I have been using a Mac Mini as a media center since I got it when attending RailsConf in Chicago this summer. Together with the Logitech Z-5500 speakers it is working great. I have taken the time to digitize the entire CD collection into iTunes and we store the family photos in iPhoto. The computer is accessed via Front Row and has no keyboard or mouse hooked up to it. In fact, it is sitting behind a curtain out of sight from the preying eyes of greasy toddlers.
After a while though my Windows Media Center-using friends began pointing out the lack of customization features in Front Row. If all you want to do is play your already imported music or show photos in iPhoto Front Row works fine. But I want more:
- I want to be able to display my own applications in Front Row. If I could display a web page in Front Row I would be happy. This would allow me to write a local web app, skinned as Front Row, and use the remote to do practically whatever I want.
- I want to listen to internet radio.
- I want to have iChat or Skype integrated into Front Row to place and receive calls.
- I want to be able to play DVD image files directly from Front Row.
- I want to be able to import a CD without having to switch out of Front Row to see what is going on.
- I want to be able to import images into iPhoto without having to switch out of Front Row to see what is going on.
- I want to have a on-screen keyboard navigable with the Apple remote to be able to do simple wikipedia lookups or Google queries in a web interface.
- I want Google earth integrated in Front Row so that I can look up interesting places without leaving the couch. The on-screen keyboard would work here too.
- I want subtitles to work in non-DVD movies.
Suggestions? Equinux Media Central seems to be an option, but that is closed source and still lack some of my ideas. An with this tweak you can make VIDEO_TS folders playable.