Sunday, October 16, 2005

netTunes: remote control for OS X iTunes

I've been dismayed Apple's fumbled execution of the AirTunes vision. Then I came across netTunes ($20).

NetTunes is a "simple" remote control application for iTunes. You install it on server (one) and clients (multiple). It 'captures' the iTunes screen on the server and delivers it to the client. In other words, it's a "classic" raster based remote control application -- save that it only works for iTunes.

I've been testing it over a (slowish) 802.11b LAN with the client running on an iBook and the server running on a G5 iMac. I made two key preference settings:
  1. Set for fastest display (ie. uglier but fast).
  2. Set remote display to scale to size of client display (very important since my remote display is 1680 x 1050 and my local display is 1024x768) rather than downsample remote display.
And the result? Well, it's not lighting speed and it's not beautiful, but it does seem to work. I tested swiching users on the server (no apparently problem) [OOPS. Fast User Switching is indeed perilous. Further testing indicated] and I tried putting the client to sleep and restarting (took a few moments to reconnect). If it holds up in further testing I'll gladly pay $20.

Update 10/15/05: No, this one doesn't work. Once I'd registered ($20) I could do enough testing to show that the Fast User Switching is incompatible with netTunes server. The author had told me that beforehand, but I was having enough success on the 30 minute trials that I decided to give it a shot. It seems to work, but if one does something to open a new window the server dies. NetTunes really does require that iTunes run in the foreground session. That makes it of limited utility for me. I'm told that it work very well with folks using a headless Mac mini as a dedicated media server.

Update 10/23/05: I kept on using NetTunes, but things didn't get better. Even when iTunes was running in the GUI user session a screensaver would make it unuseable. The final straw was some new system instability and iTunes lockups. Probably unrelated to NetTunes, but the timing was bad. I removed the server.


Anonymous said...

I find iTunes to be a completely unstable application ever since everything went to Intel or since it added video through Quicktime, take your pick which or both is behind it. I have no idea if it has to do with optimizations for Intel causing PPC instability.. but whatever the case is, iTunes now sucks...

JGF said...

I haven't had any problems so far. Are you running an Intel machine? I'm on an iMac. If you're not hearing of others with the same problem I'd suspect a software or hardware problems. Macs are infamous for being very sensitive to even slighly marginal memory. iTunes may stress your system more than your other software, so problems may show up there first.