I have an Xbox 360, which I occa­sion­ally use to play games in much the same way that I use my iPhone to occa­sion­ally make phone calls. Most of the rest of the time, I’m using the devices for some­thing else. In the case of the iPhone, it’s a portable enter­tain­ment cen­ter and a remark­ably pow­er­ful micro-​​computer; in the case of the Xbox, it’s a DVD and gen­eral media player.

I also have a Mac Mini, and it’s wire­lessly con­nected to my home net­work. This means that, in the­ory, the Mini and the Xbox can talk to each other.

This is actu­ally pos­si­ble in prac­tice. The least expen­sive solu­tion (free) is to install the BitTorrent client Vuze — for­merly Azureus — on your Mac, and use its media server to host out files to your Xbox. There are a few prob­lems with that solu­tion, though:

  1. Vuze only works with files you’ve added (or received) as torrents;
  2. It seems to lose track of files in large fold­ers (that is, if you have 200 files in a tor­rent folder, it’ll host out maybe 20 or so);
  3. It mis-​​orders tor­rents (the first tor­rent may actu­ally be listed as the fifth or some such);
  4. It’s Java-​​based, which means it eats chip like you would not believe to keep run­ning. Like 40% or more.

So that wasn’t all that great for me, and I poked around a bit until I found a lit­tle pro­gram called Playback. This is a very-​​low over­head media server that turns your Mac into a source for “legit­i­mate” media stream­ing as far as the Xbox is con­cerned — like Vuze — but unlike Vuze, Playback doesn’t hog sys­tem resources.

It streams fast, is very con­fig­urable, and even lets you choose what fold­ers and other sources you want to share out to your media sys­tem. It can han­dle a lot of video for­mats, and seems to serve things very well, even when the sys­tem it’s stream­ing from is oth­er­wise quite occupied.

It’s share­ware, but the full price is US$15, and that’s a bar­gain when you con­trast its cost against buy­ing a Media Center PC.

I’m pretty happy with Playback — a lot hap­pier than I was with Vuze — and if you’re look­ing to do some­thing sim­i­lar your­self, well, give it a try.


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