Media server vs. attached USB drive

Discussion in 'Apple TV and Home Theater' started by mulholland13, Nov 29, 2008.

  1. mulholland13 macrumors newbie

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    Nov 29, 2008
    #1
    So I've just purchased an tv and I'm trying to decide if I should use an old Mac G4 to run iTunes and just stream media to the tv (via wired network), or if I should hack the tv and use an attached USB drive.

    I've been lurking for two or three months, tried to read up on my options, and was all ready to go the streaming route when I found some posts about using an attached USB drive as the primary tv drive, not just for storing extra content.

    Part of me would like to go the USB route because it's one less computer sucking down electricity and generating heat. That said I've not found a great walkthrough for enabling USB drive access. All I really want is an TV with a larger HD so I can store a more than 40gb locally. (I don't plan on playing anything other than tv supported video on this thing.)
     
  2. srl7741 macrumors 68020

    srl7741

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    #2
    I'm in the same boat as you. I purchased ATV yesterday and need to decide how I'm going to use this new device. I would like to keep it simple.

    Attaching one large drive via USB would be nice.
     
  3. obey908 macrumors 6502a

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    #3
    if you are going to be using it with an external harddrive, i would just look into buying the western digital TV.
     
  4. hitekalex macrumors 68000

    hitekalex

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    #4
    Why? What does WD media streamer have to do with AppleTV?
     
  5. JonHimself macrumors 68000

    JonHimself

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    #5
    I think it's more relevant if the OP hadn't already purchased the Apple TV.

    Regardless, I struggled with this for a while and finally settled on something that works. I guess it's different if you have a desktop, but I have a laptop and actually take it away from my house regularly. After using two separate iTunes libraries (one on my hard drive with just music and one on an external USB with just movies that was paired to the Apple TV) I bought the DNS-323 NAS server/hard drive thing. Now I use that as my primary iTunes library. I have all of my video AND all of my music on that. I sync my ipod and iphone with that library. For the sake of portability I still keep a iTunes library on my computer with just music and update it whenever I add music to my NAS library, but it only serves the purpose of having my music available to me when I take my computer away from home.

    I'd recommend using the G4 as a "server" of sorts. You could even keep it as a headless server really if you could VNC to it to add content. The way I see it, I have my TV, an xbox 360 and apple tv and that's it (at my living room set-up). I don't want to add a hard-drive to that set-up when I could just stream the media from my laptop (wired OR wireless, I have wireless B and have never had problems streaming anything). I guess if you could hide the hard drive it would be different, but even then, if you want to add content you'd have to unhook the hard drive, move all of the cables to your computer and then add the content THEN move it back to the Apple TV. It's preference, I guess, but I just use my DNS-323.

    Also, if you're willing to hack it to add external USB functionality, you might as well add Boxee or XBMC. With those, you can add your server (G4 computer, or NAS, etc) as a source of content in those two programs and not have to worry about leaving iTunes running... if you're using the G4 I guess it doesn't matter too much, but for me with a laptop, I can close my laptop and leave it turned off, then just stream content from my NAS with Boxee and not have to worry about the computer.
     
  6. Aurial macrumors 6502

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    Sep 13, 2008
    #6
    I think you're going down a similar sort of route that I'd like to. I haven't bought an Apple TV yet, but I'm considering it as I need something to stream media (mainly video) to in my bedroom. I've got an old computer tucked away that is functioning as a media server and streams media to my PS3 in the lounge. I want a solution that lets me stream video to my bedroom too. The problem is that I'm running Windows on the Media Server and I don't want to have to convert all my video files (there are quite a few) so that I can add them in iTunes. At the moment I'm using TVersity to stream to the PS3 which transcodes the files on the fly and is really good.

    Is there a way to stream to the Apple TV (whether I have to hack it or not) using Windows without having to convert all my media and add it to iTunes? I want a solution similar to TVersity where it's transcoded on the fly and streamed.
     
  7. srl7741 macrumors 68020

    srl7741

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    #7
    For the short term I'm going to add a 1TB external drive to my iMac and use FW800 to connect the two. I will keep my iTunes library there and see how it works? This will buy me some time to learn a little more about how it works.
    I would like to keep all the media in one place for my entire house to use. Every couple of weeks I plug in another external drive and backup the library just in case.

    If this works out ok then I would like to add another ATV to the bedroom.
    I have two concerns at the moment.

    1. I don't want to use my iMac to run the external media
    2. I can see the 1TB drive running out of space within one year.


    I have another question also? Does the iMac being used above have to have iTunes open and running at all times in order for ATV to work?
     
  8. JonHimself macrumors 68000

    JonHimself

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    #8
    Unfortunately, yeah. If you were to hack it, then not necessarily, but out of the box you need iTunes open to stream the content. If you were to sync the content you wouldn't, but you're never going to get your whole library sync'd on there at one time.
    Now if you were to hack it, with xbmc or boxee, you could set-up your computer to stream the content without leaving iTunes but the computer still has to be on (and at that point, why not just have iTunes running?). If you had a NAS storing your library then you could have xbmc and boxee connect to that and not have to have your computer on at all.
     
  9. JonHimself macrumors 68000

    JonHimself

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    #9
    It is hard when your videos aren't in the proper format for iTunes. A year or so ago I just bought-in to the iTunes compatible formats and only rip my movies/tv shows in h264, any 720p movies rips I get I also convert to a compatible format, it's time consuming but the conversion is all hands-off work.
    As I just wrote above, if you install boxee and/or xbmc you'll be able to stream all kinds of video content, regardless of format or if your iTunes is open. I'm not entirely sure how it's done, but you have to set-up your computer as an SMB server (I think it's smb, I'm not sure, maybe it's upnp) and then using one of those two programs you select the folder where you store your video content. Then it can connect to your computer and wil display the list of files that you have shared. You can access a ton of different video formats, I'm sure that you've got compatible ones. You're not transcoding on the fly but you're still able to play the videos.
    I'm not the best at explaining this but you can find out how to if you search. When I had my original xbox and lived in a shared house, my roommates and I all set-up our computers to be accessed by xbmc on the xbox. This was before I used iTunes for video and before AppleTV. We used PCs and Macs to do this so it's certainly possible. Even the hacking of the AppleTV is easy. I'm not sure if it's as easy on a PC but there's a program that simplifies it to the point of all you have to do is plug your USB stick into your computer and hit go, then you you have to plug it into your AppleTV and power it up... that's it. After Apple updated 2.2 to 2.3 I waited for the program to updated, when it was I did a factory reset on my AppleTV putting it back to 1.0. I updated it to 2.3 then I re-installed the USB patch stick. It was way too easy.
     
  10. srl7741 macrumors 68020

    srl7741

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    #10

    Thanks,
    Maybe if/when the Mac Mini is updated I will consider purchasing one of those to use rather than my iMac. It would free up my iMac and has much less of a footprint.
     
  11. hitekalex macrumors 68000

    hitekalex

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    Chicago, USA
    #11
    Yes, but it requires a bit of custom work on your AppleTV.

    First - you need to patch it using USB patchstick.

    Second - you need to install Perian, which will enable Quicktime on AppleTV to play just about anything you throw at it, including Xvid/Divx videos.

    Third - you need to install ATVFiles, which enables your Apple TV to access local file system or remote shares.

    And lastly, you need to install SMBFS which will enable your AppleTV to mount remote Windows shares, and combined with ATVFile - you can stream just about any content from your Windows machine to aTV.

    It may all sound like a lot of work, but actually quite straightforward if you know what you're doing. Search Awkward TV for more detailed guides on each of the above steps. And by the way - it's a much better solution than Tversity, as there is no transcoding taking place and you get the original quality of your content.
     
  12. chadamorrill macrumors 6502

    Joined:
    Sep 13, 2007
    Location:
    Orlando, FL
    #12
    I've just spent the better part of 3 days (on and off mostly) trying to get the :apple:TV to recognize my USB HD. Finally (FINALLY) I got it to work using NitoTV, opened iTunes, saw my 250GB :apple:TV, and proceeded to sync my content. I was excited, nay, ecstatic to have it working (and saved some $ too).

    The past week or so I've been using it, however, it's been a different story. I had a MacMini connected directly to my TV and used FrontRow to access the media. This worked flawlessly, and even after I moved my iTunes library to an external USB HD (not the same one), everything was responsive and smooth. The :apple:TV on the other hand, is slow, laggy, and jumpy. I'm not sure if it's the USB drive, or the amount of content, or the screensaver of my iPhoto pictures (15GB alone), or what, but it's incredibly slow. I'd love some input if anyone has any ideas.

    That being said, I think I remember my steps and could walk you through it, if you're still interested. Let me know (PM, or just back in this thread) and I'll work on an instruction set.

    And let me know if you have any ideas about my laggy :apple:TV :(
     
  13. srl7741 macrumors 68020

    srl7741

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    #13
    For the moment (week or two) I'm using a 1TB drive connected via FW800 to my iMac which contains 480GB of movies etc, streaming to ATV. It seems to be working great with no issues. The only thing I don't like is leaving my iMac on 24/7.
    I think the Mini will end up being the way to go. It takes up very little space and I can connect all the storage I need.

    Unless of course Apple comes out with a better solution.
     
  14. chadamorrill macrumors 6502

    Joined:
    Sep 13, 2007
    Location:
    Orlando, FL
    #14
    I can tell you for a fact... it works tremendously well. I kinda miss it, honestly. The :apple:TV is great, and some of the picture options are really cool (better than the Mini), but darned it all if it wasn't so laggy.

    PS. You may want to wait til MacWorld Conference to jump on a Mini, BUT I'm guessing you already knew that :)

    PSS. Also, no Firewire800 on the Mini. Just saw that. You'll have to go down to 400. And for that, you MAY want to jump now. No telling if Apple will take the FW400 off.
     
  15. srl7741 macrumors 68020

    srl7741

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    #15
    I am going to wait it out and see it they update the Mini. I'm hoping they make it a device that is a perfect companion to ATV. It's certainly the only current device they have that is affordable and does not take up much space. It has hugh potential, so let's see what they do next with it.

    ..
     

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