Geek Foibles

Front Row does not work on Mac OS X Server
March 13, 2009, 3:05 am
Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , ,

Really, to be more accurate, I should say that on Mac OS X Server, Front Row has not been updated and therefore does not understand libraries from the last few versions of iTunes. The reason for this is simple.  Front Row is really just a fancy, minimal face for several different data sources, most significantly iTunes.  iTunes keeps track of all its media via the file named “iTunes Library” found in your “iTunes” folder.  Each new version of iTunes gets all sorts of new bells and whistles, thus requiring the library file to keep track of new kinds of information.  As a result, the library file’s format changes quite frequently.

Now, in order for Front Row to display media in the iTunes library, it has to understand the library file’s format.  So, it has to be updated every time the iTunes library format is.  This is why there are often new versions of Front Row released alongside new versions of iTunes.  If the new version of iTunes uses a new library format, Front Row has to be tweaked to work with it.

This is all fine and dandy, except for the inexplicable fact that Apple hasn’t released any updates to Front Row for Mac OS X Server in quite some time.  In fact, I’m unable to determine if they’ve ever released any for Leopard Server.  Mac OS X gets them literally the moment they’re needed, released simultaneously with the new versions of iTunes that necessitate it.  Those same iTunes updates are available for Server, but for some reason the corresponding Front Row updates don’t materialize.  You can download the one for Mac OS X, but Installer won’t install it because it’s not intended for Server.

In my own setup, my iTunes library lives on a drive connected to a Mac mini running Mac OS X Server.  I do all my work on my MacBook Pro, including my iTunes playing/ripping/purchasing/etc., and it just accesses the library via the network.  I’m running the most recent version of iTunes most of the time.  The mini is connected to my HDTV so that I can use Boxee and Front Row, but when Server’s copy of Front Row is too old to understand the newer library format the latest iTunes uses, Front Row displays an empty library and the whole point is lost.

The solution is simply to download the update for Mac OS X, open the package with Pacifist and install it anyway per the instructions over on the MacRumors Forums.  I haven’t used it a lot since forcing the update this way, but so far things seem to work perfectly.

I honestly can’t imagine why Apple is neglecting Front Row on Mac OS X Server, since it doesn’t seem like it’s really any more effort than what they’re already doing.  I can’t imagine Front Row for Mac OS X is especially different than Front Row for Server, if at all.  Obviously Front Row probably doesn’t see a lot of use on Mac OS X Server, but it is a standard part of Server’s install so it seems odd to intentionally neglect it.  Chalk it up as another one of those things Apple does that makes sense to no one but them.


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