Home Mac Network w/external hard drive

Discussion in 'Mac Accessories' started by dpublake, Sep 16, 2005.

  1. dpublake macrumors newbie

    Joined:
    Sep 16, 2005
    #1
    I own a Powerbook laptop, an Airport Express, and a large external firewire+USB hard drive. On the hard drive I have a large amount of music stored which I would like to have ready access to. However, it is cumbersome and annoying to have the hard drive connected to my Powerbook, as well as deal with turning it on/off and mounting/unmounting it every time I'd like to access the information on it.

    My question is: is there a simple way to plug my hard drive into a dedicated place on my network that I could then access easily from my laptop, ideally the Airport Express? In other words, is it possible to plug an external hard drive into the USB port on the Express and have it be a network drive that you can access? Or would this require buying a server? Would a mac-mini be an option as a server? Right now I have a wireless network set up in my apartment from the Airport Express, which has my printer hooked into the USB port so that it can be shared amongst other roomates. Could I use a USB splitter so that both the hard drive and my printer could be hooked into the Airport Express, available as a network drive? Can a hard drive be plugged into the Airport Express and left on to be accessed via the network? Is setting all of this up simple? I have little experience with it, so specific help is appreciated.

    Thanks!
     
  2. gekko513 macrumors 603

    gekko513

    Joined:
    Oct 16, 2003
    #2
    You can get stand alone file servers (NAS) that look like a regular external hard drive, but it has an ethernet port and runs a custom version of Linux to make it act like a file server. Synology makes servers like this, they also have Airport versions.
     
  3. dpublake thread starter macrumors newbie

    Joined:
    Sep 16, 2005
    #3
    I would like to accomplish this without buying additional hardware if possible, because I already have my external hard drive. That looks cool though, perhaps sometime in the future when I actually have money to spend. Anyone have an easy solution? If I can get the Airport Express to just recognize the drive, that would be fantastic.
     
  4. balamw Moderator

    balamw

    Staff Member

    Joined:
    Aug 16, 2005
    Location:
    New England
    #4
    Yeah, the problem is that your existing external hard drive doesn't have ethernet or wireless. So you need some device to take you from USB/Firewire to Ethernet/WiFi.

    One inexpensive solution is the Linksys NSLU2 which can be had for ~$80. It runs Linux, and there are third party firmwares that allow it to serve your iTunes via DAAP, etc... e.g. http://www.nslu2-linux.org/wiki/Unslung/HomePage

    This could most likely be plugged into the wired part of your network, e.g. the Ethernet port of your Airport Express.

    I'm frankly a bit surprised that no one has built custom firmware for the Airport Express yet that would give the USB more functionality. It's such a lovely little box.

    B
     
  5. hayduke macrumors 65816

    hayduke

    Joined:
    Mar 8, 2005
    Location:
    is a state of mind.
    #5
    Right. So he was asking if he could plug is USB external drive into the Airport Express' USB input and share it wirelessly. So? Can he?

    Recall,

     
  6. balamw Moderator

    balamw

    Staff Member

    Joined:
    Aug 16, 2005
    Location:
    New England
    #6
    No. The Airport Express USB port only supports certain printers and the KeySpan remote. Also depending on how it is configured the Ethernet port can be disabled, e.g. in my case at home where my main WiFi is provided by The Westell piece of (*^(&*^ that Verizon provided and the Airport Express is just a client.

    Note that the NLSU2 will only support hard drives and usb flash drives out of the box, but it's firmware has been hacked to provide support for pretty much any USB device supported by linux.

    B
     
  7. dpublake thread starter macrumors newbie

    Joined:
    Sep 16, 2005
    #7
    You're right about that. I just found this page on Apple's website: http://docs.info.apple.com/article.html?artnum=107857 which tells us that the USB can only really be used for printers, and only one at a time (no hubs). There was the one firmware upgrade for a remote control for Airtunes, but otherwise it's a wide-open possibility.
     
  8. balamw Moderator

    balamw

    Staff Member

    Joined:
    Aug 16, 2005
    Location:
    New England
    #8
    In your original post you asked if the Mini would be able to act as a server, and the answer there is absolutely yes. You could hook up your exernal drive to a Mini. This would have some definite advantages over using something like the NSLU2, but would be more than 5x as expensive and power hungry.

    Note that to use the NSLU2 though you most likely would have to reformat the external drive to ext2fs (Linux's file system) which would make it unreadable from your p-book, but it would be transparently mountable over the network by you and your roommates.

    Since your stated intent is sharing tunes, you really don't want NAS (network attached storage), you want a media server that would allow you and your roomates to enjoy the tunes on your hard drive. A Mac mini or an NSLU2 with custom firmware would both do that.

    B
     
  9. Err macrumors member

    Joined:
    Aug 19, 2005
    #9
    the NSLU2 is the best idea, 70$ from newegg. low power, quiet, cheap..... perfect solution to your problem...

    and..... it can run linux....
     

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