Pulling via Airplay (Rather than pushing)

You know, for such a consumer-oriented company Apple has some glaring blind spots at times.

Anyway, I bought an Airplay compliant receiver so that my wife could throw her iPod music to the receiver as she wanted to. There are a few glitches that seem to be router related (need to work on that) but it essentially works. However, I would really like to share my entire archived music collection from my home machine, which is in the basement (compared to the receiver, which is upstairs in the living room). Since we already have the network set up, and we have an airplay receiver and I’m archiving my CDs into iTunes (primarily so I can sync with my new iPhone any music I want), I’d like to be able to do the following:

  1. Start up the receiver.
  2. Have it connect to my machine.
  3. Have it pull music from iTunes.

I can do 1 and 2, but 3 is eluding me and, generally, seems not that easy. I can easily push music from iTunes to the receiver, but that’s not ideal since I want to be able to have the remote in hand in front of the receiver and select my music. I could do this if I had ripped my music to Windows, but then I’d lose the option of storing the music as Apple Lossless on the PC and having it auto-convert on syncing to the iPhone as a compressed format. This -should- be easy. But it’s either not, or I’m missing something. Right now my understanding is that I could install a non WMP UPnP client to export my media, but I’m just at a loss as to not being able to understand why a device that adheres to Apple’s protocol for sharing data (and WORKS) can’t do this seemingly simple task.

Am I missing something about the esoteric method of setup that Apple thinks is intuitive vs. what my Windows-centric brain wants to do, or is this really not possible to do? Or is this essentially Apple’s method of “upsell”? (“Since you obviously like us enough to have all our other stuff, what’s another $100? Buy an AppleTV and hook it up and all your dreams will come true!”)

Airplay is just the transport for audio streaming from a player to speakers.

“Home Sharing” is what iTunes uses to act like a media server/client.

So, you can use sharing to play content that is in iTunes on your apple TV, iPhone, etc. And, you can send the resulting audio stream to remote speakers via Airplay. For whatever reason (drm and auth) the two mechanisms are separate, afaik.

Most of the receivers on the market probably support Airplay but not home sharing, so all they can do is be a sink for the audio stream from a player.

This is admittedly a bit odd, but it’s how it turned out. I think the two features actually have separate development histories. Airplay comes from the Airport Express, Home Sharing is in iTunes.

As I am unfamiliar with all the Apple stuff, logically I would ask one question. Does the receiver pull from the iPod or does the iPod push?

If the iPod pushes, then I assume you have your answer and all music has to be pushed to the receiver.

The iPod (or iPhone, or whatever) pushes. You start Airplay on the device, and it looks for an Airplay receiver within range. There typically aren’t even any controls on the receiver (I think with my AppleTV, I can turn Airplay off or on in the options, and that’s it), so no way to initiate anything from that end. It’s really intended to be a way to augment portable devices–play your iPhone videos on your TV, play your iPod playlist on your home theater speakers, etc. It’s not meant to function as a streaming media center.

Right, but the thing is the receiver has the built in bits for AirPlay, and for DLNA UPnP, and apparently somehow Apple decided to not use those bits to actually share from a computer. So things that make perfect logical sense (“I can hook this up to my computer and other internet radio and retrieve, I can listen to iTunes via AirPlay, but I -CAN’T- hook up to iTunes and retrieve.”) are apparently verboten. That’s some really friggin’ stupid usage there.

Well, again, it’s a matter of what the product is meant to be. Airplay is a wireless speaker/video solution, not a home media center.

That said, it is not true that Airplay doesn’t work with a computer. I can push music and video from iTunes (on my desktop) to my AppleTV in exactly the same way that I stream it from my iPhone–by pressing the little Airplay icon in the bottom left corner of the iTunes window. What I can’t do is browse my music library from an Airplay receiver. I have to select and play the content in iTunes; Airplay just streams it to the receiver. The receiver doesn’t have a UI for content browsing, because again: it’s not a home media center.