This page will outline our media server set up and its various components. I’ll also share my process for converting DVDs and Blu-Ray discs for streaming to an AppleTV.
The basic hardware set up is as follows:
We’ve got a 2TB Western Digital external USB2 drive connected to a dual 1.83GHz Mac Mini with 2GB of RAM. The Mini is running iTunes and is connected to an Airport Extreme via Ethernet. We installed a Sonnet Aria Extreme N WiFi card in the Mini to allow more options for placement, but it’s sitting right next to the Airport Extreme at the moment, so we’re using Ethernet. Our Apple TV is connected to the same network as the Mini via WiFi.
We’ve actually got two wireless networks in the house. The first is a 802.11n network being served up by the Airport Extreme expressly for the Apple TV and the Mini so iTunes has the fastest possible network for streaming. The second is a 802.11g network using the WiFi built into our DSL router which is available for our old G3 iPhones and our wireless HP printer which don’t do 802.11n.
Our Mini spends its days and nights streaming video to the Apple TV and also ripping and converting DVDs via Handbrake and an external DVD drive (faster and more flexible than the built-in Super Drive). More details on this process will be documented in a separate post.
2GB of data is a pain to back up, and the last thing I want to do is re-rip 500+ DVDs, so I use a simple scheme which relies on the the fact that the speed with which we add media to iTunes being roughly the same as the speed with which hardware manufacturers increase the size of relatively inexpensive external drives.
Our iTunes library originally lived on a 500GB external drive. When we got close to filling that up, we got a 1TB drive. I used Carbon Copy Cloner to move our library to the new drive and pointed iTunes to the library on the new location (by holding the option key down while launching iTunes). I put the 500GB drive on the shelf as a back up.
When the 1TB got full, repeated the process with a 1.5TB drive, freeing the original 500GB drive up to be reformatted and used for other purposes. This means that if we have a drive failure, we only lose <500GB of ripped media. TV shows we download from the iTunes store are in the same library and also get backed up.
So, that’s the basic hardware set up. It took a few tries to get there, but this configuration works really well!