REVIEW : ATV1 with Leopard as iTunes Server

Discussion in 'Apple TV and Home Theater' started by CylonGlitch, Sep 6, 2011.

  1. CylonGlitch macrumors 68030

    CylonGlitch

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    #1
    Just a quick little review.

    I purchased a 40GB ATV1 with the sole intent of installing Leopard on it and making it my primary iTunes server (nothing else running).

    Setup - This was quite easy; there are a few sites out there with guides on installing Leopard on to the ATV1, but the easiest method (and what I went with) was to download images already made for the ATV1. These images have much of the unnecessary stuff removed. I did (and recommend) use CarbonCopy Cloner to make a backup of the original drive before starting off, just incase you want to go back. Then I used CarbonCopy Cloner to put the new image on the drive (I did reformat and partition to make one large drive).

    Usage - Takes a while to boot the first time, there is a ton of stuff to go through. I initially had it hooked directly to my TV but have switched to a headless mode of operation now. So far, everything works perfectly. I have done most of the updates (JAVA is the only thing I didn't update yet).

    Performance - Slow. No other way to say it, it's damn slow. It works, but it takes time to do things. Last night was my first real test of the device. Previously I had everything running via an old Windows XP laptop (Intel Celeron with 1gb of RAM). I thought it was too slow, but the ATV is slower. I had watched Avatar on the XP Laptop and had no problems; in fact, I could stream to two different sources at the same time without problems. The ATV didn't perform as well; it did hick-up twice while watching Avatar. I didn't try streaming to two different devices but I cannot see it doing very well; it already stumbled just going to ONE TV. :(

    Overall - If you only have one target device and don't mind an occasional stutter then it's a cheep server. Remote access is easy, setup was a snap, just be patient. I'm seriously consider selling it. Maybe even with Leopard on it for someone else to play with. Then maybe I'll buy an older gen MacMINI or even the new one to setup with Lion and even install Lion Server (already own it) and use that as my Mail Server and such. The ATV1 works, it does it's job, but I'm not overly impressed. I knew it would be a stretch, and I thought it would be better then the Intel Celeron Laptop; but it is no better (not really worse, just not better). It was a fun experiment, and it does save a ton of power and is very quiet; those are big plusses but the performance is quite lack luster.
     
  2. blueroom macrumors 603

    blueroom

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    #2
    Thanks for the write up, I've been looking for a cheap & cheerful device to run EyeTV3 and was thinking an old ATV1 might work. Seems wishful thinking now.
     
  3. accessoriesguy macrumors 6502a

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    #3
    thanks for the write up too!
    So the Apple TV 2 may be the better bet? at least the starting price is $99 and i see them pop up on Craigslist every now and then for slightly less.
     
  4. CylonGlitch thread starter macrumors 68030

    CylonGlitch

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    #4
    ATV2 doesn't have a hard drive, thus no way to install a full OS.
     
  5. sandyjmacdonald macrumors 6502

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    #5
    It has about 8 GB of flash memory though. I don't see any reason why you couldn't install an operating system on that. I have Snow Leopard running on a 4 GB thumb drive.
     
  6. OllyW Moderator

    OllyW

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    #6
    You can't load OS X on the Apple TV 2, it's got an A4 processor which runs iOS.
     
  7. AdrianK macrumors 68020

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    #7
    Any idea how it copes as an OS X fileserver? I imagine it would be fine.

    I'm interested to know what the bottleneck is, don't suppose you had a look at activity monitor during streaming?

    And the A4 is arm based, there is no OS X compiled for ARM.
     
  8. tbayrgs macrumors 603

    tbayrgs

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    #8
    Just to clarify, did you try to watch video on a TV directly connected to the :apple:TV with Leopard or did you stream to another device? It wouldn't surprise me that it had trouble if you were viewing video directly on the device considering the pre-existing limitations the :apple:TV 1 has in it's native format with an even older stripped down version of OS X. If you were watching directly, I'd try to stream only and see how your results are, assuming you have another device capable of using to watch the video. Correct me if I'm wrong but for example, when I stream a movie to an :apple:TV 2, the processor on board the :apple:TV 2 is doing the work, not the serving computer.

    I'd be interested to see how it functions headless only as an iTunes server to :apple:TV 2s. My guess is it may do quite a bit better and would be how this device could shine. I've already got a Mac Mini to do the job but also have an unopened :apple:TV1 and would be interested in giving this a go for my sister to use as an iTunes server as she's only using a laptop right now.
     
  9. CylonGlitch thread starter macrumors 68030

    CylonGlitch

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    #9
    Wirelessly posted (Mozilla/5.0 (iPhone; U; CPU iPhone OS 4_3_3 like Mac OS X; en-us) AppleWebKit/533.17.9 (KHTML, like Gecko) Version/5.0.2 Mobile/8J2 Safari/6533.18.5)

    Good question. It was streaming to an ATV2. The ATV1 was only set up as an iTunes server, nothing else. I was disappointed at the performance. Avatar, as I expected, was a challenge. It was ripped from a BluRay and encoded using ATV2 settings but quality set to 18 instead of 20. The ATV1 is wired into an Airport Extreme. But the ATV2 is running WiFi.

    As mentioned my old Celeron PC streamed without hiccup, the ATV1 stuttered twice, looks like the ATV2's buffer emptied for a second, but continued without a hitch after the second stutter (the two happened within 1 minute of each other).

    Could be that the OS decided to do something, or some traffic on the network, but whatever, I never saw anything like this before.

    I will run a few more tests and see if I can get the ATV2 wired in. I'll report any findings here. My guess, streaming just dvd's might be fine but keeping up with a 720p stream might be too much. :(
     
  10. Stovepiper macrumors member

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    #10
    This is an interesting test, thanks for sharing your experience. It's very relevant to my interests because I'm on the verge of pulling the trigger on an ebay auction for a 40 GB Apple TV. If it's not a suitable streamer with Leopard to an ATV2 it would be a waste of money for me.

    Right now the 40 GB models seem to be going for between $60 and $80. Not bad if it could serve this purpose well. I know some of these pre-made images have tried to strip the OS down to the bare essentials. Which one are you using if you don't mind me asking? It would seem that the image you choose could make a big difference.
     
  11. tbayrgs macrumors 603

    tbayrgs

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    #11
    Thanks for the clarification. I thought at a minimum it would be able to function as a headless iTunes server without too much difficulty. I realize they are hardly the same machine but my 2.0 GHz C2D Mini barely registers a blip on the Actiivity Monitor when streaming a 720p encode of a blu ray rip to one of my Apple TV 2s (iTunes uses between 1-3 % of CPU resources).
     
  12. CylonGlitch thread starter macrumors 68030

    CylonGlitch

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    #12
    I'll run Activity Monitor and play back a different movie. I'll try to get to that this week and I'll report back.
     
  13. HellDiverUK macrumors 6502

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    #13
    I think running Leopard on the ATV1 was your mistake.

    If I were you, I'd have put Crystalbuntu/ATV-Linux on there, and added an iTunes server like Firefly. :D

    http://www.stmlabs.com/projects/
     
  14. CylonGlitch thread starter macrumors 68030

    CylonGlitch

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    #14
    Since I don't want to bother with it once setup; sticking with a native environment is much easier. This way, as iTunes is updated, all I have to do is run software update and I'm done. Instead of waiting for someone else to update their server to make it work. I'm past the "I want to tinker" stage in my life, I just want it to work. It does work right now, just doesn't seem to be as good as I wanted. I'll, most likely, just bite the bullet and buy an MacMINI to do the job instead; but the low cost of the ATV1 was tempting to give it a shot. Worst case, I sell it on eBay and move on to the mini.
     
  15. CylonGlitch thread starter macrumors 68030

    CylonGlitch

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    #15
    Just ran Avatar (final battle) in high-def (720p) from the ATV1.

    Not sure what I was seeing the other night, but it seems to be a combination of things. I have GBe run to everywhere, and then my Aiport Extreme using 802.11n. Should be good enough. I did notice that ATV1 (and 2) are only 10/100, but that shouldn't be bad. But what I did notice was the RAM usage and the hard drive usage was quite aggressive. I think the 256MB of RAM is the limitation, it is caching to the disk a lot. Although I did see CPU spikes as high as 60 to 70%, but most of the time it was running about 15 to 20%.

    Just as I was typing this up, it stuttered again, I backed up and played the same location again, no stutter. Thus it is processing that is the problem. But I think it could be a combination of everything. Hard drive access, networking, memory limitations, etc. Maybe even the USB access because all of my videos are on an external USB drive.

    I think that in general, everything is OK but it really isn't capable of really streaming smoothly under all conditions. For now I'll keep it running and see what I think after a while; but I may want to get another laptop or maybe MacMini to run as the server. :(

    I think the oomph is just not there all around. When I get enough money for a MacMini I'll upgrade to that and see how things go.

    For those who care, I did capture the usage with a video capture app, so you can see what I was looking at. I would have to upload the raw videos somewhere, but only if someone is interested.

    Finally, I did make a connection on my laptop and tried to stream the same movie (same last scene) to it at the same time. Since the Laptop was going 802.11n, and the ATV1 was streaming to the ATV2 on my TV, it was a total failure, a complete slideshow. I might try streaming to my ATV1 in the other room also on GBe and see if that can watch a show at the same time. Otherwise I would need more horsepower.
     
  16. blueroom macrumors 603

    blueroom

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    #16
    I'm in the process of setting up a Zotac ZBOX-AD02 ~$320 (1.6GHz, 250GB, 2GB RAM) as an iTunes server & OTA DVR. It uses the AMD E350 chipset but lacks the OS, IR & Bluetooth a Mac Mini would have. I'm in the testing phase (it could be worthless if it can't stream 1080 properly, the 2011 Mac Mini I tried had serious audio / video sync problems most likely a Lion quirk)
    [​IMG]
     
  17. CylonGlitch thread starter macrumors 68030

    CylonGlitch

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    #17
    Looks promising as well. I don't plan on having it hooked up directly to the TV, I want to have it streaming across my network to any device in the house. Thus the audio/video sync shouldn't be an issue. But also I own Lion Server edition that I can put on there and do my whole family email, web server, and calendar server. Or something of that nature. :D
     
  18. MagnusVonMagnum macrumors 601

    MagnusVonMagnum

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    #18
    I don't get it. If you only have one target device, what is the point? You could just run iTunes directly and skip streaming altogether. Heck, you could just load that baby up with media directly and just play it through the regular interface or even use XBMC. You could even use Airtunes to send music directly to other devices from it.

    I'm not sure what makes it so slow, but I'm guessing its the limited RAM. I'm using a 1.8GHz PPC G4 PowerMac Digital Audio machine as a server and have no trouble what-so-ever with the system and I have 5 rooms of audio and two of video. One might think a far newer Intel CPU (even if it's only 1GHz) would do reasonably well. OTOH, my old PowerMac has Gigabit Ethernet on it as well as a Sata interface that can do over 100 MB/sec so it can stream to my router rather quickly, if need be whereas the AppleTV is limited both by its slow internal hard drive (60GB 5200 RPM is not terribly fast) and its slow networking connection (10/100) plus its limited ram (whereas my PowerMac has 1.5GB of ram). I know on my Hackintosh Netbook, it bogged down pretty quickly just surfing the Net with 1GB and Snow Leopard (and ATV has 256 Megabytes, which is 1/4 what the Netbook had). Upgrading it to 2GB made a big difference. 1.5GB seems to be just enough for Leopard.

    I think one could get a cheap $300 PC and use it as a server no problem (similar price to what a 1st Gen Apple TV used to cost). A used G5 for cheap would do nicely, but sooner or later iTunes is going to drop PPC support so I don't recommend it. Perhaps a two year old used Mac Mini if you must have OSX for the server?
     
  19. CylonGlitch thread starter macrumors 68030

    CylonGlitch

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    #19
    I have 3 TV's and 2 Laptops that also stream videos. For this test it was only TV. It does OK streaming to one device, but multiple devices and it really chokes. Even going to one device it was not entirely smooth the whole time. That's the point, it should have been.

    I had an old PC, but the size and power consumption is much more then what I want. I just want a very small device I can sit in the corner and not have to worry about. I had an old PC laptop and it did the job well, but it wasn't perfect; and it was loud. Thus my thoughts to get a MacMINI, but so far the C2Duo's that I've seen are asking too much $350 to $450 typically and thus I'd rather just buy a new one.
     

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