $499, it includes a monitor. Wouldn't be shocked if Dell makes a cheaper computer without a monitor compete with the mini.

Re:PC competition for the Mini-MAC? (1)

Kiryat Malachi (177258) | more than 9 years ago | (#11439688)

Did you totally ignore the "limited space" requirement of dude's already cramped breakfast bar?

Yes. Yes, you did.

Re:PC competition for the Mini-MAC? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11439716)

For the $499 you mention: No FireWire, no DVD drive or CD burner, no option for integrated wireless, no iLife, no dedicated graphics card, only a 90-day warranty, and, oh--no Mac OS X? No thanks, sir. Granted, the 512MB is nice, but even that's shared with the Intel Integrated video.

Re:PC competition for the Mini-MAC? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11439727)

No one said there isn't a trade-off. A $499 PC isn't going to be the same for everyone.

Re:PC competition for the Mini-MAC? (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11439645)

You COULD just buy her the Mac. Fuck, dude, let her have her way once in awhile. She'll think the world of you for it and learn a lesson in economics when next week she sees an ad for essentially the same thing (minus the Apple Logo Tax) for half the price and twice the features.

Re:PC competition for the Mini-MAC? (1)

the pickle (261584) | more than 9 years ago | (#11439706)

And that ad would be selling...what, exactly?

Oh, that's right, nothing. Because no product exists that matches the description you just gave.

Small, feature-laden, inexpensive.

Pick any two.


Re:PC competition for the Mini-MAC? (1, Insightful)

Gherald (682277) | more than 9 years ago | (#11439646)

When my wife asks for the "cute little MAC", what PC can I buy instead?

A DIY shuttle-like PC would crush the mac mini in ever respect.

But if it REALLY must be mini, you can probably find a suitable mini-itx system somewhere. Just google for it.

Re:PC competition for the Mini-MAC? (1, Insightful)

computerme (655703) | more than 9 years ago | (#11439690)

if by "crush" you mean it would have run anti-spy-ad-thing-a-jig daily as opposed to the mini. then yes. it would "crush" the mini.

Re:PC competition for the Mini-MAC? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11439697)

If you need to run it daily, you must be using Internet Explorer.

Re:PC competition for the Mini-MAC? (1)

ryanw (131814) | more than 9 years ago | (#11439710)

But if it REALLY must be mini, you can probably find a suitable mini-itx system somewhere. Just google for it.
But that's the point isn't it... Apple has delivered a great "mini" system. Why fight it? Hell it's even UNIX based what more do you want? Linux? You do know it can run Linux-PPC, right?

Re:PC competition for the Mini-MAC? (1)

Gherald (682277) | more than 9 years ago | (#11439808)

Well if you really want my opinion...

I like x86 and PPC about equally, but I like AMD64 even more. To me AMD64 is the future and since x86 happens to be compatible with it and also much more widespread, I see PPC as having nothing to offer the modern world. Sure there is PPC64... but the package selection shall remain absolutely horrendous for the forseable future. AMD64 has like one thousand times more packages in gentoo than PPC64 does, and also happens to be much cheaper.

Re:PC competition for the Mini-MAC? (1)

mrchaotica (681592) | more than 9 years ago | (#11439725)

Except that PCs can't run OS X, and a mini-itx will be crushed by it rather than the other way around, and even a DIY shuttle-like PC is likely to cost at least as much, if not more...

...but aside from all that, then yeah, your suggestion would work just fine.

Really (1)

grahamsz (150076) | more than 9 years ago | (#11439754)

Last i checked, Win XP Pro runs almost half the price of the mini. That doesn't include half the stuff that iLife does.

Dont forget that apple are bundling a solid OS and a decent set of software in with that $499 price.

I think linux is great, and i use it everyday, but i know it's not for everyone.

Re:PC competition for the Mini-MAC? (5, Insightful)

wildBoar (181352) | more than 9 years ago | (#11439696)

I suspect a lot of peoople who are recommending PC alternatives aren't paying for the OS or the S/W, if you DIY a system you pay way over the odds for these compared to what a reseller adds to a bundled price (eg Dell).

Then there is support, do you want to do this or would you like help with it.

Ease of use. If you want a Nix then the Mac is something you can use and the wife. Can't say that of many.

Then there is size. It seems pretty hard to beat on the size front.

The Dell for instance will be large and noisy in comparison.


tres (151637) | more than 9 years ago | (#11439791)

why is it that every time I get mod points there's nothing like this around?

The support comment alone is truly insightful.

Re:PC competition for the Mini-MAC? (1, Funny)

typhoonius (611834) | more than 9 years ago | (#11439705)

Oh my God, Slashdot is duping comments [] now? Taco, is that you?

Oh, and just buy the damn Mac mini already.

Jesus, I can't believe this same question (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11439782)

is coming up!!! You haven't made up your mind yet? Is this a joke? Look buy the mini if you are actually want a mini computer for a breakfast bar. Come to think of it, breakfast bar?!?! What the fuck are you talking about?! What is a breakfast bar?! Why does it need a computer in it? Who are you- Jimmy Dean? Look whatever floats your boat! (weirdo) Here, if its got to be small and not an Apple, get a cheap laptop from some no name vendor or go on ebay for one. Be a dumb ass and take a chance!!! Its your dollar, spend the extra money. get what you want!!!. But stop asking the same stupid ass question!!!

Disclaimer: Sorry for the moment of instability. I am usually a decent guy but redundancy really ticks me off. You should see me moderate

Oh, your wife thinks its cute and you not getting it. Boy are you dumb. I can imagine the look on her face when you bring home some clunky ugly ass X86 PC shit instead of a Mac Mini and say, "Here, honey. Its better than the Mac Mini. It runs Linux!!" You dork, hope your hand doesn't have arthitis!!

this is the stupidest post ever. (0, Troll)

smashtheqube (805051) | more than 9 years ago | (#11439635)

how the hell did this get /.ed?? -smash my blog []

pls clarify (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11439648)

you talkin bout the article or your own post?

Re:this is the stupidest post ever. (1)

fenodyree (802102) | more than 9 years ago | (#11439665)

Ah, it seems introductions are in order: Smashtheqube this is Michael. Michael, Smashtheqube.

Interesting Bio (2, Informative)

enoraM (749327) | more than 9 years ago | (#11439647)

There's an interesting Bio of Robert X. Cringely on the conferencing page of the Broadcast Engineering Conference 2003. rograms/nab2003.htm [] .
He seems to be at least somewhat close to Apple, HDTV and MPEG :-) and I just decided to buy this little thingy.

Re:Interesting Bio (5, Interesting)

a-aiyar (528921) | more than 9 years ago | (#11439745)

A little addendum to Cringely's bio:

In case the sentence, "... he taught for several years at Stanford University..." leads anyone to believe that Cringely was on the Stanford faculty.

Cringely was a graduate student at Stanford, during which time, he TA'ed a few classes. He never finished graduate school. Since then he has claimed (and then retracted) that he had a Ph.D. and had been an Assistant Professor at Stanford. When confronted, with the truth, he first opined that he thought being a TA was the same as being an Assistant Professor, and then removed the Assistant Professor and Ph.D. bit from his official bio.

Caused more than a little stir in academic circles in 1998. Here's the link [] from the Stanford Daily online from 1998.

Apple need no R&D (4, Funny)

catwh0re (540371) | more than 9 years ago | (#11439656)

All they need to do is just listen to the rumour mills and create the product that gets the most fan fare....

Apple employee: They seem to want the mini to act like a video iPod
Jobs: But that's just stupid, the drive it's so tiny!
Apple employee: They think that once the movies are compressed for downloading in AVC that they'll be both high quality and small file size..
Jobs: Excellent, I'm a genius. We'll release in Spring, now sue think secret for springing the idea early, we don't want anyone copying our genius today.

Re:Apple need no R&D (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11439735)

But that's just stupid, the drive it's so tiny!

Apple employee: So? They can't open the box without voiding the warranty. If they want more storage, they'll just have to buy a bigger drive from us. We can charge them 150% what it would cost if they bought it from an Internet retailer; the fanbois will spread the word that it's some super-special hard drive, when it's really just some el-cheapo. Even better, because of the hardware controls we have on this thing, the videos downloaded are tied to the specific hardware of the machine. They can't be played on any mini other than the one that downloaded them, and since the drivespace is extremely limited, they can't keep more than a few high def movies at any one time. We can offer them unlimited watching time! The marketting is genius, because they'll have to delete old movies anyway to fit new ones on the box.
Jobs: You're right! It sure is nice to have so many parrots that not only pay us money for everything we churn out, but they evangelize the gear as well! For my next trick, I'm going to waterproof a laptop and call it the iVim. We'll make it slow as shit so that it can be sealed and carried into the pool, hottub, steam room, or bath house. I love me.

Re:Apple need no R&D (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11439765)

They can't open the box without voiding the warranty.

Stop spreading FUD. It's already been documented that you can open the box without hurting the warranty. You don't even have to fuck around with a bunch of little tiny screws like you do with a typical homebrew shitbox. Just a simple putty knife slid into the side pushes the clips back, and it pops right open.

What? (1, Funny)

Capt'n Hector (650760) | more than 9 years ago | (#11439657) works fine... I don't know what he's talking about.

Re:What? (1)

Matrix9180 (734303) | more than 9 years ago | (#11439682)

next time, finish reading TFA. He said it quit working in QT, but worked in iTunes, then later it worked in QT again.

Re:What? (1)

Capt'n Hector (650760) | more than 9 years ago | (#11439704)

Hey, at least I read TFA! (or, at least clicked on the link. What? You want me to UNDERSTAND it now? sheesh.)

Re:What? (1)

Bootle (816136) | more than 9 years ago | (#11439693)

I have noticed (when watching the hopefully awesome new Corpse Bride Trailer) that watching a full screen trailer from apple DOES launch itunes on my winxp box.

Maybe he just selected full screen trailer one time, saw itunes, the next time it wasn't full screen and it was quicktime embedded into the browser...

In addition, I do believe that you can no longer download a stand-along quicktime from apple, that it only exists as part of the current release of itunes.

Re:What? (2, Informative)

the pickle (261584) | more than 9 years ago | (#11439736)

In addition, I do believe that you can no longer download a stand-along quicktime from apple, that it only exists as part of the current release of itunes.

Took about three seconds on Apple's site to shoot a big hole in THAT theory: []

QuickTime 6.5.2 download, or standalone installer. Take your pick.


No... Mac mini has something even bigger planned.. (1)

testednegative (843833) | more than 9 years ago | (#11439663)

... one word iDonut maker !

Re:No... Mac mini has something even bigger planne (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11439797)

You mean uDonutEater (iDonutEater)

Unlikely (1)

chadamir (665725) | more than 9 years ago | (#11439670)

So there are two possible solutions:
1) TS files - mpeg2 hd files which tend to be quite large
but play on slower machines. Movies tend to run 11-20 gigs 2) Mpeg4 - Much smaller. Much more cpu needed. 4-8 gigs

Video is very cycle intensive. Look at the amd and intel benchmarks for video. Intel always wins because their clockspeed is faster.The 1.25 ghz mac mini isnt going to cut it.

How is mac going to deliver gigs of content to all of these people in a speedy way? OC-192? Even if they got something even faster, people's connections would bottleneck the process. These things also dont have huge hard drives so it shouldn't be expected that they can store many movies at once.

Oh and guess what? Most people dont have HDTV and they arent going to run out and buy one that has a DVI connector(extra $$$) so they can plug their mac mini into it. The mac mini is simply what they state it is, nothing more.

Re:Unlikely (2, Interesting)

nzkbuk (773506) | more than 9 years ago | (#11439776)

You're talking about a completely different architecture.
I have a I have a 800mhz G4 with 1gb ram and the same video card.
It plays all file formats at full screen quite happily while doing a bunch of things in the background. A mplayer playing a mpg stretched to full screen is only 25% cpu usage. An Avi about 30%, A WMV is about 35%. The worst seems to be a real player (.rm) video which can be up to 45%-50% (but how many of them would you play).

In short I agree the spec's are lower than x86, but it's certainly NOT bad.
Get one of these put a larger disk and more memory in it and you'd have quite a serviceable desktop (with screen keyboard etc.

Yes it could do with 5.1 sound, and a better video card.
Alternatively at 6.5" square and 2" high you could fit a bunch of these in 1U of colo space.

Re:Unlikely (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11439778)

DVI -> s-video adapter: $20.

Any other objections?

Re:Unlikely (2, Interesting)

killjoe (766577) | more than 9 years ago | (#11439785)

With dedicated hardware like the pvr-350 card from hauppauge the CPU issue goes away. What I would forsee would be an external device like the Plextor ConvertX PVR PX-TV402U but with decoding as well as encoding. Perhaps it could attach to the side of the unit forming something that is about the size of a vcr. It would connect to the mac via firewire in the back so the front would look sleek, or it could be built into a next generation mini mac.

I still don't know what they would do about the drive although many people seem to be just fine with a 40 gig tivo.

Anyway Jobs doesn't seem too interested in television. Music?, movies? yes! TV? not so much.

Re:Unlikely (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11439787)

Well for starters a G4 has a bit more performance "per cycle" than an intel, and second there is a 9200 radeon in there which almost definitely can share some of the load. My bet is that it can play back HD... else steveo wouldn't have been saying "year of HD" in the same press conference as the mac mini release.

Re:Unlikely (1)

lachlan76 (770870) | more than 9 years ago | (#11439802)

Look at the amd and intel benchmarks for video. Intel always wins because their clockspeed is faster

Actually, IIRC, it is because video encoding software can use intel SSE2 instructions to gain performance, not because of the higher clock speed.

PPC has a better architecture, and the P4 has such an insanely long pipeline that if the branch predictor make a mistake then you take a big performance hit reloading all 30 stages.

Cringley = The Shotgun Approach (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11439674)

It must be nice to be cringely. Just make a different totally random prediction every week, and you'll be hailed as a visionary because just by the law of averages at least some of your predictions will turn out to be true, sort of, eventually.

Re:Cringley = The Shotgun Approach (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11439702)

So true.

Could work well... (4, Insightful)

kuwan (443684) | more than 9 years ago | (#11439678)

But one of the problems is a lack of HDTV tuner. You could get Elgato's EyeTV 500 [] to make your Mini Mac into an HD PVR but you're still lacking 5.1 digital audio. I don't know what you could do about that. If you're spending the $$$ to get an HDTV then you probably already have, or would want to get a nice 5.1 or 7.1 sound system. You wouldn't want to be stuck with stereo from you Mini Mac.

I'm not sure Cringely's HD movie service would catch on either. It's an interesting idea, but I'm not sure it would be very successful. One thing is certain though, a lot of people are going to have a lot of fun and do some cool stuff with their Mini Macs.

Join the Pyramid - Free Mini Mac []

Firewire? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11439694)

Would a firewire HDTV tuner be possible, or would the broadcast industry's persistent efforts to prevent the jump from HDTV from being a technological step forward make that illegal?

Re:Firewire? (1)

kuwan (443684) | more than 9 years ago | (#11439771)

Follow the link in my original post to the Elgato EyeTV 500 product page. It's a Firewire HDTV tuner that now works with HDTV over the air as well as over Cable. I've also heard that most and possibly all HDTV tuners or cable boxes have a Firewire port out. If that is the case then you can just plug it into your Mac's Firewire port and view and record the HDTV content. You can't change the channels through your Mac though.

Join the Pyramid - Free Mini Mac []

Re:Could work well... (2, Insightful)

opusman (33143) | more than 9 years ago | (#11439732)

Another big problem is lack of a remote control. I guess you could get a USB solution but it seems like they would have built-in an infra-red port if they really wanted this to be part of a home theatre solution.

Re:Could work well... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11439751)

Bluetooth is a BTO option.

Or... (1)

SuperKendall (25149) | more than 9 years ago | (#11439758)

They could include a link to the Keyspan Express Remote [] on the Accessories [] page for the Mac mini.

I would rather it be some kind of RF remote though.

Re:Could work well... (1)

kuwan (443684) | more than 9 years ago | (#11439784)

Well, if you get the Elgato EyeTV 500 HDTV recorder then it comes with an infrared remote.

Join the Pyramid - Free Mini Mac []

Here's the 5.1 part (3, Informative)

SuperKendall (25149) | more than 9 years ago | (#11439739)

Just look at the Accessories [] page, for the M-Audio-Transit [] AC3/DTS TOSlink adaptor.

And, it's also an input!

I was confused by that exclusion as well. But I really think they were just trying to make the box as cheaply as possible and realized most users would not need 5.1, so they could let it be a separate device.

Re:Here's the 5.1 part (1)

user32.ExitWindowsEx (250475) | more than 9 years ago | (#11439777)

I got a Transit when I got my PBG4...and except for a couple of buggy driver things (make sure you have digital out checked in the preference pane before trying to use it with Apple's DVD player -- or else, you k-oops.), it rocks.

...except for HDTV playback. (1)

mrchaotica (681592) | more than 9 years ago | (#11439755)

You could get Elgato's EyeTV 500 to make your Mini Mac into an HD PVR but you're still lacking 5.1 digital audio.
As well as the CPU horsepower necessary to decode the video that the EyeTV recorded. If you read the system requirements on Elgato's website, the EyeTV 500 requires DUAL G5s to playback HDTV at full resolution. Single-processor G4 mini-macs, although nice computers for what they are, need not apply.

Aha! Not necessarily the case. (1)

SuperKendall (25149) | more than 9 years ago | (#11439773)

The playback software for Elgato takes no advantage of any hardware acceleration.

So, it may be possible to play back content with better accelerated players...

A friend has been forwarding me results of a test someone is doing with the EyeTV 500 and Powerbook 1.25GHz (roughly the same specs, probably a fair amount of memory). At first he was able to get just shoppy playback, but after some tweaking (forget what that was) was able to get stable playback, of at least a SDTV feed (not quite full HDTV). So there is some hope.

For normal TV devices that convert video to DV firewire feeds should work really well, I was editing movies easily a few years ago on my 667MHz Powerbook.

Re:...except for HDTV playback. (1)

Jeremy Erwin (2054) | more than 9 years ago | (#11439786)

That's because today's video cards have all sorts of neat video acceleration features which for some reason, ElGato has chosen not to use. Perhaps Apple won't release a needed spec (as it would probably cause no end of trouble with Core Video/Quartz Extreme, etc.)
HDTV playback, IIRC, is well within the capabilities of a 800 MHz Pentium III. If Apple decides to embrace HDTV, the miniMac will be able to play it back..

DRM (1)

mboverload (657893) | more than 9 years ago | (#11439683)

Of course, all these downloaded movies will only play on one computer, require a connection to the internet each time you want to play the movie (to authenticate), and you will only "own" the movie for 48 hours.

This is an incompetent big media CEO's wet dream.

Re:DRM (1)

anagama (611277) | more than 9 years ago | (#11439793)

  • Of course, all these downloaded movies will only play on one computer, require a connection to the internet each time you want to play the movie (to authenticate), and you will only "own" the movie for 48 hours.

Actually, I think it's quite a good idea. I would love to see Farscape and Firefly in HD if possible. I've been using Netflix to catch up on all the cool sci-fi I've missed over the last decade (I don't watch broadcast anything - only DVDs) and I've thoroughly enjoyed the lack of commercials. Couple this with high definition and I'd be overjoyed.

As for a "watching window" - truth is, I can only watch most things once - a few things twice - and small minority of things over and over and over (I bought the Firefly boxed set). I wouldn't really be concerned if I only had 48hrs to watch. I'd gladly pay $3-4 for a disc's worth of HD content, watch it in my 48hr window, and be content having seen it once. If it was incredibly good, then I'd buy a copy for my collection. Fact is, I don't want an enormous collection of things I will use but once. This is why I love Librarys (you don't have to keep the books - they're heavy - hard to move) and video rentals (you don't have to pay 4x the value of a one time usage).

Make Way! (0, Troll)

hexMonkey (809664) | more than 9 years ago | (#11439686)

Make Way for the mac fanboys! *dodges the evil fanboys who have mod points*

Dead on (5, Interesting)

Golias (176380) | more than 9 years ago | (#11439687)

This is one of Cringely's less-original flights of fancy, (lots of people have been suspecting that iTMS could expand to movies for some time now), but also one that seems to me to be very on-target.

My mini arrived at my office via FedEx on Thrusday, and I've been setting it up for exactly the same purpose as almost everybody else I've heard from who's buying one: It's going into the media room.

A $300 digital tuner called the EyeTV gives me PVR features, and a $60 USB break-out box gives me DTS sound for DVD's. (The G4 solution can't quite do 1080i in full-screen mode, but I only need 720p anyway...) The DVI port is compatible with the wide-screen projector I'm planning on buying next month. In spite of the relatively light-weight video card, it plays World of Warcraft nearly as well as my AMD Frankenstein box with a 256 MB GeForce card.

So this thing is already serving up movies, TV, music, and games, and will be just about the only media device in the room (I might consider moving the X-Box into whatever room my old TV goes to.)

However, like many geeks, I also sometimes watch downloaded materials. I'm not as big on bootleg DivX's as some folks, but the occasional anime "fan-sub" has found its way onto my HD, and there's also plenty of legit stuff out there, such as "Red vs. Blue."

If it was possible to click on a movie or classic TV show in the iTMS, and download it as an MPEG2 stream for a reasonable price, even if it took overnight to get it, I would probably snap it up.

I passed on the DVD burner option for the mini. I figure I can get a better & faster double-density burner sometime down the road as an external firewire option. If this movies-on-demand feature of iTMS actually comes to pass, I might find myself buying a burner sooner rather than later.

Mini's not for Movies (3, Interesting)

the pickle (261584) | more than 9 years ago | (#11439689)

At least, that hard drive in there isn't. It's a 4200 RPM laptop drive.

Also, maybe it's just me, but doesn't 40 GB or 80 GB seem awfully small for the storage of feature-length HD video? We're talking what, 10-20 movies at best?

For there to be a true digital DVD library device, hard disk storage prices are going to have to come down to a fraction of what they are now. Time will provide this, but right now, it doesn't seem like the hardcore movie buffs -- who seem like the target market for something like a digital DVD library -- would be satisfied with the comparatively tiny amount of storage available in the 2.5" hard disk form factor. A Mini with an external terabyte of storage would be better, but that's going to more than double its price.

Maybe I'm just not getting it, but I really think Cringely missed the boat on this one.


Re:Mini's not for Movies (1)

mboverload (657893) | more than 9 years ago | (#11439707)

HD movies are going to be at least 30 gigs with mpeg4 compression (thats the HD DVD size). Great, I can store 1, maybe 2 movies on that tiny, slow drive.

Re:Mini's not for Movies (2, Interesting)

mrchaotica (681592) | more than 9 years ago | (#11439803)

If you're really a hardcore movie buff you could just get an Xserve RAID [] to go with it. : D

Will not be able to record HDTV (2, Insightful)

mboverload (657893) | more than 9 years ago | (#11439691)

For a computer to encode HDTV video to disk requires at least a 2.4ghz machine, and, I assure you, a Mini does not have a 2.4ghz processor.

If you want a nice machine to run an HD recorder, look elsewhere.

Re:Will not be able to record HDTV (1)

Brian Brian (849676) | more than 9 years ago | (#11439722)

2.4Ghz Machine. Interesting. How did you arrive at that figure. Especially since CPU speed doen't relate to many things. But maybe the best encoding card requires a certain speed machine. Educate me please.

Re:Will not be able to record HDTV (1)

mboverload (657893) | more than 9 years ago | (#11439730)

I built an HDTV mythtv box, 3ghz is actually the recommended speed. I got the 2.4ghz figure from the mythtv disscusion mailing list.

Re:Will not be able to record HDTV (3, Informative)

Gob Blesh It (847837) | more than 9 years ago | (#11439767)

I wonder if you know that MHz means jack shit, especially when comparing across architectures as different as x86 and PowerPC. How can you hang out around Slashdot and not know about the megahertz myth [] ? It's practically gospel. It also happens to be true.

However, I agree that the Mac mini would find it difficult to encode HD video in anything approaching realtime, not least because of its 4200 RPM laptop hard drive.

Re:Will not be able to record HDTV (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11439809)

To be fair, a full GHz does matter.

The mini simply doesn't have the specs to encode full HD, be it Disk, processor, or RAM.

Re:Will not be able to record HDTV (1)

Jeremy Erwin (2054) | more than 9 years ago | (#11439740)

Recording HD is easy. Hook up the tuner (or the set top box) to the mac via firewire. The bits come in (HDTV is digital), they get written to the hard drive. An HDTV recorder requires very little horsepower, although playback requires either the able assistance of a modern video card (for motion compensation, iDCT calculations, etc) or a rather fast general purpose CPU.

Re:Will not be able to record HDTV (4, Informative)

NotoriousQ (457789) | more than 9 years ago | (#11439762)

HDTV encoding is done at the source. If you have an HDTV tuner then what you get is the raw MPEG-2 stream that the station sends -- no need to encode. The camcorders do their own encoding right before they write down the stream, otherwise there would just be no space.

So you do not need a faster processor, just a bus and HD fast enough to get the stream. Playback of HDTV on the other hand may take some juice, but should be easily handled by most modern processors including the mini.

Re:Will not be able to record HDTV (1)

mrchaotica (681592) | more than 9 years ago | (#11439772)

Slight correction -- it requires at least a 2.4GHz-equivalent machine. You're right that the mini-mac can't do it, but a 1.8GHz G5 iMac just might (I haven't tried it though, so then again it might not).

Re:Will not be able to record HDTV (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11439807)

For a computer to encode HDTV video to disk requires at least a 2.4ghz machine, and, I assure you, a Mini does not have a 2.4ghz processor.

That's only a problem if you are going to ask your computer to do the encoding.

Let a break-out box take care of that part, and you're golden.

Intriguing (1)

TekMonkey (649444) | more than 9 years ago | (#11439714)

It's a very interesting article and it seems very plausible that this is the direction Apple is heading. I guess we'll just have to wait and see how it plays out.

Downlaod time (1)

mboverload (657893) | more than 9 years ago | (#11439720)

The download time for an HD movie (at least 30 gigabytes) on a standard DSL connection is still going to be 47.9 hours. This is not going to happen until more than 3 people in the US have residential fiber optic connections.

Movies (1)

cyberfunk2 (656339) | more than 9 years ago | (#11439721)

Not only does it seem great to be a media PC (Just run linux on it and MythTV and that's some hotness right there.), but it also seems like it would be good for movie distribution, as the author suggests.

Here's another couple movie related things w/ the Mini I can think of:

A quick-edit station, something to have in the back of your car if you're a wedding videographer or similar video person who may have to make quick edits for show.

To be IN movies. I mean, you guys have seen how powerbooks turn up in movies like independance day; This little thing is practically begging to be used by Hollywood in movies. It's small, it's cute, it's exactly what you'd imagine a hot girl using when.. (sorry mind is running away with me).

Ideas, comments?

Re:Movies (1)

NotoriousQ (457789) | more than 9 years ago | (#11439794)

I was thinking the same thing in terms of MythTV. The problem is that it will not have a chance to work as a backend -- not enough power and the lack of drivers to drive external tuners will be killer.

However, it can serve as a nice front end, assuming that good video drivers exist. Unfortunately that is a big if.

Unfortunately, it seems that this box will not be a good MythBox for now, and interestingly seems that this will be something along the lines of a Mac-Box which will probably be more in competition with X-Box and Win Media Center. Not a bad idea, but a bit too proprietary for my tastes.

"has published another bit of his thoughts on PBS" (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11439723)

Get a clue.. he has a weekly column! Does slashdot really need to tell everyone about it every time?

Think Secretly (1)

trs9000 (73898) | more than 9 years ago | (#11439731)

This comment seems unnecessary and strangely placed. FTA:
Here's my thinking, and it is just thinking -- I have no insider knowledge of Apple's plans, I haven't been diving in any Cupertino dumpsters, and nobody who knows the truth has told me a darned thing.
I've got to wonder if it was even mentioned because of the whole Think Secret lawsuit. Are people who are spouting idle rumors and speculation going to feel the pressure to issue out-of-the-blue disclaimers? Sigh. The overly litigious benchmark has long since been exceeded.

Actually... (1)

Jace of Fuse! (72042) | more than 9 years ago | (#11439738)

It CAN be connected to a television with that DVI to S-Video or Composite adapter.

Couple a Mini hooked up to a nice television and a wireless keyboard and mouse setup, and it would make a nice living room entertainment computer.

Re:Actually... (1)

jagmandan (739434) | more than 9 years ago | (#11439804)

it CAN, but that's not a good application for this device. as previously mentioned, low hard disk RPM and capacity make it a poor choice for the MythTV/living room segment. It's better for a cheap general use computer. (web, email, etc.)

So? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11439741)

I can buy an Xbox2 this fall for $300. It will do the same but better. Plus it will play games.

Re:So? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11439760)

and record tv. and browse.

May be not for movies (3, Interesting)

tftp (111690) | more than 9 years ago | (#11439743)

First, an average movie would be about 1-2 GB if compressed really well. An average broadband user has probably 100-200 kBps download speed on average. This amounts to 3 hours of downloading per movie, at least. Non-geeks probably will be displeased.

Second, the movies have to be purchased ($10 per download, for example) and stored on the HDD. The HDD is either 40 or 80 GB, making it capable of storing anywhere from 20 to 60 movies. What the customer should do after the disk is full?

There are solutions to both problems, though. The bandwidth can be spread between users using BitTorrent, and the customer can be allowed to re-download the same movie at a later time, as long as he presents the same key to the web store.

But for an average user a DVD player and a DVD store and/or rental place work just as well, and with much less hassle. iTunes works because it is easy. But downloading of a movie is anything but easy, at least so far.

Possibly, though, Apple looks far ahead. But if they just wanted to set up a video distribution business they could have released some iFlicks software for Windows, this results in an instantaneous user base, no need to wait for anything built or sold, and they can have the video store running within days.

What's the performance like? (1)

opusman (33143) | more than 9 years ago | (#11439744)

Does anyone know yet? I've read lots of "insightful reviews" but nothing actually spelling out what a 1.2/1.4ghz Mac will actually run like.

I haven't used a Mac since the Mac Classic came out so I've got no idea what sort of grunt they need these days. I wouldn't mind a cheap one to play with but if it's gonna bug the hell out of me because it's so slow then I need to know that before I shell out for it.

Re:What's the performance like? (1)

the pickle (261584) | more than 9 years ago | (#11439798)

This should give you a pretty good idea of how current consumer-level Mac systems stack up to each other:

Macintouch Performance Comparison []

Basically, the Mac mini is as fast as or faster than every consumer Mac except the iMac G5, and the iMac G5 only wins on a few specific tasks. For the money, there's no question but what the mini is the fastest Mac there is.


I like the Cringler (1)

zymano (581466) | more than 9 years ago | (#11439748)

Good one . I noticed last week i couldn't download quicktime just by itself. I had to download Itunes also.

apple and sony (1)

frankmu (68782) | more than 9 years ago | (#11439749)

it was interesting to see a representative from Sony with Steve Jobs at Mac World. the two companies have cooperated together in the past (the first powerbook, i think) this makes more sense as both companies seem to converge towards the same goal. that is, domination of home electronics.

now if the next Mac Mini comes with a Cell Processor, you can easly distribute alot of High Definition stuff. Mac Mini Cells, that your PS3 can play with


Re:apple and sony (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11439800)

It's also interesting to see that Sony Corporation and Sony Computer Entertainment are both licensees of AVC/H.264:

Processing power, storage space and download time (2, Insightful)

LordRPI (583454) | more than 9 years ago | (#11439763)

The processing power for playing back those touted AVC H.264 movies should be borderline on the Mac Mini as this advanced media format is quite processor intensive. MPEG/ITU-T marketing papers have indicated that AVC/H.264 roughly takes 4x the decoding power for real time playback as MPEG-2 and AVC/H.264 offers the same quality at half the bitrate as MPEG-2. Using new builds of mplayer that support AVC/H.264 playback take up 70% of my G5's processor time at 420p, although other implementations take up less time as Apple claims 1080p is capable on a dual 2GHz PowerMac G5. It's hit or miss on a G4, depending on the extent of optimizations used and the bitrate of the encoding.

Apple has used a bitrate of 7.5mbps on their WWDC showcase of the 720p Troy trailer in H.264 and this quite a hefty amount of data to store locally and transfer over the internet as this article makes clear that "this is the year of HD." Doing the math, a 90 minute HD movie encoded at 7.5mbps should take roughly 5GB and on a 40GB drive you can store around 5 movies, 10 if you have an 80GB drive. These drives seem to be lacking in this department. As for internet transmission, if you were lucky enough, you'd have Optimum Online's 10mpbs download and a clear unobstructed path between the two endpoints you may be able to watch this in real time as if this is a variable bitrate encode, action scenes will require considerably more bandwidth to download in real time. I doubt the national average for broadband is near what Optimum Online provides.

An online store with HD H.264 movies may be wishful thinking for those with a Mac Mini, although my one problem with the Mac Mini as a media center is the lack of digital audio output. An M-Audio Sonica should take care of that...

I am itching to see what Jobs & Co make of this.

Bandwidth? (1)

SiliconEntity (448450) | more than 9 years ago | (#11439783)

I've always heard that online movies are compressed down to pretty low quality. How big would a two hour full HD movie be? Lots bigger than your typical DivX I bet. Your typical home broadband system would be hard put to download it in less than a day.

No sound (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11439788)

And where exactly is the audio digital out for this magnificent little movie machine Cringely is going off about? Video is only half the picture (not that the mini has the base specs for handling HD streaming in the first place).

I find it amusing... (5, Insightful)

bubba451 (779167) | more than 9 years ago | (#11439789)

I find it amusing that pretty much everyone is trying to push functionality onto the Mac mini.

Now I'm as guilty as the rest, but has anyone stopped to consider that the mini is just a low-cost, small-footprint Mac aimed at potential switchers?

I suspect that deep down, we know that's all the mini is, but we're just trying to find some kind of rationalization for buying one. (I'll admit it: I've been wanting to get one to act as a dedicated server for my iTunes Library, a function I think it'd perform quite well.)

How far is your blockbuster? (1)

Chris Pimlott (16212) | more than 9 years ago | (#11439792)

One bit I question...
Besides, viewers will tolerate non-real-time movie downloads -- as long as they take less time than driving to Blockbuster and back

For most people living in urban areas, video stores are all over the place. It's no more than a 15 minute trip the nearest Blockbuster, and I could walk down the street to the local place quicker than that. Even at a generously small estimate of a 1G download for a full length, full res HDTV over the average 1.5mb line is about an hour and a half. It's perhaps tolerable but it's not that near to the instant gratification of popping down to the shop to watch it "right now".

But what about the audio? (1)

deadlierchair (852262) | more than 9 years ago | (#11439796)

When I first saw the mini I thought that it had tons of potential as a HTPC as well, but then you realize that it only has a headphone out port by default and nothing like RCA out. No built in surround sound? They had to cut costs somewhere, but this would have been a great inclusion. Also, it's true that HDTV is great, but most of us out there are still using regular TVs with RCA inputs.

If it was seriously about media... (1)

DaedalusLogic (449896) | more than 9 years ago | (#11439799)

The where is the remote control? I know you can buy stuff aftermarket, but any serious media center would require a remote control like 99.99% of the rest of the serious market.

Take it for what it is, Apple is trying to take a stab back into the heart of the PC market with cheap and reliable machine for the masses. Is it a mystery to Mac fans why large institutions started dumping them in the 90's?

It's about the money, plain and simple. I bought my Powerbook because it was relatively inexpensive and extremely high quality notebook when you consider all the other machines with Linux/UNIX on them will cost you an arm and a leg one way or another.

Not likely (1)

garymm (680147) | more than 9 years ago | (#11439801)

It just doesn't seem likely to me. First off, the hard drive is tiny for HD (which has been noted). And second, there's no bluetooth. I think bluetooth would be essential for a remote control, and if it's designed to play video, they wouldn't have people buy a USB bluetooth adaptor. I suppose they could sell infrared receptors so that your regular remote works with it... Still, it just doesn't seem likely at all. They would have released it with HDMI, not DVI.

I don't think so ... (3, Interesting)

x mani x (21412) | more than 9 years ago | (#11439810)

Reasons why Cringely is wrong:

1. both models of the mac mini are currently shipping without support for either HD-DVD or Blu-Ray. Cringely glosses over this stating that the mini will exclusively be for delivering online HD content.

2. there is no IR/remote support on the mac mini, so no remote control. this is kind of a big and small deal at the same time. it would not have cost much for them to add support for this, yet it is a feature essential to media centers.

3. the current mac mini models are simply not powerful enough to decode HD video compressed with modern MPEG-4, WMA9-level codecs.

4. no component video out on the mini. Cringely once again glosses over this, stating that DVI is sufficient. while DVI does seem to generally work on DVI/HDMI and DVI/HDCP televisions, there are cases where it does not, and it is certainly not officially supported by most vendors. remember this is Apple, they're not going to push technologies that aren't officially supported. there is no evidence of HDMI/HDCP support on the mac mini.

A lot of these could be fixed in the future, with an "upgraded" mac mini. but i just don't think it adds up. the mini doesn't even look like a home theater component. Cringely seems to be basing his entire theory on the Quicktime trailers site being down for an evening ... to me this is not even close to being a sufficient foundation to support his claims.

I do hope one day Apple releases a media center solution. They are one company who could really shake things up and bring some attention to the media center concept, which I am totally into after installing Xbox Media Center ( on my modded Xbox. I just don't see this happening anytime soon, and in particular not with the mac mini. I sure hope I'm wrong!
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