The Old Mac as Media Center.

This post by Dexter Ang—discussing how he transformed his old MacBook into a media center—made me recall how I had used my old MacBook Pro (first gen Intel, mid-2006) in the same way.*  After wiping the laptop entirely clean, I started over with only the basics (the slightest installation of Leopard feasible). Here’s what I worked with, then:

  • The Boxee App, Front Row, Safari, and (most importantly) Plex running as the only apps. Plex was the main app I used for most media.
  • Apple Remote (to navigate Plex and Front Row mostly, but also any web app that supported it).
  • A wireless Bluetooth mouse I left near the coffee table (this was occasionally necessary, and let me turn on the Mac with only the mouse: you simply have to make sure in System Preferences, you have allow Bluetooth devices to wake the computer). That way I could sit on the couch, and with the TV remote and the mouse, wake the computer and turn on the TV. I didn’t find that I needed a keyboard enough times to justify it. With the right bookmarks on Safari, and Plex’s navigation using the remote, it was usually easy to navigate without any typing.
  • Turned on Home Share in iTunes, which allowed me to download all of the content from my other Mac if needed.

This is a strange window, now that I think about it, to the media world pre-Airplay. With Mountain Lion (provided you, ahem, have a new Mac) most of the need for these (YouTube, Hulu, iTunes in the cloud, other streaming apps) has been obviated. Still, apps like XMBC are still useful for many reasons.

I look forward to future if (“when” is far too optimistic) an AppleTV can do most** anything that this setup could do.

*I have since transformed it into a de facto desktop with a 23-inch LCD.
**Obviously never “all.”

Update: Shawn Blanc has a nice post with a bit more nerdy and fancy set-up. I might take a few things from this—and more—when I once again repurpose my old MBP as a media center.