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I have a lot of DVDs amassed over the years on hard drives. In fact, several terabytes of DVDs. How to make them accessible, playable, easy to select, with cover art and bio information? If you look around, there aren't that many options. I suppose one could build a Windows or Mac based video server, and many people with more knowledge, time and savvy than me probably have. But for my home theater I wanted easy, reliable, low cost. And even if I had wanted to, I would have been thwarted. I don't permit Microsoft computers in my home. Not that I don't like them (I don't), it's just that after years of being a Mac guy I doubt I could even run one, let alone build a server. And Mac is out of the question because of their silly walled garden approach to movies. If it ain't ripped as a Mac acceptable movie, and none of mine are, Macs won't even recognize them. What to do? My good friend Doug answered the question for me. A series II Apple TV would be perfect. When first given this advice I immediately put up resistance, for the Apple TV won't play ripped DVDs unless you first convert them to an Apple acceptable format. No problem said my friend, just jailbreak it and load new firmware. Huh? Turns out, the version II of the little $99 ATV from Apple is a hot commodity. No longer in production, this little gem sells for $300 to $400 on the used market because it is the only model that can be broken into and third party software installed. The newer Version III hasn't been hacked yet. And what's getting into its operating system do for you? It allows you to load third party software, like Infuse (which is also available as a bonafide Apple app). The third party software includes this special version of Infuse, an app that is a video player that can play DVDs ripped to a hard drive. No longer are you restricted to the M4 Quicktime formats Apple insists on. The Infuse program, installed on a series II ATV also goes out and locates cover art, meta data and the look and feel is exactly the same as the standard GUI on the ATV. So you scroll through the hundreds of video title covers, select one and it fetches all the data about that movie for you. Wanna watch it? Just touch play and it streams. Beautiful. It is a perfectly legal thing to do (at least in the United States). if you're thinking of copying what I did, make sure it's legal in your country. The ATV sits in the gear rack, connected to my home network over Cat 5. In my littler home office sits the USB hard drive. I am currently just connecting it to an old Mac Mini I had retired and the ATV simply sees that device over the network and connects.
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Paul McGowan

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