iTunes Use

I am trying to figure out the ‘best’ way to store and distribute my digital content. A number of ‘events’ have conspired to make this a more urgent task than I had anticipated. I will go into these ‘events’ in future posts, otherwise this article will become of ‘War and Peace’ proportions.

First up, I do not want to implement a NAS server. I don’t want the additional cost, nor do I want to have another machine running all the time when my Mac is effectively on all the time anyway, at least it is always on at times when we will want to access content.

Second up, I want to minimise the amount of data duplication that occurs in terms of hard space utilization. I want a full back up of all my photographs and music, but I do not want multiple copies i.e. I do not want the pictures and music to be physically held on more than one Mac and external hard drive.

Third up, I now need to save (or convert) all my stored movies into a format for iTunes. The same applies for any DVD that I rip to the hard drive (I am seriously considering embarking on the task of ripping our entire DVD collection of 300+ DVD’s to hard drive). At the moment the recorded films are in .eyetv format, but there is a little ‘trick’ to converting them that saves some time.

As .eyetv is a container, if you right click you can “Show package Contents”. Once inside you see the movie. I can then use VisualHub to convert the file into a AppleTV format then run the converted file through MetaX to add all the necessary metadata, then add it to itunes.

VisualHub gives the option to convert for iTunes and H.264 Encoded which is what I am doing at the moment.

Fourth up, I need to be able to connect certain iPods to specific Macs so that they can sync their individual settings i.e. although using the one single library I want my iPods to sync my preferences on my Mac and Sands iPods to sync her preferences on her Mac.

With over 250+ recorded movies in .eyetv format the first thing I am going to do is delete any that I am not worried about losing or that I am sure I can re record off Sky at a later stage.

At the end of this exercise I will have in excess of 500 films saved on hard drives across the network, 60GB of music stored on hard drive, and (currently) 20GB of photographs.

What I want to do is to have the iTunes library on my Mac. Physically stored on the hard drive of that Mac so effectively ‘in’ the iTunes Library I will have the ‘original’ music files. As a result when I do the full system back up of this drive to an external drive these files will be backed up – as an aside, I will do the same with the photographs and iPhoto.

The movie files (all iTunes ‘ready’ will be distributed across 4 other hard drives on the network, so what I ideally want is for these movies to ‘show’ in the iTunes Library, but to be physically stored only on their original hard drive. I do not want a back up of these. Ironic as it may seem any film that I really am worried about losing I will copy to DVD.

I spoke to Mac about this and he has this issue with what I am proposing:

ITunes library sharing is not as easy and straight forward as one may think. OK here is the scenario:

2 users with 2 different macs all networked and happy. User A creates a library on a dedicated drive, which is shared, adds music to it etc. All is good. User B maps (or mounts) to the shared itunes drive and adds all the files with out moving them to his itunes library. All is well both can see and play the music contained in that one library. Now……

User A adds a new CD to the library. Oh Oh… user B does not see it. This is because iTunes does not monitor folders for changes. To see the CD, he has to navigate to the folder where the mp3 files are stored and add it to his library. Again leaving the files in the original spot. Can you see all the points of failure? I don’t even know if both could open the same itunes library at the same time.

I tried it with iPhoto at one point. The library was on a NAS. Had it open on one system, and tried opening it on another system. It would not open. It said that the library was locked.

That’s why you have specific iTunes sharing. Others can view and listen to your library, but they cannot add or modify it. Does it suck? Most definately. There are hacks out there, but so far I haven’t found one that would allow for what we are trying to do.

Now, this may actually not be as big an issue as it seems personally, as I already have all my music stored on the hard drive, and I very rarely buy new music these days. So if the ‘worst case’ was that every time I bought any new music I had to manually add it to the ‘other’ Library that would probably be OK. Not perfect, but OK.

I have a similar situation with iPhoto. I want to set up one central library on my Mac with all the pictures tagged, names, rated etc. and for iPhoto on the other Macs to point to this library.

I have tried the sharing option with both iPhoto and iTunes but find it too restrictive in terms of joint management of the data i.e. both been able to add a rating, name a picture etc. That may sound unimportant but the way we would like to do things is for me to load all the pictures into iPhoto on my Mac, and then for Sands to be able to access them and ‘manage’ them.

There are many articles on the internet about this type of dilemma and I am slowly working my way through them, but I wanted to see what experiences, setups and issues you had, so as ever please let me know.

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