Goodbye OSX, hello Ubuntu!

ubuntu_mac_miniBecause of some features in the latest stable XBMC release I felt the urge to upgrade my XBMC install from 12.3 to the latest stable version. Somewhere I have read XBMC 13 “Gotham” had dropped support for OSX 10.6, so I decided to migrate to Ubuntu, because my old Mac mini didn’t support a newer release of OSX.

Situation before:

Hardware: Mac mini 1,1 (2006 model)
Operating system: Mac OSX 10.6 Snow Leopard
Media Player software: XBMC 12.3 “Frodo”

The Mac Mini is equipped with a Core Duo 1.83 CPU and 2G memory, but more important, it has the Broadcom Crystal HD card on-board (BCM70015). Have a look at this older post about that subject.

New situation:

Same hardware
Operating system: Ubuntu 14.04 LTS i386
Media Player software: XBMC 13.2 “Gotham”

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No magic, but HD reality

After reading this article I decided to give my older Mac Mini used as HTPC a second life.

The Broadcom Crystal HD is available now in a mini-PCIE card with ExpressCard and 1X PCIE form factors to follow. This means that the AppleTV and all those lovely new netbooks, Eee Boxes and older Intel Mac Minis have exciting new potential.

That said I began my search for this Broadcom HD Video Decoder. It appeared there are two models, the older BCM70012 and the newer one BCM70015. I chose the last one because it’s smaller, more energy efficitent and handles MPEG-4 ASP (XviD/DivX) where the BCM70012 does not. I ordered the device at Logic Supply for USD 49. It took two weeks (international shipment) before I received the card, as seen on the picture.

The next step was to disassemble the Mac Mini. Since I had done this some time ago to upgrade the memory, it was a walk in the park. There are a lot of good quality youtube movies which will guide you step by step in the process to take it apart. Once opened you’ll notice that the mini-PCIe slot is already taken by the wireless Airport card. So replace the wireless with the BCM70015. I don’t mind loosing the wireless functionality because I’m not using it anyway for the Mac Mini.

Needless to say, but walk through the steps in reverse order to assemble the Mini. Before the newly added hardware can be used you’ll need to install the driver manually. I followed the steps explained on I am using the precompiled driver. Support for BMC70015 is available since 3.6.0. To utilize the magic I’m using XBMC. There’s support for the Broadcom Crystal HD card since XBMC 10.0 (Dharma).

My retro Mac Mini is now doing full HD (1920 x 1080) movies without any frame drops or stutter.