atv

Multiple iTunes libraries on one Mac

Update: I now use Plex, so this is no longer necessary. 

All of our family’s media (TV shows / movies) are stored in an iTunes library on a headless Mac mini. We use an Apple TV to watch the media in our lounge room. I love the simplicity of the interface, and not having to jailbreak / set up Plex etc.

Encoding / remuxing ATV compatible files, and adding metadata is pretty damn fast these days… and after tha, it’s super easy to use (especially for the kids). I don’t have to worry about anything breaking (I had a Windows Media Server connected to the TV for years and maintenance drove me & my wife mad).

The one gripe I have now however, is how to handle home videos. We have a whole heap of home vids that I edit in iMovie, and the kids love to watch these… but it doesn’t fit well into the whole iTunes ecosystem (they’re not TV shows, they’re not movies). iTunes 11 introduced a new “Home Video” media kind for movies, however this doesn’t display in their own section on the Apple TV. We have been using AirVideo, but i find this approach clunky, and it’s darned confussing for my kids (5 & 7 years old at time of writing).

I got thinking about multiple libraries etc. and thought i’d try out fast user switching. Sure enough, you can have two users logged into the same Mac, both sharing separate iTunes libraries. Done. The other issue this resolves is that the server’s media drive is a mere 2TB, which is always hitting capacity (and i don’t want to invest in a NAS or use TuneSpan).

So now, i’ve got three users configured, each with their own 1TB HDD, and each sharing their iTunes library separately.
1) “TV Shows” & “Movies”.
2) “Home Videos”

The only remaining issue with this: when the server reboots, only one user can be logged in automatically. Solution: this little bit of AppleScript runs when the TV & Movies user logs in (source: Musings of a SysAdmin):

set password_ to “test”
set idnumber to do shell script “/usr/bin/id -u test”
do shell script “/System/Library/CoreServices/Menu\\
Extras/User.menu/Contents/Resources/CGSession -switchToUserID ” & idnumber
tell application “System Events”
repeat until exists process “SecurityAgent”
delay 0.5
end repeat
keystroke password_
keystroke return
end tell

Apple really has a long way to go in regards to addressing the whole movies / photos / home videos / sharing / editing situation. Real iPhoto/Aperture library sharing is DOA, and Photo Stream is a crappy solution. My wife and I both want access to our family iPhoto library, but we can’t do this across multiple Macs without silly unreliable hacks. On the home video front, these shouldn’t be lumped in with The Terminator and Kill Bill (this can be fixed with an ATV update pretty easily however). Apple really needs to think about how people (particularly families) actually want to use their cameras / libraries in real life.

Until then, this discovery has made me very happy. Let me know if you find the same (or have any better suggestions).

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