iTunes Server for AppleTV

Discussion in 'Apple TV and Home Theater' started by godslabrat, May 22, 2017.

  1. godslabrat macrumors 6502

    Joined:
    Aug 19, 2007
    #1
    Hello all,

    For the past several years, I have had fantastic luck with my setup: using my aging Mac Mini as an iTunes server, allowing the TVs in my home to access music and video files stored locally. This all worked wonderfully until the Mini finally gave up the ghost after 10 years of faithful service.

    Now I'm re-evaluating the setup. I liked having the Mini in this role, because it was versatile and it was always nice having one extra computer around. On the other hand, it just seems like overkill for this purpose, and it seems like the kind of task that could be handled by a smaller, cheaper device. So I started looking for other options. Since the Home Sharing service needed by AppleTV is proprietary, there really isn't one. The closest I could come up with is a $200 Micro Windows PC, and that still seems like a fair amount of overkill. If I were going in that direction, might as well just drop the other shoe and get another Mini.

    Has anyone else gone down this path, and if so, what was your answer? It seems like a void in Apple's lineup that they should logically want to fill, but I realize their business plan revolves around streaming movies from the iTunes store, not ripped from shiny discs. ;) They hate people like me.
     
  2. Longkeg macrumors regular

    Joined:
    Jul 18, 2014
    Location:
    S. Florida
    #2
    If you want to stay with iTunes as your media server you're stuck. Many people here, myself included, have made the switch away from iTunes to Plex. Plex has some advantages over iTunes. It does video and music but also photos. It plays just about any file type. You can even configure it to stream content over the internet to remote devices. You can set up a Plex server on a computer or an NAS server (basically an external hard drive with it's own stripped down OS). But if all your content has been bought from Apple and is DRM protected I don't think Plex will work for you. Last I looked video bought from iTunes would only play in iTunes. Have you checked eBay for prices on used Minis?
     
  3. Rigby macrumors 601

    Joined:
    Aug 5, 2008
    Location:
    San Jose, CA
    #3
    It would be great if there was a headless iTunes server that runs on Linux. Alas, it will never happen due to the DRM.

    I use a Windows VM that runs on my QNAP NAS (via "virtualization station") as my iTunes server, so at least I don't need an extra computer. Apart from that, the Mini PC is probably the least expensive solution if you don't have some old computer lying around.

    If you don't need to play iTunes-purchased content, there are of course other choices.
     
  4. PhoenixDown macrumors regular

    Joined:
    Oct 12, 2012
    #4
    I thought the Plex app for ATV4 would play itunes DRM movies?

    With Plex can it stream vudu to ATV4? That would be awesome
     
  5. d21mike macrumors 68040

    d21mike

    Joined:
    Jul 11, 2007
    Location:
    Torrance, CA
    #5
    You would have to remove the DRM from iTunes purchased content to play back with PLEX. Very similar to ripping a DVD Movie. You have to remove the protection. Some feel that if you BUY a movie (not rent) you should be able to play on any device and therefore do not have problem with removing DRM.
     
  6. Longkeg macrumors regular

    Joined:
    Jul 18, 2014
    Location:
    S. Florida
    #6
  7. bopajuice macrumors 6502a

    bopajuice

    Joined:
    Mar 22, 2016
    #7
    My Plex set up does not play iTunes movies.

    I have slowly moved away from iTunes and moved my personal content library to Plex. One of the reasons is over the years content I purchased on iTunes has disappeared from my library. Apparently if they lose a licensing deal or whatever, you lose the content. Even if you bought it. Seems we actually do not own what we buy from iTunes...
     
  8. Rigby macrumors 601

    Joined:
    Aug 5, 2008
    Location:
    San Jose, CA
    #8
    I have been purchasing music and movies on iTunes for years, and haven't lost a single item from my library. Go into your account settings in iTunes and check if there are "hidden" items. It happened to me a few times that items got hidden without me doing it (probably some bug in the backend).
    --- Post Merged, May 23, 2017 ---
    To my knowledge it is no longer possible to remove the DRM from 1080p iTunes movies without degrading the audio/video quality though. Not really worth it IMO, since the iTunes DRM is fairly liberal to begin with.
     
  9. whoiare, May 23, 2017
    Last edited: May 23, 2017

    whoiare macrumors regular

    Joined:
    Aug 30, 2011
    #9
    OP, ive had the same thoughts over and over for years. My background is similar. 1 ATV4, 3 ATV3s, various iphones/ipods/ipads. Various airplay speakers, and various home kit devices. My itunes library consists of 1000s of itunes formatted movies/tvshows/home videos. i have an always on 2010 mac mini with a 3TB external hooked up firewire 800. The latest Tv shows automatically download and rip to my itunes library and movies show up in other various ways. i take home videos off our devices and save them there as well. ive looked into older headless macs, the old apple server, NAS or cheaper PC options and by far i keep coming back to a mac mini. every now and then i do some pages or numbers work on the mini. ill do some web research, etc. But my main usage comes from the main Tv, the AT4, and our ipads/iphones. Apples solution is the cloud - and they make that clear every update where they give less and less attention to the "computer" option on the ATV. However the mini, hands down is the cheapest/most efficient way to use our OWN LIBRARY on every I device we own
     
  10. cynics macrumors G4

    Joined:
    Jan 8, 2012
    #10
    Which model QNAP do you have? This is a pretty good solution for iTunes.....
     
  11. cynics macrumors G4

    Joined:
    Jan 8, 2012
    #11
    OP: A Mini is not overkill for a media server. IMO its a pretty good option for home sharing since they use virtually no power while asleep and can wake reliably (in my experience) with a network call.

    The limitations are severe though. You need to use iTunes friendly formats, media needs to be encoded at complexity the weakest device can decode. The home sharing computers menu is a joke (compared to Plex anyway). It only works with Apple devices.

    A plex server on the other hand can handle various formats and if its powerful enough it can transcode the media for devices incapable of such. The app layouts are great, and you get metadata and cover art so you can see actors, synopsis, dates etc. Its compatible with nearly anything. And a ton of other benefits.

    Personally I'm still doing the home sharing thing because for me it just works better and what I'm familiar with. However my media is modular I could switch relatively easily.
     
  12. Rigby macrumors 601

    Joined:
    Aug 5, 2008
    Location:
    San Jose, CA
    #12
    It's a TS-451 with memory upgraded to 8GB. Performance is plenty to stream iTunes content. You can further reduce the CPU load by installing the Windows VM with VirtIO drivers for storage and networking.

    For non-DRM content I'd recommend simple filesharing with either Infuse or MrMC. They don't require installing a server like Plex, and they can play most formats natively on the ATV4 without transcoding (which degrades quality and may require a beefy server).
     
  13. bopajuice macrumors 6502a

    bopajuice

    Joined:
    Mar 22, 2016
    #13
    I have the 251 with 8gb of memory. Very happy with the QNAP NAS. And it does time machine backups.
     
  14. phrehdd macrumors 68040

    phrehdd

    Joined:
    Oct 25, 2008
    #14
    So many options and each person has not only their list of "must haves" but in which order of importance differs.

    My take -

    Though I am not happy with the changes in iTunes over the years, it remains a great set up for playing one's music library along with connectivity to the iDevices. One can certainly do quite well with some items from Apple such as their buy/rental and playback with the built in limitations (such as resolution and level of audio quality - think HD). The overall experience is quite nice.

    I have explored various other options and find that iTunes is best with their own store and iDevices while other options do certain things far better than iTunes. JRivers offers up some impressive features and of course there is Plex and Kodi (XBMC).

    For me, I leave iTunes for my music on the go set up and also some audio books. Beyond that, don't use it for any other type of media playback. I use Kodi with a Mac Mini (Linux) for playback of archived movies, I also use my Oppo Blu Ray player for playback of network movie files (amazing quality) and Nvidia Shield TV for a combo of services with respect to movies akin to Roku, iTunes, Amazon Fire but with far more abilities in gaming (which I don't do but others who use my system do).

    As I may be replacing my iPhone (5s that is very tired) with possibly an Android phone, I may find iTunes getting far less use if at all. Around the time iTunes had the cover flow art, was my fav time to use iTunes. It was fun, it was interesting and elegant enough to be inviting. Today it is just annoying at times.
     
  15. cynics macrumors G4

    Joined:
    Jan 8, 2012
    #15
    Sorry this is off topic but which distro of Linux are you using and why not MacOS? I'm waiting for a new Mini to replace my Linux machines as an HTPC and I'd be curious why you are essentially doing the opposite.

    I also use Kodi on Ubuntu GNOME 17.04 albeit not very often. Its a great, very easy solution with a nice interface if you just have the files sitting around on a HDD or in my case NAS. Personally for me though its not the best solution because I have many client devices most of which you can't get Kodi for and I don't like fragmentation.
     
  16. rhett7660 macrumors G4

    rhett7660

    Joined:
    Jan 9, 2008
    Location:
    Sunny, Southern California
    #16
    I have the following setup and am very pleased with it.

    Mac Mini running iTunes, Plex Server, and Sonos "Server" software.
    Synology 8 disk NAS box for media (upgraded from a qnap box)
    Apple TV with Plex installed

    Use the following:
    iTunes for iTunes Sharing between my two computers. If we want to download a song or movie to one of our iDevices we use the Mac Mini to do so.
    Sonos for my music needs throughout the house.
    All three are pointed to my digital library with movies not being loaded up into iTunes unless we are downloading them to an iDevice which only really happens when we fly. Even then it is a toss up.

    Apple TV:
    Use plex for all my music (which I don't really listen to music via this setup but I do on occasion) but mainly for the movies that I have ripped.
    Use iTunes for rentals and on occasion purchased content.

    I have had zero issues with my Mac Mini, and I am very happy with this setup. I did have a windows box XP then 7 running all of the above which was good, but I ended upgrading it to the Mini. Had no issues that I remember with the Windows box. So I don't think you will have any issues with a windows box if you want to save some money. I got my Mini off of craigslist, fully loaded. Just dumped everything on it and re-installed the os along with the apps I needed.

    The mini also serves as the wifes computer for some of the things she does.
     
  17. phrehdd macrumors 68040

    phrehdd

    Joined:
    Oct 25, 2008
    #17
    As I too don't want to hijack the thread - in a nutshell - OSX doesn't support HD audio streams. So that leaves either Windows or Linux with Kodi on a Mini to get HD audio streams (ex: DTS-MASTER). Kodi works well with Ubuntu which is what I have on the Mini. Truth is I prefer Kodi on my Nvidia Shield TV as the best choice when I have company over to watch movies (either my files with Kodi or various streaming services other than iTunes).
     
  18. PilotWoo macrumors regular

    Joined:
    Jul 14, 2006
    #18
    I considered options for this scenario for a while, and ended up with a Mini. Everything else, required Windows, Linux or had compatibility issues. The Mini makes it easy. I use mine to run iTunes for Apple TV, plus a VPN server to access my home network when away from home, Time Machine Server, Crashplan server for Windows machines, shared folders etc. I haven't found a better solution that is reliable and low admin.

    The NAS solutions got bogged down when trying to do multiple things, plus had lots of compatibility issues with Time Machine.
     
  19. Boyd01 macrumors 68040

    Boyd01

    Joined:
    Feb 21, 2012
    Location:
    New Jersey Pine Barrens
    #19
    I got a 2012 base Mini and used it as an iTunes server for two years, but then decided to upgrade that Mini and use it for something else. So I just replaced the iTunes server with a 2014 base Mini. It was a no-brainer since all my media is on a 4TB USB 3.0 drive. Just plugged it in, tweaked a few menu items and it was up and running.

    As a general purpose computer, the base 2014 mini is pretty terrible, but it's just fine for an iTunes server. I paid $500 a year ago, but Best Buy has been discounting them to $400 recently. Still very happy with this setup and I'm sure it will serve me well for many years. :)
     
  20. godslabrat thread starter macrumors 6502

    Joined:
    Aug 19, 2007
    #20
    Thanks, all. You've all echoed exactly the issues- positive and negative- that I've been wrestling with. I'm using all Apple gear. I could use Windows but would strongly prefer not to. Most of my content is my own, but being able to play iTunes-purchased material is still a concern. And above all, I want it to be reliable and easy to use and maintain, for when I'm not around and the rest of the family is relying on it.

    So, it looks like a Mini is going to be the solution after all. That's not a bad thing, was just wanting to make sure I'd considered all possibilities before settling in to another one. The last one got me through a decade, so hopefully I won't be writing another post like this until 2027. :)
     

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