Here is the original master plan. It is notable mostly for predicting yesterday’s Apple TV announcement, and for my woeful bitching about the computer that I still have now (that was more than two years ago!) I now present to you, the new edition of the Home Computing Master Plan, as informed by the recently concluded Macworld 2008 Stevenote.
Caveat: Some of these items may not be made by Apple, but that should not diminish their worth in your eyes.
The Home Computing Master Plan has several components that fill basic needs in our digital life. Those needs include the protection and distribution of our precious data, the availability of personal processing, and the desire for access anywhere.
- 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. This past year, 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.
- 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.
- 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.
The plan: Precious Data
Right now, all of our precious data is stored on an Infrant ReadyNAS device. Our data takes up a little less than 500 GB. That’s all our stuff. The NAS is in RAID mode, and currently has two 500 GB drives. That means, if one of the drives fails, I can run out and buy another, slip it in, and all will be well. We’re starting to butt up against the limits of the two drives, however, and it may be time to buy a third drive (there are four slots).
I like the RAID system, but I worry a bit about the lack of a real backup. I’d like to have another copy of the data somewhere, not just a redundant version on the NAS. Leopard’s Time Machine is easy to use, and turns out to be pretty flexible. I like the idea of being able to revisit my files from a few days ago. That’s pretty cool. And it can use the Infrant NAS as a Time Machine disk. I just don’t know if it can do it over a network.
Also, to use Time Machine, you need a computer running Leopard. So that pretty much requires a desktop computer somewhere to “manage” our precious data.
So, the plan is to get a Mac mini with the minimum 120 GB drive, and attach an external drive, like Newer’s miniStack series, probably in the 1 TB size (just for fun). That’ll live in the kitchen, and hold all our data, run iTunes, etc. It’ll have a wireless keyboard stuck in a drawer, and a third party LCD in the smallish size (13 inches?) on an arm so I can hide it away.
The NAS will act as a Time Machine disk for the mini, and for the external drive (and for all our other Macs). This is, of course, assuming Time Machine will work over a network now, or soon. That way, all our data will exist in two places, and the backup will be a RAID device. Excellent!
The plan: Personal Processing
With the mini in the kitchen handling serverish duties (and kitchen-related web browsing, maybe bill paying) we’ll each need our own machines to keep our personal stuff. These machines will also be backed up to the NAS via Time Machine (the networking caveat still being exigent).
The wife will be sticking with her Windows laptops for a while. More power to her. I’ve got my old 12″ iBook G4, which is desperately in need of a refresh. The new MacBook Air is not for me. I have my eyes on a 15″ MacBook Pro, a large external monitor, and an external keyboard and mouse. I’d love a dock, but am unsure about the one dock available for the Mac, the ones from BookEndz. I guess you take what there is. I’ll also get a second battery and a battery charging station. Nothing like having to tether your laptop.
The boys don’t need computers yet, thank goodness.
The plan: Access Anywhere
To enjoy all of this, it is important to be able to get to my stuff wherever I am. With a laptop, I can take important stuff with me, and with Leopard’s screen/computer sharing, I can get to the mini when I need to. It may require a (shudder) .Mac subscription to be transparent.
We like listening to our music on iTunes, and our current setup is just about perfect in that regard. iTunes runs on our desktop machine (the mini in the new plan), and pipes the music to an Airport Express (should that be a venerable Airport Express?), which sends it out the audio jack to a hobby built FM transmitter. We tune the music in on our radios all over the house. Yay! But to change tracks, we need to go to the computer, or use one of several imperfect “remote” itunes controllers via my laptop. So, the plan calls for an iPod touch with Remote Buddy installed. Music listening nirvana. We have a little iPod (thanks, sis!) for the car, and that’ll do for now. Next car we buy had better have better iPod options though.
We’d also like to enjoy our pictures and movies more. Right now, the only way to do that is to set the 12″ iBook down on the coffee table, snuggle up three feet from the screen, and wait for stuff to stream from downstairs. We’ll solve this problem with a few items. First, a new base station, operating at the much faster 802.11n protocol. Then, I think I might spring for an Apple TV, probably the small one (we’d only be renting movies via its interface, any purchases would be done on the desktop machine and streamed to the TV via the new base station). I’ve officially given up on the TiVo as a home media streamer. Support on the Mac is woeful, and the Apple TV is cheap enough (and I have an HDMI slot open on my receiver) to get it, as it promises to work with the Apple ecosystem I already have. Yay, pictures and slideshows and movies (and rentals and ripped DVDs) on our TV. About time, I say.
Finally, to really get the most out of our digital life, I need to make more picture books. I’ve made a few, but they are a little expensive, so the incentive is not there. I could also make some DVDs, but I am perennially waiting for the next version of iDVD to make the process easier. I wait still.
This list is a little less pie-in-the-sky than the previous iteration, but much still hinges on one unanswered question: will Time Machine back up to a networked drive? No answer as of this writing.
So, the cost of all this? Too much, I’m sure, and the small LCD monitor will be hard to find, especially one that is VESA arm compatible. Let’s price it out, using my wife’s personal purchase .edu discount for the Apple Store stuff:
- Mac mini — 2.0 GHz, SuperDrive, 2 GB RAM, 120 GB HD, wireless keyboard+mouse, .Mac: $1113
- NewerTech miniStack v3 — 1 TB, 7200 RPM, 32 MB data cache: $480
- Seagate Barracuda 7200 RPM, 500 GB SATA internal disk for NAS: $160
- 15″ LCD Monitor (like one from ViewSonic or Dell): $160 to $190
- VESA-compliant wall mount swing arm for LCD: $60 to $100
- 15″ MacBook Pro — 2.6 GHz, 2GB RAM, 200 GB SATA 7200 RPM, Glossy Display, AppleCare: $2943
- 4GB RAM kit for MacBook Pro from Crucial: $108
- 24″ LCD Monitor (Apple if they do an iSight, Dell if not): $700 to $800
- New keyboard (wired): $50
- BookEndz dock for 15″ MacBook Pro: $300
- NewerTech 15″ MacBook Pro battery charger: $150
- Replacement battery for 15″ MacBook Pro: $116 from Apple (the only source currently)
- iPod touch — 16 GB: $400
- Remote Buddy license: $40 or so
- Airport Extreme 802.11n Base Station (assuming TimeMachine fix): $160
- Apple TV — 40 GB: $229
So, that comes to a grand total of $7339. Less than I thought, frankly. Securing our Precious Data would cost $2043. Upgrading my personal computer would cost $4467. Ouch. And getting all fancy with our digital assets would cost only $829.
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