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Choosing and Setting Up Individual Macs

In choosing to add a room to your Mac media–enabled home, you might want to consider whether the cost of a Mac, a TV, and the needed adapters or cables is worth the investment or if it might be better to simply place an iMac (be it a current or recent model) or some other Mac model in the room instead. iMacs of any generation can be a good choice because of their all-in-one design.

The G5 iMac is perfect for use as a video solution because of its large screen and sleek design. It can function well as both an office or bedroom computer and digital media center. However, a desktop Mac with an appropriately sized display can do the same thing. If you will be using the Mac only as a media center, you can even opt for a desktop Mac and attach it to a TV.

Portable Macs, however, can be a great solution for media access in rooms that have a TV but do not have a computer, such as a bedroom. They offer all the computing capabilities of a desktop Mac, but with a smaller footprint. All recent portable Macs offer some form of video output that can be connected to either an external monitor or TV. Going a step further, the MacBook and MacBook Pro offer Front Row access via the Apple remote, enabling you to use the computer as an entertainment solution (although there are other solutions for earlier iBooks and PowerBooks as well).

Most portable Macs that support external video can be operated with an external video device attached and the lid of the computer closed (and the internal display unused). This can provide a solution for any room in the house; simply create a space next to your TV and leave the appropriate cables attached to it. When you want to use your media center (such as when you want to curl up in bed and watch your latest downloads from the iTunes Music Store), just put the MacBook (or iBook or PowerBook) to sleep, attach the cables, and wake it. This can be an excellent solution for bedrooms in which a computer might not be traditionally used.

You can wake Macs that include an Apple Remote by pressing any button on the remote and you can put them to sleep by holding the Play button on the remote. Bluetooth keyboards and mice as well as some third-party USB remotes can also be used to wake a Mac remotely (if you are opting for a model that doesn’t include an Apple remote). The advantage of being able to remotely wake the Mac for portables is that you can wake them without needing to open the lid, thus waking them and setting them to use the external display instead of their LCD display in one easy step.

The kitchen is another room in which you might want access to your music or video content but not want to attach a large TV. Having a Mac in the kitchen can be a useful tool in itself. It provides easy access to recipes from every corner of the Internet or from recipe books distributed on CD-ROM or cooking shows on DVD. It also provides you with easy access to music while cooking or cleaning and can be used to make notes about things to pick up on your next grocery shopping trip.

A computer in the kitchen gives you not only access to your music, but can also give you access to any cooking or other video content you might have from an Internet source or that you’ve recorded using EyeTV (see Part 2 of this series for more on recording and viewing TV with your Mac). One thing that’s very nice about the somewhat-limited needs of a Mac in the kitchen is that you can manage all these features on most older Macs. Because you’re not likely to use Front Row in a kitchen, any Mac that can support iTunes (which includes most Mac models back to some of the earlier iMacs) can be a good and low-cost solution for a kitchen computer.

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