My Home Media Player Issues

not exactly the clearest writing .. c’est la view

Apple TV, MSFT Media Server, HP Media Vault, Sling, Home NAS … all these devices are very cool. But I’m finding that all this means is that I’m having to become like a corporate IT guy at home. It was fun when I was the only user, but now my whole family uses everything. The system has to work all the time. My simple home network is now 2 Apple PCs (each with 5 user accounts), 1 WinTel PC, 2 TVs, 2 iPods, and Music System with 100’s of GB of data. It is soon to become 5 PCs and 4 iPods.

The biggest issue I have at home is keeping all the data available & safe. I’ve got over 40 Gigs of music which wants to be played on every appliance. Pictures are in same ballpark. These are manageable, but video just blows everything up! Even compressed video is huge: regular 1hour long TV show in DivX format is ~ 350MB, HR DivX format is ~700MB, and new 720p Matroska (.mkv) format is ~1G. This means that a full TV season compressed is from 8GB (23x.35) to 23GB. Make that 4 shows and I’ve got 100G real quick! Just moving a few video files from one disc to another is painful without GigE connections. It seems that video is best left on the DVD disc for now. Files need to be deleted for the next season’s DVD.

I like the Home NAS (MediaVault) concept of centralizing all the media files, but how do you back this up? Do I need 2 NAS boxes, and mirror them? Copying to DVD is hopeless, my music collection is already up to 12 DVDs. I’d like to move to lossless compression, so music could easily become 4x current size. A friend was using firewire drives for backing up key data.

Another issue with centralizing the data is that many PC centric applications aren’t set up to work from a server. I haven’t even checked to see if iTunes supports a central library in v7. I think it does, but … . For now all family music lives in my account and I’ve got sharing on. But this isn’t really a great solution.

Yet another issue that held me back from buying a home NAS (so far) is that most don’t support installation of 3rd party software by me the user. For example, I have the I/O Data networked DVD player. I/O Data has server software for the PC and MAC, but if I want a NAS server I have to buy theirs. Which is okay for one appliance, but do I then need a specific NAS for every appliance? Yuck. This is mostly a problem with NAS boxes developers believing that they need to be no more than 20% $premium over a firewire/USB drive. They are essentially Hard Drives, with low-end processor, and networking ports. To get the cost down they are generally maxed out low-end MIPs CPU based Linux boxes. I’ve heard that Buffalo has opened up their NAS box to 3rd Party software, but I’m betting that they still have a low-end processor on it. I’ll have to look.

This all said the MSFT’s Window Home Server seems pretty cool. But it is unfortunately, still vaporware. Supposedly it will work for mixed Apple/WinTel too.

Lots to do. I’m enjoying this 😉


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