Cheap Multiroom Media Center System with Apple TV and XBMC

Wednesday 16th, February 2011 / 13:08 Written by

Many people look for cheap multiroom media solutions. There are many options.  In this article I would like to share what media center system I have built and how reliable it has been so far.

Firstly, I started with my living room. I’ve already had plasma TV and audio amplifier with 5.1 speaker system. All I needed was some sweet media center and storage for my films, music and pictures. As storage I went for NAS Storage Synology DS110j. Honestly, forget NAS systems from WD, LinkStation and Netgear. I have read a lot of comments about NAS products before buying one and a lot of people always had some problems with these.Synology though has good reputation amongst its users and there is no mistake – this product is great!I bought 2TB hard drive and installed it in the NAS. Created shares and uploaded content to it.

What about media center? Well, I’ve always been big fan media center software and I have tried few. At the begging I had PC with Windows Media Centre 2005 hooked up to the TV. Not a good solution. Big case and fan noise. Also, I didn’t like Windows Media Centre. It didn’t support many file formats, subtitles and I got windows errors while watching films too many times. I moved to XBMC and it became my best friend!. I strongly recommend trying it. It has so much to offer!
What most I like about it is:
- haven’t found video or audio format xbmc doesn’t support
- multiple subtitles in various formats
- allows me to add content from various sources : windows and linux shares , UPnP AV ….
- choice of skin
- allows me to stream content directly from internet (youtube, megavideo)

Some months later I took PC out and put first generation of Xbox with XBMC on it. I didn’t have to wait for PC to boot up and shutdown anymore. Xbox was ready in about 5 seconds and I could just shut it down with 1 button click just as DVD player. It served me well until I got Apple TV 2 and installed XBMC on it.

This is what I came up with:

View Larger

And what you get is this:

Here are links where you can buy this stuff:

Synology DS110j
http://www.amazon.co.uk/Synology-DS110j-Disk-Station-Enclosure/dp/B002U42XD6/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1297860833&sr=1-1

Seagate 2TB hard drive

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Seagate-Barracuda-Power-Drive-Cache/dp/B002C1ANNO/ref=sr_1_1?s=computers&ie=UTF8&qid=1297860852&sr=1-1

Apple TV

http://www.apple.com/appletv/

Here you can learn how to install XBMC on Apple TV 2

http://arturito.net/2011/02/14/apple-tv-2-untethered-jailbreak-on-windows-and-xbmc-media-centre-installation/

About the author

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  • http://sneaker-madness.tumblr.com/ Cortez

    Thanks a lot for taking the time to describe the terminlogy to the newcomers!

  • Jan

    Hi!

    Thanks a lot for your comprehensive blog post about ATV2 with XBMC!

    I would really really like to get the same setup on my jailbroken ATV2. XMBC works on my ATV2 – but I cannot figure out how to get the “Aeon Hitched” skin work on my XBMC :-(

    Where can I find instructions about that?
    Where did you download that skin and how did you install it?

    Regards, Jan

  • Eric

    Thanks for the info, I’m a newbie with XBMC. I successfully jalbroke ATV2 last night and installed XBMC. Question, Does most of your content reside on the Synology? Do you stream movies, tv shows, sports from internet through XBMC? If so is there an add-on for this?

    thanks

    Eric

    • arturito

      Yes, most of my content sits on Synology. Movies in 720p, music and photos. I also stream movies and tv shows and sports through XBMC. They are lower quality but watchable. There are several Add-ons such as Cartoon Network, GameTrailers, YouTube, Hulu and many more. Once you clicked Add-ons in the XBMC menu you will see all available options.

  • Eric

    Thanks Artuito.
    Is there a guide on how to add content and naming convention. I’m struggling with what I should choose when adding a new source. Upnp or smb? Also I don’t get the option for xbmc to scan my new source. Does the library button need to be selected. I added my iTunes library but no album art has been added. What about playlists. Should they import as well? Thanks for any help

    Eric

  • Daniel Mortimer

    Hey this is a great guide. What type of router do you need for the Synology? Could you recommend any?

    Thanks,

    Daniel

    • arturito

      It can be any router.For example mine is Zyxel that is provided by my ISP and is not gigabit. All works fine.
      But if you care about transfer speed and you can have cabled connection to your pc get any router with gigabit. Transfer between Synology and PC through gigabit should be a lot faster.

      If you want to access your router through wireless there is no point in buying gigabit router. (as you won’t be using gigabit connection)

      Company I used to work for used to buy Draytek models such as Draytek Vigor 2820n and 2820Vn. Very reliable and sophisticated.

      http://www.amazon.co.uk/Draytek-Vigor-2820n-Wireless-Ethernet/dp/B001NFOXU4/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1299853537&sr=8-2

  • Jan

    Nice! Almost excactly my setup, but i have Qnap server in basement. And the Appletv2 is in my livingroom upstairs, connected via Ethernet, but it still works like a charm!

    • arturito

      I did my research on NASes and I selected one through a process of elimination.So I ended up with Synology and Qnap. I think I went with Synology as it was cheaper and had as good reviews as Qnap
      …..and yeap it all works like charm. :)

  • Hang

    That’s exactly the setup I moved to. Just got my synology 211j. However, I ran into a couple issues:
    1- moving my media to the synology server. I tried using finder in os x, very unreliable and slow. Using the synology FTP client, it’s more reliable, but still super slow (I’m looking at 1 day for 500 gb), and transfer is sequential (Ie, no simultaneous transfer)
    2- unable to add my synology server as a source in xbmc (get a permission error when I try). I tried both in os x and xbmc, and am getting the same error, even though I can access synology as a network location in my finder

    • Anonymous

      Sorry, didn’t see your comment before. 

      1. I’m sorry to hear that I haven’t used OSX much. But if you find it slow why won’t you try File Browser in Synology DSM?

      I must admit over wifi the transfer is slow but it is better than any other thing I used before. However, over ethernet it is damn fast. 2.Have you tried adding as a new location? Instead of adding as smb network you can specify IP adddress, shared folder on NAS and username and password. Also make sure that the user you entered in xbmc has read permissions to that particular folder. I normally have a specific user called “appletv” which has read access to my video, music, tvshows and photos folders. 

  • http://twitter.com/mehstudio Michael Piechota

    Hi, I’m also planning to go with this setup, but I’m not sure if the NAS endures two simultaneous video streams in 720/1080p mkv (of course via ethernet)? Have you tried this combination?

    • Anonymous

      I have no problem playing the same 720p video from 1 apple tv via ethernet , 1 apple tv and laptop over wifi.

      1080p can be a little bit choppy. However, the NAS is not to blame as the problem is related to xbmc and apple tv2g hardware. 
      I haven’t updated xbmc for a past couple of months and I have seen some videos of users getting 1080p without any problems:
      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wJ26L4nTy4s

  • http://whatdidyousee.blogspot.com/ OOF!!

    Hi. I’ve been trying to set up my ATV2 to connect to my router via ethernet cable but I couldn’t find my files. Could you help explain to me how to do the set up? I’m using WD.. (sorry.. Hehe!!)

    • Anonymous

      Is the WD a network drive? Could you specify the model name? 

  • http://whatdidyousee.blogspot.com/ OOF!!

    Yes it is. Its the WD Mybook world, the one with the white light. I’m sorry, I assumed you knew since you were talking about network drives.

    All my media files are in a seperate hard drive which i connect to the WD NAS. I want to access them via ethernet but i couldnt see the drive on ATV2.

    Sorry for the bad english.. Thanks for the reply..

    • Anonymous

      I wanted to make sure. Some people used to ask how to integrate usb drive. 

      I made a small tutorial on how to add network drive to xbmc in apple tv 2. 
      Check this out:

      http://arturito.net/2011/10/20/how-to-add-network-drive-nas-storage-or-windows-share-in-xbmc/

      But first make sure that the drive and the apple tv 2 are connected to the network and they can talk to each other.  (You can check this from your pc by running Start > Run > cmd and doing ping of IP or hostname of the apple tv and WD drive
      Examples: 

      ping 192.168.1.6. 
      ping MYWDBOOK

      You can find ip of the apple tv 2 in Settings>Network

      Hope this helps!

      • http://whatdidyousee.blogspot.com/ OOF!!

        Yeah… I tried that. This is what actually happened..

        My ATV can detect my NAS and the hard drive connected to the NAS, thru SMB if I search for it wirelessly but if i connect the ethernet cable from ATV to modem, it gives out an error, time out message.

        Maybe I need to reconfigure my modem or NAS which I don’t know how to do and I don’t really know what questions to ask since I’m not sure what I’m doing.

        Anyway, if you have anymore advice, i wpuld appreciate it, but if not, thanks for your time.

        Regards from Singapore.

        • Anonymous

          First of all get it running on cable connection.  You were saying that your Apple TV can see NAS but can’t access shares on it. My assumption is that your NAS and your Apple TV are connected in a proper way to your network. 

          There is a few thing you can do . 

          1. Check if you can access your NAS shares from your PC – this way you will determine that your NAS works OK. 

          2. If above works see if you perhaps have any username and password set to access these shares. In most cases this is the problem. 

          3. Check if your Apple TV can connect to internet. Go to the original Apple TV menu and go to Internet-> and play something from Youtube. 

          4. Enter the XBMC and download some video plugin in Add-ons this way you will determine that xbmc is working correctly on the network. 

          My bet is that you have some kind of password set on your NAS shares.

          Let us know if you get it sorted.

  • Qvilorio

    Arturito,

    Tremendo Site! Felicidades!. I just wanted to know how does the xmbc residing in the ATV2 scans and looks for the album art, movie posters, etc in the NAS. Can it do it automatically? Thanks for your replay,

    • Anonymous

      Check my blog later this week. I will post a tutorial on how to setup library mode in XBMC :)

      • Qvilorio

        Hello Arturito,

        Just got a ATV2 I jail broke it with ATVflash, I have some questions if can shed me some light:

        1) I can seem to go over XBMC 10.09, I tried installing nightly build but the latest I found was that one. Is this correct?
        2) From where could I download the Aeon Hitched Skin?, link please 
        3) How did you manage to sort via genre on the submenu of Movies, I only se a Video section with a submenu of Movies, TV Shows add-ons etc.
        4) Which weather add-on you have: weather plus? weather channel?
        Thanks for your reply,

        • Anonymous

          1) Not sure really how you installed xbmc using atvflash. Did you do it via ssh? I believe the last stable version for apple tv 2g is 10.0.7. Check the mirror site of the xbmc realeses: http://mirrors.xbmc.org/apt/atv2/deb/

          2. There is a optimized version of Aeon called Aeon Lite. http://code.google.com/p/theaeonproject/

          3. You need to enable the library mode.  Check this post:
          http://arturito.net/2011/12/03/how-to-configure-library-mode-in-xbmc-apple-tv-2g-movie-covers-title-genre-part-1/

          4. Weather plugin that I have came installed by default. It is Weather.comIt would have been a lot easier for you if you had done jailbreak with the method described on my blog.  This way it installs and additional option called NitoTV where you can get the latest release of XBMC just with a single click. The XBMC that you will get there comes with a lot of things pre-configured for you. Makes the whole process of setting it up a lot easier.

  • Ordpaa

    I really want that same system, but as easy as it seems in your graphic depiction as difficult does it seem when i try to figure out the technical set up behind the neat graphics. Would you recommend it to someone knowing absolutely nothing about jailbreaking, XBMC and so on? I wouldn’t want to fiddle with the details, just want something that works in everyday use

    • Anonymous

      It might be a bit difficult. Jailbreaking is not that hard but if you are not very computer literate you might waste a lot of time getting it all working. I’m a software engineer and it took me sometime to get it right for the first time.

      The simple solution is this  WD TV Live Hub http://wdc.com/en/products/products.aspx?id=570. You just connect it to the TV and all you need to do is stick some videos on its hard drive.  Might friend has it and he is very happy with it. 

  • Ckos1976

    Hi all,  Where can you get hold of the addons for movies?

    • Anonymous

      Go to System > Addons. In there you can select new skin to download, movie addons such as movie scrappers, subtitles, netflix, justin.tv etc etc.

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