This week’s app is AirServer, which is a server app for Apple’s AirPlay multimedia streaming protocol. AirPlay allows various desktop and mobile apps to play audio, video and photos to be redirected to another connected device on the same network. iTunes has supported it for years, allowing audio from your PC to be played through speakers connected to an Airport Express base station, for example.
AirPlay support is available in an increasing number of third-party iOS apps, such as BBC iPlayer, and ideally Apple would have you spend £99 on an Apple TV box. If you’d rather not, AirServer will let you receive AirPlay broadcasts on any Mac, or a jailbroken iOS device. As I haven’t jailbroken my iPhone, I’m focussing on the Mac version.
Once installed, you have a server app which sits in your menu bar, and a System Preferences pane for configuring it, although once installed and opened, the app doesn’t really need much configuring. You just need to give it something to play.
If you have an iOS device, then you can have AirServer play a slideshow of your pictures in Photo Stream, YouTube videos in the YouTube app, or any third party apps. In our flat, Christine sometimes plays her music from iTunes through the speakers connected to my Mac, since they’re better than those in her laptop. You even get Growl notifications showing the track name and artist of the music playing.
It works pretty well on the whole. My only gripes are that opening the menu from the icon pauses streaming, and the Growl notifications don’t always appear. But it’s dead easy to set up and I haven’t had any trouble getting it to work with a variety of streams.
AirServer for the Mac costs $8.