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Thread: iTunes or Looney Tunes? The great music server debate.

  1. #31
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    Vincent, I took PP's post as a combo server+player. I don't think anyone goes to jail for attempting that . Indeed, pending my true data server build, I am using that model with replicated library in each PC driving a dedicated DAC or AVR's DAC. I think many people are interested in this kind of scenario and not just the pure server+client model that you described. If you have a need for multiple clients, then the data server model works best. And there, other than WHS, I am not sure I will recommend either Mac or Windows. The solutions out there for data server are:

    1. Unraid. A shrink-wrapped Linux system that provides full redundancy. And makes it easy to add drives. Just buy another and connect it to the machine and it gets utilized. Drawback is that you lose 50% of your storage to redundancy.

    2. Windows Home Server. WHS works differently than Unraid but has all the same characteristics. It is a shrink-wrapped version of Windows Server so it has a really nice and reliable core. Again, per unraid, you can just throw a drive in there and it gets used. When I retire old PCs, I add their drives to WHS.

    3. Building your own system using various software and hardware RAID solutions. These require considerable skill and in many cases, adding a drive means reformatting the volume. Servers can be built using Linux or Windows Server.

    4. Dedicated NAS boxes from many vendors. You can buy these with or without drives with the latter letting you shop for whatever is cheapest.

    For people who want the easy way, WHS or NAS are the only good options.

  2. #32
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    Quote Originally Posted by Phelonious Ponk View Post
    It's overkill. And the fact that the kinds of slow, quiet, low-tech drives that are best for this purpose are so cheap an extra 500MB was almost free.
    Indeed, 1 Tbyte drives are in the sweet spot right now. Just bought one for my son for $64 at Fry's!

    The drives are for redundancy, but don't mirrored drives mirror errors?
    No. Writes are written to both drives. Reads ping pong between them, giving you better performance. Should one fail, then the other keeps the system going.

    Where you lose data with any type of hard disk redundancy is user error. If you go and erase the entire directory where your music is, then the system faithfully deletes if from both mirrored disks. Solution is to have true back-up. In my case, I have my music server on a PC and it is backed up on WHS. Should I below away the music server data, I can go to WHS server and get it all back. All of my images are stored there too.

    This is important point worth repeating: back up and redundancy are both needed. The latter doesn't eliminate the need for the former.

    I could run Windows Home Server, in Windows, on my Mac while running OSX programs simultaneously if there were any need, but I can back up everything I have through Time Machine in OSX.
    It really is not the mode you want to use. WHS comes pre-built on nice little servers designed for this use. I don't see the need to host it elsewhere and reduce its overall reliability by adding millions of other lines of code next to it. Here is a popular example from HP: http://www.amazon.com/EX495-1-5TB-Me...0591332&sr=8-1



    Work and home....same place.
    I assume not everyone works from home . For them, work is a viable solution. If the company allows it, just put the copy on your hard disk. If not, get a portable hard disk and store it in the drawer there.

    I keep running into people who seem to almost have their faith in democracy challenged by Apple's "closed" strategy. The thing is, when this old Windows user uses Apples, he doesn't feel closed off from anything at all. In fact, he feels empowered by a system that is so easy, so trouble-free. YMMV.
    Those people have different needs. For those of us who have built our dataset on Windows, the switching costs is high. There is no two ways around it. You may not know this but I lived for a decade on a Mac. I finally got tired of the limited choice of hardware and at the time, the huge premium and switched back. The last memory I have of my Mac was it crashing every time I tried to shut it down! Yes, shutting it down.

    I also love building my own PCs because I get to hand pick every component. I am sitting in front of my media center PC that I built that way with SSD as the boot drive, core i5 processor that runs cool to the touch, and motherboard that has all the connectivity I wanted. The box is rock solid.

    On the latter point, you want a reliable windows machine? Install windows and just the one or two apps you need. It will stay extremely reliable that way. What brings down reliability is installing app after app and driver after driver some of which has barely been tested.

    I get the theory, I just don't hear it in practice and believe more traditional ways of isolating electronic noise from analog circuits are both simpler and more effective.
    Well, the two go hand in had together. Unless your DAC is the master clock and driving your PC, err Mac, then the clock source is generated from the Mac and it is subject to clock variations (jitter). Characterizing that without equipment is shooting in the dark. While there is no assurance that these programs do anything positive, they are worthwhile trying if free.


    The Mac Air. Fast and cool is good.
    Mac Air is a laptop. How do you use that as your "server?" You leave it connected to your stereo all the time or keep reconnecting cables to it every time you listen to something? My question was regarding a desktop system.

    And the quiet spinning of the HD in my MacBook, before the first song plays, seems to be the only audible noise I'm getting from the system. Maybe I'll get around to putting in a SS boot drive one of these days.
    Try it. You will be shocked at the improved performance with a good, recent generation SSD (older ones were not always faster than hard disks).

    BTW, get an SSD with TRIM support. This sharply reduces the slowdown that occurs as you write to your SSD (flash media hates being written to). Here is more on TRIM if you are not familiar with it: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/TRIM

    Oh wait! I just remembered Windows 7 supports Trim but Mac OS does not! "That right there" would be reason enough to avoid the Mac . Seriously, Apple is really, really behind times in not supporting Trim.


    All of them.
    All of them support ATSC and cable tuners as Windows does out of the box? If so, I am behind times. Where do I go read about that?

    Is running iTunes, bit-perfect, in Windows 7 now a seamless path? No need to work around the kmixer, or whatever that thing was? Other than the SS boot drive, have you tried anything exotic? System optimization? Alternative software like Media Monkey?

    P
    From Vista on, there is no Kmixer. There is instead a new kernel mixer and resampler with much higher performance. This is needed as any app can produce sound so you need to merge the different streams with varying sample rates potentially. The Vista/Win 7 mixer keeps internal samples in floating point so it maintains very high accuracy and its noise floor is quite low. So for most people, using the existing path is just fine.

  3. #33
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    Quote Originally Posted by amirm View Post
    4. Dedicated NAS boxes from many vendors. You can buy these with or without drives with the latter letting you shop for whatever is cheapest.
    Most of the time a NAS is a box running Linux.
    People might struggle before they realize that they need to make (Linux) users, shares and add users to shares. Integrating a WHS might be easier.

    If you want to use a Linux box for DNLA, be careful. There are some pretty bad DLNA implementations available. Look for Twonky Vision or any other certified DLNA server.
    An affordable solution:Vortexbox

    Personally, I’m not in need of RAID. I do have my music collection replicated to another box so in case one brakes down, I could use the other.
    I do recommend remote replication.
    I have a NAS at home and one at my sisters. Once a week both our data (music, photo’s) are synchronized over the internet using Rsync.

  4. #34
    Those people have different needs. For those of us who have built our dataset on Windows, the switching costs is high. There is no two ways around it.
    Nope. No way around it. If I had hung through the great Vista debacle, I probably wouldn't be switching now. But I didn't.

    You may not know this but I lived for a decade on a Mac. I finally got tired of the limited choice of hardware and at the time, the huge premium and switched back. The last memory I have of my Mac was it crashing every time I tried to shut it down! Yes, shutting it down.
    Sounds much like my last experiences with Windows.

    I also love building my own PCs because I get to hand pick every component. I am sitting in front of my media center PC that I built that way with SSD as the boot drive, core i5 processor that runs cool to the touch, and motherboard that has all the connectivity I wanted. The box is rock solid.
    And personally, I think guys who enjoy doing that sort of thing should be Windows users. Personally, I'd rather take a beating than install another driver, much less build a system.

    On the latter point, you want a reliable windows machine? Install windows and just the one or two apps you need. It will stay extremely reliable that way. What brings down reliability is installing app after app and driver after driver some of which has barely been tested.
    Yeah, but you talk about limiting. Just sitting here talking to you I have iTunes, Mail, Safari and Word running. I don't really need Word right now, but I don't need to turn it off either. And, have I ever installed a driver?

    Well, the two go hand in had together. Unless your DAC is the master clock and driving your PC, err Mac, then the clock source is generated from the Mac and it is subject to clock variations (jitter). Characterizing that without equipment is shooting in the dark. While there is no assurance that these programs do anything positive, they are worthwhile trying if free.
    I've tried them. I didn't hear any benefit running 16/44.1. And my digital transport re-clocks. I've gone through it, and I've gone around it. No audible increase in jitter. I know it is a controversial subject, but I still think jitter is a largely theoretical problem these days.

    Mac Air is a laptop. How do you use that as your "server?" You leave it connected to your stereo all the time or keep reconnecting cables to it every time you listen to something? My question was regarding a desktop system.
    Me mis-using the term "server" again. In my personal case, yes it stays connected a lot, but I don't hesitate to unhook the MacBook and carry it off. I'm sitting up in bed right now. It's just two usb cables and I'm on the move. If my stereo systems were in another room, I'd just send a wireless signal to an Airport Express connected to them.

    Try it. You will be shocked at the improved performance with a good, recent generation SSD (older ones were not always faster than hard disks).
    I will probably try it when the prices get in line. In the meantime, I'm moving along quickly enough.

    BTW, get an SSD with TRIM support. This sharply reduces the slowdown that occurs as you write to your SSD (flash media hates being written to). Here is more on TRIM if you are not familiar with it: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/TRIM

    Oh wait! I just remembered Windows 7 supports Trim but Mac OS does not! "That right there" would be reason enough to avoid the Mac . Seriously, Apple is really, really behind times in not supporting Trim.
    That is a limitation. Though it pales next to limiting a system to just one or two programs to keep it reliable.


    All of them support ATSC and cable tuners as Windows does out of the box? If so, I am behind times. Where do I go read about that?
    Out of the box, no.

    P

  5. #35
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    Mostyt the difference is the choices offered

    Quote Originally Posted by Phelonious Ponk View Post
    Nope. No way around it. If I had hung through the great Vista debacle, I probably wouldn't be switching now. But I didn't.
    Do you have actual experience with "the great Vista debacle"?

    I did my homework and stuck with Win XP. I haven't seen a system crash in years. I don't do anything heroic but I avoid doing stupid stuff. I use Win 7 on a laptop for travel and remote control. It works without problems too. The security stuff is quite bearable.

    > Personally, I'd rather take a beating than install another driver, much less build a system.

    I'd rather decide what I want and get it at a real-world price. The only Mac that allows me to add cards and 3.5" drives as needed is outrageously expensive. I'd hate taking such a financial beating.

    > And, have I ever installed a driver?

    My wife and I use off-the shelf HP desktop PCs for our personal systems. I've never installed a driver on either PC.

    When I built a dedicated MusicPC from parts, I did install all the motherboard related drivers. It took 60-90 minutes. When I added 2 PCI bus soundcards, I installed their drivers in about 10 minutes.

    > Just sitting here talking to you I have iTunes, Mail, Safari and Word running.

    On my personal Win XP PC, Thunderbird, Google Chrome, J. River Media Center, Open office and Adobe Reader are running without problems right now.

    > That is a limitation. Though it pales next to limiting a system to just one or two programs to keep it reliable.

    You don't have to limit your self to one or two programs with Win XP or Win 7.

    In the pro audio world, requirements are more demanding: more audio in/out streams and more CPU use for plug-ins for audio software. In that world, PC and Mac users alike face the same problems of controlling latency with heavy CPU use.

    Of course, if you want to do conservative tuning on a PC, there are good tools available. One side benefit of such tuning is fast startup and shutdown without an SSD. The other is a highly predictable environment for playback. I have not heard a playback glitch in years.

    There are practical reasons to dedicate a PC to audio playback. One is to have a simple, uncluttered, highly controlled environment for a large music library. I put effort into ripping and tagging my music collection. I don't want to do it again. I treat my music PC as I would a server running business software. I control the environment and limit the changes that occur. I would manage a Mac dedicated to music playback in the same way.

    A dedicated MusicPC can be headless (no keyoard, mouse or screen) and control it from another PC using a VNC connection. I use mine for playback in 3 separate rooms with remote control providing an interface in that room. There are all kinds of remote control options now for J. River Media Center and similar playback programs so this is not as necessary.

    ---
    Windows PCs and OSX Macs are performing the same functions in similar ways. The big difference is choice:

    In the Mac world, you don't have to learn much or make many choices. On the other hand, if you know what you want, the lack of choices in the Mac world can be a disqualifying factor.

    The Windows world offers all sorts of choices. If learning enough to make those choices and then making them that makes your head hurt, stick to Macs.

    When I was researching choices for a MusicPC 4+ years ago, I spent several months trying to get iTunes to do what I wanted. (Mostly to use the tags I wanted for classical music.) iTunes was just inadequate for my purposes. In the Mac world, there weren't any other viable music playback programs at that time. In the Windows world, I had dozens of full-featured playback programs to choose from. The J. River Media Center software fit my needs. A Mac simply wasn't an reasonable option for me.

    Bill

  6. #36
    Windows PCs and OSX Macs are performing the same functions in similar ways. The big difference is choice:
    Yep. Don't agree about the cost, though. If you get a PC with similar quality screen, trackpad, keyboard, physical build quality etc, it's going to be among the more expensive of it's kind. It will still be cheaper though. But if you buy/build a dedicated music computer, there goes the savings. Different strokes. Want to do a brief rundown on how to build/configure/run a PC for music playback?

    P

    PS - No, I never owned a Vista machine. I got out personally after W98. Still had an XP system in the house -- my wife's -- but jumped from there to W7.

  7. #37
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    HI

    I find myself in both world. I admire Mac for the Interface and the reliability. It just does work, no crashes and strange behavior after a few months o use .. For music however, I prefer Windows.despite using both.
    For starters, iTunes is good not excellent and too much of a walled garden. It does some things very well but nothing better than Media Monkey or my favorite Foobar. With these two, pesky art covers don't necessitate your information into anyone database .. Plus you can tag anything and everything just the way you want to ... foobar for example likely supports every codec ever made and allows you to transcode anything to anything else, wav to ape to flac to AAC to Apple Lossless to mp3 to ogg vorbis and even to arcane (for music lovers)coecs like speex and plays them of course ... Native support for cue sheet in flac and ape Foobar bypasses the dreaded XP Kernel mixer with a simple command (not always reliably, I must add), and of course support WASAPI.. ALl this for free too ... Foobar in itself is a compelling reason to use WIndows for the purpose, provided you install very few programs and make sure the machine is dedicated for the task of music.

    . I hated the failed experiment called Vista , I still use XP which has proven itself quite reliable... It still suffers from the tendency to become less performing and reliable as time passes but is nowhere the resources hog that Vista is. nor does it crash at the smallest sneeze .

    SO yes, the Mac is wonderful but this time because of software and hardware, Windoze seems to present an advantage for music services ...
    Frantz
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  8. #38
    Quote Originally Posted by FrantzM View Post
    HI

    I find myself in both world. I admire Mac for the Interface and the reliability. It just does work, no crashes and strange behavior after a few months o use .. For music however, I prefer Windows.despite using both.
    For starters, iTunes is good not excellent and too much of a walled garden. It does some things very well but nothing better than Media Monkey or my favorite Foobar. With these two, pesky art covers don't necessitate your information into anyone database .. Plus you can tag anything and everything just the way you want to ... foobar for example likely supports every codec ever made and allows you to transcode anything to anything else, wav to ape to flac to AAC to Apple Lossless to mp3 to ogg vorbis and even to arcane (for music lovers)coecs like speex and plays them of course ... Native support for cue sheet in flac and ape Foobar bypasses the dreaded XP Kernel mixer with a simple command (not always reliably, I must add), and of course support WASAPI.. ALl this for free too ... Foobar in itself is a compelling reason to use WIndows for the purpose, provided you install very few programs and make sure the machine is dedicated for the task of music.

    . I hated the failed experiment called Vista , I still use XP which has proven itself quite reliable... It still suffers from the tendency to become less performing and reliable as time passes but is nowhere the resources hog that Vista is. nor does it crash at the smallest sneeze .

    SO yes, the Mac is wonderful but this time because of software and hardware, Windoze seems to present an advantage for music services ...
    All that is valid enough, Frantz, though I've never found iTunes limitations personally limiting, and I've found the integration with my iPod Touch and the iTunes store, and a handful of plug-ins personally empowering. The use of my iPod Touch as a graphic, fully-interactive remote control alone is worth the price of admission! Besides, the only time I've ever needed capability outside of iTunes was to convert FLAC to Apple Lossless. A quick, free download of MAX solved the issue, and seemed a much more practical solution for me than separate computer for music. And I'm just not interested in Windows as my primary/only system. I want to be able to grab another small program or plug-in off of the net whenever one appeals to me, download it, and be all but certain it will immediately install and run properly with no noticeable effect on my system's performance and no additional effort on my part. That has always been my experience with OSX, rarely with Windows. On Windows, I always approached installing software and adding hardware with great dread. I'm really no more computer savvy now than I was then, but I don't think twice about it in OSX. It always just works. I'm sure that Windows has gotten better. I'm sure "plug and play" is no longer the oxymoron it once was in Windows. And I believe W7, like XP is relatively stable. I applaud the progress but will remain where the experience has remained positive through multiple releases of the OS. And even though I'm on a fixed income, I'll gladly pay the premium. This is the very heart of how consumer loyalty works, I'm afraid. If you screw up badly enough, you lose customers for life. It seldom matters how much you subsequently make up for it.

    P

  9. #39
    Site Founder And Administrator Steve Williams's Avatar
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    PP

    If you think the ipod touch is great to use as a remote try the ipad for both a remote and controller. Easier on the eyes with a much better keyboard.
    Steve Williams
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  10. #40
    Quote Originally Posted by Steve Williams View Post
    PP

    If you think the ipod touch is great to use as a remote try the ipad for both a remote and controller. Easier on the eyes with a much better keyboard.
    I'm trying to live by the law: Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor's iPad.

    P

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