Linked by Eugenia Loli on Thu 13th May 2010 21:19 UTC
Multimedia, AV For over 9 months now we use our Apple TV as our music entertainment system in our home. And when I mean "music entertainment system", I mean just that. We don't use our Apple TV for anything else, not even video (our much more video-capable Sony PS3 bears that task). We used to use CDs, in a 250 CD-changer device, but the experience was not nearly as good as when dealing with files that have metadata. So we got ourselves an Apple TV. On the other side of the country, a friend of ours uses the open source MPD solution. In this article I'll try to figure out which one of the two is the best solution for my household's usage pattern.
Order by: Score:
air port express?
by brain dead hippie on Thu 13th May 2010 21:32 UTC
brain dead hippie
Member since:
2007-02-09

just wondering why you never mentioned the airport express - it's about $150 cheaper and you can unplug it and move it to another room with speakers...

Reply Score: 1

RE: air port express?
by danieldk on Thu 13th May 2010 21:34 UTC in reply to "air port express?"
danieldk Member since:
2005-11-18

True, but you can only stream to an Airport, it cannot store music ;) .

Reply Score: 2

RE: air port express?
by Eugenia on Thu 13th May 2010 21:40 UTC in reply to "air port express?"
Eugenia Member since:
2005-06-28

Because the Airport Express still requires your main PC/Mac with iTunes to be "ON". The whole point of my article is to not to have to do that!

There are other solutions online too, like Thom was just telling me on IM, with his Boxee/HTPC solution. However, the point is to have a dedicated, headless audio server, that you can control via a smartphone/iPod or at the very least tablet device. The Airport Express doesn't fit that bill, because it requires your *main* music PC to be ON (which indicates that the main PC is in another room of the house), and the Boxee/HTPC's *audio* remote control capabilities are limited compared to MPD/AppleTV's (UI not as good for audio as it is for video).

So none of these solutions fit my "appliance" setup that I'm after on my living room.

Reply Score: 1

RE[2]: air port express?
by darknexus on Thu 13th May 2010 21:43 UTC in reply to "RE: air port express?"
darknexus Member since:
2008-07-15

Can't the Apple TV stream to Apple's own airport express? I thought it could. If it can, you can control that via the remote app's now playing screen.

Reply Score: 2

RE[3]: air port express?
by Eugenia on Thu 13th May 2010 21:46 UTC in reply to "RE[2]: air port express?"
Eugenia Member since:
2005-06-28

If you already have an Apple TV, you don't need an Airport Express.

Reply Score: 1

I really like Apple TV
by danieldk on Thu 13th May 2010 21:33 UTC
danieldk
Member since:
2005-11-18

I always found the Playstation 3 pretty awful for playing movies. True, it does play 1080p well, but it cannot use files larger than 4GB. PS3Server kind of offers a work around, but it gives very little control over bitrates and temporally freezes movies too often. The fact that it doesn't do 802.11n doesn't help...

For this reason I use Apple TV for movies now, I transcode them using Handbrake with the Apple TV preset, or use the iTunes store for renting. It's really a nice device for listening to music, watching movies, and slideshowing photos.

Reply Score: 2

wait a minute
by darknexus on Thu 13th May 2010 21:37 UTC
darknexus
Member since:
2008-07-15

So this article is to justify your purchase of an Apple TV, or what? I don't quite get it. Speaking for myself, if I were to use a PC for a music center, MPD is the *last* thing I'd compare to an Apple TV. As for the cost, build or get a Nettop with S/PDIF out and a good hard drive, you can do that for around $350-$400. What's the $600 rubbish? If you were going to do this, a netbook plus USB sound card plus external hdd is just a stupid, cluttered, and overly expensive way to go about it. Did you go out of your way to find the most ridiculous setup imaginable?
Speaking for myself, I generally like your articles. This one, however, just doesn't really seem to have much of a point. It feels like an opinion piece where the opinion is already set and the article was just written to justify it. Maybe it's just me, but that's the vibe I got from this.

Reply Score: 8

RE: wait a minute
by Eugenia on Thu 13th May 2010 21:46 UTC in reply to "wait a minute"
Eugenia Member since:
2005-06-28

First of all, I didn't buy the Apple TV, it was a gift. So, I don't have to justify any purchase.

Secondly, you must understand **my usage pattern**. This article is written about my husband's and mine NEEDS in terms of music listening in our living room. The main ingredient here is:
1. Have a device that doesn't require our main PC to be ON to listen to music.
2. To have a remote control that is full featured for audio features, and it is "visual" (e.g. like the iPod Touch interface for music, showing album art, scrolling fast among albums/artists etc).

Therefore, the MPD solution ****is**** comparable to the Apple TV. In fact, the MPD solution is one of the FEW solutions that come CLOSE to the Apple TV experience. And that's why I decided to compare them. Because I have specific criteria on our usage pattern at home, and I had spent months trying to find what's best for us, after we left behind our 250 CD-Changer ancient experience.

As for the prices you don't agree with, you generally need $250 for a netbook, $100 for an external drive, $50 for a good external sound card, and $200 for an iPod Touch. That's the $600. And as I said, I would never, ever, ever, use as a remote control anything other than a smartphone or iPod Touch. Maybe an iPad as the upper threshold of size. That's why the $200 price of an iPod Touch was needed when I calculated the price of a well configured MPD system to compete with my Apple TV setup.

I have used both solutions, and so has my husband. And we both agree on what's the most appliance-friendly setup, and which parts we need to make that happen.

Edited 2010-05-13 22:06 UTC

Reply Score: 1

RE[2]: wait a minute
by jal_ on Fri 14th May 2010 08:26 UTC in reply to "RE: wait a minute"
jal_ Member since:
2006-11-02

As for the prices you don't agree with, you generally need $250 for a netbook, $100 for an external drive, $50 for a good external sound card, and $200 for an iPod Touch.


What you're replying to is the first thing that went through my mind: why a netbook? You have $250+$100+$50 = $400 for the equipment, while a nettop will set you back less (and has all the requirements). If you need a headless solution, why go for something having a screen?

Reply Score: 2

RE: wait a minute
by Eugenia on Thu 13th May 2010 22:20 UTC in reply to "wait a minute"
Eugenia Member since:
2005-06-28

I updated the article explaining these needs, because I think you didn't quite get where I was coming from.

Reply Score: 1

Apple TV is nice...
by darknexus on Thu 13th May 2010 21:42 UTC
darknexus
Member since:
2008-07-15

I just wish Apple would pay more attention to it. Only a 160 gb hdd when the device is designed to purchase and download hd content? It just feels like Apple has basically sidelined it, and that's unfortunate. There's a lot of things they could do with it that they just don't seem interested in.
It wouldn't work for me, I have a lot of ogg music which even though the Apple TV can be hacked to support, the XiphQT plugin doesn't communicate track numbers or anything to iTunes so I'd have to go in and renumber *all* of my tracks. Ouch. Besides I hate iTunes, it chokes on my massive library. Even without iTunes though the Apple TV could have a lot of potential, it just doesn't live up to it at the moment.

Reply Score: 3

Comment by telns
by telns on Thu 13th May 2010 21:43 UTC
telns
Member since:
2009-06-18

A Squeezebox Touch is about $300 total.

I think that would make a lot more sense for most people than a netbook + an iPod touch.

I _think_ it supports external USB drives, but normally it streams.

Reply Score: 1

RE: Comment by telns
by Eugenia on Thu 13th May 2010 21:50 UTC in reply to "Comment by telns"
Eugenia Member since:
2005-06-28

No, it doesn't do it for me. I had looked at it at around the time we received our Apple TV, but it was not doing it for our needs. Because its screen is so small, and we need to GET UP of the couch in order to see what album or artist we're selecting. We need that information in our hands, in our remote control. So the Squeezebox is useless for the kind of experience we needed.

Reply Score: 1

RE[2]: Comment by telns
by telns on Thu 13th May 2010 22:02 UTC in reply to "RE: Comment by telns"
telns Member since:
2009-06-18

Makes sense. Everybody has different needs. I just didn't want the Squeezebox to go unmentioned in the debate, since it seems like a natural fit.

Another option is the Squeezebox Duet (which has the screen on the remote), but that doesn't have USB drive support, I believe, so there is a bit of a gap in their product line.

I don't have any of these personally, but favor any route that would avoid reliance on iTunes.

Reply Score: 1

RE[3]: Comment by telns
by Eugenia on Thu 13th May 2010 22:10 UTC in reply to "RE[2]: Comment by telns"
Eugenia Member since:
2005-06-28

Yeah, if Logitech didn't have that gap, they would be a good alternative.

Same goes for the Sonos system. They have the visual remote control, but they lack internal hard drive support (they still stream from external sources). This was a no-no from my husband, who wanted an integrated appliance experience.

Reply Score: 1

My setup
by Ikshaar on Thu 13th May 2010 21:48 UTC
Ikshaar
Member since:
2005-07-14

Linux server hosts my music; main PC is set to read and store purchased music on server directly (so no sync); popcorn hour (w/ remote) read music from server.

Ok, my server is always on, but that's the idea of the server. And it is in another room so no noise issue. I concede however that PopCorn UI is not very flashy, but on the other hand it is the most complete solution (read about any format).

Reply Score: 1

RE: My setup
by kragil on Thu 13th May 2010 23:12 UTC in reply to "My setup"
kragil Member since:
2006-01-04

OK, I bite.

My setup:
-Hardware-
Via Micro-ATX board + 1 Ghz C7, 1 GB RAM, 1 TB HDD, connected to TV and Stereo.

-Software-
Linux + Boxee + MPD + Torrent client + JDownloader + Wuala

I use Boxee to play stuff on the TV, MPD for my music, Wuala for backing up the 1 TB in the "cloud" so that my data is off-site in case of fire or meteor strike etc.
The other software is for downloading/serving/bla.
I use remote X11 from my Linux box to do the downloading. I use rsync for syncing.

Oh, and the 1 TB disk is encrypted with DMcrypt. There is probably more, but that is the stuff that is important. It runs 24/7.

Limited solutions/applicances) like a AppleTV wouldn't work for me, this is Mediacenter, DVCR, Jukebox, NAS/Backup and some other stuff for me. Energy consumption is great compared to PS3 or having 5 different devices running.

Reply Score: 2

mrhasbean
Member since:
2006-04-03

AppleTV follows Apple's standard design philosophy for consumer products; anyone should be able to buy one at the store, unpack it and use it. And it achieves that. It's really nothing more than a conduit for iTunes sales, and for many people that's a perfect solution. It's relatively inexpensive and gives a nice, simple to operate user experience. Personally though I'd never buy one, although if someone gave me one I'd find a way to integrate it into what I use.

I have an (resurrected) Intel iMac running Plex. The iMac itself spends most of it's life acting as a large digital photo frame just by setting it's desktop to change every couple minutes, but it's also running a headless VirtualBox Windows 7 setup with the multiple remote desktop hack installed so my wife and kids can run Windows on the rare occasion they need it, and through filesharing it acts as a "server" for our shared files. Plex and iTunes also load at boot so the music and video libraries are shared by both. The iMac is connected to our LCD TV as a 2nd display and Plex defaults to that, with audio going through the amp like everything else. Plex uses the standard Apple remote and I also have Rowmote on my iPhone 'cause the kids have a nasty habit of "misplacing" remotes. The iMac is also running motion detection software for the built-in iSight and (when activated) can send me email alerts, and I can remotely access the streamed video, as a security mechanism.

There's also a generic wireless keyboard and mouse so other apps can be run on the iMac's screen while a movie is playing (this is used on occasion for friends who need internet access for whatever reason) and there's a Airport Express in our outdoor entertainment area with speakers connected for parties. Running Plex and iTunes means we can have kids watching a movie in the lounge, music playing in the entertainment area, and any combination of those two at any other computer (PC or Mac) in the house via the shared libraries.

So it's horses for courses. If you want the simple plug 'n play option AppleTV is good. A setup like mine is middle of the road and takes a little bit of technical expertise, or if you have the time and knowledge you can go for a completely over the top setup like some have. ;)

Reply Score: 2

danieldk Member since:
2005-11-18

AppleTV follows Apple's standard design philosophy for consumer products; anyone should be able to buy one at the store, unpack it and use it. And it achieves that.


Indeed. We bought my dad an Apple TV as a birthday gift (I have one at home as well). You plug it, type in the on-screen number in iTunes, and it starts syncing music and movies automatically. It's the way it should be for 98% of the users out there (that's why we have resisted the temptation of buying a cheaper Linksys/Sweex/...).

Although I am perfectly able to build my own GNU/Linux based media center, it's just not worth the effort. It takes hours to set everything up perfectly on limited hardware and with a television as output, and the experience will never be as smooth as an Apple TV with its seamless automatic syncing. Sure, with Linux you can run SNES emulators, run your coffee machine or whatever on your television*, but in practice I'll only play with such things once.

* A hacked Apple TV can as well ;) .

Reply Score: 2

DeadFishMan
Member since:
2006-01-09

... if you're willing to be a little creative. ;)

I might be talking out of my butt crack here as I never really used MPD for more than 10 minutes and even then it was with the server and the client on the same machine but I would think that it could "sync" data whenever the "server PC" was on if you simply put a rsync one-liner as a scheduled task but using anacron instead of the good old cron on the "server PC".

Anacron, unlike cron, does not assume that the machine is running continuously. Hence, it can be used on machines that aren't running 24 hours a day, to control daily, weekly, and monthly jobs that are usually controlled by cron. Also, unlike cron, anacron checks if your tasks were completed as scheduled or not and accepts delays with configurable thresholds. Rsync credentials speaks for itself, I presume.

This would be a workable workaround assuming that one can run anacron plus rsync on the "server PC" - I don't know about Mac, but I think that it is unlikely on Windows - and that your music collection is not dependent on iTunes in any way - unless it somehow stores your collection in a way that it would still be readable elsewhere (despite owning an iPod Touch, I don't use iTunes much so I wouldn't know...) in which case it would still work.

It might not sound as easy to use as the Apple TV thingy but it is something that can be accomplished within a few minutes assuming that your current setup allows such configuration and you're willing to try... ^_^

Reply Score: 2

Eugenia Member since:
2005-06-28

That's a nice solution, but we do use Windows as our main PC, and iTunes for our music library. Also, if anacron can work on a Mac, that kind of Mac user probably uses iTunes anyway. So it's kind of a limited user base for this kind of syncing.

Reply Score: 1

DeadFishMan Member since:
2006-01-09

That's a nice solution, but we do use Windows as our main PC, and iTunes for our music library. Also, if anacron can work on a Mac, that kind of Mac user probably uses iTunes anyway. So it's kind of a limited user base for this kind of syncing.


Yes, I figured that it would be of limited usefulness to many Windows and/or Mac users but I still think that it is doable on the Mac if - and only IF - iTunes does not bork your songs when it does its thing to store them on its internal database or whatever it is that that monstrosity does... Also, many people still rip their existing CD collection and/or "borrow" music from friends or the Internet and might keep these files away from iTunes so that they're also usable on other multimedia players. ;)

I did not know that there were good MPD remote control applications for the iTouch out there - my iPod is strictly for music and anime playing and in the rare occasion that I install apps, these are mostly from Cydia - so it is good to know. I've been thinking about jumping on the HTPC band wagon for a little while now and reading about things like these always help...

Reply Score: 2

telns Member since:
2009-06-18

I think the task scheduler in Vista+ has similar capabilities, so it isn't a dead end.

Would be a bit tricky to setup though.

Reply Score: 1

Apple TV Works for me
by REM2000 on Fri 14th May 2010 10:55 UTC
REM2000
Member since:
2006-07-25

Ive always liked the idea of having my media wherever i am. So for this reason i have a setup of iMac + Apple TV + iPhone.

All my films,TV shows, music, music videos, audiobooks, podcasts are encoded onto the iMac which acts as a media server + workstation.

The apple tv keeps a selected copy of the media local, so i don't have to have the iMac running. When the iMac is running the Apple TV has complete access to all my media as the media it doesn't store is streamed.

The media is also synced to my iPhone from the iMac.

I find this setup works really well and without having to play around with settings or anything. I can start watching a film on my apple tv, sync the film and the iPhone will continue from the apple tv. It all just works.

I used to have a Windows MCE, the XP 2005 edition. It worked pretty well and had the extra bonus of being able to record shows etc. However it was buggy and didn't quite fit the bill. My shows are now recorded via Sky HD+ box so im not too concerned about that.

However i have to agree with the article and some other posts, this apple centric setup suites my needs, it works for me, however i don't expect to clone this setup and for it to work for everyone.

Reply Score: 2

mpd on beagleboard
by ssam on Fri 14th May 2010 11:33 UTC
ssam
Member since:
2006-03-12

i have a mpd set up, and recently moved it from a mini-itx to a beagleboard. as it uses about 1watt for the bb, and 2watt for the external disk, there is not much need to turn it off (it has other task like bittorrent too).

i solved the permission issue by mounting the external disk as /data and giving everyone read access to it.

i set pulseaudio to work in system mode, so that it works with no one logged in. volume control then works from the mpd client. i used alsamixer to set all the sliders to 0db, to get best sound and this setting seems to stick.

i also have setup pulseaudio to act as a network sink. so i can stream audio from other computers i want. (a bit tricky. seems that you need to tell the applications to connect to the remote pulseserver with a envvar)

i recommend gmpc on linux desktops, and sonata on n800 type machines. i imagine it would be possible to hook up to LIRC if you wanted. i also recommend ogg files, as they use the least CPU to play.

Reply Score: 1

Interesting details, thanks Eugenia
by adricnet on Fri 14th May 2010 12:12 UTC
adricnet
Member since:
2005-07-01

My use case is similar and I use the ATV for audio throughout the house using Airport Express to relay to other output devices (the upstairs receiver).

I've recently started using the iTouch Remote app and quite like it. All in all despite my current concerns about Apple's business practices I'm likely to buy another AE when it comes time to pipe sound into another room at house. RogueAmoeba software works okay ...

*digression*
ATV is disappointing and difficult to improve because it's still built on 10.4 (Tiger) tools and very few packages still support that. I fussed with an old version of Transmission and transmission clients and had some joy with that and XBMC but couldn't get it to auto-start or behave generally. I rambled about that somewhere but can't find my notes now, the wiki article I followed up to a point is http://wiki.awkwardtv.org/wiki/Transmission_on_AppleTV
*/digression*

Reply Score: 1

Permissions
by MattPie on Fri 14th May 2010 13:38 UTC
MattPie
Member since:
2006-04-18

Besides the fact that I don't really think 755 on home is that big a deal (you can always put stuff you don't want other users to see into a 700 folder within your home), I'd think you could have set the directory 750 and put the mpd user in your group.

As for syncing, couldn't you set up Samba on the music device or use WinSCP (assuming Windows) to copy over SSH? WinSCP includes sync functionality within the tool.

Reply Score: 1

A few mitigating points
by MrWeeble on Fri 14th May 2010 18:49 UTC
MrWeeble
Member since:
2007-04-18

$600 seems a little excessive, An Eee Box 202 from Amazon will cost $223 including delivery [1]. This has SPDIF and 160GB Hard Drive so is an almost exact match for the Apple TV on those specs and is about the same in price. I am sure similar specced machines can be picked up cheaper.

For the headless shutdown on the linux box, why not install a SSH client on your remote device. With public-key authentication and some automation you could create a one tap shutdown procedure. (there is an app on the Android market called Lazy Geek which should be able to do this[2] if you were using a budget android device this would cut the total cost by a fair whack, though I imagine there are similar apps available for most smartphone platforms)

The usability/setup problems you had are perhaps the biggest point against MPD. I don't know how common your use case is, but maybe there might be a demand for an appliance type linux distro that includes everything you need with sane default configurations that anyone could install

[1] http://www.amazon.com/Intel-Processor-Drive-Linux-White/dp/B001HPPA...
[2] http://lazygeek.e-legion.com/en/index.html

Reply Score: 1

My setup
by amadensor on Fri 14th May 2010 22:05 UTC
amadensor
Member since:
2006-04-10

It is a little more insane. I use MPD on a server that is on anyways. I stream through icecast2. I have an old, 366Mhz laptop with 128M of RAM set to connect to the network and run oggplay on boot. It runs Debian without X.

I can listen to the same stream in every room on different devices. If I want to use the music streaming on the main sound system, I do need to hit the power button on the laptop, but when I am done, I just turn off the receiver, and since the laptop is on a switched outlet, eventually the battery runs down and it turns off.

For a remote, I use phpMp, a web interface for MPD, and Opera on a Nintendo DS as the controller.

Reply Score: 1