Back in Oct/Nov I wrote a post on why I didn’t go with the PS3 as a BD player – citing it as overkill for the immediate needs of my home and noting that moving to a digital only format didn’t fit. I think part of the lack of fit was a result of a couple of other situations that have now evolved. The first is storage. Previously my storage situation saw me housing data in a range of firewire drives strung off my now aging PowerMac G5 (Dual 2Ghz), all that storage came up to just over 900GB. Not bad if it was in one volume, but over 6, the free space on the individual drives wasn’t going to be good for much more than scratch, totaling maybe 75GB put together. Most of what I have stored are photos in various stages of restoration, a couple of wedding videos (mine and my brother-in-laws) that are starting to be captured, music, photos and archived copies of previous video work that I had done. So the transition to a digital video as a format used within the home wasn’t really something that made much sense. Sure I could (read would) have upgraded the PS3 HDD to 320GB, but that would still have likely only a portion of all my DVDs available at one time (I think) as the PS3 would not be able to stream. The second of course is need – I didn’t see the need, nor did my wife (and only now is traction being made there), to have free and easy access to all manner of videos and movies anywhere in the house. So what changed? Well, I took a look at the number of photos that I will likely take in 2009 (I’m thinking about 10K), the minutes of video (24h?) and the change in workflow and “place of entertainment”.
The new captures would have needed about 300GB and the change in workflow would need some way to allow everyone in the house to add photos and video into a central store. The first solution that popped into my head… NAS… and then Drobo! Well looking at the price of the Drobo, I started to think that it might be a bit on the high side for what I needed, but it would give me some cool computer like features (torrents and other fun stuff). That got me to thinking… well I can do that on my old tower… and it’s Mac, so getting things going would be pretty easy via simple sharing. So for the cost of just the enclosure, I bought two 1.5TB Drives (Seagate 1.5TB Barracuda – firmware CH1H – and saving me from upgrading like this) from Memory Express including the extended coverage with change left over. So I gained more storage, but I lost redundancy – I know I’m playing with fire as it is “not if, but when” a drive will fail, but I’m sure that I will be able to get some manner of backup solution in place within a year (and it might be Drobo should my baby photo business take off the way that I hope it will).
The “places of entertainment” changed from where the TVs are to many places where they might not be, and we might not always be able to get to the physical media that we would want to watch anyway. Babies will do that right? After ripping the first three seasons of MASH with Handbrake (.91, even though it is now depricated and not .93 that seems to be very unstable – though .92 might work and I might use that to covert the non AppleTV files in batches as well) and dumping off many of the cell phone videos, the “rest of the family” seem to have seen the light. So using the laptops, we are able now to watch any of the ripped or torrented videos anywhere in the house – explaining it as “doing the same thing for DVDs as we did for CDs when we ripped them”.
After adding the additional drives to the Mac (the old towers are not quite tool less and not really that intuitive as the new towers), I found that the g connection that I had to the server was fine to pull down torrents and move small files, but larger files (especially when the DVD drive died the same day the G5 moved to the basement) were a no go now (hello Firewire sneakernet!). It also took a few seconds longer than “natural” to buffer the video than I liked. So I hunted down the DLink (yeah, I know… but I got it for a steal) USB wifi adapter, the DWA-130 and plugged that on to get an almost entirely n network in the house (the Airport Express is g). At first I was a bit worried because the box says that it is Windows only, but a quick Google solved that with Mac drivers.
So you might have noticed that I mentioned torrents up there… and thought… WHA?? He doesn’t torrent – he’s all about buying copies and not pirating. But the way that I’m using the technology is to download copies of DVDs that I already own so I can build my library quickly (with these being replaced with Handbrake AppleTV present rips – so I’m well within what the RCMP would/might consider safe, IMO) and create a “better PVR” as it seems that torrents, at least in Canada are going to be another way to get to content (at least for CBC). To be able to play the torrents, which usually come down as Quicktime unfriendly formates, I installed Perian on the laptops to give them access to .avi, .xvid and .mkv files. Should the time come that the PS3 ever comes down in price (May?), it is already able to play these formats, and should I not want to hack (via some form of XBMC/Plex) an AppleTV if I ever get one I can use Video Drive to move videos into an iTunes library (choosing to manage the files on my own, so that way I don’t loose flexibility).
Unfortunately, the flexibilty that I should have with videos may not work with music, but I am still working on that part as I still have to move all the music from the various machines to the server. I know I can share a common library, but being able to add and manage from more than one place might be a bit of a trick still. I could use something like SuperSync, but I don’t think the three or for times a year that music gets added to the collection warrants this manner of investment. I was also thinking that this same issue would happen with photos (the origin of this adventure).
When testing if I could manage a photo library from many places, I was frustrated to see that Aperture doesn’t allow the library to be accessed over a network drive (I think it is a permissions thing… so I could have figured it out – and might still – but for now, FW externals will still do the trick, now that they have more free space), but very pleased to see the iPhoto just play fine over the network and allows for a simplified import system for photo and video into the server for everyone.
Looking back over the sharing of music, videos and photos, I came to the realization that the family will still need to “grow into” this new system, so the compromises are acceptable. With the music, I figured having independant libraries is still a good thing because the laptops are mobile and they might have to go elsewhere… binding to a server for all music would have lost one of the key benefits of the laptop. When it comes to videos, compressed files are easy enough now to pull off the network and take along when the need comes (freeing space in the diaper bag :)) and photos… well aren’t they bound to the network now? Well yes… but those that we will want to share are shared via email… and that is still easy enough to access anywhere.
Since this is an evolution, we have to start somewhere right? And as such, I’ll be chronicling how this setup evolves and on the next post (or sometime soon), I’ll try to put out some ideas as to how/why one might want to do this to help support their own classroom/research lab… even though the IT folk already have a network in place.
So endith the brain dump.