While the DLNA (Digital Living Network Alliance) wishes it were so, home PC and entertainment networks don’t simply get dropped into your home. If yours is like ours, they arrive slowly through a series of trials and errors.
That’s because you’re never really certain as to what you want because the product offerings are constantly changing. In addition, money and time are always in short supply.
As the network and applications expandâ€¦storage requirements soar.
Our home PC Ethernet network came first because four people in the household wanted their own computers. In addition, they all wanted access to “their” inkjet printer, their scanner and their high-speed Internet connection. That was relatively fast, relatively easy and relatively inexpensive.
Adding wireless service in the house was downright simple with the Linksys unit. Suddenly we could become a family again because the kids could take their notebooks anywhere in the house and yardâ€¦and they did.
Then came the projection system and the audio 5:1 surround system. Connecting these to our wired and wireless network was a challenge but not difficult.
In no time at all of the members of the family were timeshifting TV programs and the kids were buying and downloading music online as well as accessing new music from a number of free music web sites such as www.artistserver.com.
40GB notebook hard drives had to be upgraded to 80GB and desktop systems were upgraded to 120GB drives. That seemed to solve the storage requirements for everyone’s’ photos, videos, music (legal), personal files and office/school homework.
The problem was that everyone had his/her content and often the same content was duplicated on 2-3 systems â€¦ the songs, the photos, the videos. It was easier to copy over someone’s content to your hard drive rather than access it â€“ somewhere on the drive â€“ through the network.
When our son and daughter got involved in the use of the peer-to-peer service BitTorrent, their storage capacity began to shrink dramatically. If you aren’t aware, BitTorrent is an online distribution service that simplifies legal file sharing. It is amazingly powerful for accessing large files such as movies, games and similarly large content.
Unlike many file-sharing technologies, BitTorrent breaks giant files into tiny bits and spreads the distribution load among dozens or hundreds of computer users. The cooperative distribution system eliminates the bandwidth issue and from what we’ve seen in our kids downloads is very fast and efficient.
Storage upgrades and storage/content management was completely out of control.
NAS Content Storage
The solution was a network attached storage (NAS) system similar to the one we had in our office. One that could be used as a centralized digital media jukebox on our home entertainment network and provide home data backup for our home PC network.
But most of the plug-and-play home system solutions offered fixed capacity hard drives â€“ 120, 250 or 400GB â€“ that were expensive compared to the comparable internal hard drives. What we obviously wanted was a 400GB unit but those we looked at cost $700 – $1000 and didn’t totally meet our needs for TV timeshifting and BitTorrent support.
Since we already had an ADS PC-TV tuner card in our main system, we were attracted to their new NAS Drive Kit. It offered the things features we were looking for — ease of installation and operation — as well as the freedom to choose the highest capacity hard drive we could find at the lowest possible cost.
After a little shopping we found an ADS NAS kit for just under $100 and a 400GB 10,000-RPM hard drive for $120.
The combination was what we were looking for in an affordable network storage device â€“ automatic configuration, ftp and BitTorrent capabilities. A simple â€“ and affordable â€“ solution that would let us capture TV shows for later viewing; store and stream everyone’s personal choice in music; centralize our growing volume of good, bad and ugly photos and a place to save our yet-to-be-edited family videos.
Installing the hard drive takes just a couple of minutes. Slide the case open (figure 2); check the jumper settings; connect the IDE and power connectors (Figure 3); secure the hard drive onto the case and close it up.
Sort of makes you wonder why NAS units are so expensive.
ADS includes a quick start CD as well as cables and other materials you’ll need to integrate the NAS into your Ethernet and/or wireless PC/entertainment network (Figure 4). For people like us the quick setup wizard is really important since we know next to nothing about such things as user configuration or IP addresses.
The Wizard takes you through the complete process starting with the LAN cable connection all the way to hard drive initialization. The Auto-Run application loaded the minute the CD was inserted into the burner on our system and we simply followed the on-screen information.
In less than 15 minutes we had the NAS unit was connected to our router and the four-system wired and wireless network. After formatting the new drive, we set up user folder areas for each user including a huge general access area. Everyone in the family moved their music, photo and video files to the general area so they could immediately access the media they wanted to stream to their system without having to take up valuable local storage space. The process eliminated some of our duplicates but some of us wanted content accessible as well as a backup on the NAS server. The NAS provides immediate content availability since the unit delivers always-on access even if other computers aren’t active.
Sharing Content With Others
Because the ADS NAS unit is web, ftp and BitTorrent capable it enables a couple of us in the family to access and download an amazing array of music, multimedia and videos in a legal fashion. It also makes it possible for us to send (push) photos and family videos to relatives who have broadband access. For those still living in the dial-up dark ages it is easier and more efficient to let them know what is available on the ftp site so they can download and view the content at their leisure.
When we are on a business trip we’ve also gotten into the routine of backing up PowerPoint presentation changes, meeting notes and email correspondence to the home NASâ€¦just in case.
Of course, the wife and kids think its greatest feature is their ability to timeshift and store their favorite TV shows for later viewing and being able to access the complete family music library without overtaxing their own system’s hard drive.
The NAS kit delivers all of the features and capabilities of a number of the prepackaged solutions we considered with a lot more storage capacity. Best of all it only cost a fraction of the high-capacity NAS offerings and a quarter of an hour of our time.