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File server, HTPC, or NAS?

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Didn't really want to put this into buying advice, since at the moment I'm not set on what I want to do, but probably the best place for it...

So my wife and I (who am I kidding, she's had nothing to do with it!) are renovating our downstairs room to serve as a second living room/man cave. Recently invested in an audio system (Denon X-2000 receiver, Polk TL-2 speakers, and a big ol' BIC 12" subwoofer!) to go with the 48" 3D TV, and now just need to finish a bit of structural stuff down there (hole in the ceiling and a crack in the wall, as well as route all the cables properly) and it's good to go.

I started thinking that I'd like to put together a CustoMac mini to work as a HTPC down there, but am now realizing that would probably be redundant - since the TV, Blu Ray player, AND receiver all have built in apps for the majority of things we'd use, like Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Prime. At which point I began to consider what it is I'd need, and came to the conclusion that all I really want is a basic box that can house my itunes library, which can be accessed from any of the other devices in the house. (My hackintosh in the office, two Macbook Pros... be nice if I could use my iphone or ipad to access it as well, which I assume I could do via airplay?)

So couple of questions, then...

I do have an old (and I mean OLD!) PC lying around - a Dell Optiplex 280 with a meagre P4 processor. Were I to slap a chunky hard drive in there (and I do have a WD 1.5TB black sitting here, as well as a couple of 500gb 2.5" drives that SSDs have replaced) would it be possible to use this old thing purely to house my itunes library?

If not, and a new machine is needed, do I snag an old Mac Mini from Craigslist (the Core2 models from 5-6 years ago seem to be going for $200 or so) to do the job?

Do I even NEED a computer? Given the fact that every machine in the house is a Mac (although this one is unofficial, mwahaha!) would an Apple Time Capsule or Synology type dealie do the job? (Quite sure iTunes needs to be running on something before I can access it though, so would be prohibitive streaming music to just the stereo?)

Oooooooor, do I just say screw it, and go ahead and build a HTPC because I'm bored, and apparently like to drive my wife MENTAL by spending money I don't really need to?

Oh, decisions, decisions, decisions!
 
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Apple TV. I have one and it is great. Can airplay anything from my computer, iphone or iPad. Super easy setup and even wirelessly stream pandora or iTunes Radio. Did I mention they're only 99 bucks? There are rumors of a controller coming out and based on the last developers conference there's a high probability of iOS games coming to the living room via appleTV. We may see a hardware update soon so you might want to wait for that perhaps coming this fall.
 
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Cheers for that, Tyler - did have a think about Apple TV, but that doesn't get around the file storage problem, though. In order to access the media library, I still need to have a mac somewhere in the house up and running? As to streaming Pandora and other apps, all that's built into the receiver I picked up (Oooh, that thing's tasty!) which is why I started thinking that I didn't need a HTPC...
 
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The original AppleTV had a hard drive but I'm not sure if you could put whatever you wanted on it. For my setup I just bought a large thumb drive or USB stick and loaded it with content and plugged it into my USB port on my tv. Some receivers have that option too. I'm also considering using my hackintosh as a htpc since steam has the big picture mode to let me play games on my big screen. There's several ways to get your content to the tv without having a bulky box messing things up. Maybe if you have a lot of content you could get a external hard drive and load hat puppy up and run a USB to the tv. From there make sure the tv has an audio out that will run into the receiver. I've gone a bit nuts with my own setup. I'm all about trying to control everything with my phone. I'm getting ready to put that wireless thermostat in my house and then wireless lock on the front door. I have those hue wireless lights and it's awesome. People freak out when they see me change the channel on the tv and adjust my lights with my phone. I still would go the AppleTV way though. It's worth it in so many ways and although my tv has apps, they don't come close to AppleTV. Nothing does.
 

Stork

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If you're needs for a server are just to "serve" files including music and videos, I am using Sysnology NAS's which are highly Mac OS X compatible. I have Synology DS110j and DS112j NAS's which are single drive NAS. I recommend the DS212j (two drives) if you have a a lot of files. Great iTunes server! :thumbup:

A good site to learn about NAS's is SmallNetBuilder.com :thumbup:
 

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+1 for the Synology DS112j.
 
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Storko!!!

Yeah, I've read a lot of recommendations for the Synology NAS, and think I'll get one (regardless) for backing up, archiving, and storage. I think I was a bit fuzzy in what I need to do first, though.

I have my main computer, the Hack, in the office. Full size rig, power hungry, and I like to shut it down when not in use. In addition, my wife and I each have a Macbook Pro. Again, both of those are turned off when not in use. At the moment, when we're eating dinner, or have company over, and we want some music, I have to head to the office and fire up the Hack (since that's currently where the itunes library is) in order to stream to the stereo in the living room (old arse amp connected to an Airport Extreme wall wart). We now have a second stereo downstairs (integrated Airplay!) where folks can hang out, and obviously would want to be able to stream music there as well. Which again, would mean firing up the Hack.

So what I'd LIKE to do is have some form of low-power, quiet little box somewhere that's always on, that means anytime we want to listen to music, I don't have to run to the office and turn on the beast. Something that if we sit down to dinner and decide we want some music (bow-chicka-wow-wow!) I can just grab my iphone and fire it up.

So thinking about it, wouldn't a NAS mean that I would still have to have a computer somewhere in the house that's turned on, running itunes, and accessing the library, in order for me to stream music to one of the rooms? (Granted if the library was in a centralized location, I could just grab the laptop to do it, but doesn't give me that "always on" access?)
 
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"So what I'd LIKE to do is have some form of low-power, quiet little box somewhere that's always on, that means anytime we want to listen to music, I don't have to run to the office and turn on the beast. Something that if we sit down to dinner and decide we want some music (bow-chicka-wow-wow!) I can just grab my iphone and fire it up."

If you have an iPhone, most definately the AppleTV. You pull your phone out, pick a song or video or whatever, tap airplay button and select appleTV. Done. You can share photos and mirror the screen on any apple device right up on your big screen. And if your wife wants to play something from her iphone she can hijack it and play whatever she wants, unless you put a lock on it like I did with my girlfriend :) It's extremely low power, makes zero sound, and is about the size of a hockey puck. I know I keep beating the AppleTV in this thread, but seriously, it's $99 bucks and worth it's media center weight in gold.
 
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C'mon Tyler, you can admit it. This is a safe place.

You're on commission, aren't you? ;)

Okay, so if I'm reading right, a NAS along with Apple TV will do the trick?
 
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Depends on the NAS but yest most likely you would still need a comp sharing the iTunes library for ATV to work as the iTunes servers in most NAS boxes are music only. Reason for this being you need to enter the authorization code into iTunes to link to the ATV and how would you do that on a NAS?

I instead built myself a mini OSX server but run a lot of stuff from it not just my iTunes.
 
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