A media centre to pass "The Wife Test"

Discussion in 'Buying Tips and Advice' started by Wardotron, Nov 1, 2008.

  1. Wardotron macrumors member

    Oct 30, 2008
    Hello all.

    I am looking for a home media storage/server/theatre solution that will pass "The Wife Test".

    Currently we watch media on an Xbox 360 served by a Mac running Connect360. Simple enough to pass "The Wife Test", right? Wrong!

    You see, the missus considers walking upstairs to switch on the Mac, before walking back downstairs to connect the Xbox, to be a waste of time. FAIL.

    So come on people, I need a bombproof solution for the storage and playback of media on a TV that will pass "The Wife Test". Basic parameters as follows:

    • Switch on and use
    • Massive storage (1TB+ would be handy)
    • Ability to administrate over wi-fi (I have recently bought a portable)
    • Mac based (or compatible)
    • iTunes based (or compatible)

    I don't mind doing the donkey work (i.e. administering the system, adding new media), as long as I can present the doris with a simple end user experience.

    What can you suggest?
  2. Donar macrumors 6502


    Jul 12, 2008
    From my understanding the only issue is that your wife does nort want to go upstairs and turn on the computer - right? Why not get a NAS - i use a Synology 207+ at home nice webinterface and serves my Popcornhour and other devices through: FTP, AppleTalk, NFS, SMB and can also be used as a iTunes Server or run a SqueezeBox Server. It does not use up much power if in hibernation state so no need to turn it off.
  3. netdog macrumors 603


    Feb 6, 2006
    AppleTV + Boxee + NAS or AirDrive/TimeCapsule.

    In that setup, everything is always on other than the TV. With Boxee, it will play DVD images ripped with things like Mac The Ripper so you get the whole DVD including extras (if I understand correctly).
  4. Abstract macrumors Penryn


    Dec 27, 2002
    Location Location Location
    Tell your wife that her ass looks fat, and believe me, she'll happily run up and down those steps to turn on your Mac. In fact, give her a backpack filled with bricks, and say "You're welcome, fatty."
  5. MasterPo macrumors newbie

    Sep 7, 2008
    Calling your wife fat AND giving her bricks is probably not a good idea!
  6. chilipie macrumors 6502a


    May 8, 2006
    Yeah, 'cos you've just given her ammunition.
  7. GoCubsGo macrumors Nehalem


    Feb 19, 2005
    The two above posts appear to be your very best bet here.

    Nice. :rolleyes:
    I lol'ed at this.
  8. VideoFreek macrumors 6502


    May 12, 2007
    When I set up a home media server, my objective was to make it as user-friendly as possible for my (technically proficient) kids as well as my (non-techy) spouse. Here's what I've done so far:

    I use an always-on media server--actually nothing more than an old Pentium 4 Dell box running iTunes. You could use practically any PC or Mac for this--I suppose a Mac Mini would be ideal due to its small size and low energy consumption. This is set up away from view in a storage closet, and can be administered remotely using Remote Desktop Connection.

    Media files are stored on a NAS--in my case, a ReadyNAS NV+ with 1.3TB of storage. I store Handbraked DVDs, purchased movies and videos from the iTMS, the content from all my CDs stored in Apple Lossless format, etc. The NAS is connected to the iTunes server via gigabit ethernet.

    I then use the server to stream content (music & video) upstairs to an Apple TV on my main Home Theater setup, over ethernet (though wireless works fine, too). Your wife will LOVE the AppleTV interface, particularly if you take the time to tag your movies with nice cover artwork (I use MetaX, which is fantastic). I also stream music wirelessly to a downstairs 2-channel stereo setup using an Airport Express, controlling music playback via the Apple Remote app (which is, BTW, superb) that I've installed on my iPhone and the kids' iPod Touches.

    As a bonus, the ReadyNAS has a built-in UPnP server, which I use to stream video from the NAS directly to an XBox 360 on a secondary TV setup (the iTunes server isn't involved). The XBox interface is functional but ugly compared to the AppleTV; nevertheless it comes in handy when someone wants to watch another movie than what's playing on the main system.

    Hope this gives you some ideas.
  9. Cave Man macrumors 604

    Cave Man

    Feb 12, 2007
    Neander Valley, Germany; just outside Duesseldorf
    eSATA Apple TV with a 1.5 TB drive.
  10. Wardotron thread starter macrumors member

    Oct 30, 2008
    Thanks all, there are some brilliant ideas here.

    I have seen many recomendations based around Mac Minis, but for some strange reason the idea of having a computer always on leaves me cold. Thus I am quite intrigued by a NAS with iTunes and uPNP serving abilities. Whether that could be a homebrew or off the shelf unit I do not know, any thoughts here? You have given me some good pointers, so thanks all.

    As an additional point, would you recomend bumping my wifi network to an Airport Extreme? I currently have an Airport 802.11g and it's slow as hell when moving data around! Sadly a wired network isn't really an option...
  11. Wardotron thread starter macrumors member

    Oct 30, 2008
    I'll pass your various compliments to the missis, by the way!
  12. ucfgrad93 macrumors P6


    Aug 17, 2007
    Damn, you like living on the edge don't ya?
  13. dal20402 macrumors 6502

    Apr 24, 2006
    A NAS is a computer -- just a specialized, limited one.

    You're going to be leaving a computer on all the time no matter what.

    Personally, I have an older MacBook Pro that's been repurposed as a media server -- as well as other purposes; that's why using a full-fledged computer is nice. It stays on all the time, and the external FW drives that hold the media are noisier and hotter than the MBP itself.
  14. Wardotron thread starter macrumors member

    Oct 30, 2008
    Yes I appreciate that there is very little distinction between a NAS and a computer, but why use a V8 when a two-stroke will do? There's also the issue of price to consider...
  15. VideoFreek macrumors 6502


    May 12, 2007
    You can do a homebrew NAS; there are good instructions on the web (google). There are free or low-cost NAS operating systems available, too; however, you may have trouble finding the media server functionality in these. I haven't researched the topic exhaustively, however.

    Whether you build a NAS or buy a commercial one, I think RAID is essential for reliability. You don't want to lose terabytes of media files when a particular hard drive decides to die (RAID isn't perfect, but it does add a layer of safety). In addition, the more advanced NAS boxes support features such as online volume expansion, which means you can increase the capacity of your NAS if needed, without having to remove and then reload all the files.

    Be aware that the built-in iTunes servers in some NAS boxes cannot be used to stream to an AppleTV...they only serve to share your NAS media files with other computers running iTunes.

    Re: your question about wireless, G should be fine, unless you have signal strength issues that cause the speeds to drop off. I'd wait to see if you have any issues when streaming video before investing in upgraded network gear.
  16. Wardotron thread starter macrumors member

    Oct 30, 2008
    Based on what you have all said, I have been looking into NAS drives with iTues and uPNP capabilities. The main contenders seem to be Buffalo or Linkstation models, with Drobo also getting a lot of love. That said, a Drobo might be a bit out of my price range. I also spotted this, courtesy of our old friend Engadget:


    Remember Iomega? Crikey. Anyways, on the face of it this drive seems to offer a lot of bang for your buck (or pound) – any thoughts?

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