Hoping for an Apple media server

By Felix Salmon
May 26, 2009

There’s one thing I’m not seeing amidst all the speculation surrounding Apple’s announcements at WWDC the week after next, and that’s a simple media server.

Apple’s computers and apps are great if you store all your media (music, photos, video) on the same startup disk where you house your operating system and your applications. But that’s never a particularly sensible way of organizing things. Yet the minute you start moving your media onto an external hard drive or — worse — a network drive, things start getting glitchy.

And heaven forfend you should want to share a music or photo library between different users on different computers on the same network. iTunes doesn’t like that — if one person adds songs to the library, the other computers on the network can go indefinitely without noticing — and iPhoto pretty much bars it entirely: if one person is using a certain library, no one else is allowed access to it. And what happens when your library outgrows one hard drive and you want to extend it onto another? Again, Apple’s apps don’t generally like that one bit.

HP has a media server which claims to be Mac-friendly, but you need a PC to set it up, and of course it can’t solve the software problems endemic to iPhoto and iTunes. The Apple TV is halfway there, but it’s built for video rather than music and photos, and is designed to be used in conjunction with a screen; what’s more, its hard drive is quite small, and it’s not expandable.

So while I fully expect Snow Leopard to include much easier ways to merge media libraries than exist right now, I’d really love a bit of dedicated hardware for such things as well.


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Yes I agree I use a alias of my iTunes music folder with the linking folder stored on an external but already need to upgrade to a larger hard drive.

something similar to this
MobileNAS MN2L – 2 Bay RAID 0 / RAID 1 Network Attached Storage NAS Server

http://www.sansdigital.com/mobilenas/mn2 l.html

would be a good starting point for Apple.

Posted by Jose Trujillo | Report as abusive

This opens a window into shared file systems. A file opened for read/write needs to be locked for multi-user access until the update is complete. Failure to do this corrupts the data base. One could make a subset for read-only but then updates are still problematic.
Physical disk location has never been a problem on macs due to its unix foundation but files can never span disks (Raids are physical beasts that present one huge disk to the operating system). Moving iTunes to a bigger disk is a simple library copy followed by an index rebuild.
Owner rights are always functioning and updating a shared disk has to take that into account. If someone places a new song or photo in a library and fails to allow world access it remains unseen.
Multi-user security and group/world read/write access are always in conflict.

Amen! It’s exactly this difficulty that prevents me from moving to macs in general.

Posted by TW Andrews | Report as abusive

YEAH!!!!!! I second, third and fourth this!!! Go Felix!

Apple has no choice. They can’t ignore media storage and leverage their installed base without offering an easy and simple to use storage option with multiple access methods across their hardware mac/pod/phone(s). Anyone using their product(s) are running out of space rapidly.

Posted by bill | Report as abusive