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

42765 Views 87 Replies Latest reply: Jan 15, 2014 1:29 AM by dradicke RSS Branched to a new discussion.
  • aschmid Calculating status...



    1. That's the beauty of a NAS (Network Attached Storage) platform independent. Once it's on their it can be accessed from various OS.


    2. Any OS X system that can run iTunes can act as a media server for your ATVs.


    3. Mac Mini is a valid option don't get me wrong. If you happy to shell out $600 to have a system there as iTunes server running 24x7 go ahead. That's the best most expensive solution.


    NOTE: Another thing on the Mac Mini setup to consider is user account. I have several iMacs as I have several users in my home. Each have their own iTunes library. As they are on different system they can stream from different system. If you server them all via ONE Mac Mini you'll have to setup different user account and log into each one and startup iTunes at least once per reboot to get this working.


    4. Not sure what you are asking here but if you want to stream to ATV you need iTunes. If you want to stream to your PS3 or XBOX360 you can Synology DLNA server to that. You can setup a many folders/shares as you want on your NAS box to keep the content.


    5. If you want that you just move your iPhoto library to a shared folder on the Synology box and then tell iPhoto to open the iPhoto library from there. You need to be on network so won't work for laptop off network. ATV get their photos also through iTunes to my understanding.


    NOTE: I keep my iPhoto libraries of different users locally and just copy them back to Synology box from time to time to have a central repository. I can then serve them through the Synology DLNA servers. iPhoto does not work well with several libraries and get's easily corrupted.

  • Tpx Level 1 Level 1 (5 points)

    Yes, I'd like to move my iTunes library on the NAS, but I have to be sure that it can work! Thank You.


    On the other hand I'm a little worried about moving my IPHOTO library on the NAS. They say that the library needs to sit on a disk formatted Mac OS Extended (Journaled)... Did you move your iPhoto library to the NAS?

  • Forcefour Level 1 Level 1 (15 points)

    Happy this discussion is still going on.  It has proven quite informative and helpful to me personally and it seems like quite a few of us are on similar pages with what we are doing or would like to do.  Great minds ... right?

    iPerfection - your case fits mine very closely and along the way I have had many of the questions you have.  You are a bit ahead of me in action and so I appreciate your feedback as somone who very closely mirrors my own situation.

    Well - I'm pretty much ready to go now.  The new iMacs have been announced, my current pc hard drives are running out of space and my HP MediaSmart server is also running out of space and getting long in the tooth to boot.  Time to begin my transition. Based on the information I have been able to glean from research, much of it from this thread ... here is how I am planning it out.  Please comment, shoot holes in it, tell me I'm on the right track, or just provide friendly advice, pitfalls etc.


    Step 1:  Purchase the NAS.  I am looking at the Synology DS1812+ running 3-4 WD Red 3TB drives to start.  I may never need more than this but it's nice to know it's there if I do.

    Step 2: Purchase an Airport Extreme and swap it in as a replacement for my aging D-Link router.

    Step 3: Purchase one switch capable of taking advantage of the link aggregation feature of the DS1812+.  I would be swapping these in for a current, active D-Link 8-port switch that does not have this capability sitting on top of my router at present.  If anyone has an idea on a good switch for the job ... I'm all ears.

         Note:  I have had my house wired throughout with Cat-6 and a couple other D-Link 8-port switches in other      rooms and I intend to take advantage of wired vs wireless wherever possible.

    Step 4:  DS1812+ connected to the Airport Extreme. move my iTunes, photo, home video and document libraries to the NAS.  The iTunes application will still run on the pc until that 'Coming Soon' banner on the Apple Store is replaced by an actual 'Buy' button.

    Step 5: Purchase iMacs (2) and put them in place.  Once this has been done I will be transitioning anything of remaining value not already on the NAS from my PC to it (bookmarks?). 

    Step 6: point the iTunes instances on the iMacs to the iTunes library on the NAS.

    Step 7:  point the iPhoto instances on the iMacs to the photo libaries on the NAS.


    I'm thinking this covers me for the primary transition and that I should be able to stream all iTunes audio and video to the AppleTVs with via an instance of iTunes running on an iMac.  From here I would look at the following additional considerations / questions:


    - how can I incorporate Plex?  The more I read about it Plex, the I like what it offers.  Downside appears to be that it is not AppleTV friendly.  I really like the AppleTV front end and I really would rather not access my media nor streaming services via PS3 or X-Box (due in part to the for the less than slick user interface you mentioned as well as that I would rather not have to switch sources based on which media I will be wathcing?.  AppleTV does provide access to Netflix, Hulu and YouTube but does not provide access to the Amazon Instant nor many others.  Too bad.  If AppleTV had the source coverage of a Roku and the ability to stream different video formats it might just be the perfect streaming device.  As it does not, I believe Plex may provide that access with the ability to AirPlay it to my television via the AppleTV. 

    - Backup options.  I intend on taking advantage of Time Machine for the iMacs.  Really looking hard at using Synology's own SHR.  It looks like a good option that will an appropriate level of protection.  I assume that my shared media folders will become part of this but

    - do I want to record tv?  What would be my source?  I have DirecTV now and I am quite happy with it.  No intention on dropping it and so I'm not sure that I would need this but I love options.

    - big question for me here.  How would I create a process for offloading photos and videos taken on iPhones and iPads to Diskstation?  I would want to create an appropriate process for doing this as well as for grabbing photos and videos from the Diskstation from those devices when needed.  Can this NAS work with iCloud and / or PhotoStream in any way?

    - Surveillance.  I plan to add some cameras and would generally just want to figure out how this works.  Looks like the Diskstation has a nice option where this is concerned. 


    iPerfection:  maybe I misunderstood but in #3 you seemed to indicate that you had multiple instances of your iTunes library on your NAS.  Is this the case?  I am referring specifically to this portion

    'I also point a iTunes instance running on a mac mini at the same shares but I don't pull the data into the iTunes library. This gives you the full iTunes capability of streaming to other apple devices, syncing iPads etc. I have also moved the iTunes library (the actual database, album art, playlists etc) to another shared on the synology called iTunes funny enough.'


    Thanks all. Let's keep this one alive if possible.


    Tpx:  from my research (and it's only research at this point) you should have no problem housing your iTunes library on your NAS and running it from your iTunes application on your Mac.  I believe the answer is the same for your photo libary.  Pix can sit on the NAS, application sits on your Mac. 

  • Forcefour Level 1 Level 1 (15 points)

    anyone comment on my plan / steps?  Just want to make sure I am not missing anything.

  • Forcefour Level 1 Level 1 (15 points)

    BTW - somone in another forum indicated the following.  Is this true?  Maybe I am misunderstanding but I thought that this is one of the items we have been discussing as an option.


    iTunes requires that the iTunes Library folders be on a  local drive. By that I mean the xml files must be on a drive connected to your computer, it cannot reside on a network drive.  You can store all of your media on a network drive, and everything will work just fine.

  • aschmid Level 1 Level 1 (10 points)

    @Forcefour your steps seem to be all in order. Depending on your personal preferences some of those might change as you go through the implementation but I don't see anything wrong with it in general.


    Regarding the switch I have successfully used Cisco SG200-8 and Netgear GS108T 8-port switches.


    The question is do you really need it? While link aggregation allows you to bond the two LAN ports on your DS1812+ giving you a theoretical 2Gbit link you need to understand how this works.


    The 2Gbit is the maximum throughput but any one data stream still needs to go through one LAN port. So the maximum for 1 connection is still 1Gbig. Only if you have more devices is the additional bandwidth useful.


    To give you an idea on my current switch in link aggregation I can see that 170 million packets have passed through LAN port 1 and only 609 thousand packets through LAN port 2. So that's less than 1% of the time where the single LAN port 1Gbit link wasn't enough.

  • Forcefour Level 1 Level 1 (15 points)

    iPerfection & aschmid - thank you both.  This thread has been a good one, as has another similar one on MacRumors.  I think I'm ready to go.


    iPerfection - as for step 4, I was referencing the new iMacs that are supposed to be coming out this month (21.5") and next (27.5").  So far - only the 'Coming Soon' banner is available on the Apple Store.  I am awaiting this availability in order to move the house fully to a Mac environment.  For now - I am running iTunes on a PC that is running out of space, hence my need to move the medial library to something else ... pretty much now.

    I have some nice, rather inexpensive D-Link 8-port switches in play now.  The've been great but will not be able to take advantage of the linka aggregation. 


    aschmid - I do have other devices connected so my switches, some that move quite a bit of information but not necessarily to the Synology.  I have four DirecTV DVRS with 1-2TB external hard drives connected to each with plenty of recorded HD.  As they are all connected together via the DirecTV whole house setup I am moving HD around the house.  Guessing that because they would not be moving anything to or from the Synology the linka aggregation woudl not come into play but I was thinking that the link aggregation might make things easier for the devices that do utilize it in light of the other data moving around.  May not be the case - I may just like the idea of being able to move that around if needed.  What is the kind of thing that would take advantage of link aggregation? 

  • ataylor2012 Level 1 Level 1 (0 points)

    I love this thread. I have been struggling with this for a couple of years now, and I'm fed up with the whole setup. The problem seems to me to be iTunes. iTunes seems to be a common element in each of these posts and I would nominate it as the choke point for a true home-media server setup.


    I currently have a massive media collection (2,000+ movies, 10,000+ songs, 10,000+ digital photos) on a Drobo unit attached to an older, headless Mac Mini. The only thing the Mini is used for is serving the 1st-gen AppleTV unit in the media room. We use iTunes Match to access music on-the-go from a handful of iPhones and iPads.


    I don't like having to run the Mini 24/7, and I don't like having to run iTunes to access my media. I have tried other media player solutions:

    • Plex and XBMX installed on AppleTV. The interface looks great, but in actual usage, this leaves a lot to be desired. My ATV is on a wired network, so I don't think throughput is my problem. Also, Plex and XBMC seem to crash/freeze up on a regular basis.
    • WDTV unit instead of AppleTV. User interface stinks. Files required to be in a different format than what I currently have (although I think this might've changed since I last tried this option).
    • DunePlayer HD instead of AppleTV. This seemed like a relatively high-end solution to the problem. Getting it to work was a PITA, and in the end it mainly looked like browsing folders against a red-velvet curtain background. Not ideal.

    The holy grail, for me, would be to store my movie, music, and photo collections on an NAS like the Synology, and be able to access them all from any device without running a specific piece of software (I'm looking at you, iTunes). My wife and kids are used to the elegant simplicity of the AppleTV interface, although its reliabity is likely no better than any of the other solutions above (every time the power goes out, either the AppleTV loses track of its iTunes library, or the Mac Mini forgets that it knows the AppleTV trying to gain access to it, and I have to restart everything and re-introduce them all). Having to browse through any kind of folder structure is a deal-breaker. (A file structure is okay, like AppleTV's categories, but I don't ever want to see a folder icon.)


    Why can't AppleTV be instructed to simply use a folder of movies? Why is iTunes necessary at all? All it does is muck up the works. But until I can find a decent alternative, I'm stuck using it.

  • Level 1 Level 1 (0 points)

    Hi, I just found this thread.  I've been wrestling with some of the issues raised here.


    My specific question:  I have a >1 TB of imaging files that I would like to be network accessible by my MBP.  If price is not an issue, what's faster, a higher end Synology v. a RAID directly attaced to a Mac Mini, running as a server?

  • Level 1 Level 1 (0 points) wrote:


    Hi, I just found this thread.  I've been wrestling with some of the issues raised here.


    My specific question:  I have a >1 TB of imaging files that I would like to be network accessible by my MBP.  If price is not an issue, what's faster, a higher end Synology v. a RAID directly attaced to a Mac Mini, running as a server?


    Any thoughts out there?

  • peterfrommedford Level 1 Level 1 (0 points)

    Figured I would throw in my two cents. First my setup


    • Synology 1511+ fully loaded with 6 3tb drives
    • Headless Mac mini in the equipment rack
    • 3 various Mac laptops in the house
    • ipads, iphones
    • the mini and the NAS are connected to the network via an unmanged switch in the rack


    1. A few of you mentioned running iPhoto from your Synology NAS. I would be curious to here how this worked out. I had no luck getting this to work. My understanding is that the iPhoto Library file needs to be on an Apple formatted drive.


    2. I use the Mac mini as a very expensive media server. I had an old imac but the drive implouded, and I needed a fix. I figured having the mini hardwired to the network (as is the ATV) would give me much better performance - it did.


    3. For managing the mini i tried various ways of remoting in, and found the best solution for me was an app call iTeleport available from the App Store (there are iOS versions available as well).


    4. I used to keep the itunes library on the NAS. This is a disaster and I would strongly recommend against this. If the NAS goes to sleep - your mac loses its connection, and then you have to deal with various "itunes library cannot be found" messages. Imagine having to constantly remote into the mac and reconnencting to the NAS, and then repointing the itunes library to its location on the NAS. Not fun


    5. ataylor2012 hit the nail on the head when he talked about iTunes being the choke point. I have a very large media library - 40,000+ songs, hundreds of movies and TV shows. Much of the video was purchased from Apple - so I am stuck with iTunes. I recently needed to add a 6th and final drive to my NAS. Since it had been a while since I added a drive, i couldn't remember how to remove the plate that acts as a place holded. Not thinking I accidently ejected one of the disks. This is when all my troubles began. At first I wasn't to concerned. I am a software guy, and I have seen plenty of demos where a live drive is pulled out of a NAS and put right back in. I put the drive back in, and the Sysnology didn't know what to do. 24 hours later, the Synology finally had the recognized the old drive, and properly formatted and configured the system for the new drive. I immediately noticed that my iTunes library was corrupt, and that songs and videos where missing. It took me several days of mucking around to finally get things rebuilt. Unfortuantely, I have definitely lost some music. Luckily I was able to redownload all the video i lost from the Apple Store Cloud. knew there would be a but...I lost all my playcounts, I lost all of my history, and my idevices all had to be rebuilt since the itunes library was destroyed, and the devices where all "connected to a diffferent" itunes library.


    Overall, I am generally not satisfied with the NAS. It seems to me that Apple products really work the best when they are working and communicating with other Apple products (or similiarly formatted devices). I aam looking pretty hard at the "Promise Pegasus" solutions on the Apple Store. My Mini has a thunderbolt port, and so I have to believe that will work better. Right now, with a recent upgrade to itunes, my mini is back to saving new videos on its local hard drive, and I am too (lazy nervous scared) to muck around with it to get those files on to the NAS. Like I said earlier I am a software guy not a hardware guy, but it just shouldn't be this complicated. It is 100% entirely possible that i simply misconfigured or am misusing the NAS somehow, but for me it all boils down to

    • pulling the drive was a bone head move by me, but that was ground zero for all my problems
    • not getting iPhoto to run on the NAS was a let down - but as it turns out only 1 computer at a time can connect to the iPhoto library anyway, so in the long run it wouldn't have mattered - why oh why Apple do I have to use your proprietary file format for managing my photos?!?!?!?
    • never never never store the itunes library on the NAS
    • I feel that Apple likes to talk Apple, and adding a new format into the mix complicates life
  • peterfrommedford Level 1 Level 1 (0 points)

    I would go thunderbolt connected to mini - see my rant on this thread

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