Friday, November 30, 2012

Mac Mini Setup, Phase 2

Over in my other blog, Brick Pool House, I described setting up my new Mac Mini starting on Black Friday.  It went smoothly.  But I did not hook it up to my video system because I needed an appropriate Mini DisplayPort adapter(s).

One reason I had not bought a Mini earlier, say 2-3 years ago, was because I was worried about connecting to my video system as easily as I had the PowerBook which had S-Video output.

On Wednesday and Thursday I bought various parts at Radio Shack and Best Buy.

On Thursday night I hooked up a MiniDisplayPort to HDMI adapter "cable" from Belkin, which I bought at Best Buy.  What Belkin has done is package a short cabled adapter with a 7 foot HDMI cable for $44.  You could buy the separate parts but they would end up costing more.  Plus I figured these pieces were made to go together (they are, and the inline HDMI connection fits snugly).  I only worried that the actual "converter" circuitry might not be as good as the more expensive separate options.  But I figured it was probably about the same, and this looked neat.

Well at first I plugged in the display port adapter and plugged the HDMI into my 5 way HDMI switch (which feeds a HDMI splitter which goes to TV's in 3 different rooms) it did not work.  I fiddled with it on Thursday night for more than an hour and could not get it working.  I unplugged and replugged the HDMI cable.  I turned off the kitchen TV (an older model which has 1080i, but not 1080p) and tried the Bedroom TV (a Samsung from 2008) instead.  I rebooted the Mac.  Frustratingly, the Display Preferences showed only one device, the DVI monitor, and not anything else.   However, the status light on the HDMI switch did light up.  I changed the refresh rate for the (only one shown) display to 60Hz.  I also tried changing the display preferences down to 1024x768 (very similar to 720p) and even 640x480.

I did not re-plug the Mini DisplayPort plug itself, because that was tricky.  By the end of the night, I had removed the Mini DisplayPort plug, but been unable to plug it in in the dim light, and beginning to wonder if the Thunderbolt indication meant this wasn't really a Mini DisplayPort.

All night long I was dreading the possibility that this newfangled DisplayPort thing would not work a video switch.  Apple does indeed say you should not plug any other adapters into a Mini DisplayPort adapter.  They say you should ONLY plug an approved monitor into the adapter.  This would go way beyond the normal HDCP copy restriction if you couldn't even use HDMI switches and splitters.  But maybe that's what I was not stuck with.  Perhaps I could get the old PowerBook going again with a new Hard Drive.  This was the kind of thing I was thinking, and dreading.

In the morning I checked online, and in fact the Thunderbolt plug can work like a Mini DisplayPort plug if a Mini DisplayPort adapter is plugged into it.  Looking at one set of troubleshooting instructions from Mac, I noticed that as their last step, they had you remove and reinsert the Mini DisplayPort plug after shutdown and then restart.  The instructions were a bit ambiguous as if to suggest you should try re-inserting the plug several times even.

This time I was able to re-insert the plug, and it still didn't work right off, but after a bit more fiddling, it started working, and I got good images on both kitchen and bedroom TV's at once.  The second monitor now does show up in Display Preferences and I adjusted them for side-by-side.  I set the main monitor for "best display."  For some reason, the video system only gets 640x480.  I can only choose that.  I shut off the kitchen TV again, and on my Bedroom TV I could select either 640x480 or PAL, but no HDTV like 1080p.

It must be that my switch and splitter are sending some kind of least-common-denominator display information back up the line.  All of my TV's are capable of 720p and 1080i, but my Kitchen TV only does 1080i and not 1080p.  Perhaps the DisplayPort can't do 1080i (update: I now know that it can do 1080i from the adjustments with the Monoprice DisplayPort->Component adapter) and can't do 720p either but only 480p or 1080p.  That seems very limited, but it would explain what I am now seeing.  I have turned off the kitchen TV but maybe I need to disconnect it from the HDMI splitter to get a higher resolution.  Anyway, I'm actually glad it does support 480p, which is more appropriate for some things.  But what I'd like to do is be able to switch among these resolutions (and even 1080i, if that is possible, to get best image on my kitchen TV).

No comments:

Post a Comment