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Setting Up a Mac as a Media Server

After you have your media server Mac with Mac OS X, iTunes, and iPhoto installed), load up the media. Create your iPhoto albums and your iTunes playlists. Then configure sharing of your iPhoto and iTunes libraries.

If you will be sharing video directly from a folder, you need to configure personal file sharing. Use the Sharing pane in System Preferences to turn on personal file sharing. By default, your home folder will be shared, but other users will have access only to the Public folder inside it. For ease of use, create a folder inside the Public folder and place your video files inside it, organizing them with subfolders in whatever manner you choose.

If you are using a Mac with multiple hard drives, you might want to consider ways to maximize the space for digital content. Because iTunes and iPhoto libraries cannot span multiple disks, and because only the Public folder of your home folder can be easily shared for non-iTunes video files, you might want to consider configuring a disk spanning or striping RAID solution that makes all the hard drives attached to your Mac appear and behave as a single hard drive. You can do this by using Disk Utility when installing Mac OS X. Additional information on RAID solutions under Mac OS X can be found here and here.

For a less-technical solution, simply configure iTunes and iPhoto to store their libraries in folders on nonstartup hard drives. You can also use the Customize option to install only the Mac OS X components that you need for your media server. For example, removing localized language files, printer drivers, and typically installed Apple applications can slim your Mac OS X install down by as much as 2GB or more.

The final step is to configure the computer to not sleep using the Energy Save pane of System Preferences and that you ensure autologin of the user account you created during installation is enabled in the Accounts pane of System Prefrences(as it is by default), and to configure iTunes and iPhoto to launch as login items. If the Mac supports automatic restart after a power failure (an option in the Energy Saver pane of System Preferences), you can enable that feature. These measures ensure that the computer will always be ready to serve up access to your digital content.

After you have the server set up, you need to connect client computers to it. As described earlier, this is very simple to do for iPhoto and iTunes access. Mounting the shared folder for video can also be easy. Simply browse the Network globe in the Finder for the appropriate computer and connect. Then place an alias of the shared folder in the Movies folder of each user/computer that will access the media server.

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