Old MacBook As Media Server?


So, now that I’ve got the 2015 MBP on the way, it’s time to do something else with the MacBook White. Since it has a fully functional linux installation, which handles even HD video perfectly fine, I’d like to turn it into a media server and I’m wondering what the best software for it might be.

I know the common options are KODI and PLEX, but I wondered if there might be something even simpler. Something a bit more like the old Front Row or something which maybe is similar to the Apple TV feel. Essentially, I’d like to be able to do things like view stored media, of course, but also perhaps access my Amazon Prime video, YouTube, that sort of thing, and with very minimal text writing to set up. Mostly I’d like to do point and click to get up and running.


I don’t think you’ll find a single app to cover all of your requirements… I used to use a MacMini as media server running Front Row, but used an iPhone with HippoRemote to turn the phone into a trackpad / keyboard. I think I had another app that had different controls for different apps as well… Ultimately it was a lil bit painful but “worked” ok.

In a non Mac environ, however, I have no idea. Haven’t ventured away from MacOS since… briefly trying beOS on the TAM a few decades ago.


I find KODI rough but useable. I’m using it right now (I’m on the MBB, which while not useable for HD video, I think, is quite usable for web surfing) and selecting with my wireless Mac keyboard’s arrows is good enough. I have two Apple Remotes, but I don’t think I know how to get them to work with Linux. My main problem is that I have to scroll through my media harddrive under “other videos” I can’t get KODI to actually scan every video and populate it to the library, and of course, I haven’t even investigated YouTube or Prime…

Plex wouldn’t run for me. Stremio is apparently another option, but it wouldn’t even open past the splash screen. It’s unfortunate that there’s no simple Front Row or Windows Media Center like app.


Considered putting the old Macbook back on MacOS?


Well, it would have to be Snow Leopard or Lion, and I’m concerned it might then not have the necessary functionality to run modern HD sources and codecs. Are you suggesting I actually go back to using the real Front Row?


I’m not sure it would handle HD either…?

The 1.83 GHz Intel Mac Mini that I was using for FrontRow couldn’t handle HD. It was a similar vintage I think to your MacBook.

It may be worth trying though if it opens some doors.


No, had not thought of that. Maybe? Where are you wanting to serve your media up to? Another computer? AppleTV? ???

I’d suggested reverting to a MacOS install because you’d have access to other servers, like Serviio, but maybe an older Plex might work. Or, if you’re using AppleTV, get something from Firecore, which if your media is on an apple formatted drive and plugged into a router, doesnt need a server at all.

check out the ATVFlash stuff … or Infuse for later AppleTV


I just realised, I think I chose the wrong word. Not server, but centre. I want my MBW to be an Apple TV. Essentially. It will be directly hooked up to a TV/Projector and won’t move from the TV stand. It doesn’t need to serve media to another device, it needs to be the playing device.


OK then, thats a lot clearer. Where is your media… on the MBW or somewhere else? If somewhere else, an older PLex may still do the job, as it’s both server and player in one, these days. Its a web thing. However you may need to get an older version. I can’t find them on the web, it seems PLex isnt making older versions available like they used to. I have a couple of older versions of the server, and one of the Plex Home Theatre (which may suit, but you need a server as well, even if on the same machine, IIRC). I could upload them somewhere like mediafire if you want to play with them and see if they would work on your machine, but they may still not be adequate for your purposes.

Have you joined the plex forums and asked about Linux versions? You might get some help there.

[edit] Screenie of the 2016 version of the media server. You can play things from the screen, when you click in you’ll get info about the media etc. I tried to run PHT on my Macbook, but could not, it didnt like my mouse or trackpad. Could be that it was too old. It does need the server though. the oldest server I have is 2014. I don’t recall the compatibility requirements.


To be honest, it’s probably almost easier and more convenient to get a second hand AppleTV to do this. Although the fun might actually be in trying.


The point is to avoid spending money and to continue to give the MBW use until it finally dies. I’m not a fan of planned obsolescence.


So do as I suggested and join the Plex forums, there are people in there with Linux knowledge, if you dont want to reinstall Snow or Lion. If you did, my offer remains open to get an older compatible plex server/media centre to you, and an added advantage of course is if you do have a remote, it should then work with your MBW. In other words, PLex is probably the only thing that will be painless in terms of being a decent server/player. and, theres always Front Row as you earlier suggested.


I’d probably just get the video library added in Kodi https://kodi.wiki/view/Adding_video_sources and while I was there, have a read of https://kodi.wiki/view/Apple_remote to get the remote sorted.


I know how adding sources is supposed to work, it just doesn’t do it.

But I appreciate the apple remote link. I’ll look into that. Assuming it works on Linux (apparently so!).