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Old Nov 9, 2012, 02:07 AM   #51
Randomizer
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Hey all ... I'm baaaaaack. Now that the new iMacs have been announced and as I patiently await the removal of the 'Coming Soon' banner and the inclusion of a 'Buy' button on the Apple Store iMac pages - I am looking to make final decisions. This thread has been great and Tekkster's detailed reply hit on alot of the items I have been thinking about.
I am strongly leaning towards ... the Synology DS1812+ and using one of the iMacs (the one I will be using in my office) to run the server software - iTunes, Plex etc. I can add a Mac Mini down the road if I choose to not run the applications on the iMac I will be using. I had originally indicated that I wanted an always on solution and, after thinking about it, realized that my iMac is likely to always be on. Not sure I can see the advantage of having a Mac Mini just to run the serving applications. I have Apple TVs in two rooms now.
Please provide your thoughts and feel free to punch holes in my leanings if I am missing something or if you have another idea you think might be better. To sum up - I would like this setup to primarily serve video (tv, movies and home video), music and photos, provide backup, document storage (I plan to scan scan scan and clear out my filing cabinets) and serve surveillance.

Couple of quick related and somewhat related questions.

1. Will there be any issues moving my iTunes media to the Synology from a pc knowing that the house is likely to be all Mac soon? I would imagine that because it is a NAS designed to work with both that there would be no issues in running the iTunes media from an iMac after having put it there from a PC. I would be moving it via iTunes mechanism / recommendations for doing so.
2. How do you folks separate and serve different types of video now - meaning tv / film versus home video? Do you throw all video into the same place or do these two types have different homes? I may be thinking with a PC mindset and it may not matter with Mac so feel free to set me straight.

I lied. One more similar question. Would I be serving photos with iPhoto or Aperture? How would this work with the photos stored on the Synology and the AppleTVs at the set? Or would I need some other media receiver to handle photos? Or is this a situation in which the MacMini might now come back into play.

Thanks again.
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Old Nov 9, 2012, 09:50 AM   #52
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If all the server software will be running on a Mac, then it makes more sense to attach drives to the Mac than use a NAS. You would just be increasing network traffic (and cost). If you can get by with the NAS as your server, that would be by far the best NAS solution.

Our iMacs are on all the time as well, but they are sleeping. On all the time a 27" iMac consumes a lot of power!

Since my last post in this thread (I've got the post showing my mini Server with external drives) I've upgraded the external drives and now have 9TB of storage. I've measured power consumption -- 70 watts. Most of that power is associated with the drives. Most of the cost is in drives as well since I maintain pairs of backup drives (kept offsite) for everything. A new base Mac mini with server software is actually more powerful than my nearly 3 year old mini server.

Quote:
2. How do you folks separate and serve different types of video now - meaning tv / film versus home video? Do you throw all video into the same place or do these two types have different homes? I may be thinking with a PC mindset and it may not matter with Mac so feel free to set me straight.
I've got it spread out over multiple drives but folders are specific for TV shows, movies, and home videos. That works out best for how I've got things categorized in PLEX. I don't use iTunes to serve these and I don't use Apple TVs so can't address how they would fit in this picture.
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One more similar question. Would I be serving photos with iPhoto or Aperture? How would this work with the photos stored on the Synology and the AppleTVs at the set? Or would I need some other media receiver to handle photos? Or is this a situation in which the MacMini might now come back into play.
Our server has a repository for all "processed" photos, bad shots culled, all post-processed and sorted into folders by event or subject. I then use iPhoto to create its photo database from these, without importing the images. Plex will read an iPhoto database so I view using Plex. Likewise the server has all the music files and runs iTunes, however Plex reads that database as well and serves the music. Neither iPhoto or iTunes is left running on the server.

I will point out that I have difficulty getting Plex to reliably serve photos. Perhaps the resolution is too high in my images but it runs way to slowly to be satisfactory. What I've tended to do is make videos of photo events, using the "Ken Burns effect" and showing them as videos.
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Old Nov 9, 2012, 09:53 AM   #53
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Sounds like you got it knocked already. Should be good.
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Old Nov 9, 2012, 12:41 PM   #54
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If all the server software will be running on a Mac, then it makes more sense to attach drives to the Mac than use a NAS. You would just be increasing network traffic (and cost). If you can get by with the NAS as your server, that would be by far the best NAS solution.

Our iMacs are on all the time as well, but they are sleeping. On all the time a 27" iMac consumes a lot of power!

Our server has a repository for all "processed" photos, bad shots culled, all post-processed and sorted into folders by event or subject. I then use iPhoto to create its photo database from these, without importing the images. Plex will read an iPhoto database so I view using Plex. Likewise the server has all the music files and runs iTunes, however Plex reads that database as well and serves the music. Neither iPhoto or iTunes is left running on the server.
Ok. So you've given me more to think about. My intent would be to leave the iMacs on and let them sleep. They will wake up when needed to run iTunes, Plex, whatever. So I assume I will still get the power saving with this - right?
You mentioned that you do not leave Plex, iTunes or iPhoto running on your server. Does this mean you actively launch it each time needed. Guessing you need to leave the room to visit the room with the server to do this.
I was definitely open to the idea of Plex but I understand that it does not work with AppleTVs and that with a Mac Mini connected to tv it creates a scenario that would have me have to visit websites to stream video from Netflix, Hulu etc thereby losing all of the speed and user friendliness of the apps already built into the AppleTV.
I was looking at the Synology connected to the router because it would allow easy access for all devices in the house (will be 2 iMacs, 3 iPads, 3 iPhones, 2 AppleTVs) for backup (via Time Machine), offloading of photos from iPhones and iPads, and streaming to AppleTVs and a couple of PS3s and one X-Box in the home. Maybe I'm not seeing it but this seems like a more difficult use case if everything is housed on external drives connected to a single iMac. Also - the Synology has what appears to be an excellent app for monitoring and recording from ip security cameras. Not sure I would handle that if I went to the scenario you laid out.
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Old Nov 9, 2012, 04:53 PM   #55
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Ok. So you've given me more to think about. My intent would be to leave the iMacs on and let them sleep. They will wake up when needed to run iTunes, Plex, whatever. So I assume I will still get the power saving with this - right?
Assuming you can get it to stay asleep when not using it. I found that with Wake on Network Access enabled my iMac was always waking. YMMV.

Quote:
You mentioned that you do not leave Plex, iTunes or iPhoto running on your server. Does this mean you actively launch it each time needed. Guessing you need to leave the room to visit the room with the server to do this.
Plex is always running on the server. The server does not have an attached keyboard or display and only rarely needs to be visited, and even then it is accessed using Screen Sharing. The Plex server accesses the iPhoto and iTunes databases on the server, but iPhoto and iTunes do not have to be running. The server is configured to log in automatically when powered up and start Plex server, Dyndns server (to assist in remote VPN and SSH access), and a copy of Parallels running Windows so we can access Quicken from anywhere. I do more than just media serving on the server.

Quote:
I was definitely open to the idea of Plex but I understand that it does not work with AppleTVs and that with a Mac Mini connected to tv it creates a scenario that would have me have to visit websites to stream video from Netflix, Hulu etc thereby losing all of the speed and user friendliness of the apps already built into the AppleTV.
It's a mixed bag, I must admit. AppleTV does have an ease of use advantage and a much lower cost. However Plex does stream Netflix (although I don't have a Netflix streaming subscription any more) and it might also do Hulu. Since it will run a browser, *anything* that can be streamed over a browser works, including Amazon Prime, which I do use and I doubt is on the AppleTV.

Quote:
I was looking at the Synology connected to the router because it would allow easy access for all devices in the house (will be 2 iMacs, 3 iPads, 3 iPhones, 2 AppleTVs) for backup (via Time Machine), offloading of photos from iPhones and iPads, and streaming to AppleTVs and a couple of PS3s and one X-Box in the home.
Well as I said in my previous post, "If you can get by with the NAS as your server, that would be by far the best NAS solution." Really a NAS is just a specialized server computer. No reason to have your iMac do the serving task.
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Old Nov 9, 2012, 09:27 PM   #56
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I took a look at Plex. It appears to not work with AppleTV (at least not jailbroken) - or to make it irrelevant to a degree. Is this correct? I see the ability to serve iTunes but isn't that somewhat redundant in that it replaces iTunes in a number of ways?
Actually, Plex works incredibly well even with a non-jailbroken AppleTV 3.

You set up Plex server on 1 of the iMacs and then access your media library from any of your devices: the iMac that hosts the library, a second iMac, a laptop, an iPhone/iPad, or even an iPod Touch.

Then, once the video is selected you AirPlay it to the AppleTV. It is very slick and simple to use. And since you have such a comprehensive Apple household, my guess is that this would be very convenient.

We have a Drobo that houses our video library attached to an iMac. The iMac is always on. Anyone in the house can start a video from their own device and AirPlay to either our Family Room or Basement Apple TV.

Both the Plex Media Server and Plex client for the computer are free. The iOS app is a whopping $4.99...and worth $499 in my opinion!

No jailbreaking required!
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Old Nov 10, 2012, 05:10 PM   #57
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Actually, Plex works incredibly well even with a non-jailbroken AppleTV 3.

You set up Plex server on 1 of the iMacs and then access your media library from any of your devices: the iMac that hosts the library, a second iMac, a laptop, an iPhone/iPad, or even an iPod Touch.

Then, once the video is selected you AirPlay it to the AppleTV. It is very slick and simple to use. And since you have such a comprehensive Apple household, my guess is that this would be very convenient.

We have a Drobo that houses our video library attached to an iMac. The iMac is always on. Anyone in the house can start a video from their own device and AirPlay to either our Family Room or Basement Apple TV.

Both the Plex Media Server and Plex client for the computer are free. The iOS app is a whopping $4.99...and worth $499 in my opinion!

No jailbreaking required!
Airplay completely slipped my mind. Sounds like your situation is rather similar to the one I am contemplating. So I'm guessing you are using the AppleTv apps to stream Netflix, Hulu, YouTube etc (alas Amazon Instant is not available, nor can it be airplayed from an iPad other than audio only) and then using Plex to stream your tv/film videos, home videos, photos and to access the Amazon streaming (if you do that). Would this be correct?
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Old Nov 10, 2012, 05:44 PM   #58
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Airplay completely slipped my mind. Sounds like your situation is rather similar to the one I am contemplating. So I'm guessing you are using the AppleTv apps to stream Netflix, Hulu, YouTube etc (alas Amazon Instant is not available, nor can it be airplayed from an iPad other than audio only) and then using Plex to stream your tv/film videos, home videos, photos and to access the Amazon streaming (if you do that). Would this be correct?
Yes, we do use the AppleTV built-in apps for Netflix, YouTube, and other sources. We are not Hulu subscribers. But Plex also has channels you can subscribe to and then AirPlay to the AppleTV, so it's not just limited to your own files.

You mention Amazon Instant Video, and it would be fantastic if Apple eventually added it as an app to the AppleTV (and/or the ability to AirPlay from iOS). But you can actually get around it by Using AirPlay Mirroring from a Mac, so all is not lost (it's just not as convenient).

It would also be great if Apple eventually allowed Plex to be a native app on the AppleTV. The Roku boxes actually do have Plex as a free app, however I didn't have as much success with the Roku. They are an option for you though, and would feed off of the same Plex Media Server, so there's little harm in trying them out.

One thing I should mention. The Plex/AirPlay solution has a pretty significant inability. It does not allow for Dolby or DTS 5.1 surround sound. I have good AV receivers that have "virtual" surround options, and I am pretty happy with the result. But it is not the same as true 5.1. My guess is we'll see that capability eventually.

Here's a link to images that show Plex on iOS devices. I'm telling you, it is really very slick. And again...$4.99 for all the iOS devices you own...less than a value meal at your neighborhood fast food place!

https://www.google.com/search?q=plex...w=1254&bih=722
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Old Nov 12, 2012, 10:40 AM   #59
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One thing I should mention. The Plex/AirPlay solution has a pretty significant inability. It does not allow for Dolby or DTS 5.1 surround sound. I have good AV receivers that have "virtual" surround options, and I am pretty happy with the result. But it is not the same as true 5.1. My guess is we'll see that capability eventually.

Here's a link to images that show Plex on iOS devices. I'm telling you, it is really very slick. And again...$4.99 for all the iOS devices you own...less than a value meal at your neighborhood fast food place!
Thanks for the links. It is a beautiful app and seems to be only getting better. Few things I am still wrestling with.
1. Would accessing plex via the Roku eliminate the lack of true 5.1? In other words - would I get it back?
2. Will plex recognize video resident with an iTunes library and would I be better off just leaving it there? To date I have been serving my video (tv shows, movies etc) to ATV via iTunes and I have been using handbrake to convert unfriendly formats to Apple friendly m4v. Guess I wouldn't have to do that anymore - right? The part I still can't wrap my head around is the whole - what do I turn on to watch 'X' part. From my own digital library I would to choose what I wanted to watch before determining which source I would need to fire up to watch it (iTunes to ATV vs Plex to ???). A converted video in iTunes can be watched on ATV but a non-converted video in let's say an mkv format would need to be watched via Plex. Seems kind of clunky. It would be nice to just fire up something specific like the ATV and then watch whatever I chose to watch.
3. To view photos it appears I can use the ATV if I am willing to put my photos into iTunes? As iTunes was not built with photos in mind this seems like not the best of solutions. It appears that Plex can manage this better but then that removes the ATV from the mix on the tv end. Supposedly the Synology has a good photo app and so maybe it's the best fit ... or now Plex can be installed on the Synology? Same thing with home videos. The more I think about it - the more confusing this can become.

You are absolutely correct in that a Plex app resident within the AppleTV would solve most to all of these problems. I'd really like to sit down, start the AppleTV, peruse and then decide what to watch. Instead I have to decide what to watch first - if Netflix, Hulu or tv/film formatted properly and in iTunes I can go with the AppleTV. If Amazon Instant streaming or tv/film not formatted and in iTunes I go with Plex. Certainly not something I could hand to my wife. She would think this is crazy.
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Old Nov 12, 2012, 02:45 PM   #60
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See my responses below your questions:

Would accessing plex via the Roku eliminate the lack of true 5.1?

I am not sure if Plex/Roku support 5.1. I bought and quickly returned the Roku as I didn't like the interface and more importantly I was getting tons of buffering (with the same videos that played fine on the AppleTVs on the same network). I suggest you investigate on the Plex forums at http://forums.plexapp.com.

Will plex recognize video resident with an iTunes library and would I be better off just leaving it there?

You can point the Plex Media Server to videos on 1 or more hard drives and in 1 or more folder locations. So yes, you can point Plex to catalog your videos that also happen to be in your iTunes library. Completely flexible.

As for whether you leave them in iTunes or not is completely up to you. When it comes to videos, I only use iTunes if/when I want to load a video onto my iPad for use while traveling. I've taken several international flights over the past 9 months, and I load my iPad with movies and TV shows for the trips.

What I do is take the large 1080p or 720p MKV "master" file and run it through iVI to convert it to an M4V file that iTunes will handle (Subler, Handbrake, and iFlicks also work well). The MKV videos tend to run 8-12gb for movies and 500mb-1.2gb for TV shows. Once I convert and resize they are a fraction of that size and I can load easily to the iPad.

To date I have been serving my video (tv shows, movies etc) to ATV via iTunes and I have been using handbrake to convert unfriendly formats to Apple friendly m4v. Guess I wouldn't have to do that anymore - right?

In general, correct. Although as I mentioned above, if you want to actually load a video file onto an iPad/iPhone/iPod Touch, then you do need to convert to M4V. If you are streaming on your iOS device via the Plex app then you do not need to convert to M4V at all.

The part I still can't wrap my head around is the whole - what do I turn on to watch 'X' part.

I would estimate that 90% of our use our AppleTVs is with Plex. 9% is Netflix and 1% YouTube/other. It would be nice to have some sort of unified search, but it doesn't exist yet. If you do what I've done, the confusion is really minimized...we look in Plex 1st to see if we already have what we want to watch.

To view photos it appears I can use the ATV if I am willing to put my photos into iTunes?

My whole family is into photography and we all use Aperture. Plex does have the ability to display an Aperture library, but we really don't use that often. Note that while we use Aperture, I believe that everything I am about to explain will also work similarly using iPhoto.

Under the "Computers" option on the AppleTV main screen you can browse the Aperture library easily. You do not need to load photos into iTunes.

You can also use Aperture photos for your screensaver. I set my AppleTV's screensavers to point to a specific Aperture Smart Album. Then, I created a keyword in Aperture called "AppleTV". I simply assign photos that keyword and "magically" they appear whenever my AppleTV screensaver kicks in.

Same thing with home videos. The more I think about it - the more confusing this can become.

As mentioned above, you can use Plex to manage files from multiple hard drives and/or folders. So you can also manage all of your home videos with Plex Media Server.

You are absolutely correct in that a Plex app resident within the AppleTV would solve most to all of these problems. I'd really like to sit down, start the AppleTV, peruse and then decide what to watch. Instead I have to decide what to watch first - if Netflix, Hulu or tv/film formatted properly and in iTunes I can go with the AppleTV. If Amazon Instant streaming or tv/film not formatted and in iTunes I go with Plex. Certainly not something I could hand to my wife. She would think this is crazy.

Yes, having Plex right on the main AppleTV menu would be fantastic. But honestly, if you set up things as I've described, it is really very fluid and user friendly.
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Old Nov 12, 2012, 04:13 PM   #61
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You already have a great plan.

Talmy brings up an interesting point, and one that I'm sure many people would agree with. If you do decide to run all the server apps off a NAS, I would recommend a ReadyNAS instead of a Synology DS1812+. I have the Synology and while the apps are there, and very convenient, Plex is only functional to a few hundred movies and a few tv series. As soon as you exceed a few hundred, strange hiccups begin to occur. At about 1000 movies and 30 tv series, the Plex server app on the Synology becomes almost non-functional. I cannot get mine to finish loading the media library ever, no matter how many days I let it go.

I haven't used the ReadyNAS, but I hear the motherboard on there is orders of magnitude better performing than the Synology DS1812+.

Now, while I agree the separate of server apps from the data store on the NAS requires much more network bandwidth, by the same token, the NAS is always up. The iMac is mostly up. Once in a while the Mac will need to be restarted, upgrades installed, maybe some other operation that requires shutting down the Mac with the server apps. During this time, other computer can access the NAS and do their usual file sharing thing, run WordPress or the CRM, or I can launch a movie or tv show right from the NAS (it wouldn't be Plex, but for the short time that the Mac with Plex is down, it'll do).

Keeping them separate also means I can perform various operations independent of each other. That comes in handy more often than I thought.

To compensate for the big bandwidth hogging integration, I would recommend utilizing the 802.3ad link aggregation by throwing in a switch that can support that protocol. Bonding the two Ethernet ports on the Synology doesn't make a difference when accessing the data from one computer, but it makes a noticeable difference when you have multiple devices accessing the NAS through multiple I/O interfaces. For instance, I have a pretty cost effective combination of ethernet, PLC, and WiFi hitting the NAS through a dinky Cisco SG200-26 (the cheaper non-POE version).

That is one option for you.

---

Q1: I'm not sure since I haven't tried it, but, just like with Plex, I have iTunes running on my Mac, accessing the iTunes folder on the Synology. One useful aspect of this is that I can launch any iTunes app from any computer, and if I point to that iTunes folder on the Synology, I have all the playlists and apps and other information ready to go. Of course, if the app is set to "share" then I can access that data from any client computer from a master iTunes computer. but if for whatever reason that master iTunes computer goes down, or, if I want to do things like rate songs or adjust a playlist or two when that main computer is down, I have all those features from any computer running iTunes pointing to that iTunes folder. Kind of useful more often than I had thought.

Q2: The wrong way to do it, but the easy way to do is to have one giant folder for movies, and one giant folder for TV series. Of course, when you have a lot of movies, this makes opening the folder a little cumbersome for slower computers, so you could either categorize it by date, genre, or just chunks of 300 or so movies. Frankly, since you select which online database will be used to analyze a folder each time you add a folder, you really don't need to do any organizing if you don't want to, unless you have a touch of OCD in you. I generally don't categorize my movies, though I do make it a little easier to find stuff by putting some series together in a single folder. Like the Fast and Furious movies or the Jurassic Park movies. Because of some movie titles, sometimes things are hard to find. e.g. Fast and Furious and 2Fast 2Furious end up far apart in an alphabetical sequence when looking at a folder. I also tend to put all cartoons/anime in a single folder just so I know where to look when the niece comes over.

Q3: Plex can serve photos, or ATV can access the photos on a Mac server, or you can use photo stream. I don't use this feature much so don't have an opinion on which is best.

----

Other notes:

- ATV2 is easy to hack
- ATV3 can be hacked, but not as easy

Once hacked, Plex works fairly well on it. A little different than the standard GUI, but orders of magnitude better than DLNA would display.
The Airplay option that jdag mentioned is great. I did that for a long time. Though ultimately, I hacked the ATV because it was fun to see the Plex GUI on the big screen. Now I've switched to a MacMini attached to the big screen because that GUI is even better. Still, the Airplay option is effective.

---

- WillPlex recognize video resident with an iTunes library…

Absolutely. With Plex you have an easy interface where you select folders to add. Just add the folders with movies in them. You can add several folders spread out throughout your computer or your network. I have a hard time keeping track, so I just keep everything together in one place, but it's really flexible that way.

- Converting videos is mostly no longer necessary: There are a few formats that Plex doesn't play very well, though most play just fine. What is particularly cool about Plex (though competitors may have caught up already) is a feature whereby if you have a movie split into two files (like they sometimes do to fit onto CD's), as long as you name the files correctly, Plex will play both files seamlessly as one movie. I absolutely love this feature and a couple of years ago, the parent software, XBMC was the only other server software that could do it on the OSX platform. Maybe everyone does it now, but still blows me away how smoothly that feature works.
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Old Jan 18, 2014, 05:10 AM   #62
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What you want to do is very doable, when I switched I replaced the netgear routers with Airport extremes(kept 1 for the 2 xboxes and blu-ray drive to connect to) so I have 3 airport extemes and a netgear router all connecting 3 iMacs(wired) and a MacBook Pro(wired). I don't have a iPad(yet) but iPhones sync without issues and you can share iTunes over the network although we use the same ID for purchases. Email is a breeze. I have several accounts and they all sync on the iPhones, iMacs and MacBook pro with ease and while we have our own emails we also share one so we both get the emails on Macs and iPhones and also good for keeping an eye out on what the kids do as far as email. My setup involves the house and a studio in the backyard and they are wired together(wireless signal only good when the door is open so I had no choice but to wire it. Dug a little trench for the wire)

As for the printer I recommend the Epson 835. I have 2 of them both wireless and they are reasonable and setup is easy. Awesome printer.

I wired my iMacs because I edit images on all the macs but keep the images on the one "base station" Mac in the office(use Pegasus R4 Thunderbolt Drive for working files). This keeps the network speed up and a steady 90mbps. You don't have to wire it but I recommend it. Wireless is convenient but slow. I recently did a SSD setup I posted in another post so check that out. I recommend getting your iMac with an SSD(totally worth it). I personally use WD 2TB external HD's on all the iMacs for backups via TM.

The network is easy to setup and I hope that helps.
I have tried everything to get the iMac to recognize my printer Epson 835 I first tried it wirelessly with no luck then I tried with the USB cord nothing. I searched Apple and found some drivers to download for Epson printers I thought this would take care of it but still I am unable to see the printer when I go to system preferences and printers add printer. I must be missing something here any help would be appreciated.
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