Not Quite Sold on iTunes Home Sharing

By  |  Friday, September 11, 2009 at 3:25 pm

There were really only two items out of Apple’s “It’s Only Rock & Roll” event earlier this week that managed to capture my attention. First off, where the heck was the iPod Touch camera? Several credible leaks, including compelling imagery, suggested photographic and video functionality was an inevitability. File this one under don’t count your chickens before they’ve hatched.

Next up is Home Sharing, introduced within the refreshed iTunes 9. (See Engadget’s brief video overview above.) This feature allows you to copy purchased iTunes content amongst five authorized devices in your home. It’s surely a simpler method of interaction than sneakernet-ing files around. However, Home Sharing does nothing to overcome the single iTunes Store account limitation. And, in fact, now that Apple’s tracks are DRM-free, Home Sharing is actually more restrictive than simply copying music via a USB stick. Perhaps Home Sharing 1.1 will allow Melissa and I to link our iTunes accounts in a ‘family unit’ sort of way.

Another perceived limitation was the implication that other computers must be powered up to access all home media. However, folks with Macs running Snow Leopard and an Airport Extreme or Time Capsule now have Wake on Demand capabilities. In our household, that should allow Melissa to grab tunes from my laptop (when it’s home). But I still wouldn’t be able to access her iTunes library when her Windows 7 machine is shut down.

Ideally, Apple would bring true iTunes server functionality/support to NAS devices. Even if limited to Time Capsule, that’s the sort of hub & spoke model many of us seek: A central home repository of media files, with family members creating their own individual, custom playlists to stream or mirror on demand – not just to computers, but to iPods/iPhones and AppleTV as well. I’ve gone down this path on my own, with limited success. What we really need to succeed are Apple’s philosophical and technological blessings.

(This post republished from Zatz Not Funny.)

 
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22 Comments For This Post

  1. JW Says:

    Home sharing allows each user to continue using their own AppleID and store account. If you have two or three users on a home network you just need to pick one of the accounts to set up all three machines. It is the single AppleID that allows all three to work together, and it does not interfere with normal operation.

    In addition, Home Sharing allows you to copy selected music or to automatically sync new content.

    There are other solutions and methods for setting up a dedicated home server, but Home Sharing works well to allow users with their own computers to copy from each others libraries, and depending upon configuration, you can effectively set up one machine as a master of sorts.

  2. Vulpine Says:

    I’m puzzled in your statement, “… Home Sharing is actually more restrictive than simply copying music via a USB stick.” While I’ll grant that it may be limited to one iTMS account, I don’t think it is. For me, it’s not an issue since I only have one account, but if you can authorize a computer to more than one account, then you should be able to share libraries too, true?

    Here’s a question for you: If you and your wife’s machines both have iTunes up and have your libraries listed as ‘Shared,’ can you see the other machine, even though you have separate iTMS accounts? If so and you are authorized to play her content on your machine, then you should be able to swap content as well.

  3. Marc Says:

    I think a central library with devices feeding off of it would have been better. I want to use an old PC with a huge hard disk for all my media, when I buy something on my laptop it gets sent to this server – other PCs then get these new purchases/additions when they connect. The iPhone could even connect and update over wireless. That's what Apple should have done in my opinion. Instead we get some limited peer-to-peer file copying that if I understand, will only automatically sync songs purchases from the iTunes store.

  4. Mr. Reeee Says:

    JW & Vulpine are both correct. One iTunes Store account is all you need for sharing.

    I don’t buy music from the iTunes Store, I rip from my CD collection. As for copying music between Macs before, I just grabbed the specific album folder from the Music: iTunes: iTunes Music folder, sent it across my network, then dragged and dropped the folder onto the open iTunes window. DONE. That’s pretty pain-free and a LOT faster and easier than using a USB flash memory stick. Home Sharing makes it drop-dead easy! Great feature.

    IMHO, the BEST thing about HomeSharing is that it’s now extremely easy to share all the iPhone/iPod touch apps with my girlfriend. If you didn’t know how to do it before, it was a pain. Some of my apps, like iBird Explorer Pro, were expensive ($30), so it’s nice to be able to avoid buying multiple copies!

  5. JW Says:

    If your iTunes installation thinks your music lives on a server, all copying is done to and from the server with Home Sharing. Alternatively, if your server is running iTunes, probalem solved.

    I have a networked server that is a master music server for the house. iTunes on my desktop computer is set up with no local music. i can copy any music or playlists I want to my laptop, my wife can copy all the music she wants, and if she buys something, it syncs back to the server. Any other computer or AppleTV has full access to the music on the server and it is finally easy to manage.

  6. Finn Jack Says:

    Home Sharing is a wonderful feature to share the music within five different devices within a small network. iTunes store home sharing is one of the most highlights of Apple Event.

  7. Josh Says:

    Me and my fiance each have our own laptops, along with our own itunes accounts. I have set up home sharing on my laptop, and she has set it up on her, each with our own accounts.

    But I cannot view her home sharing account from my laptop, and she cannot view mine from her laptop. Is this normal? We each have home sharing enabled, as well as normal sharing.

    Can anybody help to get this set up correctly? Or is this just how it works? Do you have to have the same account authorized on each computer? Can multiple accounts be authorized on the same computer?

  8. ShawnDC Says:

    I just set up our network on a with a similar set-up – my partner and I have laptops with out own iTunes account, plus a mac-mini as a media hub. The work around is that you need to authorize all 3 computers to one account for sharing purposes. So in this instance all 3 computers in our house are authroized to play music from my account, but my partner’s computer still has his iTunes account as the primary account for that computer. You can authorize multiple accounts on each computer, you just have to choose one account under which to do home sharing.

  9. ShawnDC Says:

    sorry…typo. Should have read: my partner and I have laptops with our own iTunes account, plus a mac-mini as a media hub.

  10. lace wigs Says:

    it’s a novel idea, but apple is ahead of the market demand for this product. there are ways for people to access their home computers remotely, but nothing like this on the market. it is a giant step towards being able to access any device from anywhere.

  11. Anonnie Muss Says:

    Josh, you shouldn’t have to be signed in to the same account on each computer. I just tried sharing today – just moved in with my boyfriend and we both have relatively new iMacs, shared over wifi – and it worked instantly. We did, however, have to quit iTunes and restart it on one of the computers (i.e., the one that was already up and running when the other was unpacked and set up). But since you were sure to turn sharing on in your preferences I’m sure you tried that too . . . good luck!

    The problem we are having is so far it looks like we are just sharing files – not playlists – so all the music is there but we can’t just play an album, or another type of playlist – when whatever is selected is finished it just moves along to whatever is next in the library. And that’s super annoying! The goal is to use my playlists – we already share nearly all music (either ripped from CDs or passed back and forth on memory sticks) but my boyfriend is dyslexic and his poorly-arranged playlists drive me mad . . . We’re going to try logging in on his iTunes as me and see how that goes.

  12. DaveLev Says:

    There are THOUSANDS of users, including my wife and I, who have tried a wide variety of complex solutions to the ‘central library’ issue. Our library is over 200 GB of just music, and we don’t want to have our files on our workstations. My computer has a 300 GB drive, and it fits. I have an iPod. My wife’s computer has a 120 GB drive, and we could only fit a portion of it. My wife has an iPhone. We use only one iTMS account for both machines. iTunes 8.x media sharing sucks – it simply allows you to stream music from one machine to the other. You cannot create playlists with music from the other machine, nor can you sync your mobile device (iPod or iPhone) with music from the other machine.

    After watching your video, reading your blog, and the comments so far, assuming that we keep accessing our own iTunes with the same account, my understanding of the improved media sharing feature in iTunes 9 is that without changing a thing, my wife’s computer (smaller hard drive) should now be able to add music from my computer to her playlists, but this does not copy the music from my computer to hers. With the song added to her playlist, she should be able to sync the music to her iPhone.

    Because both machines use the same iTMS account, instead of having to backup my purchased items, burn them to DVD, walk them to the other computer and import them, I should be able to simply click a few buttons, and viola those albums/tracks will be shared (or imported?) from the computer that purchased them to the one that did not. This will eliminate the process I just described.

    Some limitations, again if I understand this correctly, is that assuming my computer is off, she will not be able to play or sync the music, however it will remain in her playlist to access once my machine is back up and running. Another limitation appears to be that the playlists won’t be shared, and therefore if for some strange reason I want to sync a country music playlists from her computer/iPhone with my computer/iPod, I won’t be able to. I will, however, have the freedom to create a new playlist, and add music from her machine to it. This has never happened, however, my wife typically wants copies of my playlists and music on her machine for her iPhone. As such, she will have to create new playlists, and add the music that way.

    Am I right so far?

    We haven’t purchased a CD in a years now…we only buy from the iTMS. I know, late adopters.

    We have tried NAS devices, uPnP devices, and more, including HP’s new LX195. Nothing solves this problem.

    I do, however, have an unused, brand new server, not running anything yet. It has 2 TB of space. The goal is to put the music there, and not have any music on the workstations. I own copies of Windows Home Server, Windows Server 2003 R2, Windows Server 2008, and Windows 7. I think that because both our computers run Windows 7 already, and iTunes 8+ supports Windows 7, that I will most likely use Windows 7 on the server, however I’m open to your suggestions. Nevertheless, I think you’re suggesting I simply setup the operating system, copy all iTunes music folders to it in one location (hers and mine combined into one), install iTunes 9.x on that machine, log in with the same iTMS account we use on the other two machines, and tell iTunes to import all the music on that machine. Next I have to do some voodoo to share the library, and viola.

    I have a company laptop that doesn’t have iTunes or music on it at all (new). I can install a fresh copy of iTunes 9 on, log in with the iTMS account, connect it to my home network, and test from there. If it works as advertised (iPod sync is important), I should then be able to remove iTunes from my other two computers, delete the library/music stuff (just to be safe), reboot, install iTunes 9, log in with the same iTMS account, connect to the ‘central’ iTunes server, and work just fine.

    Does my test methodology look right?

    This is HUGE for us – we have a LOT of music, as we ripped over 1,000 CDs a year ago. Took almost 3 months to complete.

  13. Chantal Says:

    Ok, is the reason I can’t do home sharing with the two Desktops in my home beacuse mine is a laptop? And some of you who say theirs worked instantly have macs. So my laptop is not a mac, and I cannot home share with any of the desktops. Has anyone found a solution! Pleasr help

  14. tomtastic Says:

    I took itunes 9 off and reinstalled 8 so I can still share back and forth between machines without the hassle of logging in. So tell me, how do you share if your internet is down? I’m guessing now you can’t. Why does Apple need to monitor what I’ve already been able to do. I have no downloaded songs from the store.

    I’ve always been loyal to Apple, I’ve got numerous machines, all Macs but I don’t understand where they’re going with this. I wish they’d just leave it the way it was. I like being current on software but this sucks.

  15. Peter Bolmehag Says:

    Why on earth do we have to _copy_ music around a family network? Why can´t we just stream music from one server to all rooms (individual song playing per room, like squeezebox can and Sonos)?

    Replicating content doesn´t seem to be very 2009.

    Or have I misunderstood the functionality?

  16. emily Says:

    i think i might be having a similar problem to a few people. I did everything itunes told me to do, but no computers are showing up under ‘shared’. Both the laptops i want to share between have home sharing activated, with the ‘look for shared libraries’ ticked, but nothing happens. On both laptops in the sharing preference tab it says ‘status: On, no users connected’. Please please help, i have to return one of the laptops to school on friday and i really dont want to lose all my music.

    Also, does it use up your internet download limit when you use home sharing? Because if so, i may just be better loading all the cds back onto my new laptop..

  17. wes parker Says:

    Folks, if you’re not backing your music up onto a portable hard drive… it’s time! They only cost about $75-. I’m not going to jump on the wagon crying about I-Tunes, I have way to much money im my music to entrust it w/I-T-…

  18. Hannahbare Says:

    copied from Emily but i have same problem: i think i might be having a similar problem to a few people. I did everything itunes told me to do, but no computers are showing up under 'shared'. Both the laptops i want to share between have home sharing activated, with the 'look for shared libraries' ticked, but nothing happens. On both laptops in the sharing preference tab it says 'status: On, no users connected'. Please please help, i have to return one of the laptops to school on friday and i really dont want to lose all my music.

  19. Hannahbare Says:

    found the answer to my own question. aside from following itunes instructions for enable home sharing – you also have to go to your control panel and then network and select media sharing there. now it all works – I see libraries from all three computers – each has its own operatings system also [XP, VISTA and Exp 7

    Hope this helps others.

  20. Golf Communities Says:

    Home Sharing is a wonderful feature to share the music within five different devices within a small network. iTunes store home sharing is one of the most highlights of Apple Event.

  21. Charlotte Colocation Says:

    I'm puzzled in your statement, "… Home Sharing is actually more restrictive than simply copying music via a USB stick." While I'll grant that it may be limited to one iTMS account, I don't think it is. For me, it's not an issue since I only have one account, but if you can authorize a computer to more than one account, then you should be able to share libraries too, true?

  22. The Flippens Says:

    Thanks!!! You are a LIFESAVER. I haven't cussed @ my computer this much in a long time!!