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iTunes server for TV play

Discussion in 'Apple TV' started by pbGuy, Sep 8, 2015.

  1. pbGuy

    pbGuy New Member

    I’m considering connecting either a Mac mini or a NAS (both would be newly purchased and have SSD) to my Gigabit, ethernet network and act as a server, for my complete iTunes Library, to my Apple TV (3rd Generation), which is ethernet connected to my Airport Extreme. My Apple TV is HDMI connected to an AV Receiver, which is audio and video supporting 5 surround-sound speakers and a 42” plasma HD monitor.

    [I will upgrade to the 4th Generation Apple TV when available.]

    What are the pros and cons related to using either a Mac mini or a NAS to access my iTunes Library to stream to my Apple TV?
  2. kirk

    kirk Administrator Staff Member

    I'd say the Mac mini is a lot easier to use, since you can simply turn on Home Sharing and share the library. I have a WD MyCloud NAS, and, while it claims to be able to share to iTunes, it doesn't work all the time. Also, if you care about things like play counts and last played dates, a NAS won't record them, whereas any copy of iTunes will, so you'll be able to create smart playlists using those criteria.
  3. pbGuy

    pbGuy New Member

    I'll follow your advice and implement a Mac mini. ...However, I have concern about using 2 computers on the same network with iTunes (even though iTunes allows up to 5).

    For clarity regarding Macs on my network... My MBP 17" (currently, my only Mac managing iTunes) is ethernet connected in my 2d floor office (via a MoCA network setup through my coax cable wiring, which is a great simulation of a hardwire ethernet LAN). The Mac mini will be ethernet direct-connected to my AE, which is ethernet connected to my Internet modem - the primary MoCA connection for the MoCA network, in my living room (and my Apple TV & AV system) and act as the primary, iTunes server to my Apple TV.

    I read some time ago it's best to use only 1 Mac, on a multiple Mac network, as the principal for iTunes purchase and management (including iOS sync) activity. Since the Mac mini will be a satellite unit (meaning, most of my daily computer stuff is done on my MBP), what are the sync-management impracticalities in having the Mac mini be the principal iTunes server?
  4. kirk

    kirk Administrator Staff Member

    I've never had any problems purchasing content from more than one Mac, and I've never heard of any such problems. Given the many emails I get about iTunes issues, I think I would have heard that if it were an issue.

    In any case, you don't nee to purchase on the Mac mini. You can still purchase on the MBP, and just add any purchased files to the Mac mini's library. The easiest way is to just drop them in the Automatically Add to iTunes folder; you can create an alias for it on the MBP. Also, if you want to rip CDs on the MBP, you can do so in iTunes, then add the files to the other library that way.
  5. Jeff Miller

    Jeff Miller New Member

    I use a mac mini as my movie server (also on an ethernet network) and I love it. A few tips:

    1) disable the mac mini's IR remote - I realized my Apple TV remote was controlling the mac mini even though it wasn't in the same room. In Security&Privacy > Advanced.
    2) Get a Headless Mac Mini Cable to speed up screen sharing. It's insane how laggy screen sharing is when you need to log on and do some admin work. This fixes it: http://www.newertech.com/products/cblmdpheadb.php
    3) I couldn't keep my mac mini from going to sleep (at which point the Apple TV wouldn't see it), so I installed Caffeine: https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/caffeine/id411246225?mt=12

    Last thought:
    I wasn't sure if a mac mini server would be a good solution so I tested with an older mac Mini first. My intention was to buy a better machine if the test worked, but the $100 craigslist machine worked perfectly and we never had movie loading lag (even with an old 5400rpm drive!). The SSD might be overkill since capacity is your real concern with a server. definitely won't hurt though, and probably less power draw for a machine that is on 24/7.

    Actual Last Thought:
    If I had unlimited funds, I would probably go with Synology NAS which has an iTunes Server function and is expandable.
  6. pbGuy

    pbGuy New Member

    You've offered valuable insight from your experience. Thanks.

    While I already use Caffeine, I'm not familiar with the Headless Mac Video Accelerator. ...Based upon NewerTech's site, I think I understand what the Accelerator is doing; but, anything further about how the cable works will help clarify. Also, it's compatible with up to mid-2012 Mac mini; any idea about compatibility with current model? Also, the Feature tab says max res is 1920x1080 @ 60Hz; any impact as being a limitation?
  7. Otto Nikolaus

    Otto Nikolaus Member

    I have a Syno NAS and am pleased with it but have found no use for the iTunes Server. What did you have in mind? You can't, for instance, stream from it to an Apple TV.
  8. Jeff Miller

    Jeff Miller New Member

    Hi Otto,

    Oh. I think you are correct about the Synology. I'm sorry, I was mistaken.

    Synology mentions that "DiskStation supports streaming movies and songs directly to Apple TV" (https://www.synology.com/en-global/dsm/5.2/multimedia). But users report that it does that via Airplay not true Home Sharing. I was hoping that the Synology would show up in the "Computers" channel, but apparently not.

    In that case, the mac mini would be a much better solution.
  9. Jeff Miller

    Jeff Miller New Member

    Sure. when you operate a mac mini without an attached monitor you are limited to lower resolutions and the GPU isn't enabled for acceleration. You can trick the mac mini into thinking it's got a monitor attached so the resolutions will be greater and the the GPU is enabled when you screen share from another mac.

    For a 2012+ mac mini, I think you need the HDMI version. Here is a link: http://amzn.com/B00FLZXGJ6
  10. kirk

    kirk Administrator Staff Member

    Actually, you should use this one, which has resolutions up to 4K:

    Change Screen Resolution on Headless OS X Server

    I use it on my Mac mini server.

    As for the difference between AirPlay and Home Sharing, I think many NAS devices can do Home Sharing. I have this NAS:

    Review: WD MyCloud EX2 Network Storage Device

    It does Home Sharing, but it's quirky. I haven't tested it extensively, but I'll dump some music on it and see how it handles it. I only tested it with videos.

    Follow-up: I loaded some music on the WD MyCloud. It works fine, though I'm not seeing album artwork in iTunes. I don't know what kind of stress testing would be useful to determine how well it works, but it displays and plays music, which is pretty much what I'd expect.

    This said, if you set up a Mac mini running iTunes, you'll have the advantage of using playlists. Home Sharing with a NAS just lets you load the content as albums or songs. There doesn't seem to be any way to have playlists on it.
    Last edited: Sep 11, 2015
  11. pbGuy

    pbGuy New Member

    Lot's of really good suggestions. Thank you all.

    Given my particular requirements and overall use, here's what I'd like to do. ...Additional critique (or correction) will be very helpful as I've never setup a Mac as an iTunes (Home Sharing) server.

    First, my computer use is primarily web browsing as well as use of 3rd party software not requiring all the power current, MBP 15's provide. (I'm not doing any music or video editing.) ...A robust, Mac mini with 3.0 GHz Dual-Core i7 processor, 16GB SDRAM, & 256GB (all I need) Flash Storage @ $1399 is really price attractive, and I think supports my computer usage.
    Second, I'm using an  24" Cinema Display (1920x1200 res) which I want to continue using with the Mac mini, and I understand the Display's MiniDisplay Port cable can effectively be connected through the Mac mini's Thunderbolt 2 port. ...Based upon details at this Link: https://discussions.apple.com/thread/7053384

    As result, I'm thinking a new, Mac mini would allow continued use of my Cinema Display, provide enough power for my computer needs, and as an iTunes server using Home Sharing (and all the benefits thereof), provide quick and easy iTunes play on my Apple TV 3, which will be upgraded to and TV 4 once it's available.

    The Mac mini will be ethernet connected over my MoCA network; so, the Mac mini's location within my condo, doesn't matter but yet will provide responsive, Gigabit network transmission for Apple TV Home Sharing. ...The Mac mini's Energy Saver pref would be set to Wake for Network Access; so, I think this particular setting permits easy, Apple TV access (iTunes always being Open on the Mac mini) to my iTunes Library without initially interacting with the Mac mini when I want to play a Playlist over my Apple TV.

    Will this overall setup work as I've outlined?

    Last edited: Sep 11, 2015
  12. kirk

    kirk Administrator Staff Member

    The only thing to note is that the Apple TV is not gigabit, it's 10/100. Not that that matters much; you'll be streaming, so it's not a big deal. Otherwise, it all makes sense to me.
  13. pbGuy

    pbGuy New Member

    ...I did know TVs are 10/100 (just spaced it out as I was thinking about my MoCA network); but as you say and given how I'll use TV, its lack of Gigabit, for my streaming, won't really be an issue.

    Now, I'll go shopp'n. :)

    Again, thanks to all participants in this Thread. I gained valuable information from each Post.


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