After a couple of months ‘tinkering’ I have finally sorted out my network, and one huge benefit is that I do not need an AppleTV.
My network is all ethernet based. I connect to the internet via a modem, which in turn is connected via cable to an AirPort Extreme. This is turn is connected via cable to the Lindy 8 Port Gigabit Switch. Connected to the switch via cable I have:
a Mac mini
a Windows PC
2 AirPort Express’s
I also have one additional cable just waiting for another Mac mini.
The two AirPort Express’s are connected to separate stereo systems. One is in my wife’s den and is connected to the Sony surround sound system that is connected to a Sony TV, which in turn is connected to her iMac running dual screen.
The second is attached to our B&O system which comprises of 3 B&O TV’s connected via BeoLink, a 6 CD player and 5 separate speakers. In total there are 7 B&O speakers around the apartment that will pick up iTunes from any of the 4 computers in the apartment (there are only two of us living here!)
With the addition of AirFoil we can stream music from any of the computers to either or both of the ‘music networks’ – a pretty impressive set up for a party.
But I digress.
The iMac has an eyetvhybrid connected to the satellite receiver that is connected to the Sony TV. As a result the iMac will play what is on the TV but more importantly will record what is on the TV.
At the same time the Mac mini is attached to a TVMax, which is connected to the Sky + satellite receiver that is connected to the B&O TV. So again, the Mac mini will not only pick up the satellite signal it will also record from the Sky + box.
So, is easy to get recorded material onto either the iMac or the Mac mini. This is where the network really kicks in. I am using the Windows PC fundamentally as an external drive so it has 50 + movies stored on it. The iMac has 20+ and the Mac mini 20+. It is so easy to connect from the iMac to the PC or the Mac mini, or from the Mac mini to the iMac and the PC and to play any of the content stored on the relevant computer. With the iMac connected via dual screen it is simple to watch any of this content on the Sony in the den. With the Mac mini not supporting dual screen it is necessary to physically connect the Mac mini to the B&O, but with the aid of the wireless Mighty Mouse and Keyboard it is simple enough to sit in the lounge and watch any of the content on the ‘network’ on the B&O. Of course when I can get a second Mac mini and attach it permanently to the B&O and the 8 Port Switch I wont need to physically swap the screens over – which will be bliss.
What really makes all this possible is that I don’t use iTunes for movies or TV shows at all. I only pick up movies off Sky + (UK TiVo) or occasionally DVD’s that I buy, borrow or rent. I subscribe to a few video podcasts but it doesn’t appeal at all to watch them on a big TV. They are just things that I have running in the background usually when I am browsing through stuff on the Mac, or maybe once in a while I will watch one on the 5G iPod with video. To be honest, and meaning no disrespect to any of the people doing them, I see them as a ‘fun item’ more than serious viewing.
I really don’t see me changing my mind about using iTunes for movies or TV. I will certainly try a movie at some stage, but even then as every Mac picks up the same iTunes library on the network I can access anything I have in iTunes on every Mac and it is also really easy (and faster) to move stuff around.
So for me I can live without the AppleTV. My solution was cheaper and I imagine is quicker and more flexible. Sure I don’t have the ‘cool factor’ of syncing my iTunes but I really don’t see any need for that. Over the last couple of days my mother in law has been staying with us, and she and my wife have happily watched a couple of movies in my wife’s den that are stored on the PC and the Mac mini – it works a treat, is easy to set up and I love it!