Mac Media Server

Discussion in 'Apple TV and Home Theater' started by R.Youden, Feb 3, 2009.

  1. R.Youden macrumors 68020


    Apr 1, 2005
    I am looking at buying/building what could best be described as a "Mac Media Center"

    At the moment I stream my content from my Mac Pro to my AppleTV. Now this works OK but I really don't want to leave my Mac Pro running when it doesn't need to. It is very loud and also manages to heat about 2/3 of my town.

    I was in a local shop the other day and saw one of the HP MediaSmart Servers, this is just what I want! Perfect, except I am not sure how well it will serve my needs. I understand it can work with the mac in a certain capacity, as in it can run iTunes etc... but my photos are kept in an Aperture library so I am not sure how it would cope with that. Also by the time you have picked one of those up and added a few 1TB drives it gets expensive.

    My other option would be to use an old eMac and connect a a Drobo or similar to it. Again the Drobo would not be cheap and once you have installed the drives that is more expense.

    The final option would be to build a Hackintosh and configure everything how I want it and this would be a cheaper solution but also far more work and I understand how difficult a Hackintosh can be to turn into a server for this style of work.

    Does anyone have any suggestions or already have a similar setup to one I am looking at?

  2. IgnatiusTheKing macrumors 68040


    Nov 17, 2007
    das Fort
    You have a Mini hooked up to your TV. Why do you need anything else? (I'm missing something, obviously).
  3. Keebler macrumors 68030

    Jun 20, 2005
    space my friend...that is what r. youden is getting at - he needs space for his media. He didn't type it out, but i think he's just using the macpro b/c it has more space than the mini.

    So, what he's looking for is a server (probably RAID as well) to house his footage.

    To the OP, there are plenty of hard drive enclosures out there. Depending on what you need (2, 4 or more hard drive bays), you can probably pick one up which is USB or FW and connect directly to the mini and use Front row via the apple tv that way? that would take away the need to have your mpro on and it's a directly link to your home theatre.

    run a search for the 'out of control itunes library'. It's a long, but very useful thread on exactly what you're looking for.

    good luck,
  4. ae3265 macrumors member

    Feb 3, 2009
    Actually, what I use is 2 mini's. The one in the office, I have external FW drives hooked up with my media (music, ripped dvd's, etc.). In the living room, I connect to the media shares via AFP over gigabit ethernet. The nice things about the shares is that I can hit them over wireless on my MBP when I want to.

    I have have a EyeTV 250 hooked up to the living room mac, and the save directory set to the media share. No issues saving files, and I can edit them on the server mini as desired.

    I also have SMB enabled so I can get to all this stuff on Windoze, if I have to. But since I got the MBP, I really don't use SMB all that much.

    For iTunes, I just point my library to the share, that works okay, and I don't have to keep iTunes running on my server all the time. OTOH, when I reboot, I need to make sure my volumes get mounted again. It works for me, but I dunno if I'd recommend that for everyone.

    When this started out, I hadn't planned on the 2 mini's, I actually started with one replacing a Sun Ultra60 as the home server. Turned out that I liked the mini so much that I decided to get one for a dedicated home theater use.

    I pretty much stick with Front Row, it gets the job done. Media Central is pretty nice too, and more configurable.

    For what you have going, I'd look at getting some TB drives and firewire enclosures and migrate your media to your mini. Same reason I wanted to shut down the U60, too much electric and heat!
  5. ChrisA macrumors G4

    Jan 5, 2006
    Redondo Beach, California
    A Mac Pro is a ery expensive file server. Beeter to buy a PC case, you can find one that holds about 6 drives and is nearly silent. Put a PC mother borad inside and then install Linux or Solaris or USB and run a software RAID5 (or with Solaris, ZFS) The whole setup drives, case and all would be about the price of one Mac Mini.

    With the PC case you'd have room for TV cards so you could record a few channels of TV and have a DVR too. (good DVR software at )

    Macs are great because of the user interface. but if the machine sits in a dark closet with no moniter or keyboard why pay $$ for the user interface. A "media server" should be something you lock up in the closet and don't look at to often.
  6. hitekalex macrumors 68000


    Feb 4, 2008
    Chicago, USA
    I'd definitely go with HP MediaSmart, as it's small form factor, low-power and can run full blown iTunes. I don't know about Aperture/photos though - if you're not willing to let that go - you need a MacOS solution.

    If you must go native MacOS - I'd go Mini+Drobo route. That's the most simplest approach.

    If you want to save a few bucks over Mini/Drobo - build a Hackintosh. It's actually pretty easy to do if you pick a well-supported motherboard. You don't even need a Video card, as it can be a headless setup you can manage via Screen Sharing.

    BTW, a proper NAS server solution is not cheap. Plan to spend about $800-$1500, depending on the number/size of your drives.
  7. R.Youden thread starter macrumors 68020


    Apr 1, 2005
    Ha ha, that reminds me to update my signature! That mini died ages ago and it got replaced with an AppleTV. Opps..........

    Thanks for the advice so far.
  8. alFR macrumors 68020

    Aug 10, 2006
    I've gone down the same route as suggested above: Mac mini plus FW Drobo in the office upstairs, Apple TV in the lounge. Yes, the Drobo has a setup cost to it but it's secure, expandable and fast enough (in my setup anyway) for streaming. The mini doubles as my DVD ripping/encoding station: at the moment I have it connected to a second input on my PC's monitor for ease as I'm still ripping, but eventually I'll run it headless. It also has a lot of possibilities as a home automation server etc., but probably not until we move house!

    The Mediasmart does run an iTunes server but be aware that (AFAIK) it doesn't run the full iTunes app and so has the same problem as a lot of other NAS devices in that you can't pair it with your Apple TV because there's no way to enter the pairing code into the MediaSmart box.
  9. cantthinkofone macrumors 65816


    Jul 25, 2004
    Missouri, USA
    i bought a PM G4 and plan on putting a 250-500GB hdd in it. Right now its connected to my home network along with my xbox 360. i have xbox connect running on the G4, and then i use my xbox 360 to watch movies, listen to music, view pictures, and play games on it.

    i got my G4 for $130 off craigslist.
  10. OllyW Moderator


    Staff Member

    Oct 11, 2005
    The Black Country, England
  11. danny_w macrumors 601

    Mar 8, 2005
    Austin, TX
  12. JonHimself macrumors 68000


    Nov 3, 2004
    Toronto, Ontario
  13. dwright1974 macrumors 6502


    Aug 13, 2007
    Depends what you are using!

    I have a DNS-323 and with my Boxee'd aTV I can access all the media on it.

    However, saying that ... I am waiting for the updated Media Smart server to be released here in the UK and will be getting one for all the reasons above plus remote access.

    If apple did a media-server then I would probably get that, but the EX-485/487's look great, especially with Time Machine integration.

    - D
  14. hitekalex macrumors 68000


    Feb 4, 2008
    Chicago, USA
    Wrong. MediaSmart is a Windows Home Server system, and you can run just about any Windows software on it, including iTunes. That's one of the things that sets it apart from stripped down Linux-based NAS appliances.
  15. alFR macrumors 68020

    Aug 10, 2006
    Since that would be a major selling point for a lot of people you'd think they'd mention that somewhere on the Mediasmart website, wouldn't you? Strange.
  16. MagnusVonMagnum macrumors 603


    Jun 18, 2007
    I use an upgraded PowerMac as a media server for the whole house. It's connected via Gigabit and also doubles as an access point in the den (i.e. I have Klipsch THX speakers connected to it) and I also use it for Internet access and shopping (safer than a Windows machine which is targeted by too much spyware and viruses), scanning photos, burning CD-Rs and DVD-Rs, you name it. Really, it's fast enough to most normal computing tasks and leaves my PC free for gaming and my laptop free to roam around the house.

    You can get one for $150-300 used and with a few upgraded parts and two 1TB drives (add another $150 each for the new 2TB drives), it might cost you $400-600 total, maybe $800-900 with a 1.8 or 2.0 GHz CPU if you want it to be able to run typical applications at a decent speed (really, short of editing, 3D gaming, etc. it doesn't feel much difference from the MBP I bought in October in normal use, although things like Handbrake are night and day, but you could always use an Elgato .H264 there or do the encoding on your regular computer since it only needs done once).

    Yeah, you could get a Mini with a Firewire 400 drive (slower than internal PCI Sata by about 2.5x) and its DVD-RW drive would be slower (mine is 18x for $45 over a year ago), but it'd still cost you more, although it would be faster (for things like encoding, but ripping speed is slower) and could run Windows if you want/need that sort of thing. The HP Media server with that kind of storage will probably cost something similar, though, although it's running Windows Server, not OS X if that matters to you (it might if you want to use for more than ONLY a server).

    Just some options to consider....

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