Best way to add a media server to an all Apple house

Discussion in 'Apple TV and Home Theater' started by blf2012, Jun 13, 2012.

  1. blf2012 macrumors newbie

    Jun 13, 2012
    I currently have the following:

    • An older (2009 vintage?) Airport Extreme, hooked to my cable modem and a gigabit switch
    • 2 ATVs (one ATV2 and one ATV3) connected by ethernet
    • 2 MacBook Pros (one 2007 vintage one 2009 early core2duo) connected wirelessly, running Lion (and mountain lion soon I suspect, assuming the old one will run it)
    • 2 iphones 4 (not 4s)
    • 1 ipad
    • A pair of TiVo premier DVR- cable boxes also connected via ethernet

    I need to expand my wifi coverage a bit (its falls off a bit on the other side of the house), and would like to automate my backups on the laptops a bit more (I use a stand-alone USB/Firewire drive now) so I was thinking about geting a 2TB Time Capsule in place of the AirPort Extreme, and using the Extreme as a bridge.

    My question is, would this set up allow me to 'off load' my music and video files(and perhaps iOS apps) from the lap tops to the TC (or a drive attached to it) and, in effect allow the laptops, ipad and ATVs to 'stream' the media with a reasonable level of quality. Otherwise, do I need a standalone computer (mac mini, I would assume), and if so how much horsepower do I need?

    Thanks in advance for the help
  2. rayward macrumors 68000

    Mar 13, 2007
    Houston, TX
    The ATVs (unjailbroken) can only pull media from the internet, or from an Mac/PC running iTunes. You can move your iTunes library off your MBPs, but you will still need one of them to be awake and running iTunes to get the content onto your ATVs.

    I would suggest getting an Airport Express to expand your wifi range and a good external HDD to attach to the Airport Extreme, instead of a Time Capsule. I suspect the TC will be much more expensive and way less flexible than my suggestion.

    I have my iTunes library on a 2TB external drive attached to my iMac, and a 4TB NAS attached to an Airport Extreme. I use Time Machine to back everything up to the NAS. I realise you don't want a drive attached to your MBPs, but you can partition a drive to be part TM back-up and part iTunes library, and simply point both software apps to the NAS.
  3. Gotanks0407 macrumors newbie

    Jun 11, 2012
    i would say jailbreak the one ATV2 that you can and get a Network Attached Storage drive. I like the Netgear Stora series myself. I am in the same debacle about the ATV3 not being able to jailbreak yet. But i log in to my media server, from the iphone or ipad and just AirPlay it to my ATV3.
  4. blf2012 thread starter macrumors newbie

    Jun 13, 2012
    Appreciate the suggestion, although a 2TB TC currently runs between 260-290$, soI would think that the Express (100$) plus a NAS drive would run more. I also would lose the easy wireless time mahine capabilities. Otherwise probably makes sense to get a computer to run itunes and host the backups and get the Express for additional coverage.
  5. EvilC5 macrumors 6502a

    Sep 22, 2010
    Hanover MD
    I use a 2010 mini server in my setup, when I first started, i had a similar setup as you have. it was pretty slick, but over time i have added more ATV's, more storage, another mini, and now have 2 extreme basestations, and 1 express to cover my entire house. the extreme works really well extending the wifi, but its a little overkill. I bought the latest one, and decided not to sell my other one and swapped out an express for it, and now have a spare express for the road if i need.

    the transfer rate from the TC is probably slow like the extreme with a usb drive is, and it was more or less useless since it was so slow to transfer movies to it.
  6. marzer macrumors 65816


    Nov 14, 2009
    If you don't want the inconvenience of running iTunes from a laptop, I'd recommend a used mac mini, running headless, saves on the extra monitor/mouse/keyboard and space. Then you can hook inexpensive external drives to it to off load your media library, run iTunes on a always available machine (and print sharing among other services, if needed) and expand your backup space as needed.

    Currently, I'm feeding the house from a 2009 Mac mini server with 1TB internal and 4TB external storage. It has plenty of horse power for streaming to 5xATVs, 1xAE, 3xMacs and an iPad. I also use it for network file folders for sharing amongst the Macs.

    Its headless, so I use Screen Sharing from my desktop or iPad to access it and for maintenance and such.
  7. pdafan macrumors member

    Aug 2, 2011
    So similar to my setup as well.
    I have 5 ATVs, 3 iMacs, 1 Mac mini, 3 iPads at home. Family all using iPhones as well.
    The key center piece is the 2011 Mac mini which runs 24x7 as the main storage and media center. It is equipped with 128 SSD, 1 TB internal HDD and 4TB WD Thunderbolt HDD. All my medias, photos, music, movies are stored there with backup. Runs extremely well when streaming to all the iDevices via wireless and Cat6 LAN. It does well also for media conversion and editing on the TB.
    Used to run a Synology NAS but finds it inferior to the Thunderbolt setup. Of course if cost is a concern, can always use a normal external HDD instead of Thunderbolt. This setup will be much cheaper and energy efficient than a NAS.
  8. Obioban, Jun 14, 2012
    Last edited: Jun 14, 2012

    Obioban macrumors regular

    Oct 19, 2011
    I've done a similar thing to what most of you are doing, but I use a ATV1 with OSX installed on it running iTunes as my server. You can pick up an ATV1 for ~$70 and there's no performance issues when pulling files from it through iTunes/network. It's slow to operate as a computer, but there shouldn't be any reason to ever operate it once you have it set up. It can handle multiple data streams with ease-- at one point it had 3 people pulling 1080p files and one pulling a 720p file, all at once. Since I have no need for speed at all for this setup, I connect the drives through hard drive docks like these: . When I need more space, just buy whatever SATA drive is cheapest at the time. You really don't need ANY speed for content streaming or backing up.

    Our total network is 4 apple laptops, 3 iMacs, 1 PC tower, 4 iPhones, 3 apple TVs, and 2 iPads.... plus visitors.

    It has an array of USB HD docks plugged into it, totaling about 8tb at the moment. I have them apple scripted such that files added to the disks are automatically added to iTunes. So to add files to the server, all I do from any computer to the house it mount it through the network and copy the file. When the transfer finishes, the ATV1server automatically adds it to the iTunes database, and every device in the house can play it.

    The ATV1 runs quiet (don't even know if it has a fan, I've never heard it make a peep), cheap (<$100 on ebay these days, easily), and uses very little power (good feature for something you leave running 100% of the time!).

    For your wifi time machine backups, you can plug the HDs you already own into your existing airport extreme (effectively makes it into a time capsule). Works great and you already own it! Plus, you can bump the drive size in the future, unlike a time capsule.

    For wifi extension, get an airport express. If you can run ethernet to it, do it! Otherwise, extending via wifi works reasonably well. If you place it carefully, you could also connect a stereo (for airplaying music) and/or a printer to it (for wireless printing from all devices).
  9. rayward macrumors 68000

    Mar 13, 2007
    Houston, TX
    Woah! Hold the phone!

    I have just retired my ATV1s, and was going to sell them. Never realised that I could use them as an iTunes media server, which is what I've always wanted to have but wasn't going to invest in a mini.

    Can you explain how you set this up? TIA.
  10. Obioban macrumors regular

    Oct 19, 2011
    Old articles, but:

    Being lazy, I downloaded a premade modded OSX disk image, removed the HD from the ATV1, flashed the image on by plugging it into my computer, and then reassembled and rebooted the ATV1 into OSX.

    You can install the latest iTunes version on them :)
  11. charlien macrumors 6502

    Jul 3, 2006
    Can you explain the apple script? I have to do this manually and would like to automate it.
  12. alexreich macrumors 6502a


    Jan 26, 2011
    I'd say buy an extremely cheap PowerPC 1GHz G4 or G5 Mac and have it as a dedicated iTunes Home Sharing "server". You can get PowerPC's extremely cheap now. I got my PowerMac G5 (which I am typing this on now) for $75 on eBay. Just buy one, shove some large capacity drives in there (500GB-1.5TB) and call it done. You could run it headless (no monitor) and just leave the machine on at all times for Home Sharing on your local network which will work with your AppleTV, iOS devices, and other Macs or PCs running iTunes.

    Note: I say G4 or G5 because in order to run the latest versions of iTunes, you need a computer with a 1GHz G4 or G5 processor running OS X 10.5.8 Leopard.
  13. Obioban macrumors regular

    Oct 19, 2011
    ATV1 is cheaper, intel based (so iTunes should run on it longer), silent vs the notoriously loud "wind tunnel" G4/G5 towers, and uses much less power (cheaper to run 100% of the time). Plus, smaller!
  14. Obioban macrumors regular

    Oct 19, 2011
    I'll dig it up when I get home.
  15. EvilC5 macrumors 6502a

    Sep 22, 2010
    Hanover MD

    I too have 2 older 160gb ATV1's and almost never use them. how does safai work on these with flash and html5 video? if nothing else, it would be cool to stream those online programs that dont seem to work on my ipad and have them on my tv.
  16. CylonGlitch macrumors 68030


    Jul 7, 2009
    I have two ATV1's, one running as a server for media for the house and the other as a private media server. They work GREAT for serving up media in the house, I have three ATV's that could be running at any given time (all wired) and the ATV1 handles it no problem.

    BUT the device is quite slow. I think FLASH would make that thing explode, I wouldn't recommend it. Safari is usable but generally, not great either. It really isn't useful as a machine, but is useful as a server.
  17. alexreich macrumors 6502a


    Jan 26, 2011
    PowerMac G4's are pretty non-power consupmtious. I've had a PowerMac G4 server for a little over a year and my electricity bill hasn't changed at all... On the occasion that jet fans come in, I can even watch movies on my AppleTV with it in the room. Not much of a disturbance. Plus, you could move your server to another location in your home if the occasional fans are a disturbance.
  18. Obioban, Jun 15, 2012
    Last edited: Jun 15, 2012

    Obioban macrumors regular

    Oct 19, 2011
    100% agreed!


    PowerMac G4: 360 Watt power supply
    PowerMac G5: 450 Watter power supply
    AppleTV1: 48 Watt power supply

    Clearly they're not all running at max power all the time, but... also clearly the ATV1 is going to use much less power on average.

    PowerMac G4s were given the nick name wind tunnel because of how loud they are. If you google "powermac wind tunnel" the first result is PowerMac G4,cf.osb&fp=c4c0077556344961

    Certainly louder than the essentially silent (sometimes I hear one of the external hard drives spin up) ATV1!

    Plus those fans are there for a reason-- the tower generates heat, and fair bit of it. That means that you both need more AC and have to keep it out in the open where it can breath. The ATV can be kept in the closet and not have overheating issues.

    All that said, I have a quicksilver (G4 tower) that I use as my garage computer... but it's off most of the time. It's been absurdly reliable-- it has the same hardware as when I bought it new-- including the hard drive! It's current live environment is terrible-- humid, hot in the summer, cold in the winter, only used with oily/dirty hands... and she just keeps on ticking.

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