Daily Archives: October 17, 2007

Time for a home network cleanup

It’s just about time for me to sort out the patchwork of devices on my home network. The real kicker for this has been all of the twitterings around the imminent release of Leopard, and some reading about what Time Machine is going to do for me. I’m excited.

Here’s the problem statement:

  • a Netgear 54G wireless router with firewall on an ADSL connection
  • a 64-bit AMD Linux workstation with RAID1 160Gb internal disk on which most of my photos are stored… but the power switch is broken and I rarely have the machine on as a) it has overheating issues and b) I have to touch pins on the motherboard to boot it. Half of my email archives are on here too.
  • a Pentium 3 Linux server – a total workhorse. It fetches all my email from various accounts, filters it using SpamAssassin, and serves it up via SquirrelMail; it also presents our old black-and-white HP LaserJet to the other machines via Samba.
  • Windows XP Thinkpad with two iTunes libraries, and some more photos (this used to be my primary photo processing machine prior to the MBP). The RAW photo library is split between an expired beta copy of Lightroom, and stuff from Rawshooter which hasn’t been imported to Lightroom. I used to back the photo directory to the Linux workstation over the network, since the disks were RAIDed.
  • MacBook Pro which has my primary iTunes library (i.e. the one that syncs to my nano) and the majority of my photos… but the disk is getting pretty full, to the point where I’m no longer ripping CDs even though I want to… and I’ll soon have to move some of my photos off, but worry about breaking the Lightroom library.
  • Windows XP Thinkpad which has yet more music on it.
  • couple of external USB disks (300Gb and 250Gb I think) which have various backed-up things on them.

This all works, but it’s a bit of a mess really.

My questions / needs are:

  • shared storage which will support a consistent and large photo library, a large music library, and Time Machine backup.
  • access to the printer (which is parallel, so I guess I need to keep the old Linux server, which is OK… or do I ditch the printer and get something more modern)
  • how to get all of the photos together into a single library… in fact, how to sort out my workflow in general. Essentially I don’t want Lightroom getting upset if I move photos off to external storage, and I guess I’d probably still import images to a local disk on the MBP when I connect the camera (as I may not be at home when I do that) and then move them off to the shared / external disk later. On a related note, what is the “right” workflow… do people export JPEGs from Lightroom into iPhoto when “done”? I currently don’t really use iPhoto and I’m not sure I’m making the most of the Mac.
  • a centralised iTunes library but one which I can sync my iPod to, and which I can potentially have a subset of on the MBP disk for travelling (is that even possible?). I don’t expect the whole library of all of my ripped CDs to fit onto the MBP or the iPod, ever – I have a LOT of them.
  • support for a mixed network. I guess I’ll continue to have a Windows box somewhere, although I’m (*gasp*) seriously considering the removal of the Linux things and replacement with an iMac or Mac Pro (at some point – contrary to the way this post must make me sound, I am not made of money)

I’m hearing good things (from Maria Langer, who I’ve come to trust on Mac issues) about the AirPort Extreme. I assume that I could get one, link it to the Netgear router, and attach disks to that. I’ve already read about the NSLU2, and had my eye on one for a couple of years. I also wonder about a proper NAS unit, and then I wonder about RAID options. Or, I could go for another external disk… I have no objection to that provided that I have the discipline to hook the MBP up to it for Time Machine usage when I’m at home. I’m thinking I’ll do a full backup of the Mac before I install Leopard anyway.

Then there’s just the small matter of actually combining all of the data in one place. I get the impression that this will be messy, and that’s why I haven’t done it yet. Combining iTunes libraries which may contain duplicates… not knowing how I can split music between the network and the laptops… trying to merge a full-version Lightroom library with a beta one and then a load of stuff from Rawshooter and my pre-DSLR pics… you can probably see why I’ve been putting all of this off.

Ugh. And here I am working in the IT industry and allegedly knowing about this stuff. I guess it’s like the old adage “physician, heal thyself”…

Advice gratefully received…