Thursday, July 05, 2007

New Network Hard Drive

With both Mac and Windows machines on my home network I decided I wanted some shared storage that they could all access equally. I can access shared directories on the Windows machine from the Mac (haven't tried the reverse). But that means I have to turn on the Windows machine. And it doesn't give the Windows machine any backup storage.

I looked at various possibilities but looking for something that explicitly supported Mac narrowed the choices. I ended up with a 320gb Lacie ethernet disk mini ordered through Frontier PC. I hadn't dealt with them before but they looked like a reasonable choice for a Canadian supplier. There were no problems dealing with them and shortly I had my drive.

I plugged it into my wireless router and it "just worked". It even came with a network cable.

I had no problem accessing it from Windows and it wasn't much harder from the Mac. The problem with the Mac was trying to get it to connect at start-up. On Windows this is a simple matter of a checkbox, and from the web I understand Mac OS 9 was the same. But not anymore. I found various suggested solutions, none of them simple or easy. One problem was how to supply the user and password for accessing the drive. In the end I used Automator. The funny part was that for all it's fancy drag-and-drop graphical workflow, it all came down to getting the right cryptic url. In other words, Automator ended up being window dressing on a command line.

In case any one is tackling a similar problem, what I ended up with was a "Get Specified Servers" action followed by a "Connect to Servers" action. The url for the "Get Specified Servers" needed to be "afp://user:password@ipaddress/sharename" with the appropriate user, password, and numeric ip address.

The other trick is actually getting it to run when you log in. Again, Windows seems simpler (but maybe just because it's more familiar), you just put stuff in the Startup folder. On OS X you do it through System Preferences > Accounts > Login Items - not exactly easily discoverable.

Originally I had thought I would keep the master copies of my music and photo libraries on the shared drive so I could access it from any of my computers. But this didn't work too well. For example, if the network drive was disconnected for any reason (as it often was when I was first struggling to get the connect at log in to work) then Adobe Lightroom would recognize (rightly) that the files were not available. The problem was when the network drive was reconnected, Lightroom would start checking the availability of the files - roughly 10,000 of them, one at a time - not a speedy process!

So now I'm mainly using the network drive as a backup. My next plan is to come up with a way to sync my music and photos between the Mac and the network drive, possibly using ChronoSync which I saw recommended.

One feature that I don't have on the Lacie drive is the ability to run the SlimServer for my SqueezeBox. Currently I am running the server software on my Windows machine - but that means it has to be turned on if I want to play music. Theoretically it should be possible since the Lacie runs Linux and there is a Linux version of SlimServer, but I couldn't find anything on the web about how to do it. It does support UPnP A/V but unfortunately the SqueezeBox won't accept that. It's the usual trials and tribulations of trying to get things to work together.

1 comment:

Mtn Goat said...

Andrew: I usually only glance through this blog because most of the topics are just a wee bit too esoteric for me, but this network hard drive caught my attention. I've been wondering how I could have files available on the network to 2 or 3 machines withough having my main machine on all the time. Looks like with Windows machines this shouldn't be a problem. >Dave<