Thoughts on home networking

Discussion in 'Buying Tips and Advice' started by ready2switch, Nov 20, 2006.

  1. ready2switch macrumors 6502

    Joined:
    Apr 7, 2006
    #1
    I have been planning my switch to a Mac for over a year now and even though it’s still a few months away (for financial reasons) I would love to get some thoughts on how to best set up my home network.

    My current set up is this:
    Dell Dimension 4300 (nicknamed “Dino” for obvious reasons)
    Dell Inspiron E1505 (C2D running XP Media Center)
    3-year-old Toshiba cable modem
    Belkin Wireless-G broadband router
    Brother laser printer (not sure which model, can post details when I get home if needed)

    The laptop is my husband’s computer and is only 2 months old. Right now Dino is my primary computer, the print server, and the main file server (though I’ve noticed my husband putting more and more of his files on his laptop hard drive, which is bigger than the one in Dino). In the spring I will be getting a 17” MBP and getting rid of Dino as well as the space needed for a desktop setup. My goal is to free up the “office” and turn it into a den or guest room/future child’s room. I do not want a computer room, desk, or area of any kind. This is not negotiable.

    Anyway, my current thoughts on my future setup is to get rid of Dino, get a print server for the printer, and have just the 2 laptops connected through the wireless.

    So I guess my question is, does anyone see a reason for me to 1) keep Dino indefinitely or 2) replace Dino with another machine (would be something like a headless Mini tucked away on a bookshelf)? Does anyone have an idea for a better way to set this up?
     
  2. Westside guy macrumors 601

    Westside guy

    Joined:
    Oct 15, 2003
    Location:
    The soggy side of the Pacific NW
    #2
    Well, keeping Dino would allow you to put off buying the print server anyway.

    In my family we've all now got laptops, but I've kept our older Dell (not as old as yours) around. I put Fedora Linux on it, added a big hard drive, and now use it as a file+backup server - it's running various apps that let it act as an AFP file server for the Macs as well as an SMB server for my wife's Windows laptop. But that can be kind of a pain to set up, and does have some limitations; so at some point I plan to replace it with a Mac (maybe a new mini, maybe just an old already-owned iBook laptop driving a big external disk). The Mac is certainly easier to set up and maintain.

    All in all I think your plan is good, as long as - one way or the other - you've got backups covered. Many people don't think about that.
     
  3. roland.g macrumors 603

    roland.g

    Joined:
    Apr 11, 2005
    Location:
    One mile up and soaring
    #3
    I would look into getting an Airport Extreme or Express which supports wireless USB printing. Then both Laptops can print to the Brother which is connected to the wireless. If you keep your existing wireless you can extend the area and not have the printer in the same place as the modem. If you do want the modem and printer together, ditch your current wireless router and just use the one. Both Extreme and Express support wireless USB printing through Bonjour for both Mac and Windows. You could hook up a Mini on a shelf via airport or ethernet to the Airport and use that as a media drive/server for music etc. But if you are going that route, hook it up to your tv as a media center, it can be your dvd player, play music, surf the web, print wireless, do photo slideshows, etc. all with the remote, and wireless mouse and keyboard from your couch. Add a firewire stackable or other enclosure drive for extra storage.
     
  4. ready2switch thread starter macrumors 6502

    Joined:
    Apr 7, 2006
    #4
    I've had a new thought on this, and it leads toward getting the mini that I've secretly wanted for over a year now.

    We've had a new addition to our household. A 47" HDTV. However, our movie collection is currently almost all widescreen version DVDs, which as anyone with a widescreen TV knows either leaves you with a black box on all sides of the picture, or a stretched strip of a movie with massive letter box on top and bottom. As I've not found a TV that can remedy this, I'm not ready to cough up for an HD DVD collection, I can't watch a stretched picture, and I don't want to NOT watch my movies, my idea is this: Get the mini to replace "Dino", use it as the file server, print server, and media base, but particularly as a DVD player. Why? Because computers allow for full screen configuration on a 16:9 screen! :D

    Only question is....will the mini support the 47" HDTV?

    Edit: After some quick research, it appears that the mini can support the 47". And just FYI, it's a Westinghouse 1080p monitor and it's just beautiful.
     
  5. aristobrat macrumors G4

    Joined:
    Oct 14, 2005
    #5
    Crazy, that's almost exactly how I have our place setup.

    I love love LOVE having the mini connected to our living room TV .. Front Row is just plain fun (for me, anyway) and makes the mini so much more purposeful than just being a "cute" headless file server. Although we do have a BT keyboard/mouse hooked up to it, 99% of the time we use just the Apple Remote, and the other 1% (when we need to do something non-Front Row related), we use OSXVnc to remote control it.

    Our cable modem is near our living room TV/stereo (don't ask), but that worked out well because the modem plugs into an Airport Express that we have plugged into our stereo (for streaming iTunes).

    We also have an Airport Express towards the rear of the house running in WDS to expand the network and act as a print server.

    It's been about a year since we switched from desktops (3 of us) to notebooks and it's been great. We've gotten SOOOOO much more space in the house back (by ditching the desks), and it's great to be able to take your notebook and pop down wherever to do whatever, vs. being tethered to a desk.

    The only thing I'm not thrilled about is how long it can take to move 2 or 3gb across WiFi. I'm anxious to see what Apple does with the new 802.11n stuff. :)
     
  6. Westside guy macrumors 601

    Westside guy

    Joined:
    Oct 15, 2003
    Location:
    The soggy side of the Pacific NW
    #6
    That sounds a bit odd. If the aspect ratio of the movie is greater than 16:9, then certainly you will still get some letterboxing - there's no way around that if you want accurate reproduction of the movie. But if you're seeing a "massive letter box", I think something is wrong either with the TV or with your DVD player. The widest movie I've watched had an aspect ratio of 2.35:1, and even then I couldn't by any stretch of the imagination have called the letterboxing "massive"; nor was their any stretching of the picture.

    Not really related to your networking question though. :p
     
  7. ready2switch thread starter macrumors 6502

    Joined:
    Apr 7, 2006
    #7
    I just mean that the movie was letterboxed to fit in the 4:3 screen, which the widescreen tv has to add black bars on either side to recreate (framing the picture in bars, bascially). The TV will only remove those side bars, causing the movie to stretch side to side, but not make up the difference top and bottom, which leaves a "strip" in the middle of the TV with the stretched movie on it. (there is no way to make the TV/DVD player "zoom" in to only the movie part, thereby getting rid of the letterbox bars on top and bottom.) I wish I could explain it better, but bottom line is, I want the picture to be accurate, not stretched. :D
     
  8. gnasher729 macrumors P6

    gnasher729

    Joined:
    Nov 25, 2005
    #8
    Could it be that you have set your DVD player to play in 4:3 format? Happened to me when I bought the first widescreen TV; the DVD player had been set up for 4:3 to work with the old TV when I bought it, and it took me some time to figure out why I couldn't get a decent picture.
     
  9. ready2switch thread starter macrumors 6502

    Joined:
    Apr 7, 2006
    #9
    It's very possible. However, I looked for an extended period of time after hooking everything up and couldn't find any settings in this regard. Perhaps I will look again tonight just to double check.
     
  10. Westside guy macrumors 601

    Westside guy

    Joined:
    Oct 15, 2003
    Location:
    The soggy side of the Pacific NW
    #10
    I see. it's probably a combination of things - your connection between the DVD player and the TV, plus the "zoom" options available on your TV. If you have a DVD player that can connect to the TV via component (note: different than composite) video cables, you'll find that a) it will probably resize automatically to fill the screen as much as possible; and b) the picture from your DVDs will be noticeably improved. I was amazed at how nice a regular DVD looks in 480p mode; especially the animated ones!

    My Sony HD LCD television has three different zoom modes; one of which takes a letterboxed 4:3 show (say "Enterprise", which has the 16:9 ratio but is broadcast as a letterboxed 4:3 show for those of us that don't have HD cable) and expands it to fill the entire screen in both directions. You might double-check to see if you have any additional zoom modes that you don't know about.
     
  11. ready2switch thread starter macrumors 6502

    Joined:
    Apr 7, 2006
    #11
    Thanks to gnasher729 and Westside guy for helping with my problem. Turns out my DVD player was smart enough to play in 16:9 (though the operator wasn't). Guess what? You get a COMPLETELY different set of menus if you don't have a disk in than when you do. :eek: Of course, there goes 1 reason to get that mini. :( Oh well, I might get it anyway ;) :D
     
  12. Westside guy macrumors 601

    Westside guy

    Joined:
    Oct 15, 2003
    Location:
    The soggy side of the Pacific NW
    #12
    I don't think it's the operator. The interface on my DVD player, like yours and gnasher729's, is not intuitive at all. I think one of the ways some companies get the cost of electronics (such as DVD players) so low is by firing all their usability testers. :p

    That's one of the reasons I like my Mac so much - THEY know how to design an interface!
     
  13. aristobrat macrumors G4

    Joined:
    Oct 14, 2005
    #13
    Their interface design is one reason I'm really excited to see how the upcoming iTV product turns out!

    If iTV is a better experience than a mini + Front Row, I guess my mini is going back to being "just a small, headless server" again. :cool:
     

Share This Page