An iHomeServer Christmas - v3 Feature Sneak

iHomeServer version 3 is completing its beta testing and we are in the process of preparing for a full release. Feedback on new features from our awesome beta testers has been overwhelmingly positive and so we are working as fast as we can to get the functionality to all of you. This will be a late Christmas present….or even a reason to look forward to January!

To understand the power of iHomeServer v3, close your eyes and picture yourself late on a snowy Christmas afternoon.  You have opened your presents including the latest series of your favourite TV DVD box set from Aunt Amelia. Put it into your server / PC and iHomeServer v3 will automatically rip the DVD so that each episode is copied into your iTunes library and tagged with metadata and cover art. As with iHomeServer v2, you can now watch it from any of your Apple TV (or any other iOS device) through Home Sharing.

By the end of the first episode, the rest of the family’s asleep so you sneak through to the kitchen where you’ve placed that flashy new Smart TV you bought so you could watch TV whilst you cook! With iHomeServer v3, you are not limited to Apple devices – iHomeServer allows most Smart TVs to directly stream your iTunes music and videos (using DLNA).  You choose the iHomeServer icon on the TV, navigate your iTunes library and start watching the second episode whilst enjoying a digestif.

On Boxing Day, you are going to the in-laws. Oh, how to get through the day. You grab your Android tablet and comfort yourself with the knowledge that with iHomeServer v3 your iTunes library is accessible over the internet.  After a suitable interlude making polite conversation, you excuse yourself and find a comfy quiet corner.  You tap your tablet and log in to iHomeServer’s streaming web site, enter your username and password and smile when you see your entire iTunes library is now available from your tablet straight over the internet.  You didn’t have to remember to upload anything to the cloud, or download to your device.  It’s just there. You tap the next episode and watch it as it starts to stream. 

Then calamity strikes: 10 minutes in and the picture starts to stutter a bit … even though you’re on 3G, mobiles just can’t stream the movie at full bandwidth.  You tap the transcode button and choose a lower bitrate.  iHomeServer v3 now continues to stream the episode at a lower rate and the stuttering disappears. You sit back, relax and finish watching, waiting for your wife to come and take you home.

 

Christmas is over for another year, but you can look forward to holidays and even work knowing that you can hook into your music, films and television whenever and wherever needed.

We like user feedback :)

Thank you to Thomas who left the following feedback for us on the Windows Store for our app rtRemote.  rtRemote is our awesome Windows 8 app that lets you to remote control iTunes from the Windows 8 Metro interface.  Comments like this make it all worthwhile :-)

 

First, ignore the 'it doesn't have airplay' review as this is an iTunes remote app, not a streaming player. that said, it can control airplay settings on the iTunes library you are controlling! its so amazing I had to get a surface to have Office for work and was so worried it wouldn't give me control over iTunes on my home network like an iOS device would but it does, and the User Interface is soooo amazing. This dev can make an app! If you are coming from a Mac/iOS background will love it!

Installing or Upgrading WHS v1 (32-bit) to iTunes 11.1

Just a quick post to point out a couple of interesting things when upgrading to iTunes 11.1.

Firstly, if you try to download iTunes from Internet Explorer on WHS v1, Apple will unfortunately redirect you to download the 64-bit version of iTunes.  WHS v1 is, of course, a 32-bit operating system so it just won't work.  You'll get an error such as:

"The image file xxxx\iTunes64Setup.exe is valid, but is for a machine time other than the current machine"

To get around this, we found that the following link from Apple still allows a 32-bit copy of iTunes 11.1 to be downloaded:

http://www.apple.com/uk/itunes/affiliates/download/

Note that Apple still doesn't support running iTunes on WHSv1 so you may receive an error saying "Apple Mobile Device Support requires that your computer is running Windows XP SP2 or newer".  If you do (which you probably will on Windows Home Server v1), then don't forget about our free tool which modifies the iTunes install package to enable running on WHS no problems :)  - we've retested this for iTunes 11.1 and it's good to go.

 

 

 

iHomeServer v3 has started beta testing!

We haven't posted for a while, however, want you to know that we haven't been sitting back relaxing.  Instead, we have been working hard on the next major release of iHomeServer - version 3.

Version 3 will continue to do all the great things that many of you have come to appreciate with iHomeServer v2, however, will add a LOT of new features.

We feel these features will be equally useful to desktop and server users alike and therefore the release aims to make iHomeServer more accessible for desktop users who have a single computer and run iTunes on it.  They can then take advantage of existing features such as Watch Folders and the advanced metadata editing facilities we have built into iHomeServer in addition to all the new bells and whistles which we have built on top of the iHomeServer framework.

So what's in the new release?  At the moment, this is a closely guarded secret so you'll have to wait a few more weeks, however, I hope you will be pleased with what we have added.

Beta testing is currently by invitation only, therefore there is unfortunately no public link available today.  However, within the next couple of weeks we will open up the beta to everybody.

In the meantime, if you are particularly interested to get your hands on the latest release, drop us a mail at the usual address - support@bizmodeller.com.

iHomeServer Release 2.2.35.0 - iTunes 11 + Windows Server 2012 Essentials support

Just a quick note to confirm we have released iHomeServer 2.2.35.0 recently which adds formal support for iTunes 11 and Windows Server 2012 Essentials.

As per our previous post, if you are upgrading to iTunes 11, we recommend you use iTunes version 11.0.1 only and follow the following steps:

  • Make sure you have your latest backup available, in case you have any problems with iTunes 11
  • Uninstall iHomeServer first (don't worry your user settings, watch folder config, etc, won't be deleted)
  • Upgrade iTunes from an admin account on the desktop/server you use to run iTunes
  • Log in as the user you have told iHomeServer to use when it starts iTunes
  • Ensure you agree to the updated Terms and Conditions dialog
  • Close any tutorial window or 'What's new' windows
  • Ensure the library main window is open (i.e. do not leave it showing the iTunes Store)
  • Close iTunes and restart your computer.
  • Reinstall the latest version of iHomeServer and enter the same user account details you were originally using in order to restore your settings.
 

iHomeServer support for iTunes 11

We are getting a lot of emails about iHomeServer support for iTunes 11 so thought it was best to write a quick post on the current status.

iTunes 11 is not yet officially supported as we are still testing iHomeServer with iTunes 11 - however, we have so far found no problems.  We have also had a large number of existing and new users who have confirmed they have upgraded and seen no issues using the latest iHomeServer release (2.2.23.0) with iTunes 11.  All key features (watch folders, AirPlay, Wifi sync, etc) should work ok.

We have, however, received two reports of issues which we are still trying to replicate.  Both relate to iTunes crashing within a few minutes of being started by iHomeServer due to a crash in webkit.dll.  These may be isolated incidents, but we are investigating further before stamping iHomeServer as iTunes 11 compatible.

In the meantime, whilst most users have had success simply upgrading iTunes, we would suggest the following steps to reduce the risk of any unexpected issues:

  • Make sure you have your latest backup available, in case you have any problems with iTunes 11
  • Uninstall iHomeServer first (don't worry your user settings, watch folder config, etc, won't be deleted)
  • Upgrade iTunes from an admin account on the desktop/server you use to run iTunes
  • Log in as the user you have told iHomeServer to use when it starts iTunes
  • Ensure you agree to the updated Terms and Conditions dialog
  • Close any tutorial window or 'What's new' windows
  • Ensure the library main window is open (i.e. do not leave it showing the iTunes Store)
  • Close iTunes and restart your computer.
  • Reinstall the latest version of iHomeServer and enter the same user account details you were originally using in order to restore your settings.
We may revise these instructions however, they should reduce the risk of any issues during the upgrade.
 
Please post your experiences with iHomeServer and iTunes 11 as a comment below.

Support for Windows 8 and Windows Server Essentials 2012

Just a quick post to let you all know that we are actively working on some exciting developments and approximate timescales for up and coming releases.

Those of you who have used Windows Home Server as your server platform will no doubt have heard the news that Microsoft is ending the Windows Home Server line and instead replacing it with Windows Home Server 2012 Essentials at a much higher price.  Many users will likely migrate over to Windows 8 instead due to its significantly cheaper price point.

Fortunately, iHomeServer is now supported under Windows 8 and provides an excellent platform upon which to run a standalone headless instance of iTunes on a Windows 8 based desktop or home server.  The latest version of iHomeServer (2.2.23.0 at time of writing) installs as a desktop app on Windows 8.  For those of you who have used Windows Home Server previously, the iHomeServer tabs you see in the Windows Home Server Dashboard are available under Windows 8 in a dedicated management console called the 'iHomeServer Management Console' available in the Windows 8 Start Menu.

We are also working hard to provide iHomeServer support for Windows Home Server 2012 Essentials.  Note that, whilst not supported, the current version of iHomeServer should install on this platform, however, the add-in interface is not yet available in the current release.  So, as with Windows 8, you will need to configure and monitor iHomeServer using the iHomeServer Management Console application installed in the Start menu.  We are planning to release an update to iHomeServer to provide Windows Home Server 2012 Essentials Dashboard support very shortly.

As usual, we are very keen for any users who would like to beta test our early releases.  If you are interested in getting access to an early version of the Windows Home Server 2012 Essentials version of iHomeServer, then please let us know by emailing support@bizmodeller.com 

Please note at we have no plans to stop supporting Windows Home Server v1 and Windows Home Server 2011 at the current time!

 

 

 

 

BETA: iHomeServer 2.2.18 - now supports content rating, HD flag and extended iTunes properties

We have just updated the beta release of iHomeServer 2.2 to add support for content rating (eg PG-13, R, etc), the HD flag and extended iTunes properties such as Cast, Director, Producer, Studio, etc.

These properties aren't directly accessible within iTunes, however, are usually set on media you download from the iTunes Store.  iHomeServer now brings these tags to all your media!  Most of the tags are displayed on Apple TV; a subset are also displayed on iPhones/iPads.  iHomeServer allows these to be set in the normal metadata editor (which you can get to by double-clicking a file in the Watch Folder view, or selecting 'Get Info' from the right-click menu on either Watch Folder or iTunes tabs).  The extra fields are on the 'Video' tab - see http://www.bizmodeller.com/ihomeserver/userguide/edit_track_metadata_window___video_tab.htm for more info.

The additional metadata properties are also supported by AutoTag.

Content Rating allows you to apply a rating tag such as PG-13, U, R, TV-14, etc to your media.  Our implementation is particularly flexible because iHomeServer allows you to specify your preferred content rating system - eg the content rating for your own country (where supported).

The HD flag will now automatically be set for any movies whose vertical resolution is 720 pixels or greater.

Here's a screenshot of the new fields:

 

As always, the beta is available from our beta web-page

PRB: iHomeServer may not start iTunes automatically on reboot

A minority of users have reported that iHomeServer occasionally fails to restart iTunes after a system reboot.  This appears to be restricted to a subset of users who are running iTunes 10.6.x on a slow-ish server.

The current version of iHomeServer (2.1.x) waits 2.5 minutes for iTunes to start up prior to giving up.  This has been plenty of time in the past, however, the later version of iTunes starts up a bit more slowly so may affect a minority of users.

Fix:

If (and only if) you are suffering this issue, there is a simple workaround:

  • Log onto the server hosting iHomeServer; Choose Start / Control Panel / Administrative Tools / Services.  Find the 'bizmodeller iHomeServer (for iTunes)' service and right-click it, select 'Properties'.  On the 'General' tab, find the 'Startup type' drop down box and select 'Automatic (Delayed Start)'; click 'OK' and close the Services window.  Next time your reboot, iHomeServer should correctly restart iTunes.

Alternatively, please download our beta of iHomeServer 2.2.x which gives iTunes significantly longer to start-up so avoids this iTunes issue without the workaround

 

iHomeServer Pre-Release Available 2.2.1.0 - internet metadata tagging, interactive iTunes launching, faster start-up time

The next major release of iHomeServer is now in feature-freeze and available from our beta/pre-release download site.  Please note it is still going through additional testing; there will be a few minor releases to it before it is promoted to the main download site.

Screen shot:

 

This release has some very cool new features which we hope you will like:

  • Internet metadata lookup - the big feature is new internet metadata lookups.  Whilst iTunes does a great job of fixing metadata automatically for CD rips, etc, it doesn't touch TV/Movie files.  So, we've tried to make this as easy and useful as possible.  You don't want to spend hours tracking down the right metadata/artwork for a movie/video track; you want a quick streamlined search process.  iHomeServer now integrates with three of the leading metadata services - themoviedb.org, thetvdb.com and tagchimp.com. Metadata lookup hooks into the iHomeServer workflow in many ways:
    • On the metadata editor page, you can click 'Internet Search' to autopopulate metadata fields / artwork based on results from these services.
    • You can select a set of movies on either the Watch Folder view or iTunes View tab, right-click and select 'Auto-Tag'.  iHomeServer will then get the best-matched data based on filename or embedded track name and set the metadata to the file with no further clicks from you.
    • You can select all the episode in a TV season, right-click and select 'Auto-Tag'.  iHomeServer will guide you through a wizard to choose the TV series, season and then match episde numbers up against your file names.  Hit 'Finish' and it will auto-tag all the results and immediately update iTunes so that the results are available to your Home Sharing clients
    • Finally, you can switch AutoTagging on automatically for a Watch Folder.  Whenever iHomeserver detects a new movie has been added to a Watch Folder, you can configure Auto-Tagging to automatically best-match tag the movie with zero user involvement!
    • The metadata search *should* be multi-lingual - we would be very grateful for your feedback as to how well this works and what improvements are necessary
    • We're quite pleased with the user experience; hope you like it - of course, let us know your suggestions / feedback / improvements

 

  • "Interactive iTunes launch" - we have been promising this for a while, and this pre-release has the core functionality complete.  When you click the 'Start iTunes' button within iHomeServer Console, you are now given an option as to whether you want to start iTunes within iHomeServer or whether you want to start it interactively.  If you choose the latter, iHomeServer will open the full-fat iTunes interface under the same user you have configured the service to run.  And best of all, it is run within the same RDP session as the WHS Dashboard/Console, therefore you will be running a remote instance of your server's iTunes GUI within your WHS Dashboard.  When you have finished making any changes to iTunes, you can close iTunes, click Start iTunes under iHomeServer control and iHomeServer will restart iTunes in the background.

 

  • "Caching Playlists" - Caching Playlists has always been a bit slow; particularly for users with large libraries. On slow servers it could take 10-15 minutes.  We have rewritten this process entirely and now analyse the iTunes Library.xml file for playlist/track information instead of querying iTunes.  This has led to a massive performance boost when starting iTunes up under iHomeServer control.
There's also quite a few stability improvements and general bug improvements - see the beta page for more information.   We're also putting together on-line and in-app help; the beta includes about half of the documentation at the moment; this will be added to in future incremental updates.
 
So - if you want to try it out, please download it from the beta/pre-release download site. Please feedback all comments either via this blog or direct to support@bizmodeller.com