Help Me Set Up a Home Media Network

Discussion in 'Mac Basics and Help' started by Mathazzar, Mar 22, 2012.

  1. Mathazzar macrumors newbie


    Jun 17, 2011
    Hi all,

    You've been very helpful to me in the past and so I'm reaching out again with what I'm thinking is probably a simple question with a variety of possible answers. Here's the situation:

    I recently replaced my awful old router in the house with an Airport Extreme & an Airport Express repeating the signal for the basement (five-bar Wi-Fi coverage everywhere, woo!) and picked up an Apple TV (newest) while I was at it.

    While setting it up, it occurred to me that I'd really prefer having my iTunes library accessible throughout the house without me having to have my main computer on all the time — and since it's a work machine, it would also help me regain some useful disk space.

    In short, I'd like to...

    1. Make my iTunes library accessible without relying on the machine it's currently on.

    2. Allow access to the library to my family on their various devices and on our new Apple TV (just worried about access in the home, really, not terribly concerned with accessing it from other places over the internet).

    3. Not compromise the quality of my media; most videos I have are in 1080p, most music in lossless (Apple Lossless).

    So what I'm wondering is...what is the best solution for accomplishing this? If I move my iTunes library to an external HD connected to the Airport Extreme, would that be the best method in terms of performance/flexibility? Is there a particular drive type? Do I need to explore a NAS option or is a basic external going to do the trick? Will I be able to access my 1080p videos and extensive collection of lossless audio or will I be stuck with some kind of optimized streaming conversion of degraded quality?

    I'd really appreciate some feedback from folks who've accomplished a similar setup so that I put together the smartest solution.

    Thanks very much! :)
  2. r0k macrumors 68040


    Mar 3, 2008
    If I understand the way airplay works, you need to leave a computer somewhere on your network with iTunes running. You would think Apple would offer a "media server" time capsule but they don't. We have an old G4 mini in the basement and I'm thinking of making it our "media server" with the music sitting on a network drive (synology) but I would still leave iTunes running on the G4 just to "serve" music.

    There is an alternative. It's called DLNA. It's really ugly compared to Apple TV but it comes preinstalled on some NAS drives and on some TVs. This is why I don't (yet) own an Apple TV. My LG TV can see music, photos and movies sitting on my Synology network drive and play them directly from there. There are iOS DLNA apps that can stream media from DLNA aware NAS drives as well. Basically DLNA is a network share which allows anonymous access. It's very simple. But DLNA can be downright ugly at times. One of our LG TVs resets at the end of each movie and we have to start over from the beginning. At the top menu, you see movies, music and videos. You pick videos then you have to pick the server then guess what? You've got to pick movies, music or photos again. This seems dumb but it does allow you to see a movie somebody mistakenly tossed in a music or photo folder. Then there's the resolution thing. Many DLNA servers send photos at 640 x 480. Yes, that's right. You've got some awesome 12 megapixel photo you took and you want to show your aunt Jenny the photo in 1080p on your 55 inch TV but the DLNA software on your NAS sends it across at VGA resolution. So if you're willing to put up with this gimpyness, DLNA is "free" on some televisons and some non-Apple network drives. Another advantage to DLNA is you can stream more than one thing at a time. We have three DLNA TV's and all 3 of them can be on viewing different content at the same time. I tend to keep all my media "outside" of iTunes and "outside" of iPhoto. My photos are on an NAS drive and when I import them to iPhoto, I don't allow it to make copies. My music is mostly in mp3 format and imported to iTunes rather than purchased through iTunes. My movies are mostly ripped DVDs. So this was another reason DLNA works out for me despite it's less than perfect end user experience.

    Since you already own an Apple TV, it would seem that your best approach would be to leave iTunes running on one of your Macs. You can still put your files on an NAS drive such as a usb disk plugged in to the Airport Extreme, but you'll need to point iTunes to that network drive to share that media around the house such that the Apple TV and iOS devices can see it using airplay.
  3. everygeek macrumors newbie

    Mar 22, 2012
    I personally wouldn't go the DLNA route. I've tried that route and it's extremely hard to find stuff.

    I've tried a ton of ways and the one that has the highest WAF has been to have 1 main computer that's always on and has iTunes open. That way everybody can access the shared library and it's easy to find stuff because you get the metadata. Every 3 weeks or so the home share drops and she knows all she needs to do to fix it is restart iTunes.

    I'd definitely keep your storage to just external drives because it's not worth it IMO to have an external nas where iTunes has to fetch the data and than push it to the ATV (or whatever device). Doubly so if you're on wifi.

Share This Page