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:
- Vuze only works with files you’ve added (or received) as torrents;
- 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);
- It mis-orders torrents (the first torrent may actually be listed as the fifth or some such);
- 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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