Geek Foibles

Front Row and iTunes on two systems sharing one library
November 26, 2008, 2:31 am
Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , ,

One of the keys to my home media center project is the iTunes library.  All my music and all my TV shows are in iTunes, so all facets of the media center orbit around it.  Trick is, my media center and my personal computer are two different machines.

Fortunately, it’s pretty easy to share a single iTunes library between two (or more) computers.  While iTunes used to insist on your iTunes library living in ~/Music/iTunes, as of version 7 you can  keep it wherever you like and simply tell iTunes where it is.  So in my case I keep my iTunes library on my Mac Mini media center, since it does double duty as my file server.  On my personal computer I mounted the share it’s on and directed iTunes to it, and presto, it functions exactly as if it were residing locally.  (Having a gigabit Ethernet link between the two certainly helps keep things snappy, though even when I switch seamlessly to WiFi iTunes can still play TV shows smoothly.)  While I don’t run iTunes on the Mini, I do use Front Row, which relies on iTunes’ preferences for the location of the iTunes library.  So, I fired up iTunes on the Mini once just to tell it where the library was so that Front Row can use it.  Now Front Row on the Mini shares the same library with iTunes on my MacBook Pro.  Front Row doesn’t even seem to mind if iTunes is running simultaneously on the other machine, I assume because Front Row only needs read-only access.

There are two small quirks to this setup.  First, Front Row doesn’t update play counts on the shared library.  The reasoning for this is unclear to me.  Perhaps there’s a unique system ID in the library file that identifies the computer that’s last used it, and if it conflicts with the ID of the system Front Row is running on, it doesn’t modify it.  I’m going to delve into that further.  Second, Front Row reads the library only when it first launches, so when I download a new Daily Show episode on my MacBook Pro, Front Row on the Mini doesn’t know about it.  One would think that exiting out of Front Row back to the desktop, then going back in again would resolve this, but after some frustration I discovered that Front Row doesn’t actually quit when you go back to the desktop.  It stays running in the background, and thus the library is still cached in it.  To get Front Row to rescan the iTunes library, you need to kill it in Terminal or Activity Monitor.  The following command in Terminal will suffice:

killall "Front Row"

Once you’ve done that, Front Row can be relaunched and it will reflect the most recent changes to the library.


1 Comment so far
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I would very much be interested in finding out why FrontRow doesn’t update playcounts as well. If you do find out, keep us updated!

Comment by Brendan

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