One itunes library to rule them all, and one library to bind them.....
December 30, 2012 10:07 AM   Subscribe

Macbook and Mac mini server. Both have itunes libraries pointed at an external drive on the mini-server. No problem. My iPhone is backed up to the Macbook. I add music to libraries from both computers. How can I point all my itunes installs to not only one folder, but to all share and update one itunes library.itl file?

The easy answer is to just home share everything off the mini and change the phone to backup to the server. But I'd really rather keep the phone associated to the Macbook, for travel and whatnot. I want all my music installs to only update one library. As of now, I'm just copying them back and forth whenever one file is newer than the other.

There's got to be a better way, no? Or is there a server function I have not yet discovered?

Not necessarily, I guess, it IS itunes....
posted by nevercalm to Computers & Internet (10 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
We do a similar thing on Windows to share one iTunes library between multiple user accounts: a hard link (in Windows XP terms, a junction created with the SysInternals junction tool) from each user's My Documents\My Music\iTunes directory to a common directory.

I don't know the directory structure on Mac iTunes, but you might be able to work something like this with a symlink from each computer's default iTunes directory to a server directory?
posted by We had a deal, Kyle at 10:28 AM on December 30, 2012

I suspect that what you want can't (easily) be done. The iTunes db file isn't meant to be shared, and I've got a strong hunch that one copy of iTunes wouldn't even open it if it was already in use by another copy of iTunes on another machine. Even if you could finagle this to "work" via aliases/permissions/syncing/whatever, you'd have classic "race condition" problems, where multiple sources try to update a single item (at the most basic level, think play counts) and things get garbled.

Home Sharing is Apple's "80% answer" to this problem, but won't automatically sync music unless you buy it from Apple.
posted by mkultra at 10:36 AM on December 30, 2012

Would the fact that (for now) it's only me in the apt make it any easier? I could settle for basically ensuring that I'm only ever running one install at any given time, or sharing 95% of the time off the server and then switching when I want to throw music onto the phone?

I guess not, because then you're running into the play count problem. Crap. I suspect the solution is to be able to physically plug the phone in to the laptop and then connect to the server via the network. I know ideally I'd like to be able to update my phone or add songs from that server library from home, work, or a hotel.
posted by nevercalm at 10:43 AM on December 30, 2012

I've got a strong hunch that one copy of iTunes wouldn't even open it if it was already in use by another copy of iTunes on another machine.

Um, yeah, that: in my case we're sharing between multiple users on the same machine, and iTunes refuses to launch if there's already an instance running. Cross-machine it probably would be a recipe for corruption. So scratch that.

For remote updating: in Windows iTunes, dropping files into the "Automatically Add to iTunes" folder in the iTunes library adds them to iTunes (and as I have "keep library organized" turned on, iTunes automatically moves them to the correct place in the hierarchy).

Does that exist in Mac iTunes? If so it might provide a way for you to remotely add new files to a "master" iTunes instance that is providing Home Sharing to your other devices, as long as you can get to the folder over the network.
posted by We had a deal, Kyle at 10:51 AM on December 30, 2012

And for all occurrences of "backup" -> "sync." Kthx.
posted by nevercalm at 10:51 AM on December 30, 2012

The closest thing to an answer is iTunes Match.
posted by Good Brain at 10:59 AM on December 30, 2012

I think I just need to be really disciplined about making sure any music added to the itunes library is done via the laptop, which would then add it to the external hd on the server.

My problem with this setup is that I use the tv as speakers for the server when I'm in that room. So with that setup, I would have to open the laptop, connect to the server, share back to the laptop and then stream the music back to the server.

It seems to have no issue syncing my pics/apps/whatevs to the laptop and pulling music off the server as it is, I just wanted to have all possible worlds.

I think this is because with the Macbook, mini server, iphone and ipad, the integration has really become so tight and almost so easy so as to require no thought....I get a text, it hits all my devices almost simultaneously. I need to find something on the server? I can share screens and change my TV to the server's HDMI input and use it as the monitor. My contacts sync everywhere without thinking about it, same as my calendar. So these little things that really make me want to stamp my feet really are not that big a deal, all in all. It's just weird little issues that 95% of users probably never have.
posted by nevercalm at 11:00 AM on December 30, 2012

Oh, and library is faar too large for match...I have a ton of live stuff from and the like. That's a whole other ball of wax.
posted by nevercalm at 11:01 AM on December 30, 2012

There are a few third-party programs that will do this for you. I looked into this a while ago, and SuperSync seemed like the best bet at the time, although that may have changed.

You'll still have two different library files, but they are kept in sync with each other, and you can still have only one copy of all your music files.

In my case, I was looking to sync music libraries between my wife's computer and mine. I wound up using Apple's Home Sharing instead, which is good enough for me, but I can understand why you'd want something different.
posted by adamrice at 12:15 PM on December 30, 2012

FWIW, I have a similar setup to yours (Mac Mini attached to a TV acting as a server, multiple Macbooks, an iPhone). Here are some things I do:

- Sync my iPhone to my Mac Mini, which has the large drive with all my music. I don't have any kind of automatic syncing of new songs into libraries with my Macs, but I only add music infrequently. I use Home Sharing and sort by Date Added to move music where I want it. There's a way to make it work automatically using Dropbox, Automator and iTunes "Automatically Add to iTunes" folder, I just haven't gotten around to doing it.

- I play music through my speakers via the Remote app for the iPhone. Since my Mini is connected directly to my receiver (not via the TV), it's nice to be able to play music without turning on the TV.

- The iPhone can sync almost entirely OTA these days. Only when I've got new music to put on does it want a USB connection. Newer iOS releases may have even fixed that so songs sync properly over WiFi as well.

- I live with the fact that my Macbook only has a subset of music on it at any given time. Granted, my entire library is under 50G so it's not so hard to manage; YMMV.
posted by mkultra at 8:40 AM on December 31, 2012

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