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.


  • 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.

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.


Personal Processing


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.


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.


Precious Data


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.


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.


Access Anywhere


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.


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.


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.


P.S., We’re tak­ing dona­tions!