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Building a Mac Home Media Center, Part 3: Creating the Ultimate Home Media Network

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What if you could build a home network that allowed you access to all of your movies, music, and photos in every room of your house--on TVs and computers--for everyone to share whenever they wanted? If that sounds too cool to be easy or inexpensive, think again. In this final article in his series on building the ultimate Mac media center, Ryan Faas shows you how to create the ultimate home media experience--much more simply and for less money than you think.
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Part 1 of this series looked at how to create a Mac media center by attaching your Mac to a TV and using Apple’s Front Row to have easy access to all your digital media (photos, music, podcasts, movies, and so on). This is a great way to outfit your living room with an amazing home and family entertainment center. We also discussed Apple’s forthcoming iTV solution that enables you to stream content from a computer to a TV by way of a set-top box solution. But most households today have more than one television and more than one computer. This article takes the Mac media center concept from being a one-room solution to being a home media network that enables you to access all your digital media conveniently from any room in your house.

Connect a Mac to Every TV or Use Macs as All-in-One Audio and Video Players

In the living room, it makes a good deal of sense to attach a Mac or Apple’s forthcoming iTV to your television to use it as a media center. Unless you are opting to use one of Apple’s larger Cinema Displays or a 24-inch iMac, chances are that your TV offers a bigger screen than that of your Mac. However, the living room is often not the only room of a home to have either a TV or a computer. So, how do you take the media center experience from just being in the living room to also being in the bedroom, kitchen, or office?

One solution is an iMac (or even an older eMac) that offers a large clear display that can serve your computer needs and also provide access to all your digital photos, music, and video content. Another option is to attach a non-all-in-one Mac to a TV or monitor (and potentially a stereo system or speakers) in those rooms and create the Front Row experience there. In some cases, when a computer already is in the room, this can provide a less-expensive option than purchasing more than one iTV unit.

In choosing how to provide the ability to watch video or listen to music in your bedroom or have access to basic computing functions as well as digital media in your kitchen or office, you need to consider two things. First, what are your needs: just a computer, a portable Mac that can serve as an entertainment solution, a full-scale media center like that offered by Front Row or iTV but with no computing needs, or some mix of these options? The second consideration is that if you have multiple Macs (or Macs and PCs) in your house, how will you access and organize the photos, music, TV shows, and movies that are stored on them?

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