Xserve and iTunes music sharing?

Discussion in 'Macintosh Computers' started by Daveman Deluxe, Feb 18, 2004.

  1. Daveman Deluxe macrumors 68000

    Daveman Deluxe

    Jun 17, 2003
    Corvallis, Oregon
    Hey everybody. Haven't been around much, but important stuff is going down.

    Most of you probably know I'm a music major. One of the profs in the music department here got a HUGE grant underwritten, so we're spending a considerable amount of money upgrading our listening rooms--where students go to listen to recorded music.

    We're going to have four listening rooms and two studio/listening rooms. My part in all of this is that I'm trying to sell my prof on getting an Xserve solution, digitizing all of our music (close to ten thousand LPs and six hundred CDs) and putting it on an Xserve/Xserve RAID. He likes the idea, but the sticky wicket is in making sure I can come up with a system that WORKS.

    The front end is already taken care of. Each room will have a Power Macintosh G5 in it. So my issue lies with the back end.

    I'm already sold on getting a 3.5 TB Xserve RAID. That's a no-brainer since we're looking at tens of thousands of hours of uncompressed audio.

    The sticky wicket is in deciding whether I should recommend Xserves or PowerMac G5s as the back-end system.

    As I have it currently planned out, the back end will be running iTunes with sharing turned on, and the front end systems in the listening rooms will access the music via iTunes Music sharing. The library will be stored on the RAID. Another problem with this setup is that since iTunes can only broadcast four streams at any given time, it will take two systems to provide sufficient streaming quality.

    My questions are, to wit:
    1. Do I use G5s or Xserves?
    2. Is there any system that offers the browsing capabilities of iTunes without the cap on simultaneous streams? Using the Finder is not an option due to the lack of composer/album metadata.
    3. Would it be viable to use a netboot volume to reduce software maintenace time (i.e. running Software Update)?
    4. If I use netboot, could iTunes be run on a remote machine (the Xserve/PMG5) to avoid the streaming cap problem?

    Thanks for all of your help! I'm really excited about this--it may generate a paying job for me this summer.
  2. Nik_Doof macrumors regular

    Sep 15, 2003
    St Helens, UK
    maybe a ugly botch, but at the moment i use iTunes pointed to a share.

    say all my mp3s are on \\jabba\mp3s, i have all my songs added to my LOCAL itunes db with that path added. Netboot and this setup and you've got no stream limit... just how much throughput the samba server (in my case, thats what im using) can put out.

    Its ugly and problematic, but it works.

    Problems i have:

    1) Sleep the Mac with itunes open, reopen the share is disconnected, you've gotta restart itunes...

    2) Sometimes when your adding to the itunes lib they are NOT uploaded to the share, you've gotta consolodate your library.

    3) Its generally messy, syncing your itunes list between 2 or more PCs is a general pain.

    I've looked into solutions like daapd which sounds like a good solution for you, problems with that its pritty much linux only (as far as i know) and its slow.

    Hey if you ever work out a way of putting itunes sharing onto a server, and able to edit rating remotely AND easy to update the servers current music list... then please tell :)

    [Edit: Changed URL :)]

    [Edit 2: Looks like DAAPD can be run on Mac OSX, wolla theres ur server side solution :)]
  3. Daveman Deluxe thread starter macrumors 68000

    Daveman Deluxe

    Jun 17, 2003
    Corvallis, Oregon
    The idea is that none of the front end computers have their own iTunes libraries--they simply read from the shared library on the Xserve.

    The idea of using iTunes off of a netboot is interesting, but I'm not convinced it will work well.

    I can't have iTunes Music Library files kept locally on front-end computers because students could edit them and that's not good.

    To clarify my second question: iTunes sharing, as far as I know, only permits four simultaneous streams (even of different songs). Is there anything I can do about that? I am willing to look into other apps than iTunes provided they are as easy to use and browse.
  4. Nik_Doof macrumors regular

    Sep 15, 2003
    St Helens, UK
    Like in my previous post, DAAPD maybe your solution. No stream limits that i know of, all Open sourced GPL code so you can edit to your hearts delights.

    Take a look into it, it maybe what ur looking for.
  5. Mr_Sqeeb macrumors newbie

    Apr 18, 2002
    iTunes AFAIK does not support streaming of uncompressed audio, you should try that out yourself to make sure but i think you will find you need to rip all the music into AAC and select a bit rate appropriate to your needs. Although it may be worth just fiddling with two macs and seeing what formats it will let you stream, i know i had to manual add the .mp3 extension to a lot of my music so it would stream, without it iTunes will play it but won't recognise it as streamable content.
  6. cspace macrumors member

    Sep 2, 2002
    another option Dave, is to just use filesharing...have the music on the xserve, and have the client machines mount the shared drive. this way the local iTunes on each client machine could access the music (gets around streaming issue).
  7. 7on macrumors 601


    Nov 9, 2003
    Dress Rosa
  8. Daveman Deluxe thread starter macrumors 68000

    Daveman Deluxe

    Jun 17, 2003
    Corvallis, Oregon
    That may be the best thing to do, but that means, unfortunately, that playlists will have to be made six times. I also don't want to keep the library on local computers because I don't want students editing them.
  9. Nermal Moderator


    Staff Member

    Dec 7, 2002
    New Zealand
    Completely off-topic, but this annoys me:

    I've seen these made-up words "wolla", "walla", "wahla", etc quite frequently on here. The word is "voila". Actually I think technically it's voilà or something, but voila will suffice :)
  10. bankshot macrumors 65816


    Jan 23, 2003
    Southern California
    A few points:

    • Mac OS X Server does not come with iTunes. Also, the iLife install program doesn't want to install on Server, but this is easily gotten around (I haven't verified it personally).
    • Hardware-wise, a G5 -- either Power Mac or Xserve -- is overkill for the back end. You can get by just fine with a dual G4 hooked up to the Xserve RAID. If budget is a consideration (I know you said HUGE grant), this can be a nice place to save some money.
    • NetBoot should work fine if you decide to go that route. In that case, you'll need Mac OS X Server on one machine (presumably the back end). You'll have to buy it separately for a Power Mac, or it comes with the Xserve. The advantages are as you say -- maintenance of a single system image. But for software updates and the like, I don't believe you can actually run Software Update on the NetBoot image. Instead, you have to manually download updates from Apple's website and install them to the image. For 100 clients, this is a big win, but for 6 or 8, I'm not so sure if it saves you much hassle.

      I have no experience with how fast or slow a netbooted computer is, but this may be a consideration.
    • It doesn't sound like you'll need the server to be doing much other than serving up music. In this case, the advantage or necessity of OS X Server is unclear, since it offers a lot of extra services and administration tools that you likely won't need. If you'll have more than 10 Mac clients for general file serving, then the unlimited user version of OS X Server could be useful. Regular OS X and the 10-User License version of Server both have a limit of (you guessed it) 10 simultaneous file service clients. On the other hand, if you'll just be limited to the 6 or 8 Macs in the listening rooms, you can save a bundle of cash going with standard OS X. So weigh the advantages of NetBoot + > 10 simultaneous file service clients vs. the disadvantage of the price tag or the possibility that some software may not run on Server.
    • As you said, the alternative to streaming from iTunes is to share the files from the server and duplicate the iTunes playlist to each client. This allows users to come in and muck up the playlist, but you can easily control the damage on this. You could have a script that either runs periodically or at login, which copies over the iTunes database files (everything ~/Music/iTunes) from the authoritative copy on the server. You could even have an AppleScript which does this and then starts iTunes, and put that on the desktop in place of iTunes. There are endless possibilities for making this as simple as possible for the users (basically you want to avoid having them come in to a messed up iTunes from the previous user, or be able to just restart iTunes to get it back to normal). Maybe an AppleScript that would continuously check if iTunes is running, and if not, do the copy and then start it up. That way users really only have to quit to get it back to normal.

      Along these lines, I would setup the listener account as somewhat limited (Limitations in the Accounts pref pane) and only able to run iTunes (+ anything else you may want them to run, if anything). If you go with the regular Finder/Dock (not Simple Finder), then set it up how you want it, and then go back and change the user to limited -- can't change Dock, only run x programs, etc.
    • Just in my own personal experience on my home network, sometimes my shared iTunes library doesn't show up on other machines. Not sure why, but usually restarting one or both copies of iTunes brings it back. If this is a real, recurring issue, you may be forced to go with the file sharing method.

    That's about all I can think of for now. Good luck!
  11. Daveman Deluxe thread starter macrumors 68000

    Daveman Deluxe

    Jun 17, 2003
    Corvallis, Oregon

    • I was not aware of that, but it seems as if the standalone version of iTunes should install properly, right? Besides, none of the front end computers will be using OS X Server.

      I don't think the NetBoot is a viable option for us, especially since, as you say, it's only six or eight computers.

      I expect we'll be using standard OS X except to host the Xserve RAID.

      That is by far the best idea I have yet heard regarding that issue. I like the idea of replacing the iTunes icon with the script, so that's probably the route to go there. This eliminates the problem of using iTunes Music Sharing, because the music folder can be on the RAID and the library can be copied at runtime from the server-side copy.

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