The Home Computing Master Plan

This is where I lay out my aspirations, dreams, and plans for our home computing setup.  Various editions of the Plan have existed over the years, but I have finally decided to keep one central page with the most up-to-date version of the Plan.  Maybe it’ll help someone.  Mostly it will help me.

Last updated on April 17, 2013, apropos of nothing.


tl;dr

  • Currently Have: a 21.5″ iMac (2012), 802.llg(n) wireless, Apple TV 2, 1 iPad mini, 2 first gen iPads, 2 iPhones 5, Time Machine local backup, Crashplan cloud backup.
  • Real Needs: Gosh, I don’t think we have any real needs right now.
  • Plan to Get: Ask again later.

TOC
Needs Assessment
Personal Processing
Precious Data
Access Anywhere
Next Steps


Needs Assessment

The Home Computing Master Plan has several components that fill basic needs in our digital life. Those needs include keeping our data safe, having decent computers to work on, and being able to get to our digital life from anywhere.

  • Personal Processing: The original plan called for “Powerhouse Processing,” a tower-grade computer somewhere in the house that could really crunch. At the time, I was coming off of a job where I had that kind of power, and I thought it was a required item in the Plan. Well, it isn’t. We just need competent computers. But we each need our own, that much is clear.
  • Precious Data: We have a lot of data that only exists in digital form. Pictures, movies, music, documents, etc. Much of that (the photos especially) is priceless and irreplaceable. In 2007, we spent upwards of $2,000 recovering that data from two failed hard drives, and I don’t care to do that again. Our data should be secure and backed-up.
  • Access Anywhere: To best enjoy our digital life, we need to be able to get to it from where we are: the TV room, the kitchen, the car, the store, school, vacation, wherever.

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Personal Processing


Currently

Right now we have one “family” computer, a 2012 21.5″ iMac. It is pretty capable, and I really don’t have any problems with what it can and can’t do. It has the SSD/Hard Drive magic combo (Apple calls it a Fusion drive) and feels pretty snappy.

In addition, my wife has a work-provided HP laptop, her own personal iPad mini, the kids have a first generation iPad each, and my wife and I have iPhones 5.

Thoughts

With a modern, refreshed computer, this setup is pretty good. We seem to still need a “central unit” of some sort, that people can share. There are times when the kids are on it that I want to use it, so I might need a secondary better/bigger computing platform than my iPhone can provide. It has 1 TB of capacity, that is about 60% full right now. We are pretty much set processing-wise.

The Plan

Got a new computer (wow was the 2007 mini slow), so we are pretty set for a while. I’m Jonesing for my own iPad(though my wife’s iPad mini is really about the perfect size, isn’t it?), but it will probably have to wait until the budget recovers from the iMac. I’m definitely not in the market for my own laptop. Even with the current situation, I feel like a laptop is overkill. THe boys could probably use more modern iPads.

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Precious Data


Currently

The iMac (1 TB Fusion drive) has all of our precious data on it. This is backed up via Time Machine to a 1TB Seagate GoFlex drive, over USB. The data is also backed up to the cloud via Crashplan.

The kids’ iPads are backed up to the Mac every so often (though switching computers “lost” their iTunes connection, so it is nebulous what’s what here). Our iPhones backup to iCloud. My wife’s HP laptop from work is not backed up… anywhere I suspect, but certainly not by us at home.

Thoughts

I am done with hugely complicated backup solutions. I’ve done them all, and I want no RAIDs, no multiple drives, no third-party-is-better automated systems. I will use the built in Time Machine to backup to a small, semi-disposable, easily replaced hard drive, and rely on the cloud as a further safety net. While it took a bit of time (a month?) for the initial upload to Crashplan, after that, the backing up to the cloud is hardly noticeable.

See also: printing photos is kinda like backup; should do more of that.

The Plan

This all works fine, and is probably the way we’ll go for the foreseeable future: Main computer backed up to an external drive and to the cloud; Mobile devices backed up to the Mac or iCloud; Wife’s laptop out in the cold.

I want a faster wireless network (see below), and would be tempted by a Time Capsule as an external Time Machine drive, except they have a terrible reputation for crappy drives that fail all the time.

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Access Anywhere


Currently

Well, at home we have an 802.11n network, but it runs a slow 802.11g speed, because we have devices that can’t talk that fast (like the TiVo). But we can get movies, shows, games, our music, etc. all over the house, on phone, iPads, or the Apple TV. Outside the house we have our LTE iPhones, and between services like Crashplan and Dropbox, my websites, and iCloud, we are pretty much covered.

Thoughts

Within the home, I’d like a faster network, at least n, but I’m also waiting for the next bump in 802.11, the 802.11ac spec, to come out and be officially supported. Between OS X, the Apple TV 2, iPads and iPhones, we can get to our data reasonably well inside the house.

Outside of the house, our iPhones 5 provide enough connectivity, for now. We did get a cell connection with my wife’s iPad mini, and that has proven to be pretty sweet. I use Dropbox and Crashplan to get to and share my data, and that works pretty well for me.

I’m not really in a bind anywhere in this regard, and new things will only make this better. I can wait.

The Plan

Increasingly everything comes either WiFi or Bluetooth dependent, and our current wire-free systems are fine in that regard. I think we’ll wait another cycle, probably.

I do plan to spend some money printing pictures, most likely in books. That’ll be both “wireless” access and “backup,” too.

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Next Steps

This is where I prioritize the plan, where I can come and look and know what to buy next.

  1. Nothing critical is on the horizon…

Then it gets a little murky. Eventually we’ll want new devices for the kids, a new printer that works with iOS would be nice, and a new wireless router with faster speeds. The new iMac might precipitate spending money on some photo books, I suppose. Our TiVo is old, but I’m holding out for a better understanding of Apple’s direction with the Apple TV. I’d like a new lens for my camera. But we just bought a new car, so. Murky.

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