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using WHS (somehow) to "run" iTunes to serve up content for my Apple TV... RRS feed

  • Question

  • Aloha!
    I am expecting my 120 WHS trial package any week now from MS.  I've been reading up on various subjects related to sharing music/video and need to clarify some things given my particular setup...or what I envision doing.

    I have an AppleTV that I use to stream all of my music and .m4v video to the HDTV/Home Stereo...works like a charm.  To do this, I have one PC "designated" as the "sync" PC - which I use for the main music and video library...The Apple TV has a 160GB drive so ALL of the music and most of the video's get sync'd and therefore that "dedicated" PC does not have to be on (and therefore running iTunes) to access most of the content on the ATV.  The balance of the video is streamed though - And in that case the PC (and iTunes) has to be on/running.

    My kids have their own music and video libraries  & playlists that they connect to as "shared" on the ATV (streaming) and therefore their PC's and iTunes must be running.  All of their music and video is a subset of one "main" music and video library kept on an NAS device.  The only reason for the "subset" is they don't want to have to rifle through all the parents music (nor does my wife want to rifle through MY music) to get to the selections they want.

    What I'd like to do is: 

    (1) store ALL of the Music/Video on the WHS (instead of the NAS and/or use the NAS as "part" of the WHS collection of storage devices)

    (2) let each user run iTunes and pull their music up from the WHS (so no need to replicate the media files on their hard drives - thats how it's setup now)

    (3) somehow "run" iTunes on the WHS so my ATV can access the additional (non-sync'd) video files w/o me having to leave another PC on

    This would allow the other family members to access their iTunes content as Shared libraries on the ATV (as they do now) and leave the media files on a central storage device (as they do now)....so no change there.  The BIG improvevment is not having to run a PC all the time to serve up content for the ATV...since the WHS will be running.

    I've seen several posts on running iTunes as a "service" - having not delved into the details of WHS yet, I have an idea how that works...but it sounds like it's not a supported method...so is there any other way to do this?

    I've read about other NAS devices offering the capability of running an "iTunes Server" but from all I've read...that only works for MUSIC...so my ATV wouldn't work in that secnario...

    Thanks for any & all assistance...

    Monday, February 2, 2009 10:17 PM

All replies

  • Unfortunately, I think you're about to experience the fact that the home theater/ubiquitous media experience is nothing like mature. In particular, your selection of Apple products may provide any number of stumbling blocks (Apple is all about doing things "the Apple way").

    iTunes is designed to be used interactively, by a single person at a computer. It's not designed to be run as a service on a server. Apple has other software that can be used for that purpose, I believe, probably designed for their own servers. So video is going to be a challenge. You may be able to use the server instead of another NAS device and have your Apple TV look to the shares for video, but how you get the video there, and how you successfully play it (since every video downloaded from the iTunes Store is protected) I don't know.

    Even music is likely to be a challenge; the commonly used tool for streaming iTunes music from your server is Firefly, an open source DAAP-compliant media streaming server. However, as far as I know there are no plans to extend it to video, and for protected audio it expects that the consuming device will take care of iTunes Store authentication. It uses an old version of the DAAP protocol, though; with iTunes 7 (I think) Apple introduced an authenticaiton layer directly in the protocol, and that may be required for the Apple TV to stream via DAAP. So again you may have to point to your shares.

    I'm not on the WHS team, I just post a lot. :)
    Monday, February 2, 2009 10:35 PM
    Moderator
  • Thanks Ken,

    Thats what I thought.

    Currently I don't really use iTunes for anything else but "serving" the content...but understood that it probably isn't able to run on WHS anyways.  I'm probably going to install Boxee on the ATV.  From what I understand, Boxee will allow me to access pretty much any audio/video content anywhere on my network (not just the Apple stuff) and doesn't require that iTunes or any other SW be running to "serve" up the content. 

    I've got all my music sync'd to the ATV so no issues there...it's the video - the 160GB HD isn;t big enough to hold all.

    Thanks much for your assistance.
    Tuesday, February 3, 2009 4:38 PM
  • You may want to try a workaround, although some posters on the apple forums do report success with the apple server and WHS. Although instructions were vague.

    This may work :
    http://users.telenet.be/bruno.keymolen/hmedia.html

    Ben Ogilvie
    Tuesday, February 3, 2009 9:25 PM
  • I've had no problem simply installing iTunes on my WHS, importing all of my iTunes-compatible media into its library, and sharing it out from there.  There's an option to check inside iTunes that will force it to leave media files in their original location rather than consolidating them into its own directory structure.  All of my household's MP3s and movies live on the WHS; I use iTunes on my Mac and my wife uses iTunes on her XP box, both of which play files from the shared library, and my AppleTV in my living room gets all of its movies and music from the same shared library.  I keep no media at all on the ATV, since for me there's not much point to it.  For everything else on the WHS that's not iTunesable (like videos encoded in DiVX), I use Boxee or nitoTV to mount the WHS video share and play from there.  Works great.

    The only thing I have to do is make sure iTunes is up.  I just RDC into the WHS, start iTunes, and kill the RDC session.  iTunes stays up until the next time the WHS installs updates, which isn't that frequently.  I tried messing with running iTunes as a service and got mixed results; manually starting it is less convenient but only requires ~30 seconds every few weeks.
    Monday, February 9, 2009 1:29 AM
  • RE: Running iTunes on WHS - does a local iTunes client support syncing to an iPod if the files are on the server?
    Monday, February 9, 2009 2:43 AM
  • ChrisCowles said:

    RE: Running iTunes on WHS - does a local iTunes client support syncing to an iPod if the files are on the server?



    Yes, you can but I suggest doing this with a wired client. I've not tried syncing tv shows or movies but I don't see why that would be a problem.

    You may be able to sync on wireless but for me the sync kept hanging causing the iPhone to lock up.

    Thanks
    Lara Jones [MSFT] | Program Manager
    Community Support and Beta | Windows Home Server Team
    Windows Home Server Team Blog
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    Monday, February 9, 2009 8:33 PM
    Moderator
  • ChrisCowles said:

    RE: Running iTunes on WHS - does a local iTunes client support syncing to an iPod if the files are on the server?


    Not in the way you probably mean. You can't "sync" content shared from a remote iTunes library that appears in your local iTunes as e.g. "Server". This is a restriction of iTunes; it will only permit you to sync content that's in your local library.

    So what you would have to do is point your local copy of iTunes at a remote location (i.e. a share on your server) as the location in which media is to be kept. There are challenges to doing this. The two largest ones are that you should not attempt to have two active copies of iTunes (on two different computers) pointing to the same iTunes library file (the .xml file), and that iTunes will not monitor a location and automatically add new tracks in that location to your local library.

    What I do is manage all music locally on my desktop PC, then sync it to the server using a robocopy command. That works in my house, becuase I'm the master of all media. :)

    I'm not on the WHS team, I just post a lot. :)
    Monday, February 9, 2009 8:55 PM
    Moderator
  • pokrface said:

    I've had no problem simply installing iTunes on my WHS, importing all of my iTunes-compatible media into its library, and sharing it out from there.  There's an option to check inside iTunes that will force it to leave media files in their original location rather than consolidating them into its own directory structure.  All of my household's MP3s and movies live on the WHS; I use iTunes on my Mac and my wife uses iTunes on her XP box, both of which play files from the shared library, and my AppleTV in my living room gets all of its movies and music from the same shared library.  I keep no media at all on the ATV, since for me there's not much point to it.  For everything else on the WHS that's not iTunesable (like videos encoded in DiVX), I use Boxee or nitoTV to mount the WHS video share and play from there.  Works great.

    The only thing I have to do is make sure iTunes is up.  I just RDC into the WHS, start iTunes, and kill the RDC session.  iTunes stays up until the next time the WHS installs updates, which isn't that frequently.  I tried messing with running iTunes as a service and got mixed results; manually starting it is less convenient but only requires ~30 seconds every few weeks.


    This sounds like what I was thinking I might be able to do, although it sounds like running iTunes on the WHS is not recommended?

    So you setup WHS to allow a RDC then? 

    If I understand you correctly, you simply stream everything from iTunes on the WHS (shared library) vs. maintaining separate (duplicate) media libraries on each PC?

    I've been meaning to play around with Boxee also, but no time yet...can you use Boxee to access the ATV videos on your WHS video share also?  And does it go out and grab all the related stuff like trailers, reviews etc?
    Friday, February 20, 2009 6:58 PM
  • Just in case this post has been of any assistance to anyone trying to do what I did...here's the latest on my setup - please feel free to comment or send along other recommendations/best practices - this is by no means the best or only way to do this - it is certainly NOT a supported use of WHS - but it works!

    Ok - I now have WHS running so that iTunes (latest version of 9.xx) will startup when I log into the server.  I've done it both ways - through the Console from my PC by adding in the "PROGRAM LAUNCHER" add-in and from the server itself (yes I do leave a monitor/keyboard/mouse attached). I really don't have any "security" issues so I'm ok with leaving the console logged in.  I have my wife's PC set to automatically logon to HER account and I think I can do the same on WHS - I'll have to try that later tonight also.

    Anyway - iTunes will report an error when it tries to start about the audio setup (since the audio card is not enabled in WHS) but once you click past that message, iTunes starts up and stays running.  I have my AppleTV setup to SYNC to this instance of iTunes running on the WHS but I setup a "custom sync" where only the TV Shows actually SYNC, all other material (music/movies) default to streaming - my kids have so many bloody TV shows they like to watch and this way I could purchase a second 40GB AppleTV and not have to worry about the storage capacity.

    Note:  I did have to create a "modified" iTunes install package for the WHS (the new 9.x release from Apple) to disable a few background services that try to normally run with iTunes - something new with this latest version I guess - If I can remember where I found those instructions...I'll post the link back here.  It was fairly simple and worked nicely...and I learned something new ;-)

    Also - Now that iTunes has the "Automatically Add to iTunes" feature - I don't have to work on the WHS itself to add new content...I can just copy it to that folder on the shared folders from ANY PC, and iTunes will magically move it to where it should be...this means my wife and kids can do the same so bonus points on the WAF.

    As for where the files are stored on the server - iTunes originally installed to the C:\ drive (WHS Primary/System drive) but after I installed iTunes, I went in and told iTunes my MEDIA folder was in a SHARED FOLDER via a MAPPED drive.  I also restarted iTunes while holding the SHIFT key and specified a NEW LIBRARY location on a separate SHARED FOLDER (also mapped on the WHS server). I did this so that WHS will be able to keep ALL of my media duplicated but NOT try to duplicate the LIBRARY files which remain open all the time - I was initially getting errors (and those nasty messages on all my PC's that my Server Health was failing or critical...all because of 2 or 3 iTunes library files open. I understand that won't be an issue in VAIL, but it was a pesky problem for me...didn't like seeing that my server HEALTH was anything other than GREEN.

    So here's what I did:

    - created a new SHARED FOLDER entitled "iTunes Media" for all the music/video files etc - I mapped this as "I:\" on the WHS console - I set this folder to DUPLICATE.

    - created another new SHARED FOLDER entitled "iTunes Library" for just the library & related files (including where iTunes stores coverart etc) - I mapped this to "L:\" on the WHS console  - I set this NOT to Duplicate (for reasons noted above)

    - I then copied ALL of my media into the "Automatically Add to iTunes" folder. It's nice that iTunes will accept all my files whether they are copied into that folder as individual files or in sets of nested folders...works either way!

     

    For some "added functionality/benefit" - on my laptop I also mapped the WHS Shared Folder for iTunes MEDIA as "I:\" and the Library as "J:\".  I did this so I can do "mainteance" tasks on the SERVER version of iTunes from the comfort of whatever PC I want to work on in the house (laptop from the living room with a cold drink close by and music blaring from the stereo etc)

    One of the "maintenance" tasks is adding COVER ART as I add new music.  By mapping the drives on my Laptop the same as the WHS...I can then shut down iTunes on the WHS (VERY IMPORTANT!! - you do NOT want to have 2 instances of iTunes running on the SAME library/database) and start it up on my Laptop (holding the SHIFT KEY) and selecting the WHS/Shared Folder Library (instead of the usual "local" one).  The iTunes library/files "can't tell" that it's running on my Laptop since the drives/folders are the same as the data it stores in the library files - so I can then do "maintenance" work such as adding Cover Art etc from the comfort of my living room.  I use a few different programs to "seek out" Cover Art since iTunes can't seem to find roughly 1/2 of the art for my music files.

    One other thing to note: I turned off the AUTOMATIC updating of WHS on the server and I check periodically (weekly at least) and update manually and reboot etc.  I have a PC on my home network that does some batch processing (re-encoding video files etc) overnight, and that doesn't work too well when the WHS decides it has to reboot after an update.

     

    So while running iTunes on the WHS itself is not "supported" - I've not experienced any issues and to me this is the best reason to have a WHS.  So until MS and Apple make nice and iTunes can be set to run as a service (like SageTV will) then this is my solution.

     

     

    Tuesday, May 18, 2010 6:43 PM
  • Puulima - good to know i'm not the only one trying to get all of this working together, pushing iTunes just that bit further than its meant to be pushed!

    Thought i would weigh in with my 2 cents - completely agree about the hassles of getting iTunes 9 installed on WHS, however, it seems with iTunes 10, a lot of this hassle went away and you don't need to do the MSI modifications discussed here and elsewhere.

    I installed iHomeServer to start iTunes as a service so that it starts up automatically on computer boot and no user needs to be logged in.  I then use iTunes Home Sharing to share the library out to other devices like my Apple TV and iPad, but also extensively use Remote to remote control the server installed copy of iTunes and then push the media out to devices via AirPlay.  It all works remarkably well.  Occasionally get drops outs from my wireless Airport Express devices, but am gradually getting them all wired in to avoid that (at least when I'm allowed to take floor boards up!).

    You raise an interesting point about metadata editing and maintenance, but with iHomeServer I don't need to stop iTunes, edit and then restart it again - instead I can just make direct modifications to the metadata within the MP3 (eg with MediaMonkey, etc) or video file.  iHomeServer scans my media libraries and auto-updates iTunes when it detects any metadata changes.  If i move folders around, the same thing happens - it runs a reconciliation in the background and deletes any iTunes entries where content has been moved or deleted.

    Am running on Windows Server 2008 but from the product page, looks like it runs on Windows Home Server too.

     

    Saturday, August 6, 2011 10:32 PM