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Mac Mini, Synology, Apple TV, iTunes - where to start

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iPerfection Calculating status...
Currently Being Moderated
Sep 3, 2012 10:08 AM

Hi Everyone,

 

I am new to the apple forum. To be honest I am new to the whole Apple thing, being a Windows bod I managed to resist the Apple gravy train for several years before giving in and falling inline.

 

Now I find myself with an iphone, ipod touch, ipad 2, mac mini and apple TV 4 although not all in use yet... This brings me to my question.

What is the best home setup for sharing?

 

let me set the scene.

3 years ago I modernised my house and put in cat5e structured cabling throughout, all back to a comm rack in the loft. at the time I set up a powerful quad core server. I used to run my own AD domain, Exchange server (don't ask). Now the server runs Windows 7 professional with 8 HDDs running raid 5 mainly running windows media centre and I was using my xbox 360s as extenders. The view was to use Xbox's around the house to access my media. Never quite got there and things have moved on again.

 

After running the big Windows beast 24x7 for about 18 months I wanted to scale down again, improve data resillience and provide a simple user interface for my other half.

 

So after doing some initial web trawling armed and dangerous with a very small amount of knowledge and realising that I already had an amount of Apple kit to contribute towards an iTunes based mulitroom solution. The red mist came down and with credit card in hand I did some retail therapy. Not the female handbag and shoes type but the proper male tech kind.

 

I already had

1 x ipod touch 64GB

1 x iphone 4 32GB

1 x ipad 2 64GB wifi

 

And to complement the set I now have;

1 x i5 2.7GHZ, 16GB RAM, 2TB HDD Mac mini (this is the latest version which I upgraded to 2 x 1TB internal drives)

1 x 4th gen apple TV

and non Apple kit

1 x Synology DS212+  with 8TB storage raid 0

1 x Onkyo TX-NR515 AV receiver

 

 

So now comes to the ask. How best to use all of this over my home wired network?

I'm thinking I will use iTunes, I want to have some form of data backup between the Synology and the Mac mini (I want to shut down my windows server)

I also want to be able to control it all from the ipad/ipod and push media (audio and video) around the house.

The mac mini is currently plugged into one of my TVs via the AV receiever and the thought was to use the apple TV in another room, and depending of how it goes buy another 1 or 2 for other rooms.

So I have all this kit and not sure where to start and I'm not a mac expert. I know I can't use the synology box on it's own as you need itunes for the apple TVs, I don't know whether to use the Synology or the local Mac storage for the primary itunes library and then to backup to the device is so how (time capsule thing).

I don't want itunes to organise my media as I don't like the way it shuffles files around, so thinking of keeping the media files in a folder structure I am familar with and pointing iTunes at that. I also have a large amount of video files that I will probably have to convert to be capatible with iTunes, but not sure of the best way to do this, if I need to at all.

 

Sorry for the long waffle. Would be interested in any views, suggestions, ideas or examples of your own set ups. In return, for what it is worth I will let you know how I get on.

 

many thanks for your input

  • aschmid Level 1 Level 1 (10 points)

    I am in a similar situation than you and just trying to figure out a similar setup as well.

     

    I didn't have a Windows based server before but used my Mac Mini as central server and storage hub. My idea was similar to run OS X Server and manage everything centrally. Well let's just say I struggled for a few months trying to get things to work until I realize I'd take me considerable less time to just go around to each of the other Macs I have and update them manually. The Mac Mini as a Server idea was abandoned.

     

    The Mac Mini has 2TB internal (self upgraded) and I had about 3 x 2TB disks hanging off it to keep all my backups and copies of copies and other non essentially stuff. This was working okay but a pain in the .... if you needed that extra space temporarily to copy something and none of the disks had enough space you started shuffeling things around for hours ... failed copies ... bla, bla, bla, not worth my time.

     

    So anyway that's not the point here I bought a Synology DS412+ with 4 x 3TB drives and setup to RAID 10 with around 5TB usuable space (maybe a bit of an overkill but hey why not). I then proceeded to copy all my "stuff" from my external disks and Mac Mini onto the DS clearing out copies and ended up with ~ 2.5TB.

     

    So now I am at the same point where I have a free Mac Mini and Synology DS that somehow now building the backbone of my home enterainment network serving 2 x iMacs, 1 x Macbook Pro, 2 x iPads, 2 x iPhones and 1 x AppleTV. With expansion on the horizon for another iPad and AppleTV ... Apple must love familes with kids!

     

    I have tried to use some of the Synology iTunes Server and Media Server but that doesn't seem to work out very well for me. They seem to more catered for people who don't have any Apple gear which i think has media sharing capabilities build in like Home Sharing and Airplay, etc

     

    I am thinking I am better off to let the Mac Mini be the master off serving stuff in my environment, possible hook it up to my lounge TV, and let the Synology box just be the central storage.

     

    So let's see if we can figure out how this is all suppossed to work, shall we?

  • aschmid Level 1 Level 1 (10 points)

    Okay so after playing a bit further with all the gear I have now more or less retired my MacMini!!!

     

    It turns out that the Media Server on the Synology is actually quiet good. After setting it up I could see that media server from more devices in my house and play more content than with any media server I installed on my MacMini (i have tried several but mainly Playback and Plex).

     

    Now the only issue with using the Synology box is that it can't do iTunes probably for the ATVs. However the ATVs can easily play any content from any Mac in the house that's setup via Home Sharing. So instead of having to move my iTunes library to the MacMini to stream it I can just stream it straight from any Mac in the house anyway to the ATVs. So this is not so much an issue at all, in some sense simply things as it's one less copy.

     

    What I am doing now is have all my Apple purchase content like Music and Movies in my iTunes library sitting on vairous Macs in the house and play that on my TV via the ATV. For non-Apple content that is not in iTunes I have setup a Media Server on the Synology box and can stream that through my XBOXs to the TV.

     

    I think that's the setup I go with as it also has the advantage of separating the content of the purchased Apple stuff versus the other stuff.

     

    So now my MacMini is idleing away and nothing is really running on it. I'll keep it around for a while and see if there is anything I can do with it but at the moment I don't see what I'd be using it for. If i dont' find anything I'll get rid of it - one less sytem to manage!

     

    BTW I found it so much easier to have the Synology box as a file server as it has a web interface if you need to make any changes. With the MacMini as file server it works too but if you have to change something you need to do a remote session from a Mac to it and then drill down in desktop to what you want. The Synology web interface allows me to do this more straight forward from any system in the house as it's browser based. Even some things from iOS devices!

  • Alex Aylesbury Calculating status...

    Wow a thread after my own heart

     

    I’ve recently had a NAS breakdown, the partition on a WD Mybook got corrupted, and with the pain of having to recover the data on the disc I’ve had a sit down to figure out how best to sort things out going forward.

     

    I,like yourself , have a CAT system in the house to a single point which helps only if your needing low latency apps interfacing with NAS or your broadband connection.

     

    I have a linksys DSL modem plugged into an Airport Extreme where i connect my NAS. I have 2 ipads, 2 iphones , Mac mini, Mac pro 2006, old G4 (Wireless) as a hub and a G4 laptop which i use to digitise my vinyl all connected. The network setup works ok and sharing is ok but the problem I have always had it that with multiple Macs accessing the same library the opportunity for file changing or just information getting out of sync is a major problem.

     

    I have an added complexity whereby I use the laptop for real time streaming media which causes huge issues for the software I am running http://serato.com/scratchlive which I use to digitise my vinyl. It basically records the vinyl I have and records it directly to the NAS.

     

    So post meltdown where I was using WD Mybook World NAS 2TB config, ive decided to move away from that and design it all around a Synology Air 2bay drive solution with an additional back up disc.

     

    I have not yet set it all up but i am looking for sync with ipads, iphone direct with the nas media server with the rest using the NAS as a central library for itunes and scratch live.

      The problem I always hit though is the itune library synching, if i purchase from one machine it does not update the libraries of the others even though they are authorised.  Yes machine authorisation does do it to a certain extent but if I’m changing names on files on different machines I would like it to update to all machines or have them synch changes of the central media server.  I have not been able to find a solution.

  • Tpx Calculating status...

    I really like this thread! I'm almost in the same situation...

     

    I've a brand new Synology DS413J, and I just started to store all my movies and tvshows on it.Via ethernet and Time Capsule it streams this content to an ATV 2 black (actually pimped ) and everything works fine (XBMC, Media Player, Plex) with covers, synopsys, various infos.

     

    Movies and Tv Shows are also shared via DLNA to another TV, in another room. The front end is not so nice, but I can stand it.

     

    Now I'd like to move my iTunes Library from my iMac to the NAS, in order to have all the devices linked to this new library (iMac, iPads, iPhones, Macbooks etc). Is it a good choice? I'd like to have all the music stored on my NAS, freeing space on desktop and laptops. What do you think?

     

    I've to say that I am also a iTunes Match subscriber, and I stream music from the Cloud to the Apple TV (and finally to the amplifier) and to an Airport Express (and finally to another ampli).

     

    Thnak you for your attention and sorry for my english.

  • adncnsn Calculating status...

    I've been looking at whether to buy Mac mini or apple tv or synology, but dont own any of them yet. And so I wondered if any of you could suggest genuinely "how to start" for someone who really has yet to start. I need movies on the tv, music and photos available on any of our several macs, and music generally about the place but I'm not sure through what yet. We have about 350GB of music and movies to date, plus bucketloads of photos.

     

    Hope you can suggest the best way forward.

  • Tpx Level 1 Level 1 (5 points)

    They are really 3 different devices... but a beautiful combo! I'd suggest to skip the Mini, in case you already own several Macs. Otherwise you could use the Mini as an expensive and upgradable Media Server (I'd like to ;-) ) using XBMC or Plex in order to have a nice view of you Movie and Tv Show, connecting it via HDMI to the TV (+ ethernet or wifi). For this purpose I'm using a "pimped" ATV, needing no more space...

     

    What about the NAS? I'm just a newbie, learning the best way to use it. For what I know, it's really really useful, big storage, expandability (buy at least the 4 bays) and longevity. If you are using (as I do) iPhoto or Aperture, it's not so useful (just a back up) to manage your photos librairies.

     

    Hope this helps.

  • aschmid Level 1 Level 1 (10 points)

    I have all three devices and here is my opinion:

     

    ATV - this is a no brainer and I'd recommend you get one or even more. I personally have two for the two TV's in my house and they are used to stream "Apple" content (anything that is in iTunes) to the TVs. Works perfect!

     

    Mac Mini - i have and tried to use as central storage and media hub. Storage was always a challenge as USB and FW disks are slow and many cables, Thundrbolt disk to expensive. In terms of configuration you can remotely connect via Screen Sharing but it's not really designed to be remote administrered so sometimes challenging to change setting if you connect from a smaller screen, eg a Macbook. I have also found that this is running  a "desktop OS X" that is not really designed to be a media hub or file server. You need to install an configure other software such as Plex or XBMC to make it work and that does not always go smoothly.

     

    Synology - has all the storage you need and is setup to be a NAS that's per default remotely administrated. The web interface of the Synology box is the best I have seen. It has build in music, video and music servers that allow you to stream content to DLNA compatible devices. The only catch is that it doesn't have a proper iTunes server running like you can on a OS X system. The iTunes server it has is limited and doesn't allow you to do Home Sharing or Music Match etc. It just shows as a shared library on your network.

     

    The only reason you need a Mac Mini on top of a Synology is if you don't have other OS X computers to stream the iTunes content. if you have other systems, eg iMacs they are able to stream the content through tem to your ATV than Synology box is really all you need.

  • adncnsn Level 1 Level 1 (0 points)

    There's something unsettling about having to have the iMac sitting awake to serve up media, and so I am attracted to the idea of the mac mini.  (Is that right?)  I only have one TV so if I plugged it into the mini I wouldn't even need an AppleTV?

     

    But I also have this utopian vision of unburdening myself from the desk-bound iMac and giving each of my family a laptop each, and that has me thinking NAS.  But if I can't make proper use of iTunes music, then that seems wrong.

     

    Does this suggest a mac mini server, which offers 2x 500GB drives?  Can it be my NAS file storage as well as media centre?  How's the server version differ in day to day use, anyway?

     

    So confusing, too many almost-right options, seemingly no perfect ones.

  • aschmid Level 1 Level 1 (10 points)

    It's correct that a OS X system needs to be awake to stream iTunes contents, specifically for Home Sharing. So you can either have an iMac, Macbook or Mac Mini doing this. Yes sometimes my iMac goes to sleep - it's not too hard for me to walk over in the study and hit the keyboard to wake it up. Done! That's versus having an Mac Mini running 24x7 just for when you want to stream content - a bit a waste of trees.

     

    Note once more here that the NAS box can stream non-iTunes content directly to a DLNA enabled device. Many TVs and DVD/Blueray players or game consol can stream that content. No need to have anything Apple.

     

    Keep in mind that if you connect your Mac Mini directly to your TV you don't have the "nice interface" of an ATV. Since Lion Apple discontinued Frontrow so you have to deal with the standard OS X interface or install something like XBMC or Plex which in turn cannot stream iTunes content once more.

     

    So here again what I do today maybe this makes more sense:

     

    1) Non-iTunes content on Synology box -> Synology DLNA Server -> XBOX360 -> TV

     

    2) iTunes content on Synology box -> Mount via Network share to iMac -> iTunes on iMac -> ATV -> TV

     

    As previously pointed out in this threat you can also mix and match the non-iTunes and iTunes content in this way back on your Synology box if that's what you want to do.

     

    Re the server version I bought this too but i have found that it was easier for me to go to each Mac in my house and just do what I want to do instead of trying to figure out how to configure a server to do things for me. I can see how in an environemnt where you can't get to each machine physically it has a lot of merit but if you can just walk  in the next room and do it you are probably faster, except if you are a OS X Server guru.

  • Tpx Level 1 Level 1 (5 points)

    @aschmid: when you say "iTunes content on Synology box" do you mean that you have your iTunes Library stored on the Synology NAS? Phisically? I've the doubt wether to move my library from the iMac or not... and I'd like to stream my music to Apple TV and to a DAC optically wired to an Ampli.

  • Forcefour Level 1 Level 1 (15 points)
    Currently Being Moderated
    Oct 23, 2012 10:05 PM (in response to aschmid)

    Great thread all!  I have been wrestling with this very topic for several months now.  I've read every thread I could find on the topic, asked questions etc but still have not come to a final decision.  But I am getting close ... I think.

    First, a little background.  I am starting from primarily pc household and converting to an all Apple infrastructure.  From the Apple world, we already have 2 iPhones and 3 iPads.  New iPhone 5 on order and ... today at last Apple has announced the new iMacs.  Exactly what I have been waiting for and so my intent is to purchase one each of the smaller and larger as they come out next month and the month after.  My router is beginning to show signs of age and so I would also like to move to an Airport Extreme.  The PC hard drive housing my iTunes library is nearly full and so I need to move the library to a new location, preferable an external, networkable location and I've been looking at the Synology 1812 for this purpose.  So, in the end I have or would like to soon have:

    • 3 iPads
    • 3 iPhones
    • 2 iMacs
    • 1 AppleTV 3 with a plan to one or two more.  If they would only add the Amazon Prime app and RF remote capabilities it would be nearly perfect.
    • 2 PS3s and 1 XBox360 but I much prefer the ATV interface for media.  PS3 remains the place for the Amazon app because ATV doesn't provide.
    • 1 Airport Extreme
    • House is already wired and homerunned with Cat-6
    • Plan to add Synology 1812 with 3 or 4 3TB drives to start and use the Synology Hybrid Raid

     

    Open items or questions for me:

    1.  Will I have any issues if I purchase the Synology, move the iTunes library from my current PC to it and then remove the PC from the picture once I have an iMac in place?  I understand that Apple does not utilize the same hard drive formatting structure as pc but I am not sure this would matter for an external device accessed over a network.

    2.  What am I going to serve with?  I like iTunes and I am used to it.  I would like something that works well with the ATV and it does that.  Plex seems to have potential but would then make ATV useless unless hckd.  All of my music is in iTunes now, including ripped, iTunes purchased and Amazon purchased.  I have put many tv shows and some films into it as well, utilizing Handbrake to do so when needed. 

    3.  Synology for storage, backup, redundancy etc but from where do I want to manage media / serve from?  I realize I can do it from one or even both of the iMacs.  I had been thinking that I wanted a low power, always on solution that would negate the need to have an IMac always on, something similar to the HP MediaSmart Server I've been using at home for a number of years, albeit clunkily.  This is where I thought the Mac Mini might come in (once I learned that the Synology iTunes server was really not a true iTunes server).  Low power, always on, can be running iTunes on it etc.  But this thread and aschmid's comments have me rethinking this.  Maybe I won't be shutting down my iMac all that much and maybe it isn't difficult to wake it so that it can address serving duties.

    4.  How would I address the storage of home videos vs films and tv shows?  I don't want iTunes managing home videos ... do I?  Still want them sitting on the Synology - right?  Did you all create a separate folder on the Synology for home videos?  I know there is a default videos folder. there.  And are you serving via iPhoto, Aperture or something else?

    5.  How about photos?  I would like my photo library housed on the Synology as well.  Is that served via iPhoto or Aperture to the ATV?  How are the mutiple entry points addressed?  Everyone in the family is taking pictures, videos etc and all of iCloud turned on.  How do I insure that a clean copy of every picture and video taken with any iPhone, iPad, digital camera, digital camcorder etc all ends up centrally located and accessible on the Synology without it becoming too manual a process?

     

    Sorry about the long windedness of this.  I got on a bit of a roll once I began typing.  This has been on my mind for some time and I am happy to have come across this thread.

  • aschmid Level 1 Level 1 (10 points)
    Currently Being Moderated
    Oct 24, 2012 12:54 AM (in response to Tpx)

    @TPX: Ah yes of course. If i could store all my content locally why would I need a Synology box? The issue is I don't have enough storage on my Macs so I move the iTunes library to a central storage (Synology NAS) so it becomes accessible from all the Macs I have. Isn't that why you consider having a NAS in the first place?

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