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Summary:

For me, the Home Sharing feature introduced in iTunes 9 has been a long time coming. I’ve always run at least two Macs, one desktop and one notebook, and over the years I’ve tried various solutions for sharing media between multiple machines. Of course, there was […]

homeiconFor me, the Home Sharing feature introduced in iTunes 9 has been a long time coming. I’ve always run at least two Macs, one desktop and one notebook, and over the years I’ve tried various solutions for sharing media between multiple machines.

Of course, there was always the option of sharing your library on your home network. This allowed you to play streaming music from one computer on others via iTunes. It works well enough for what it is, but Home Sharing does that, and much more.

Share More Media

First of all, you can share much more than just music between computers. Movies, music videos, and TV shows are all now playable on any machine in your network you authorize via Home Sharing. Authorization is simple, but requires you to have an iTunes account, and to have authorized the computer in question to play media associated with that account. Once that’s done, your Home Share libraries should appear in your source list.

home sharing 1Clicking on an available library brings up a straightforward list of all the media available on that library. As with Shared Libraries, you can only view Home Shares in list view, not in Grid or Coverflow. It’s inconvenient and unfortunate, but it doesn’t really detract that much from the feature’s usability that much, especially since you can still filter the library via search.

home sharing 2Copy and Sync

You can also break down the shared library into categories, just like iTunes’ native library is divided up. Clicking on any item in any category will activate the “Import” button, which allows you to physically copy the item to your current library with a single click.

home sharing 3To make it easier to find items you don’t already have, there’s a simple drop down menu in the bottom left-hand corner of the media browser window that lets you choose between “All items” and “Items not in my library.” You can also open the “Settings…” dialog to set up automatic transfer of new purchases from one library to another via Home Sharing, ensuring that your content is up to date across all computers.

One Central Location

For my own purposes, I’m much more interested in Home Sharing’s movie and TV show streaming. I couldn’t tell you why I have a problem with keeping a decent amount of hard drive space clear on any of my computers, but the fact remains that I do. It definitely doesn’t help that I can’t keep the lines clear between a dedicated media machine and a work machine.

With Home Sharing, I can use my Mac mini as I intended when I bought it: As a central repository for all entertainment media. On those occasions when I want to watch something on my iMac or on the bedroom TV via my Macbook Pro, I no longer have to transfer any files (which I invariably forget/am too lazy to delete). Media stays where it belongs, and remains accessible.

Good, But Should Be Better

So what is Home Sharing still lacking? How about the big glaring omission: the ability to share content to iPod touches and iPhones on the local network. I can’t imagine what’s preventing Apple from allowing me to view Home Share playlists in my iPhone’s iPod application as well as on other computers. If you’re paying attention, Cupertino, think about working that into iPhone OS 3.2.

If you were hoping that since Home Sharing requires you to be using one of your five account-authorized computers, you’d be able to access shared libraries on the road, you’ll be disappointed. Only computers on the same Wi-Fi network can see active shares. To get this functionality, and to be able to stream iTunes libraries to your iPhone or iPod touch as mentioned above, check out Simplify Media and its attendant iPhone apps.

My ideal vision for the future of Home Sharing? Tie it to MobileMe and have an option to keep libraries synced the way you can Address Book and iCal, make it accessible away from home from authorized computers, and introduce mobile device streaming for iPhones and touches. It’s a nice start, but those features would make it a true game-changer.

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  1. There’s one simple thing that makes home sharing pretty useless to us; lack of support for cover flow or cover views. Browsing your library with just the text fields just won’t do it.

    Home sharing seem to be streaming with DRM support and ability to copy media. You cannot manipulate the playlists, rank media, or anything really.

    I think Apple could do much better sharing for a home with one library and multiple computers. Now we’re using remote desktop to manipulate the library at the machine with the media.

    1. Text fields is the best way to view your library. Your backwards.

    2. *You’re* backwards.

    3. I am impressed with the change you now can copy files that you download to one computer to another over you home network only problem i must drop my firewall to use this on my PC can’t find which ports to open and my network is hacker friendly someone hacks me all the time opening firewall is like saying here now it is easy no need to work at it upload your junk porn, viruses, spy-ware, mall-ware, etc. I had to purchase a cleaning program to clear us some of the disturbing stuff they uploaded before. Now firewall is down for them again. What do i need to open to just have itunes file sharing work and not let them in. Wish someone would find them and put stuff on them and put them away or 6 feet under :-). I can’t even use my computer to write my stories they delete them or change them. So i just play WOW on my computer and use iTunes lol.

    4. Just spent 1 hr 18 min+ with Apple…. Both computers authorized, both signed in to same act…Able to see each library in “Shared”.. Kept getting error message “There was a problem downloading “song name.” The URL “>0″ could not be found on the server.” (note: The symbol in the error message is pointing up, but I don’t know how to type it.)
      I spoke to 4 people and none of them had ever heard of it….end result: unable to move songs.
      Any ideas??

    5. Tj, yeah im starting to have that very same problem with mine. It worked out fine the first i used it, but then it popped up the message saying, “The URL `^0` could not be found on the server. Not exactly sure why this is happening because it was perfectly working yesterday.

    6. TJ AND SMITHY— I had ther same problem, (URL cannot be found) and i figured it out… if you recently redid your computer or transfered music from a external hard drive and you try to play music from itunes on your computer and it says, “file cannot be found would you like to locate it?” and a little “!” pops up next to the song, that means itunes did not find the orignial song file. What you have to do is click on each song that has a ! by it, and when it asks you to locate it, click locate song and go to my documents, then your itunes file, i tunes muisc, then find that artist and song, click on it, and it should of found that song, and the song will start playing, i know these are confusing directions, if you need help, let me know

    7. Cover Flow and cover views ARE actually available on Homesharing. View > as Coverflow. Cover view pops up with the arrow button at the bottom left of the screen.

      ???

    8. I’d agree that you’re backwards. Remember back in the good old days of iTunes when text fields were all there was? Yeah, I thought so. I agree it would be nice, but in all honesty, I never use the cover flow view in iTunes, and rarely ever on my iPod touch. That’s just the way it is, it’s more convenient to use a text list when you know what you’re looking for. No eye-candy, just something plain and simple that works.

    9. Im having a problem with my network drive. Itunes lists the drive as an iomega9 blahblah blah which is correct, but when I click on it, nothing is there. Is there anyway to point it to the correct part of that drive? It is seperated as different drives and one being as z:music…so anyone, is there a way to tell itunes to look there instead of just where it is looking?

    10. I have both laptop and desktop logged into the same account and on the same wifi but they will not link. I have called for help an cannot get any.

  2. Petri makes a good point. I really want those features too.

    It WAS a pleasant surprise though, and I’m already streaming tv shows from my iTunes hub to my laptop. Cool that you don’t need file sharing on for the import either. Very clean interface.

    Hopefully Petri and Darrell’s wishlists are on the drawing board.

    1. Just to be clear, streaming TV shows and movies between shared libraries was possible well before iTunes 9. Not sure why this comment and the article imply that it wasn’t.

  3. This is as much a question as it is a comment. The Home Sharing feature of course only covers iTunes-related media (music, movies, etc.), not photos. Like Mr. Etherington, I have always run two Macs at home and always wished it was easier to share photos between the two machines. Does anyone know a way to use iPhoto as a server of sorts, and let multiple Macs access (and edit) the photo library? This type of synchronicity would be my “game changer.”

    1. iphoto -> preferences -> sharing.

      same function as this new ‘home sharing’ in itunes 9.

    2. drag and drop photos between libraries.

    3. You can put your iphoto library on an external drive, connect the external drive to an Airport Extreme via USB, and have individual machines (and their iphoto apps) connect to this external library (hold down the option key when starting iphoto). You can connect to this library over a wired or wireless network.

  4. This is still crippled by lack of support for single shared repositories.

    What becomes clear when you use this is that each Mac in your home becomes a streaming source only while it is online AND only while it is running iTunes running.

    Sure, you can import from that Mac and enjoy it’s media even if it goes offline, but now you’ve duplicated the file (and had to wait for the import if you had also wanted to watch it immediately.)

    Not as big a deal for relatively small music files, but for video?

    Oh, and although I’ve yet to stoop to using Front Row, you’ll be pleased to know that Front Row does NOT support Home Sharing: even though you can stream from the other Mac in your instance of iTunes, that other Mac’s shared media assets are NOT visible in Front Row.

    We maintain one big multi-terabyte RAID NAS (Drobo shared via AirPort Extreme) in the house, safely hidden in a ventilated wiring closet with router, etc. The only always-on, immobile Mac is the Mini feeding the big screen in the living room, 802.11g unfortunately — it mounts the NAS wirelessly and could be our master Home Sharing host, but to consume it’s shared media from our MacBooks, we are going over the wireless TWICE: Mini pulling source wirelessly from NAS then feeding wirelessly back through router, then wirelessly from router to my MacBook. Thrice?

    Still not THAT evil for audio, but video? HD video?

    We are adding a second Mini soon for another room, so yet another consumer of high-bandwidth video.

    Moral of the story: zero support or consideration of NAS devices that families are increasingly using to provide a single massive shared and (if you are wise enough to insist on RAID) SAFE repository for all family media.

    What to do? Go back to third-party solution like PLEX that auto-crawls a network share for media resources, and continue managing that file system BY HAND … when I should be satisfied with iTunes to organize and consume on my laptop, and Front Row to consume on the big screen, but alas both remain critically neutered. Why, Apple, why?

    Astounded Apple has yet to think in terms of “home server”, instead limited to disparate pools of media shared peer-to-peer, requiring at least one always-on Mac and saturating your wireless needlessly.

    1. I’m pretty positive that Front Row has been able to stream from shared libraries for a long time.

  5. Does this sharing (copying between iTunes on different Macs) available in the US or songs purchased from the iTunes Store?

    I’ve been trying to figure out how to copy the songs from my MacBook to Mac Mini and I can’t do it, though I can share and stream from each other.

    Any help?

    1. I am experiencing the same problem. I can short through my itunes list using my windoze laptop, however, the ‘home’ icon doesn’t appear. What can I do to copy the music?

    2. Why after setting up both computers do I not see the Home icon with the trebel cleff but layered sqaures with a trebel cleff? I can’ copy files from my wife’s account into my itunes. Please help.

  6. I downloaded itunes 9 and a video popped up to help me navigate through the changes. By accident I closed my itunes application and now I can’t find the initial video which was introducing itunes 9. I have found other videos on line to walk me through the changes but they are not as easy to follow as the one itunes provided. How can I watch that same initial video that itunes 9 popped up when I first opened the application?

    1. Opps! Found it on my itunes help pull down menu. Thanks!

  7. My home PC runs XP my wifes laptop is running Vista. I cannot get them to link up via Home share. I have messed with the firewall settings with no luck,any suggestions?

    1. Make sure when you log into your itunes sharing account on both computers. I had to log in twice on my computer once I set it up. Once to set it up, then log into my boyfriend’s computer (make sure your account is authorized on the other computer as well as yours), and then I had to re-log in under home sharing. It worked then. At first it didn’t show up but then it popped up after I re-logged in under home sharing.
      Hope this helps!

    2. I am trying to use this between Windows XP and Windows 7. At first, it worked right out of the box, even though theoretically the correct ports weren’t open. Now Windows 7 can see the XP library, but not the other way around—even after opening the ports. I’m sure it’s some deep, deep network security secret somewhere in Windows 7.

  8. Another little gripe about the new iTunes 9. When playing one of the new Genius Mixes, you can’t rate the currently playing song. Usually if I am playing a song and like it, I right-click the iTunes icon in the dock and can then assign a rating. For whatever reason, this feature is greyed-out when playing Genius Mixes. It works fine for Genius Playlists however. Anyone else having this same problem?

    1. Just thought I’d let you know that there’s a program called “I Rate This” or something like that on Apple’s website. Put’s a rating program on your top menu bar, next to battery charge status, etc. You can rate songs from there even when using Genius mixes.

  9. One thing I would like to alert folks on is the about the new 8GB iPod Touch. This new device introduced on 8/13/09 is not capable of Voice memos/recording by itself. The product does not come with the headphones that have the remote and Microphone. And, without the microphone you cannot record anything. The Apple retail store rep. told me that I need to buy a headphone set that comes with the remote and mic. in order to use the Voice memo feature that comes with the device. It is a shame that Apple is trying to sell it’s 8GB iPod Touch and still packing in the old headphones which are useless if you want to use the Voice Memo/recording feature. Even when you upgrade the older device with the 3.1 version, you cannot use the Voice memos/recording feature until you buy the new headphones with the mic.

    1. I was under the impression that the “new” 8GB iPod Touch isn’t new at all, it’s just the 2nd gen iPod Touch with a price drop. The only new hardware is the 32GB and 64GB models. So I thought the 8GB model didn’t even get the Voice Memos app at all.

  10. I have 2 computers sitting side by side on the same home network with itunes 9 installed and home sharing enabled and they don’t see each other, what am i doing wrong?

    1. Preferences – Sharing – Look For Shared Libraries, make sure that’s turned on (and the other settings in there look right.)

      1. I have done this exact same thing, and it won’t work for me. I have spent at least 3 hours today trying to make it work, and by all the research I’ve done, it should be working fine. All the preferences are set, my 2 computers are on the same network, both have iTunes 9, home sharing is enabled with the same account on both computers, both computers have been authorized, and it’s still not working.

        HELP!!

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