Tech Talk: Updating my home office network – Part 1

 

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OK, enough with political opinion, it’s time to get back to the good stuff. 😉

I’ve decided to update my home office network, which for the last 2 years has consisted of an Apple AirPort Extreme Base Station with a Western Digital 500 GB MyBook hard drive attached to it. This setup has served me mostly well, being able to store software updaters and other files that I need to share between my main MacBook Pro work setup, my Mac G5 editing system and even my home theatre’s HP Windows Vista box in the living room or the wife’s Powerbook G4 in the kitchen. But now I’m ready to do even more with my network, and here’s why.

Apple hasn’t been too worried about embracing Universal Plug ‘n Play (aka UPnP), a networking protocol that allows you to stream media from one computer (or compatible storage box) to any system that can handle it. In my case, that includes both my Archos 5 250 GB Internet Media Player as well as my PlayStation 3, which is used more for watching Blu-ray rentals from Netflix more than anything else.

I’ve been using Elgato’s EyeConnect software to have the ability to stream media from my MacBook Pro, which was a cheap and efficient method for as little as I’ve used it. It’s great when you just want to show folks some vacation photos without having them trudge upstairs to the computer — I can just boot up the PS3, select the MacBook Pro’s UPnP network and browse away. This has also worked on occasions where I needed to show off a trailer I’ve recently edited, for instance. The problem with this method is that the MacBook Pro has to be powered on all the time, and I’ve tried to make a habit of shutting it down when the work day is over (both for energy conservation as well as to spend quality time with the family).

So I started to research options to alleviate this problem, which has led me to NAS — short for network-attached storage. Basically, it’s a more-sophisticated hard drive box that allows you to share its contents in all kinds of cool ways. That includes UPnP, and many NAS systems also add BitTorrent, iTunes streaming, FTP and more. Adding NAS to my network would give me a central place to store a lot of my media content and be able to share it in very cool ways across my home & office, and even from anywhere I have FTP access.

My research quickly led me to D-Link’s DNS-323, a 2-bay network storage enclosure, which fits the bill for all of the above. While many of the NAS boxes available come with hard drives already included, I was looking for a cheap way to get up & running and be able to add my own hard drives. The DNS-323 is just an empty box, and CircuitCity.com has the best price at $130 (although sadly, it’s an outlet item and not available in-store, but they do offer free shipping). Open the front door, slide in one or two hard drives, configure everything and (in theory) you’re good to go.

D-Link’s website features a long list of compatible hard drives, so next up was finding the maximum storage for the minimum price. My search ultimately led me to Amazon.com, who have a great price on the Seagate ST31000430AS 1TB Barracuda SATA hard drive for only $110 each! Since I had a $20 Amazon gift certificate credit and shipping & tax was free, I wound up grabbing two of these drives and paying just under $200, which is a steal for 2 terabytes of data storage. (Do I really need 2 TB? Not right now, but I figure this gives me the option of striping the NAS as a RAID 1 mirror, which then gets me redundant backup and 1 TB of media storage.)

I ordered everything yesterday (Thursday, 11/13) and was surprised to see that Amazon shipped the drives out that night, while CircuitCity.com was estimating the D-Link box would arrive after Nov. 26. Being impatient, I decided to cave in and order the DNS-323 from Amazon as well, which is $160 before a $20 mail-in rebate. Because CircuityCity.com charges sales tax and Amazon doesn’t, the price (post-rebate) ultimately comes out about the same. (Of course, as fate would have it, this morning I discovered that both Amazon and CircuitCity.com shipped the D-Link box before I could cancel one of them… Amazon’s should be here on Tuesday, 11/18, while Circuity City’s tracking number doesn’t seem to work yet, so who knows. Obviously one of them is going back…)

From everything that I’ve been reading, this upgrade should be as easy as plugging in the drives, formatting them, setting up the NAS options, plugging it into my Airport Extreme Base Station and then porting over whatever media I decide to store there. Hopefully by next week at this time, I’ll have a Part 2 update with the actual setup and usage details… stay tuned!

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This entry was posted on Friday, November 14th, 2008 at 2:19 pm and is filed under Apple Talk, Gadgets, Random Thoughts, Technology. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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