Interference Issues

I have started using a Mac mini under my TV in (another) experiment in using it as a media centre.

Apart from the fact it seems rather noisy (for a Mac, but a lot less noisy then the Windows Media Centers I have tried) the main problem I my having with my Mac mini is with the USB Freeview EyeTV device attached to it, and it isn’t a problem with the EyeTV software nor is it an issue with the USB device, the problem appears to be an interference issue with  the aerial which causes interference on some of the digital TV (Freeview) multiplexes.

I have moved the aerial cable which can resolve the issue, but I think I may need to replace the cable with a shielded cable. I have changed cables and not been able to see a difference which makes me think that the EyeTV USB device I have is suspectible to interference, whilst my TV or the EyeTV 410 Firewire device are not affected to the same degree. It’s not too bad if I am recording or watching a programme from the BBC multiplex, but the ITV multiplex is particularly bad.

Hopefully will get it sorted soon with a shielded cable. Next will be some kind of remote, at the moment I am using VNC and Apple Remote Desktop, which works, but is not very portable.

Upgraded the Mac mini

I have just upgraded my G4 Mac mini to Leopard. I am intending to use it as a media centre under my television.

The upgrade went fine, and EyeTV 2.5.1 seems to work just fine under Leopard.

I am running it (currently) without a keyboard or a mouse and of course being a G4 Mac mini it does not have an Apple remote.

I do have an EyeTV remote, so when watching TV, I can use that.

In the meantime, I am using VNC and screensharing to control the Mac mini and will be using either my PowerBook or an UMPC to do the controlling.

It’s connected to my Airport Extreme (802.11n) by ethernet, so the fact that it has only 802.11g won’t be too much of an issue.

I have an (old) CRT Sony television, so I am using s-video to connect the Mac mini to it, so screen resolution is quite poor, but for video and images it seems to work fine.

Mac mini

If this works out, I will probably replace it with a newer and faster Intel Mac mini. This one only had 512MB of RAM, and I would prefer at least 1GB or more.

I will write more, as we see how it works out.

Changing my Network Topology

Over the last week or so, I have been messing about experimenting with my network topology.

Previously I had a relatively simple network, a sole Airport Express with a lot of wireless clients. After having quite a few connectivity issues with the Airport Express, I knew I had to replace it with my newer Airport Extreme.

Once I did this, I left it in place for a few days to iron out any wrinkles or problems. I am running it in 802.11n b/g mode so that all my wireless clients can connect to it.

Yesterday I started to rearrange things, so that I could have wired clients, a pure 802.11n network and a separate 802.11g network.

My Airport Extreme now sits under my television, connected to it is my EyeHome, this should mean it can communicate to my iMac (which I use to record television via an Elgato EyeTV device) and stream video, audio and pictures without stuttering. I also intend to hardware a Mac mini as well and this will be my media centre for the moment – longer term I will replace this either with an Apple TV or another Intel based Mac mini. This Mac mini will have an Elgato USB EyeTV device attached.

I will also connect to the Airport Extreme (the third device to the third LAN port) an older 802.11g Airport Extreme which will be running a pure 802.11g wireless network for the older wireless clients. I will very likely stop using 802.11b devices, but as these are only PDAs I am not too worried and if I do need to test them I can always use the airport Express and plug that into the AirportExtreme as and when necessary.

Both wireless networks will use WPA as this is secure compared to WEP, however I will not be closing my networks, nor will I be using MAC address access control.

I am hoping that this will improve the network and make it much faster for internal file transfers and as I replace older Macs with newer ones which support 802.11n it should also be future proof as well.

The only downside I guess is the location of the 802.11n Airport Extreme does make it difficult to test USB hard drives and printers.

Dimmed Icons

So there I was updating my Mac mini (which to be honest has been gathering dust on my desk for a while now, well no screen, no keyboard and mouse, it’s difficult to use…. certainly not easy to switch on and do stuff.

Mac mini

So how do I configure it , well I am currently using VNC/Apple Remote Desktop combination to control it.

On the Mac mini I have configured it through Apple Remote Desktop to allow others to access it.

System Preferences > Sharing

Check the Apple Remote Desktop checkbox and add a password by clicking Access Privileges…

System Preferences

On my other Mac, I don’t have the full version of Apple Remote Desktop, so I am using Chicken of the VNC which is VNC software (you can tell that from the name), and as Apple Remote Desktop is VNC compatible, means I can control my Mac mini from another Mac on my network, and the Mac mini doesn’t need a monitor or a keyboard or even a mouse!

So once I started it, I set about installing updates, it was running 10.4.6, so I upgraded to 10.4.11 (and will probably install Leopard on it, when it arrives this week (oh yes I have finally got round to ordering Leopard, family pack will upgrade the Mac mini first, but will wait on my other Macs until I am happy that all my peripherals and applications are Leopard friendly)).

However I noticed that all my OS X icons in Finder were dimmed or faded and couldn’t understand why, well more importantly I must have done something to it and couldn’t remember what!

Well a quick search on Google found this Apple Discussions thread.

I like to be able to view the normally hidden files and folders. However when this is enabled, the majority of icons show as faded.

Ah well, I must have done something in Terminal to change Finder to view hidden files, but couldn’t remember how I did this, or where I found out to do this.

So back to Google and this revealing MacWorld article.

Using a simple Terminal command, you can work with all the files on your machine from the Finder. Open Terminal, type this command, and press Enter:

defaults write AppleShowAllFiles YES

Well this is going to show hidden files, so as you might guess…

defaults write AppleShowAllFiles NO

..will hide hidden files again.

So started Terminal, typed the command and then rebooted the computer to restart Finder and now all my icons can be seen in all their multitechnicolour glory.

So why have I been messing about with upgrading my Mac mini, well I am going to put it under my TV and use it as a media centre.

I have ordered a 15m cat5e cable so I can also place my new 802.11n Airport Extreme under the TV as well, so not only will the Mac mini be connected (by gigabit ethernet on the Airport Extreme and alas 100Mb ethernet on the Mac mini. It should be faster than 802.11g though.

I will also be able to connect my EyeHome to the Airport Extreme by ethernet as well.

Pity it’s an old G4 PPC model, so not only just 100Mb ethernet also no remote!

Well if it works out as I hope and it works well, I will upgrade to a new Intel Mac mini which comes with the Apple remote…

Or get an Apple TV!