I have a lot of gadgets in use and I really don’t like keeping separate versions of my contacts (~500 of them) and my calendar. Therefore, I’ve done the painful work of trying to find the perfect and free solution for syncing them between all my different digital storages automatically over the Internet including a Nokia E71 phone, an iPhone, an HP 2140 HD laptop running Windows XP with local mail and calendar software (currently Outlook 2007), a Mac Mini as well as Gmail contacts and Google calendar for online access. I really recommend you back up your data properly before starting a journey like this. Once done, you should be care free of backups and up to date versions of your stuff.
As stated in Part 1 of this Mac Mini HTPS series where I evaluated different Media Center and HTPC software options my choice was to go with MediaPortal, an excellent open source and free software for turning your Windows PC into a living room digital media master. In other words, we need to load the Mac MIni with some kind of Microsoft OS software. Fortunately, the engineers at Apple has anticipated this and made this very easy to do as long as you have access to a Windows XP (or VIsta or Windows 7 beta) installation CD.
Any version is fine as MediaPortal supports more or less any post XP SP2 version Windows. Personally, I chose Windows XP SP3 as it is very stable and currently provides the best performance for the Mini hardware. Also, once the software has been installed and configured according to this guide, the OS itself will in practice be invisible anyway so there is little benefit from the nice but resource heavier Vista or Windows 7.
Software: Windows XP installation CD/DVD, Apple OS X Leopard Installation DVD (for installing Windows XP drivers for Mac Mini hardware)
Hardware: Intel Mac Mini 2nd or 3rd generation (runs well on 1.83 GHz Core Duo), a USB TV tuner supported by MediaPortal
Other: Internet connection, some patience and a couple of hours of time to spare
In my 6+ years journey towards the ultimate Home Theatre PC (aka HTPC) I’ve been trying out several hardware configurations. A couple of years ago I realized that the Intel based Apple Mac Mini was really the best choice despite its disputed limited (internal) expansion options. I have not been able to find such a great combination of extreme silence, power efficiency, small form factor, looks, i.e. family acceptance factor, and competitive price from any other manufacturer. And I was not even an Apple fan at that time.
With the release of the upgraded Mac Mini in March 2009, I felt I had to once again upgrade our living room hardware for future HD compatibility now that Apple finally upgraded the video card – and thought I’d share my experiences with you at the same time.
My first decision was on user interface software and OS, would I dare to go with OS X or still stick to the option of a Boot Camped Windows XP with the excellent open source HTPC software Mediaportal? (there are still no direct benefits from Vista, including MCE, for standard European digital cable DVB-C broadcasts as Microsoft does not support this yet.) So I did my Mac research as I would really like to see some fruity alternatives. My options with summaries below.