Help me set up a media server for my home.
February 6, 2012 9:06 AM   Subscribe

Help me set up a media server for my computer network on one of two old Windows boxes.

I've recently gotten hold of two four-year-old desktop machines from my company. They have been wiped and have a clean Windows XP install on them.

My wife and I are generally an OSX household, but I'd like to use these machines to set up some sort of a media server: I have tons of movies and music, and would prefer to store them on a box in a closet and free up the space on my iMac.

Is there a way to do this? Can I install something like Ubuntu on one of these machines and connect via iTunes, or something like that? Or would it be better to leave them as operational Windows machines and do this all through iTunes?

If there's something obvious I'm missing about this question, let me know. I am not a super-skilled programmer/terminal user, but I can follow directions and used to be in AV club, so I have a knack for cobbling together solutions.
posted by rocketman to Computers & Internet (7 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I sorta do this. I have a Windows XP box, with a big hard drive. All media is in folders called VIDEO or MUSIC. In Windows, I've setup simple sharing for these, and just play everything over the network on my Mac (or through XBMC on my original XBOX). Works fine. In Itunes I just pointed it toward the networked folders, and don't have it automanage.
posted by backwards guitar at 9:20 AM on February 6, 2012

I have a headless Ubuntu Server that I use for this sort of thing. Headless means that there is no monitor or keyboard hooked up to it, it just runs connected to my network and if I need to do any work on it I just use telnet/ssh into it from one of my other computers. Ubuntu is a good choice because for pretty much any linux program, you can do a search on Google for Ubuntu and whatever the program is and find some blog somewhere that has a tutorial telling you how to set it up. Ubuntu Server by default does not come with a GUI interface, it's all command line, which is fine because most of the administrative stuff for linux is done through the command line anyway. If you are sure that all you ever want to do with the computer is run a file server, you can run something like FreeNAS that is more light weight and designed for only that, but I like having the flexibility of being able to use a server computer for more than one thing, for example to run a simple web server or a minecraft server or whatever else I feel like setting up to run all the time on my network.
posted by burnmp3s at 9:54 AM on February 6, 2012

Can you describe a little more what you're looking to be able to do, more than "some sort of a media server?" Having files available is one thing, streaming video and music to particular devices is another.
posted by rhizome at 10:53 AM on February 6, 2012

Well, what backwards guitar described is the minimum I'd like to do: point iTunes, Quicktime, and VLC at a location and play music and videos from those places.

It would be ideal to be able to use my iPhone as a remote, and to also potentially stream this media to an iPad. These later things aren't the highest priority.

Bottom line: given multiple OSX/iOS devices, I'd like to have 1 iTunes library to play from when I'm at home. I have these spare desktop boxes, and figured they could be put toward the cause.
posted by rocketman at 11:04 AM on February 6, 2012

Since the playback would be on your Mac, you would need some sort of remote for the client programs you are using.

Also for iPad viewing, Air Video is awesome.
posted by wongcorgi at 11:40 AM on February 6, 2012

I have Air Video, and it works quite well. I believe you can do the streaming thing with the iPad's Boxee app, as well - and that's free, so you might want to try that first before spending the (admittedly not very expensive) $2.99 on Air Video.

if you're video is in Itunes format, you can probably use a version of home sharing that'll allow you to play music and video to your ios device. I play music on my ios devices using the Music app's built in Home Sharing.

I should add that I don't run iTunes on the Windows XP machine, just on my Mac, but it sees all the files over the network, without issue, and home sharing works fine. Only downfall might be if you regularly turn off your Mac - I tend not to turn mine off, in which case you might want to just put itunes on the XP machine and run home sharing to your Mac and any ios devices.
posted by backwards guitar at 11:52 AM on February 6, 2012

Last weekend I talked about this very thing with my BiL, and he said that in his experience Boxee is better than Plex.
posted by wenestvedt at 9:23 AM on February 7, 2012

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