Newbie needs help designing multimedia/wifi setup

Discussion in 'Apple TV and Home Theater' started by tikidoc, Mar 27, 2010.

  1. macrumors regular


    I am somewhat new to Apple, so please be patient with me! I am planning to buy a MBP after the refresh, with the next back to school promotion. I currently own two ipods, a classic and a touch. We will be running both Apple and Windows machines in our home. We have a fairly large home that currently has a pretty spotty wifi setup using an older router that I want to replace. The wifi connection comes in through the basement, and our router and my husband's Windows computer is in his basement office. Our home has a basement, a main floor, and a loft area that is open to the first floor. Most laptop usage takes place on the main floor, as well as the stereo system (we primarily use our Bose iPod speaker system). We get decent wifi on about half the main floor but there are large dead spots. The main TV (widescreen HDTV) is in the loft. Currently there is almost no wifi reception in the loft.

    My goal would be to have good reception throughout the house, to be able to play itunes on the main floor, and to have an AppleTV in the loft. We have fairly extensive collections of old TV shows, movies, sports, and kid shows on DVD right now that I would like to put much of that on the AppleTV. I think that the amount of material that I would eventually want to put on the AppleTV would be more than the 160GB capacity. I would also like to be able to rent/buy movies from iTunes.

    So I am looking at getting the refurbished Apple TV (160GB) and last generation Airport Extreme in the refurb store. Is there a way to extend the capacity of the Apple TV with an external hard drive? Or with a Time Capsule? Do I understand correctly that the Time Capsule does basically the same thing as an Airport Extreme but with the addition of hard drive space? Is there a significant advantage to the new generations of Airport Extreme and Time Capsule or should I go for the refurb last generations?

    I hope this all makes sense. I used Macs a lot back in the 80's but have been a Windows user for the last 20 years or so, so this is all new to me. I'm excited about changing to Mac but am a bit overwhelmed. Seems most of the sticky guides are designed more for present users than newbs like me.

    Thanks for any help you can give.
  2. macrumors regular


    OK, how about a link to a site with the BASICS of setting this stuff up with Apple equipment?
  3. macrumors 6502

    The main question to address is the router in the basement, while the TV and AppleTV is in the loft... where to place the wireless router to get the best reception everywhere in the house? Can the wireless router be placed on the main floor, with an ethernet cable running from the basement office up to it? This may allow decent WiFi throughout the house.

    If the computer (or multiple computers) with most of your iTunes media can be on the wireless network with the AppleTV, you can stream the content to the AppleTV, and not have to store the files on the AppleTV hard drive. Setting up the AppleTV for streaming (as opposed to syncing) is included in the instructions that come with the device.
  4. macrumors 6502

    This page shows the very basics of setting up an Airport Extreme Base Station:
  5. macrumors regular


    So if you set it up for streaming, you can have the content pretty much anywhere? Such as on an external hard drive?
  6. macrumors 6502

    You can have content on any computer (can stream from up to 5 computers) with iTunes. I believe you can have the media on a Time Capsule or another external drive, but I'm not sure how to set that up. You can put a large iTunes library on an external drive. The AppleTV needs to be able to find the iTunes library for streaming, wherever it resides on the network. You cannot connect a drive directly to the AppleTVs USB port unless you hack the device, and many people do this with the AppleTV.

    To get your DVDs into a format that you can play on AppleTV, You need to rip and convert for AppleTV, for example, using the free Handbrake and VLC. It's easier to just use a DVD player for physical media if you don't want to bother converting your collection, which can be laborious if you have a large collection of media. There are many other threads on this site that describe this process. The AppleTV really shines for renting movies and connecting all of your iTunes media to your entertainment center.
  7. macrumors regular


    Great, thanks all.

    So Airport Extreme vs. Time Capsule? Other than the presence of the hard drive, are there any additional things to consider? Does one do a better job than the other as a router? And is there a significant downside to getting a previous generation (of either) in the referb store vs buying a new one?
  8. macrumors 6502

    The newest Airport Extreme is dual band. If your computers have wireless N (the AppleTV has wireless N), you can put them all on a wireless N network for better performance, and have a second mixed network (N/g/b) running on the other band. I don't know if the newer one has better wireless range than the previous generation.

    If you need a network attached drive for backing up files, you can get a Time Capsule, or connect an external drive to the USB port on the Airport Extreme.
  9. macrumors regular


    Both the Airport Extreme and the Time Capsule listed in the refurb store say previous generation, and both say they are simultaneous dual band. So far, it's looking like there is not a big advantage to buying new. Is the range for these two products similar?
  10. macrumors 6502

    They should have the same range, as the router components of both are likely the same.
  11. macrumors 6502a

    Wireless N is the way to go but in my experience it isn't very good at "jumping stories". I would go with an Airport Extreme Base Station in your basement and then extend your network either wirelessly or hardwired 2 to the 1st floor and loft with 1 - perhaps 2 Airport Expresses. You will only know using trial and error if the 1st one will extend adequately to your loft.

    Once you have decent wireless N throughput throughout you should be able to stream content to your Apple TV wherever it is located.

    I have a 3 story house - garage 1st story; living room, kitchen den, 2nd story; bedrooms, office 3rd story. I use a recent generation AEBS (from the refurb store) on the 2nd story and extend the former with an older pre-gigabit AEBS on the 3rd story - I'm able to get pretty good coverage throughout. I have an Airport Express for iTunes Speakers when we have parties in the garden.
  12. macrumors regular


    OK, I think long term, I will go with Extreme with an Express to extend. I doubt I will get both immediately, since I am getting ready to unload a bunch of cash on a MBP in the near (!?) future.

    So one other question. We are out in the boonies and our only viable alternative for extended TV service in our area is Directv. Cable is not an option - they quoted us almost $2K to run cable to our house. Initially, our "media room" was in the basement, so the wires come into the house that way. Since the main TV is now in the loft, we have a cable running from the receiver up through the corner of a window in the loft (kinda ugly). Running wires within the house is a bit complicated because it is a log home.

    So is there a way to use the equipment we are planning to get (or that equipment plus some add on) in order to transmit the signal wirelessly from the basement to the loft?

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