Orb has landed for Intel Macs

Mel Martin
M. Martin|11.09.09

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Mel Martin
November 9th, 2009
Orb has landed for Intel Macs
If you are a sometime PC user you probably know about Orb, a multimedia sharing tool that allows you to access your media from anywhere you have an internet connection and a browser. Now, Orb has come to the Mac and it's got great possibilities -- but it's a mixed bag in terms of reliability.

You can download Orb for free, and set up a no-cost account. The software will index your iPhoto libraries, as well as your iTunes library, both audio and video.

You can then log into your Orb account on any other computer, fire up a browser, and play your media files. Orb has also had an iPhone app that logs you in and gets your media as well. It's been available for a long time, but only would work with a PC-based host. Now your Mac is accessible too.

Orb still lacks a few features you can get on the PC version. One big one is it won't talk to a TV tuner, so you can't look at live video from home on another computer. I expect this will be coming in short order. You can share media with others from the Orb website. They will need a free account, but they can watch a movie or listen to music or view photos just as you do.That's the good part. The reality is, the Mac app is pretty buggy. I downloaded it the first day Orb was available, and it crashed every time it started indexing. The Orb tech support was very good. They asked for my Orb logs, found the problem and fixed the indexing badness.

I had a few more issues in subsequent days, and those were all fixed. I asked if others were having problems, and the developers said only a few.

Orb has been up and running for a few days, and the app has crashed on my Mac a few times. It really feels like an early beta, and not something that is solid release quality software.

I bought the iPhone app [iTunes link] for US$9.99, and in general it worked pretty well. I was able to stream a ripped DVD back from my Mac on the 3G network, and it was watchable. Movies look better over a Wi-Fi network, but one won't always be around when you need it. It's curious that Apple allows this app to stream video; the Sling application, which does almost the same thing, was denied the ability to use 3G. There is another, less expensive [iTunes link] versions of the iPhone app that only allows music streaming. It sells for $0.99. There is also a free sampler version. [iTunes link]

I noticed a few other anomalies. When the app wants to re-index your content it opens iTunes and iPhoto. I'm not wild about programs opening and closing on their own. Sonos and SimplifyMedia seemed to have solved that problem by indexing the database for iTunes without having to re-open the app. I also could not access my media while the re-indexing was taking place, and that would be very bad if I was out somewhere and wanted to view something.

Orb is free, unless you want iPhone access, and it has great promise. It makes your media available anywhere you want it, and on any device you want to explore it on. [I've also covered SimplifyMedia, which does a similar job with music and photos.]

I suspect the software will need to go through a few more iterations to be really solid, but there's no reason you can't download the latest version and see how it works for you. Orb requires an Intel-based Mac with OS X version 10.5 or later.
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