Help with Mac Mini media server ideas

Discussion in 'Apple TV and Home Theater' started by StevnJ9971, Dec 26, 2009.

  1. StevnJ9971 macrumors member

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    Aug 31, 2008
    #1
    Hello everyone,

    I have this crazy idea in my head that I'm not quite sure is possible, so maybe someone can either affirm or correct my ideas.

    What I ultimately want to do is have a Mac Mini running as a server for all my media, including music, ripped DVDs, and photos. From there, I have 4 laptops (MacBooks and PC notebooks) that I want to be able to run iTunes on and use the media on the Mac Mini server. All of this would have to be achieved with the WiFi I already have set up in my house. Is this possible?

    Also, I would eventually like to buy an Apple TV and set it up to also use the media server (Mac Mini) to view movies, photos, and music on.

    Please tell me if this is even remotely possible. I've searched and searched all over the place to find out if this is achievable, but I haven't been able to find a definitive answer. Thanks in advance!
     
  2. ingenious macrumors 65832

    ingenious

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    #2
    It's definitely possible.

    A couple of questions, though, first.

    What kind of wi-fi are you currently running? For instance, is it 802.11g or n?

    Would you want the laptops to access the iTunes media through iTunes' "Shared Library" streaming feature, or point the iTunes applications directly to the servers media?

    :apple:tv would be perfectly fine in this set-up. In fact, it's part of what it was designed to do.
     
  3. Bye Bye Baby macrumors 65816

    Bye Bye Baby

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    #3
    Not only is it possible, many are doing it. Including me.

    I don't want to sound obnoxious, but if you search the forums or even Google you'll find a lot of hints on how to do it.

    The two biggest questions are:

    1. How are you going to store it all?
    2. How do you want to access it.

    I use a drobo+mini combo for storage. I stream video via LAN and use wi-fi n for music/ photos etc.
     
  4. daferrisda macrumors member

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    Jul 5, 2006
    #4
    Thats what it's designed to do.

    You wont have any problems doing that and as someone else has said that's what it's designed for.

    My only comment is around the WiFi speed, if your using "g" then this would be fine for audio, however you may have some issues with streaming video, "n" would resolve that problem. The only other problem with streaming video is it can be a little sluggish when you FF or REW it.

    One other option is to share the iTunes directory on the Mac Mini, map a drive to it on your laptops and configure iTunes to use that directory. Having a Macbook Air this is what I've done and it works well. However un-tick the "Organise My Files" under Advanced Option as this could confuse iTunes on the Mac Mini.
     
  5. srexy macrumors 6502a

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    Nov 19, 2006
    #5
    I do it also - I would suggest Plex for your video needs, iTunes for audio.

    The only weak link is iPhoto. I'm using iPhoto buddy to share the main library on my Mini but it takes an eternity to open and browsing the library is pretty torturous also. With luck Apple can come up with a more elegant solution at some point.
     
  6. roidy macrumors 6502a

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    Nottingham, UK
    #6
    Not to sound negative, but isn't a Mac Mini overkill just for a media server? You could buy one of the cheap Atom PC's for a fraction of the cost of a new Mini. It just seems like a waste to use a Mini just as a media server.
     
  7. Airforcekid macrumors 65816

    Airforcekid

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    #7
    Yes you would put music tv and movies on iTunes on the mini and iTunes on the other computers will stream from the mini hack free.
     
  8. fpnc macrumors 68000

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    San Diego, CA
    #8
    I use an old G4-based Mac mini for my media server. It works well although it won't run Snow Leopard. I store the iTunes media on a Firewire drive that is connected to the Mac mini. When the Mac mini is streaming content to the Apple TV or to another Mac its CPU usage is only a few percent, so the G4 is more than capable for this job.

    The other advantage of the older Mac minis is that they support video output over both DVI and s-video/composite (the latter with a cheap adapter). Thus, you can connect the older minis to standard definition TVs. Of course, the G4 Mac minis can't decode HD video, but it can stream the HD content to the Apple TV and other Intel Macs.
     
  9. ljonesj macrumors 6502a

    ljonesj

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    Kingsport TN
    #9
    i stream with a g router and its fine for video
     
  10. StevnJ9971 thread starter macrumors member

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    Aug 31, 2008
    #10
    I'm currently running 802.11g, but I'm planning on upgrading to n before I start this project.

    I would prefer to point iTunes on the different laptops to the server's media.

    I will be using a Drobo to store everything on the Mac Mini, and backing up the Drobo just in case something happens.
     
  11. srexy macrumors 6502a

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    Nov 19, 2006
    #11
    If you do this wirelessly you'll run into streaming issues. The fast forward will take a long time between tracks and you may experience skipping. Home sharing somehow is much more efficient.

    You'll also have to re-sync each node each time you update your main library which will take an eternity depending on how large your collection is.
     
  12. StevnJ9971 thread starter macrumors member

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    #12
    I don't mind using the Home Sharing for the Apple TV, but I'd prefer to connect the files directly via the server for iTunes on the computers.
     
  13. tbayrgs macrumors 603

    tbayrgs

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    Location:
    Florida, USA
    #13
    No need for sharing...I have my Mac Mini set up as an HTPC in the living room with my media library housed on an external HDD connected to the mini via FW 800. I have my macbook point to the same library with no issues. Also stream to 2 :apple:TVs via WiFi (802.11n) and occasionally stream movies to my iPhone using Air Video app---all works great.
     
  14. StevnJ9971 thread starter macrumors member

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    #14
    Another thing - I don't need to buy OS X Leopard Server, right? I can do the whole server setup on the Mini without it?
     
  15. ingenious macrumors 65832

    ingenious

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    #15
    No, you can do everything you talked about with the regular Snow Leopard client version. In fact, purchasing SL Server would probably just complicate things.
     
  16. StevnJ9971 thread starter macrumors member

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    #16
    Thanks for all the help and advice everyone.

    Does anyone know of a website or guide that shows how to set up the Mini as a server like I described once I get everything?
     
  17. ingenious macrumors 65832

    ingenious

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    #17
    You'll probably want to go ahead with that upgrade. G definitely won't be able to handle the streaming at the quality level I'm sure you're looking for... i.e. smooth! :D

    Keep in mind that only one laptop would be able to access the Media Library at a time with that set-up.

    With an iTunes Sharing set-up (not Home Sharing, but the regular old skool one), each laptop has their own iTunes Library (probably empty) and streams the media from the server. This way, multiple users can use the same iTunes library at a time.


    You could check out this link. It's TUAW's "Guide to Setting up the Ultimate Mac mini Home Theatre."
     
  18. ingenious macrumors 65832

    ingenious

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    #18
    Can you point me in the right direction? I've not been able to find any that are truly "cheap"...
     
  19. fpnc macrumors 68000

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    #19
    It seems that you can get a used Mac mini on eBay for something between $200 and $300. The G4s run under $300 while some of the newer Core 2 Duos run over $300.
     
  20. ingenious macrumors 65832

    ingenious

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    #20
    Oh, I've been all over eBay hunting Mac mini bargains... It's the way I'll probably end up going, but I was curious about some of these Atom machines people are using as HTPCs. I haven't found a great one yet, which probably goes with the territory, but I know some do exist.
     
  21. Jason Beck macrumors 68000

    Jason Beck

    Joined:
    Oct 19, 2009
    Location:
    Cedar City, Utah
    #21
    Just got my Mini and I love it. I have pics on my site in my
    sig. It works great, and I am pleased with it's performance.
    I ordered a ram upgrade today for 4 gigs DDR3 from Crucial,
    and I replaced the stock 160gb HD with a 320 gig Scorpio
    Black, then was shocked at the poor head parking with it and
    it's arguing with OSX's APM (many threads on this problem
    here), so I got a 500gb Seagate.

    So far the drive has been quiet as a mouse. Love it. I also
    have a Passport drive hooked to the Mini via USB, and use that
    as my iTunes storage. The Mini is great! =)
     
  22. rgarjr macrumors 603

    rgarjr

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    Southern Cal
    #22
    Cool thing about the minis is that they're so small.
     
  23. roidy macrumors 6502a

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    Dec 30, 2008
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    Nottingham, UK
    #23
    If you only want it to serve files then try:-

    http://reviews.cnet.com/desktops/acer-aspire-revo-ar1600/4505-3118_7-33777218.html

    Costs about $200. It all depends if your comfortable with PC's and Windows.

    If on the other hand you want a full media center then have a look at one of the dual-core Ion ones:-

    http://www.asrock.com/nettop/spec/ION%20330.asp

    I myself have an ASrock 330 Ion running Linux XBMC and it plays everything you can throw at it. If I didn't have so much iTunes DRM video content then I'd ditch my ATV alltogether.
     
  24. StevnJ9971 thread starter macrumors member

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    Aug 31, 2008
    #24
    The main thing I'm concerned with if I set up iTunes Sharing, rather than directly using the files, is that I can't update iPhones or iPods. Any way around that?
     
  25. ingenious macrumors 65832

    ingenious

    Joined:
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    #25
    Thanks. I'll give that a look.

    You could have one laptop set-up to directly access the iTunes Media on your server, with the knowledge that it would need sole access for that period of time.
     

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