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PostPosted: Tue Sep 14, 2010 10:39 am 
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I was asked in a PM to discuss how I use my WHS to feed support my AppleTVs. My response ended up being kind of lengthy and is probably better off being delivered in the form of a thread rather than a PM.

Let me describe my general environment, the software I use, and how I manage my environment.

First off, I have iTunes managing all my media: movies, TV shows, and music. That means I need to convert this media to a format that iTunes recognizes. Also iTunes acts as both a client, and as a server for AppleTV or other instances of iTunes with which you may want to share your library. So you need to have an instance of iTunes running on your WHS machine for this to work.

I have roughly 450 movies totaling 780GB, 300 television episodes at 270GB and 115 albums at 8.5GB hosted on my EX490. Here is a diagram of my network:

Image

Software:

Video transcoding: Handbrake
Required video libraries: VLC
Meta tag editor: MetaX

I have iTunes 10 running on the EX490 as well as the 2 OS X workstations. I use Handbrake to transcode video to the h.264 file format required by iTunes. This does not produce a full copy of the DVD, just the movie itself. So if you like scanning through endless trailers and FBI warnings, this method is not for you. Handbrake in turn requires VLC to be installed. I use the 64 bit versions of both programs. I use MetaX to set the meta tag fields in the resulting file and publish the file to a local copy of iTunes. I copy the file to the movie folder on my EX490, log in to the WHS box, and from within iTunes add the file(s) to the library.

The Mac Pro is my primary video transcoding machine. Handbrake is multi-core optimized and will make use of hyperthreading, so my MP is substantially faster at this task than the notebook or the WHS box. In Handbrake I normally specify the AppleTV preset and I increase the constant quality setting to 65.20% on the video pane. Handbrake normally encodes two audio tracks. The second one is a passthru and is the one used by AppleTV. The first track is used when the output device can't process the passthru audio stream. I usually increase the bitrate of the first track to a level similar to that of the passthru track. Subtitles are a bit of a pain and you will need to experiment some to get a feel for those. Normally you only care about 'forced' subtitles as those are the ones displayed when a language other than English is being used in an English language film. Review the Handbrake documentation for a discussion on how to ensure subtitles are captured if present in the source.

Once the video is transcoded I run MetaX to set the values of the various meta tags. If the movie is not found in the tagchimp database then the Allmovie.com is a nice resource for movie and disc information such as chapter titles and such. iTunes does not let you edit all the tags that are displayed by your AppleTV, so use MetaX for this task. For example:

Image Image Image

The iTunes 10 client is the easiest to install on the server. Prior versions required that the install package be modified, but iTunes 10 will successfully install without this surgery. If you want to run iTunes 9, here are instructions: link. Use the Windows Scheduler to automatically run iTunes when you log in to the server. I initially tried having iTunes run at startup, but I wasn't getting a user interface on the screen when I did it this way. So if I reboot the WHS machine, I have to log in to cause iTunes to run.

edit: iTunes 10.0.0.1 appears to have "fixed" whatever caused the iTunes 10.0 client to install without modifying the installer package. I have not yet performed the version 9.x surgery on the 10.0.0.1 installer package and tested it, but I would imagine the changes are the same.

Image

I always want iTunes to run as though I was standing in front of the machine and working on it directly. The way to do this is by using the Remote Desktop Connection application with a /console switch. I always use this method to connect and administer the server. I do not use 'Launch Home Server Console' menu item on the HP software. When I am done, I close the application without logging out. This leaves my session active in a disconnected state.

Image

If anyone has suggestions on how to accomplish this better or more efficiently using my current hardware then I am all ears. I am not currently doing any Blue Ray transcoding. And to the person who PMed me, I hope this answers many of your questions.

10/16/2010 Edit:
I used the instructions in this document to package iTunes into a service. The service starts without incident, but the Apple TV could not detect it. Since running it as a service does not result in a user interface being created, there is no way to configure it. So much for that experiment.

I have also installed iTunes 10.0.1.22 on my WHS machine. The instructions from the crunchgear site are no longer accurate. Delete the only row in iTunesSetup -> ServiceInstall as there are no rows in ServiceControl. That was the only change I made to the various msi files. iTunes installed successfully, albeit not without a few error dialogs popping up along the way.

I am setting up a Windows Small Business Server 2008, and 64 bit iTunes 10.0.1.22 installs without modification or error, and runs with the usual audio error on startup.

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Last edited by Cliff on Mon Oct 18, 2010 8:03 am, edited 6 times in total.

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PostPosted: Tue Sep 14, 2010 11:00 am 
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Thank you SO MUCH! (I am the PMer) ;-)

The first entire half is exactly how I've been going about it (convert, then edit with metaX). The new bits are all the rest.

I was noticing that whenever I logged in, it was a different session, so the notes on the console switch help greatly!

Do you allow iTunes to organize the files, or do you just store them where you prefer, and drop them into iTunes so it links to them, but leaves them in place?

Thanks again, and amazing write up. I'll be sure to share any new discoveries I make as well!

Andy


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PostPosted: Tue Sep 14, 2010 12:04 pm 
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I have iTunes set to organize the library and to copy the files when adding to the library (iTunes for Windows menu: Edit | Preferences | Advanced). I also have the media folder set to a subfolder off one of the server shares. FWIW the Windows iTunes client seems to behave differently than the OS X client in the way it organizes movies and TV shows. I copy the files from my transcoding machine to the appropriate target folder on the WHS machine then just add the file to the library.

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PostPosted: Thu Sep 16, 2010 5:56 am 
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Thanks again!

I use VideoMonkey for my avi / xvid / divx / etc files that are not DVDs. It encodes extremely quickly, and has a built in auto-search tagger (like Metax).

Cuts an entire step out, and metaX can be a little slow with all the rewrites.

I'm definitely still getting error messages with iTunes 10 on my WHS. iTunes Helper crashes (is that necessary for AppleTV streaming?) and iPod Service crashes. I've disabled both though....


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PostPosted: Thu Sep 16, 2010 8:05 am 
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alockbox wrote:
I'm definitely still getting error messages with iTunes 10 on my WHS. iTunes Helper crashes (is that necessary for AppleTV streaming?) and iPod Service crashes. I've disabled both though....


Nothing really crashes, per se, iTunes (and Windows) is just throwing up error dialogs as it loads, right? Then you get the main program window and iTunes behaves normally? That's what I see on my server. Previous versions of iTunes behaved the same way. iTunes is not intended to be run under Windows Server so it doesn't do so particularly cleanly. But it does run.

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PostPosted: Thu Sep 16, 2010 4:37 pm 
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One silly question:
I am wondering where you loaded iTunes on your WHS? I have read many posts advocating the use of an external drive for applications rather than the D: drive on the server.

I have a similar situation only I use a PS3 for the blu-ray spot and have found it is easy to use "PS Media Server".
I have XBMC on my ATV and this also plays anything from my Mac. Never get the slow down which I get when I stream from WHS. Does iTunes from the WHS stream more efficiently than Twonky?

Thanks for your detailed explanation.


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PostPosted: Thu Sep 16, 2010 7:08 pm 
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fritzair wrote:
One silly question:
I am wondering where you loaded iTunes on your WHS? I have read many posts advocating the use of an external drive for applications rather than the D: drive on the server.

I have a similar situation only I use a PS3 for the blu-ray spot and have found it is easy to use "PS Media Server".
I have XBMC on my ATV and this also plays anything from my Mac. Never get the slow down which I get when I stream from WHS. Does iTunes from the WHS stream more efficiently than Twonky?

Thanks for your detailed explanation.


I just installed it on the C: drive. I am not running some production server farm in a setting where access needs to be rigidly controlled, I am running a storage server for my home. There is no need to unnecessarily complicate things. If the server barfs, I'll rebuild it and reinstall whatever needs to be reinstalled. I don't have much running on it. *

As far as Twonky goes, an unmodified AppleTV depends on iTunes. I do not want to hack my AppleTVs - I had Boxee and XBMC running on one of them for a while, but the maintenance requirements exceeded the benefits. I don't need Twonky to keep my AppleTVs running so it is turned off on my server. My need to run a full iTunes client was one factor that drove my choice of the MSS box as a server.

* That said, I back up the data regularly.

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PostPosted: Sun Oct 10, 2010 11:48 am 
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Cliff wrote:
I was asked in a PM to discuss how I use my WHS to feed support my AppleTVs. My response ended up being kind of lengthy and is probably better off being delivered in the form of a thread rather than a PM.

Let me describe my general environment, the software I use, and how I manage my environment.

First off, I have iTunes managing all my media: movies, TV shows, and music. That means I need to convert this media to a format that iTunes recognizes. Also iTunes acts as both a client, and as a server for AppleTV or other instances of iTunes with which you may want to share your library. So you need to have an instance of iTunes running on your WHS machine for this to work.

I have roughly 450 movies totaling 780GB, 300 television episodes at 270GB and 115 albums at 8.5GB hosted on my EX490. Here is a diagram of my network:

Image.

Software:

Video transcoding: Handbrake
Required video libraries: VLC
Meta tag editor: MetaX

I have iTunes 10 running on the EX490 as well as the 2 OS X workstations. I use Handbrake to transcode video to the h.264 file format required by iTunes. This does not produce a full copy of the DVD, just the movie itself. So if you like scanning through endless trailers and FBI warnings, this method is not for you. Handbrake in turn requires VLC to be installed. I use the 64 bit versions of both programs. I use MetaX to set the meta tag fields in the resulting file and publish the file to a local copy of iTunes. I copy the file to the movie folder on my EX490, log in to the WHS box, and from within iTunes add the file(s) to the library.

The Mac Pro is my primary video transcoding machine. Handbrake is multi-core optimized and will make use of hyperthreading, so my MP is substantially faster at this task than the notebook or the WHS box. In Handbrake I normally specify the AppleTV preset and I increase the constant quality setting to 65.20% on the video pane. Handbrake normally encodes two audio tracks. The second one is a passthru and is the one used by AppleTV. The first track is used when the output device can't process the passthru audio stream. I usually increase the bitrate of the first track to a level similar to that of the passthru track. Subtitles are a bit of a pain and you will need to experiment some to get a feel for those. Normally you only care about 'forced' subtitles as those are the ones displayed when a language other than English is being used in an English language film. Review the Handbrake documentation for a discussion on how to ensure subtitles are captured if present in the source.

Once the video is transcoded I run MetaX to set the values of the various meta tags. If the movie is not found in the tagchimp database then the Allmovie.com is a nice resource for movie and disc information such as chapter titles and such. iTunes does not let you edit all the tags that are displayed by your AppleTV, so use MetaX for this task. For example:

Image Image Image

The iTunes 10 client is the easiest to install on the server. Prior versions required that the install package be modified, but iTunes 10 will successfully install without this surgery. If you want to run iTunes 9, here are instructions: link. Use the Windows Scheduler to automatically run iTunes when you log in to the server. I initially tried having iTunes run at startup, but I wasn't getting a user interface on the screen when I did it this way. So if I reboot the WHS machine, I have to log in to cause iTunes to run.

Image

I always want iTunes to run as though I was standing in front of the machine and working on it directly. The way to do this is by using the Remote Desktop Connection application with a /console switch. I always use this method to connect and administer the server. I do not use 'Launch Home Server Console' menu item on the HP software. When I am done, I close the application without logging out. This leaves my session active in a disconnected state.

Image

If anyone has suggestions on how to accomplish this better or more efficiently using my current hardware then I am all ears. I am not currently doing any Blue Ray transcoding. And to the person who PMed me, I hope this answers many of your questions.


I am currently doing what you are with the added bonus of blu-ray. Blu-Ray takes a few more steps though, so lets get started.

First to save your self a tun of money, in doing blu-ray

You will need an external drive enclosure, that allows for optical drives and of course the drive. If you buy them separate you can save hundreds if you also want the ability to wright blu-ray disks.

Now for the fun part, the drive depending on the connection used USB 2.0 and FireWire 400 will only allow for Blu-Ray read rates of 4x where as FireWire 800 will allow read rates of up to 8x. As an FYI kind of thing blu-ray drives will not read above 4x for movies its a limitation of the drives firmware to keep the noise down.

In other words a faster drive wont help much over the standard USB connection.

Now for the software..

CoRD. http://cord.sourceforge.net/ Its a better RDP app for the Mac than the one offered by MS.

MakeMKV http://www.makemkv.com/download/ This is needed to copy the blu-ray to a container file that HandBreak can encode.

Open the Blu-Ray with MKV its fairly automated, much like copying DVD's from the days of old select the largest file, click makemkv. It should start reading the disk and making the mkv container file. This

HandBreak with the help of VLC can read DVD's but not Blu-Rays. This is where MKV comes into play, MakeMKV will copy the blu-ray to the hard drive, but not in an iTunes format. Using HandBreak click on source, select the file you saved using MKV.

If HandBreak wont read the *.mkv try playing it with VLC, if it doesn't work you may need to do a search on the issue, some blu-rays just wont copy nicely.

After encoding with HandBreak the rest goes as stated above. Though there are a few more steps its always nice to see that HD logo on a video you encoded on your ATV. I currently have 141 Movies done using this process.

This process can also be used for normal DVD's and can be a lot faster than having HandBreak read the disk and encode at the same time.

Please use caution when doing Blu-Rays, they will take a LOT of disk space up to 50GB, once compressed with Handbreak they average between 2GB and 4 GB. You should have at minimum 100GB of free space on your drive before starting space will be needed for overhead, the copy process and the encode process. It takes about 30 to 40 minutes to copy the blu-ray to the hard drive, on a MBP i7 2.66GHz about 1:35 minutes to encode. Even longer on slower systems EX a i5 2.27Ghz windows7 laptop took 3:45 to encode the same movie.

When I have more time I will come back and clean this up a bit..

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PostPosted: Sun Oct 17, 2010 2:23 am 
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Cliff wrote:
10/16/2010 Edit:
I used the instructions in this document to package iTunes into a service. The service starts without incident, but the Apple TV could not detect it. Since running it as a service does not result in a user interface being created, there is no way to configure it. So much for that experiment.

I have also installed iTunes 10.0.1.22 on my WHS machine. The instructions from the crunchgear site are no longer accurate. Delete the only row in iTunesSetup -> ServiceInstall as there are no rows in ServiceControl. That was the only change I made to the various msi files. iTunes installed successfully, albeit not without a few error dialogs popping up along the way.

I am setting up a Windows Small Business Server 2008, and 64 bit iTunes 10.0.1.22 installs without modification or error, and runs with the usual audio error on startup.


The 10.0.1 upgrade did not function correctly on my WHS. The client would hang and become unresponsive to both the UI and requests from the Apple TV and require a forced termination from the task manager. I uninstalled 10.0.1.22, both iTunes and Quicktime, and attempted to reinstall 10.0.0. The 10.0.0 installation program raised an error this time. I suspect a server restart after I uninstalled 10.0.1 might have corrected this. But…I reinstalled a version 9.02 client instead. This client couldn't read the library files as the internal format had apparently changed with the introduction of version 10. The 10.0.0 client installed cleanly over the 9.0.2 client, but I had problems with the client becoming unresponsive. A server restart seems to have corrected that problem and the 10.0.0 client is behaving normally now.

And that's why I hang on to old software versions….

FWIW, if you add your WHS to a Windows Server 2008 AD domain, make sure you check the firewall settings on the domain controller to ensure you've opened your firewall to the iTunes application.

10/17 edit:

Something more than just the version change is going on here. The 10.0.0 client is becoming similarly unresponsive. The other big change to the server yesterday was my having it join a SBS 2008 domain, which brought it under that domain's firewall rules. I removed the server from the domain and demoted it to a workgroup and restarted the server. Then I uninstalled iTunes and Quicktime and restarted the server. I next ran ccleaner against the registry until it came up clean, then restarted the server. Finally, I reinstalled iTunes 10.0.0 and Quicktime, and launched the iTunes client. And now I monitor things...

10/18 edit:

I am still having problems with the 10.0.0 client UI freezing over time and requiring a forced quit via task manager and a restart. I uninstalled 10.0.0 and restarted the server. I then prepared a 10.0.1 install as documented in a couple of places on the web (remove launch condition from mobileapplicationsupport.msi and leave the remaining msi files alone - http://goolier.com/index.php/2010/itunes-10-on-windows-server-2003-or-home-server/) and installed 10.0.1. I will monitor this.

The firewall issues seem to be resolved now. I added rules for TCP port 3689 and UDP port 5353 to the firewalls on both the WHS machine as well as the SBS2008 machine. If this continues to work, then I will try to add the WHS machine back into the domain.

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PostPosted: Wed Oct 20, 2010 3:10 pm 
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May I ask you a few questions about your setup? I have the same HP mediasmart server EX490. I just purchased a Apple TV 2010 version after I saw your post. I have movies in my video folder and music in my music folder on my HP mediasmart server, should I just move the movies into the itunes media folder as well as my music? Also when you installed itunes which drive did you put all on your media on? Can you also get to it remotely?
Thanks for any help you can assist on.


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PostPosted: Wed Oct 20, 2010 6:46 pm 
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bishop527 wrote:
May I ask you a few questions about your setup? I have the same HP mediasmart server EX490. I just purchased a Apple TV 2010 version after I saw your post. I have movies in my video folder and music in my music folder on my HP mediasmart server, should I just move the movies into the itunes media folder as well as my music? Also when you installed itunes which drive did you put all on your media on? Can you also get to it remotely?
Thanks for any help you can assist on.


I stuck my iTunes library in the Public share, but so long as it's in one place and you've configured iTunes to point to it I don't think it matters much where you put it.

By get to it remotely, do you mean streaming to a mobile client or some other device connecting to the server from outside the LAN? I generally don't have a need for that so it's not something I have explored. Other than exposing the files as a shared library, I doubt iTunes would provide much support. A third party media server that supports the same file formats as iTunes would probably be a better bet.

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PostPosted: Thu Oct 21, 2010 7:56 am 
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Did any of you see this article?

http://www.wegotserved.com/2010/10/18/f ... -apple-tv/

Looks like a pretty good way to get iTunes up and running and start it as a service.

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PostPosted: Thu Oct 21, 2010 8:43 am 
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gecko6375 wrote:
Did any of you see this article?

http://www.wegotserved.com/2010/10/18/f ... -apple-tv/

Looks like a pretty good way to get iTunes up and running and start it as a service.


Neither Jtunes, nor anysrv nor the elaborate method posted in another thread on this site have worked for me.

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PostPosted: Mon Nov 01, 2010 3:37 pm 
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I've been following this thread with interest as I am attempting to have the same setup on my MSS (iTunes 10 on server, streaming to ATV2). Right now I have iTunes on my mac, with it pointed to where the library is located (on the server). Can I still run iTunes in this manner (so I can sync my iPhone as needed) in addition to having iTunes running on the server? Would there be any issue or chance for corruption/etc?


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PostPosted: Mon Nov 01, 2010 5:16 pm 
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iTunes isn't intended to support multiple concurrent users using one library. Assuming you have one or more clients connected to a network library, plus another client running on your home server, then there is a strong potential for library corruption in that scenario. The media files themselves should be fine, it would be the library files that are at risk. I think... (in other words, you should either test this, or back up your files regularly)

The mechanism Apple has in place for sharing content across a network is the shared library. Unfortunately, for copyright-type reasons, they won't let you sync to a shared library.

I don't have a solution to your problem, nor do I have any particularly useful suggestions.

I keep local copies of non-video files on my clients for syncing purposes. I never watch video on my iPhone or iPod. It's just not a satisfactory experience for me. Those files are hosted solely on my server. That keeps my local libraries under 10GB or so since music and applications don't usually consume prodigious quantities of disk space. It's the 1+ TB of video files that motivated me to have the library hosted on a server.

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