Turn a Mac mini into a media server with Plex

With the arrival of the fourth-generation Apple TV, I found myself trying out the Plex media server, and I realized that using Plex is one of the best ways to watch media on the Apple TV.

You can install the Plex server software on a variety of devices: your Mac, a PC, a NAS (network attached storage device), and more. (Heck, you could even set it up on a Raspberry Pi.)

It’s advantageous that Plex’s server be always on, so you can start watching your movies and TV shows without having to boot your Mac. If you have a large media collection, you may want to use a Mac as a dedicated device to run Plex. The Mac mini is a perfect candidate for this. Plex doesn’t need a lot of horsepower to manage and stream your media, unless it transcodes video. (If you do have a lot of videos that need transcoding, a NAS might not be a good fit for Plex.)

In this article, I’m going to tell you how you can set up a Mac mini as a dedicated Plex server. You can, of course, use that Mac mini for other things, such as using it as a file server, or for Time Machine backups.

Read the rest of the article on Macworld.

How to Rip DVDs and Add Them to Your iTunes Library

While you may get your movies and TV shows digitally, you probably still have a DVD collection. You can certainly watch these DVDs the usual way, with a DVD player, but wouldn’t it be great to add them to your iTunes library, so you can sync them to your iPad or iPhone, and watch them anywhere? Ripping DVDs on a Mac is simple; it takes a bit more time than ripping CDs, but it’s not much more difficult.

iTunes can’t do this, of course, since ripping DVDs involve a gray area of copyright law. Fair use suggests that you should be able to rip them for personal use, but in some countries this is patently illegal. I won’t deal with those issues here. If you feel that it’s right to rip DVDs you own, then read on to find out how.

Read the rest of the article on the Mac Security Blog.

Play Videos in Separate Windows in iTunes

A fried said on Twitter yesterday that he couldn’t figure out how to get a video to play in its own window from iTunes. He was playing a video and wanted to do something in another part of iTunes, and couldn’t find out how to do it.

Video controls, in iTunes, are poorly designed. They’re hidden in contextual menus (though the main setting used to be in the preferences). And the friend in question, while he is quite technically adept, simply didn’t think of right-clicking.

First, if your video is playing full-screen, and you want to move it to its own window, right-click on it and you’ll see this menu:

Video full screen

As you can see, you can just choose Play Video in Separate Window, or Play Video in iTunes Window. In the latter case, the video shows up in iTunes, but the iTunes toolbar is still visible.

If you’re playing a video in a separate window and you want to change where it’s playing, right-click and you’ll see this menu:

Video itunes window

As you can see, it offers options to switch to the iTunes window, or full screen, but also lets you adjust the size of the standalone window. (Which you can also do by dragging one of its corners.)

So, these options are well-hidden, but if you need them, just right-click.

(Serious bonus points to anyone who can guess what the videos are that I used for my screenshots. They are music videos, but very, very obscure ones…)

How To Organize Videos in iTunes

Organizing videos in iTunes can be confusing. You can’t simply add a video to your iTunes library and expect it to end up where you want it; in most cases, you need to manually change a tag to get it sorted in the right location.

iTunes doesn’t have a Videos library. It has a Movies library, a TV Shows library, and it also stores Music Videos. So when you add a video to your iTunes library, you need to know where you want it to be stored so you can find it easily on your computer, on your Apple TV, or when syncing your iOS devices.

When you select the Movies library in iTunes, you see the following navigation bar:

Videos nav bar

You may not see all of these items. If you don’t currently have any rented movies in your iTunes library, you won’t see the second section. If you don’t have any videos that are considered Home Videos, you won’t see that either.

The navigation bar for the TV Shows library is much simpler:

Tv shows nav bar

When you purchase videos from the iTunes Store, iTunes knows whether they are movies, TV shows or music videos and sorts them accordingly. In most cases, you’ll never need to change these categories for iTunes Store purchases. But when you add your own videos – either videos you’ve shot with your iPhone or camera, or DVDs you’ve ripped – iTunes considers these to be Home Videos. In some ways this makes sense; Apple doesn’t really think about ripping DVDs, because this is a legal gray area, but it is something that lots of people do.

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Everything you need to know about ripping DVDs with subtitles

If you like watching foreign movies, you may find that, when seeking out new films, you can only get the movie you want in a version without subtitles. This is great if you’re bi- or multi-lingual, but if not, you really need to know what the actors are saying.

In this article, I’m going to look at subtitles: how you can play them in movies that already contain them, how you can add them to movies you rip from DVDs, and how you can create your own subtitles or captions.

Read the rest of the article on Macworld