I had a Mac Mini hooked up to my LCD at home the other day while I was testing some stuff, and I really liked it. I had my laptop hooked up via DVI before, so I was prepared for what the display would like like in full digital 1920×1080 native glory. It’s nice and compact and unobtrusive and quiet, stylish even. “Too bad this thing doesn’t have a digital optical output I can use with the stereo, I would use it to drive DVDs and then I could play music through it also.”
I don’t read specs online all that much, I tend to play with stuff to figure out what I like. So when I looked at the Mac Mini I had I made the mistake of assuming that the little headphone jack thing on the back of the mini is just that, a headphone jack. Not so! Check out the bottom of the Mac Mini specs page: “Combined optical digital audio input/audio line in (minijack)”
If you’re anything like me you’ll ask yourself “what the hell does that mean” and then to searching around online. I knew about only one style of optical digital audio connector, the JIS F05 version of TOSLINK. Which up until I read that article I thought was the only connector style that TOSLINK used. Then I stumbled across this mention of digital optical audio output that included a picture of the cable. Hey, that looks familiar. I saw one of those for some ridiculously low price at Fry’s labeled something like MiniDisc connector cable.
So zoom off I go to grab one, quiet the voices in my head that tell me this isn’t possible, and jam the optical connector into the socket that just seconds before hosted a headphone jack, swap my receiver to the digital input and the two active speakers plus sub are joined the the center and two satellites. w00t! So of course I zoom off once again to get myself one of these magical Mac Mini boxes so that when I have to bring this one back tomorrow I have a toy still.
There were a few other things I picked up, wireless keyboard and wireless gyroscopic mouse. Some growl plugins to make sure the important messages come up (I would actually like them to come up and have the dock icons bounce out even when I’m watching a DVD in full screen mode, haven’t figured that one out yet), quicksilver, etc. Even without the Frontrow stuff it makes for a great system for combined media and traditional desktop use. With Frontrow it’s pretty killer. I just wish the remotes were in some way keyed to the unit, or had some kind of channel. Using the remote with my Mini keeps bring up the media function on my laptop, so I had to shut off IR completely for my lappy.