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How to stream to XBMC on an Apple TV 2 from a Lion Mac using Playback

Note: before we start, if you’re not already using XBMC to stream to your AppleTV, give my article about Firecore’s ATV Flash a read first – it’s a little easier to set up than XBMC and may solve all your problems.

I’ve been using a jailbreaked (is that a word? should it be jailbroken?) AppleTV 2 and XBMC to stream media from my Snow Leopard Mac for about a year now. It’s awesome.

And then Lion came along and broke it.

Like many people, I was using the SMB method to get media to the XBMC installation, but Lion apparently uses a new, Apple-made variant of the SMB protocols which the XBMC and/or the ATV2 doesn’t like. Now, there are ways around this by switching to NFS for example but I have had no end of hassle getting NFS to work properly despite a lot of input from friendly folks like memphiz at the XBMC for iOS forums. I presume I’m doing something wrong, but it’s beyond the scope of my technophilia right now and in the meantime I need a way to watch my media.

Enter Playback by Yazsoft. It streams all your stuff to a variety of devices, such as PS3, XBOX 360, even XBMC and Plex installations, through UPnP. There’s other software that does similar things, such as Connect360 and Rivet, but Rivet doesn’t work on Lion and besides, it just got end-of-life’d (thanks for nothing, guys!) while Connect360 is kinda ugly on your 360 as it doesn’t respect your folder structure and dumps the entire contents of every folder into one long list. Yuck.

Playback, on the other hand, is Lion compatible and when I read it supported XBMC, that’s all I needed to know.

UPDATE: I should have added in the original review that there is one drawback to Playback – it doesn’t support metadata or artwork. That’s half the joy of XBMC, I know, but at the point I wrote this it was media only or nothing at all. In the latest Dharma version of XBMC for ATV2 they’re trying a new method for connecting to your Lion machines but it wasn’t playing nice with my setup for some reason; you may still find Playback useful.

So, if you’re on Lion, using XBMC on your AppleTV 2, and need a simple solution to fix the streaming, try this:

1) Download the Playback demo
2) Set up the preferences so that it’s got access to your media folders
3) Go to your XBMC app on your ATV2
4) Go to Videos and set up a new share
5) Click Browse
6) Select UPnP Devices
7) When the Playback installation for your computer appears, select it (in my case it was SithLord Playback)
8) Select the folder you want to use as a source (in my case I have a Films folder and a TV folder – you can only do one at a time so pick one for now)
9) Give it a name within XBMC
10) Save it

If you have multiple folders you want to share, repeat steps 4 to 10.

Now check it works. I haven’t found a way to make it appear in the TV or the Movies menus that XBMC displays as default, but everything is findable via the Videos menu, no problem.

Once you’ve got it working and you’re happy with it, head back over to Playback and buy a license, which is £10. Until then it limits your streaming to 30 minutes at a time and 2 videos per day.

Now, full disclosure, I’m hoping to get a free license for writing this blog about the app (see here), but I didn’t let that sway my opinion of Playback. This morning it has proved to be a painless way of getting ATV2 XBMC streaming working from my Lion iMac, and has the added bonus of working on my 360 as well, just in case I temporarily brick my ATV2 with further tinkering in the future (it’s happened before!).

So I hope this helps anyone that’s having trouble with their ATV2/XBMC since updating to Lion. Ideally I’d like to get my NFS shares working at some point but in the short term Playback has most definitely been a head-ache free alternative – with that caveat that artwork and metadata don’t show up.

Thanks for reading. If you’d like to comment on anything I’m @myglasseye on Twitter.