Multiple iTunes Instances on OS X

October 22, 2013

On the Mac it is possible to run multiple iTunes instances at the same time by running each one under a separate OS X user account. With each instance connected to a different set of AirPlay speakers this allows for a nice multi-zone setup with a single Mac. To use Signal in this configuration start a Signal instance for each user account and they will automatically connect to the appropriate iTunes instance. By default Signal will choose the next available port starting from 3569, to lock each instance to a specific port you can use a hidden default by running the following command in Terminal:

defaults write com.alloysoft.Signal HTTPPort -int 3570

Replace last argument in the above example with the port number you wish to use. You can then create a bookmark for the web interface using the desired port or specify this port in the RTI driver configuration starting with driver version 1.6.

Signal 1.7 - iTunes 11 Support

February 18, 2013

Signal now offers full support for iTunes 11. Shuffle/repeat, playing groups of songs, and editing a playing queue are all working as expected. Here’s what’s new:

Pairing Required

To properly support iTunes 11 Signal now requires pairing with it. Because of this requirement the 1.7 update requires user approval and is not automatically applied. If you’ve already paired Signal with iTunes for speaker control you won’t have to do anything beyond approving the update. If you haven’t paired previously the first time you run Signal 1.7 it will display a prompt with a code to enter in iTunes. In the iTunes window an entry for Signal will appear in the Devices drop-down in the upper right, select that and enter the code to complete pairing.

Ending Support for OS X 10.5

iTunes 11 requires 10.6 or later and Signal is adopting the same requirement to focus on compatibility with the latest iTunes release. Since iTunes is no longer being updated on Leopard the 1.6 release of Signal should remain compatible for as long as you wish to use it.

Up Next

When playing or adding songs Signal now uses Up Next just as if the operations were performed through the iTunes interface. The Signal Queue playlist is no longer used and can be removed.

Sorting Changes

Media library sorting has been improved to more closely match the order displayed in iTunes. Leading articles are ignored and titles beginning with a number are now sorted at the bottom of the list.

With these changes iTunes 11 is now the recommended version of iTunes for use with Signal. The update is available now via software update and direct download.

iTunes 11

November 29, 2012

I’ve been testing iTunes 11 since its release today and am happy to report that Signal remains compatible with the new version, with one gotcha. There is currently a bug in the Mac version of iTunes that prevents Signal from being able to read or set the shuffle or repeat states. Hopefully Apple will release a fix soon, in the meantime I’ll be looking into a workaround. The Windows version of iTunes has a minor version of the same bug - Signal can read and set the shuffle and repeat states, but the shuffle/repeat icons in the iTunes UI do not update with any changes made through Signal.

The big change for remote control apps in the new iTunes is probably Up Next, a queuing function that looks to be a lot more useful than the Party Shuffle of old. Apple hasn’t provided any official API for this feature but Signal may be able to take advantage of it through the DMCP support introduced in Signal 1.6. I’ll be investigating that for a future release.

Update: After further testing I’ve run into some additional issues when using Signal with the new iTunes:

  • When playing a group of items only the first song from the group is played, iTunes then returns to whatever it was playing before
  • Selecting a song to jump to in a playlist does not actually move the playlist position but plays only that song
  • Sometimes edits to the Signal queue are not picked up if the queue is currently being played
  • The playlist view is not accurate if anything is manually queued through Up Next
  • iTunes displays a modal dialog when trying to play a song or group if anything is manually queued through Up Next

I’m looking into the best way to solve these issues for the next update.

Update 2: All iTunes 11 compatiblity issues have been resolved in Signal 1.7.

Signal 1.6 - Improved AirPlay Speaker Control

September 14, 2012

I’m happy to announce the release of Signal 1.6, featuring significantly improved AirPlay speaker control. Ever since AirPlay support was introduced in Signal 1.1 I have been looking for a better way to do it. The original implementation worked, but relied on UI scripting and was pretty fragile. Each iTunes update required some tweaks to keep it working, and if you clicked things in the wrong order it could result in iTunes displaying a dialog that you would have to manually dismiss.

The new version adopts the DMCP protocol used by Apple’s Remote app. Although not officially supported this interface is faster, more accurate, and does not suffer from the modal dialog issue. Best of all it allows Signal to know which speakers are active, and this information is now displayed in the web interface and a new version of the RTI driver. The driver features a new two-way list that is populated with available AirPlay devices and sets the marked state for all active devices in the list.

When you first launch the new version of the Signal server you’ll see a checkbox labeled “Enable speaker control”. Check it and you’ll be guided through a pairing process to gain access to the iTunes DMCP interface. Once finished speaker control features will be available to all remotes. If the pairing is ever removed in iTunes the checkbox will automatically uncheck, just hit it again to establish a new pairing.

The 1.6 release also supports user extensions to content exposed through the web server. This allows you to create a custom version of the web interface or add additional files that may be needed for device compatibility. Anything placed in ~/Application Support/Signal/Web on a Mac or %LocalAppData%\Alloysoft\Signal\Data\Web on a PC is automatically exposed.

Check out the release notes for the full list of changes and grab the update from the downloads page.

OnScreen 1.1

August 31, 2012

This release combines the configuration and background server apps into a single menu bar app, removing need for a separate server start/stop step. The menu bar icon can be hidden if desired, when this option is turned on the preferences screen will be shown when the application is launched manually.

1.1 also keeps the system awake while streaming so you no longer need to worry about your laptop going to sleep in the middle of a movie. The display is still allowed to turn off to conserve power, but the system will remain awake for as long as streaming is active. Thanks to this feature 1.1 also enables automatic software updates, so in most cases the app will now silently update itself when nothing is being streamed.

There have also been a number of small tweaks including improved support for Samsung AllShare and the Retina MacBook Pro. Grab the update form the beta page and enjoy!

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