Home media for the younger grouping of more technical minded people becomes a bit of a concern after a while. I’ve been considering options myself both for managing and storing digital media in a preferably protected manner as well as aquisition itself, be this via internet delivery or more traditional broadcast options (being in the UK this is DVB in my case). Firstly I’m considering what it needs to cater for. I have at home in regular use, one desktop, one laptop and an original Xbox running XBMC (Xbox Media Center), on this note I have yet to find a couch compatible media player which outdoes XBMC, especially when you consider the price (free!). I also live with others who might also wish to pull/push content at the same time so performance is a key consideration. In terms of media aquisition, bittorrent support is a definate must and expandability to cope with new delivery platforms is important. Broadcast DVB media could be aquired via this route, but my preference would be for a local receiver option.
Power consumption should also be decent, with the government busy bolstering the economy and pretending to care about the enviroment, energy prices are unlikely to fall and with multiple users and downloads to handle, the device will do considerable hours.
So from my point of view, the key points wind up being:
- Flexible (Bittorrent, perhaps DVB, DAAP?)
- Low power consumption (as low as possible)
- Expandable Storage (1Tb at least, RAID or similar redundancy a plus)
There’s an awful lot of interesting large capacity storage devices, unfortunatly most of them will not do the wide range of tasks which I would like them to perform as well as storage. Its a pity, especially with things like the Drobo around, extremly easy to use and well made, just a bummer its USB only, suitable for photographers etc (incidentally I picked up on the Drobo via Thomas Hawk). I originally thought the lack of USB was a bit short sighted of the developers but the review on ZDNet reveals a bit more about the market, turns out my needs are those of a minority (funny that). There are also things like the Buffalo Terrastation which received mixed press when it came out, or there’s the Infrant ReadyNAS devices, but they’re sort of expensive and thats without drives.
The best thing I’ve found so far as a prebuilt solution is the Bubba, runs Debian Linux as a backend, Webserver, Email, Print and file server in one as well as built in bittorrent support (although the bundled torrent handling isn’t that great so TorrentFlux might be a better alternative). And on the power front it kicks everything else into touch running on under 10W of power! On the down side it only has a single hard drive, although there are hacks to enable a second ‘internal’ hard drive so that could theoretically be either 1.5Tb or a redundant 750gb system. Kinda attractive and its not too bad on cost, it wouldn’t do the DVB side, but this could always be done by a nano-itx system as a side line. They’ve done a nice job with this device, the only major let down is the network interface which is only 100mbps.
Of course the other temptation in my head is the build the entire thing from scratch using a single nano-itx board with capacity for 4+ hard drives which would enable me to put in full DVB and streaming capability as well but at the expense of power efficiency. Decisions decisions! Not this month though, the government have stolen too much of my pay packet again! I’ll have to carry on mulling it over…
Update 04/04/08: I went for a totally different home server in the end, the Synology DS107+, click to read the results…