Wireless external drive to stream itunes library

Discussion in 'Buying Tips and Advice' started by electricmook, Feb 2, 2009.

  1. electricmook macrumors newbie

    Feb 2, 2009
    Ok.. first post on MacRumors.... here goes!

    I've got a macbook pro, a sky broadband setup with the sky router and a huge itunes library (300gb plus..)

    There isnt enough room on the macbook to store my itunes and then save anything else (hence the need for an external drive), and also I'd like to share my library around the home and across the internet using simplify media or an equivalent app - if possible.

    My question is, is there an external drive (Im guessing Id need around 350gb to be sure of space) that I can connect to my sky router, save my itunes library to, and then stream from to my macbook (at home and remotely)

    There are a couple of attractive looking freecom drives that Ive seen, but I have read about configuration and compatibility difficulties so am not sure if they are the route to go down.

    I also keep reading about the airport extreme base stations, and Im not sure if replacing the sky router with one of these would be beneficial.

    Anyway, Im a bit stuck and getting slightly ahead of myself!
    Any pointers would be appreciated :)

  2. MagnusVonMagnum macrumors 603


    Jun 18, 2007
    You want to look at NAS solutions if connecting drives directly to your network is what you really want to do. Do a quick search on Amazon and you'll find a few options and price ranges. Some people like ReadyNAS and some people hate it, but it does include an iTunes server (you can always just point iTunes to a library stored on the network or at least put the files there, though I think even without the server, but don't quote me on that). Lacie has an Ethernet drive option for only about $100-150 more than a regular external hard drive including one that can also connect via USB2 directly should the need arise (network down or whatever).

    This may sound odd, but you could buy a used Mac for relatively little money and add whatever internal or external hard drives you want to it and connect that to the network (I use an old PowerMac as a network server connected via Gigabit to my Netgear Gigabit 802.11N router) and it can not only run iTunes directly (I serve it around the house to two AppleTV units and as a shared library to my MBP and Windows machine) and it also gives me a dedicated always on web terminal/messaging/e-mail center and can scan/edit my photos to add to the media drive, etc. as well. I just leave it running 24/7.
  3. electricmook thread starter macrumors newbie

    Feb 2, 2009
    Hey there, thanks for the quick reply.

    you say if connecting to the network is what I really want to do..
    Is this something that you would avoid?
    I sense some hesitancy in your reply...

    Is there a reason why I wouldnt do this?

    re. the extra machine as storage, yeah, that would be a great idea, but ideally all of this set up would take place in a super small cupboard where the phone line sits, and there is absolutely no room at all for any major hardware.
    This is the main reason I was thinking a neat little setup with single drive feeding into the router would work a treat! (he hopes...)

    Im just looking a Freecom Network Drive 500 GB which has NAS and LAN capability, but someone on Amazon has reported back that there are mac/NAS compatibility issues.
    He however, is trying to do regular backups across a wireless network to the drive, I simply want to store and stream music.

    After saying all that, Im wondering whether backing everything up across the network is actually a good idea after all.
    Im not super familiar with the airport extreme unit, but could I use something like that to hook into various drives?
  4. MagnusVonMagnum macrumors 603


    Jun 18, 2007
    Well, there's a couple of things I don't like about most NAS devices I've read about. One is that most of them seem to be unreliable. I don't know how many reviews I've read where people seem to lose their data, even on ones that are suppose to mirror it. Many seem to include Seagate drives, which probably explains the relatively high failure rates. Some don't seem to like Macs much. None can serve iTunes directly to things like AppleTV so you always need a Mac or PC running anyway (so why not use them as the NAS in that case). They also cost considerably more than a firewire external drive and are typically WAY slower (even with Gigabit) for some reason. You'll need either a Raid 1 model (to mirror you data) or a 2nd drive to back it up or else risking losing all your data (very very bad when encoding and ripping takes up SO much time to do) and those models aren't cheap either (a 2nd external for backups is ok in price, but then you have to use other software (or copy it yourself) the media files over to it.

    I'm guessing you don't want to simply add an external drive because you want to keep the Macbook portable (i.e. no devices to hang off it)? Depending on your usage and future plans for media, you could add a larger internal drive to the Macbook for now (plenty of 500GB drives available these days) and save some considerable money in the short term.

    A Mac Mini (yeah the used G4 ones shouldn't cost much) plus external drive wouldn't take up too much space and would have the aforementioned advantages (true iTunes server, etc.) and probably would be more reliable than some of the NAS devices out there. If you have a docking station for your notebook, you could even use the monitor's 2nd input (if it has one) and keep a Mini on your desk.

    Well, a single drive could lead to a loss of your entire media library, so unless you want to risk it, you'd better get a backup drive of some kind or a Raid 1 model.

    Most NAS units on Amazon (some even very expensive ones) have issues for SOME people and many are slow hence the reason I prefer using a Mac (even a small mini). But then I have two AppleTV units and need a full iTunes running regardless so an NAS isn't that useful to me. An NAS is really just a small headless computer with a hard drive in a network capable little box anyway. Most run Linux or Windows Home Server. You can typically put your own software on them with a little hacking.

    I'm not terribly familiar with airport extreme (I use Netgear Gigabit) but I think it does have some kind of hard drive connection option, but I'm not sure how useful it is. I do think it's supposed to be pretty slow. It's been awhile, but I seem to recall many people liking a certain D-Link NAS because it was easily hacked to run whatever extra software they needed (Squeeze Center, iTunes server, whatever). The best thing you can do is read reviews on NAS units and try to find a reasonably priced one that is reasonably reliable.
  5. Tomorrow macrumors 604


    Mar 2, 2008
    Always a day away
    It's not all doom and gloom. I picked up one of these at Fry's about six months ago for $239 and change. 2 TB in RAID 1 (for 1 TB useable), remote access, always on, and I've never had a problem with it.

    It will stream iTunes to any of the computers (Mac or PC) in my house, it says you can do the same remotely but I haven't tried it. You CAN set it up for remote HTTP or FTP access, which I can vouch for.

    One thing about using a NAS for iTunes - depending on how big your library database file is, it can take several seconds to load and shutdown iTunes. My library is around 25 Gb, and there's about an 8-10 second delay on starting iTunes and again on exiting. I don't know how this will translate to your 300+ Gb library.
  6. electricmook thread starter macrumors newbie

    Feb 2, 2009
    Hey there..
    Thanks again for the totally thorough reply..
    A lot for me to digest there!

    Time for me to take a time out, read through it a couple of times and do some more research.

    Thanks a mill for the heads up, Im sure I'll be back with some more questions in the next 24hrs! :)
  7. electricmook thread starter macrumors newbie

    Feb 2, 2009
    the buffalo drive has actually just been recommended to me elsewhere and it looks like it might be a decent option for everything actually!!

    Just need to do a bit more reading on the encryption as the spec says that it doesnt allow you to encrypt files/folders etc... and I think if Im opening it up for internet sharing then it would deffo need some kind of security.

    Or am I missing a trick and this is actually available for this model?

    Also the macuser review says it doesnt support itunes server, but the official spec says it does?

    In the first instance Im not going to be using any media playback systems so does this apply to me as Im just using itunes itself?
  8. Nickisgodofmacs macrumors member


    Nov 26, 2008
    a little off topic

    A little off topic

    I have 500gb external drive is it possible that i could hook it up to my modem via usb and use it for my itunes library?
  9. MagnusVonMagnum macrumors 603


    Jun 18, 2007
    You must have gotten one heck of a deal. I don't see a 2TB version for less than $320 online today let alone 6 months ago. Was it refurbished or on sale or something?

    In any case, the Buffalo Linkstation Quad looks interesting (duo doesn't have Time Machine support for one thing). But the thing is WAY overpriced, IMO. Just looking at what they want for a replacement 1TB drive unit ($340) says it all. Those drives are just over $100 now. That 4TB unit should be more like $600, not almost $1000, IMO. If I could find a place that would sell me an empty unit for a reasonable price, I'd simply buy the 1TB drives myself for a bit over $100 each and THEN it would be reasonable. As it is now, I could buy a brand new Mac Mini and two Lacie 2TB external drives for the price of that Quadstation and it could do MORE.

    Regardless, until such time that Apple updates AppleTV to be able to read directly off a UPNP/DLNA or NAS device, it's just not that helpful either way. It sounds great, but I'd STILL have to leave my PowerMac on in order to stream movies to my AppleTV units (unless I hacked them and only used Boxee or something).
  10. Tomorrow macrumors 604


    Mar 2, 2008
    Always a day away
    It was new, and I bought it in the store. It had a $50 instant savings at the time. I do see the thing is running around $379 and change on Frys.com now, but I also see a Promise 4-bay BYOD NAS for $429 that used to be only $349 in the store (that was one of my options when I was shopping).

    Prices at Fry's are very hit-and-miss, I've noticed over the years.
  11. electricmook thread starter macrumors newbie

    Feb 2, 2009
    Hey Tomorrow...

    I followed your advice and opted for a linkstation.
    Initial setup was pretty basic, got all hooked up and linked in and streaming my music across the network. Peachy!

    But, dunno what happened, I logged in yesterday morning, well, brought my mac out of sleep, fired up itunes and it was empty.
    I could still see all my files through the shared folders, but the itunes library was empty.

    So, I started adding my library back again, this took all day, then updating the gapless playback and artwork took until this morning, so I go to fire up itunes and it gooses again.
    So Im adding it all back again... but its taking forever.
    Im connected via ethernet to the router which the linkstation is connected to.

    I was gonna copy over my iphoto library too, only 6gb, but the predicted time was 12hours...

    Am I doing something wrong? Or is there a better way of connecting and transferring the big data in the first instance over to the linkstation?

    cheers again
  12. redwin11 macrumors member

    Feb 12, 2006
    Using PowerMac as Home Server?

    I have a chance to get my hands on a cheap PowerMac G4 (1Ghz, 2003) which I wouldn't mind using as a home Server, but where it will be stored (with the router) won't give me the option of having a monitor with it.

    Assuming once it's all set up, will I be able to easily access the PowerMac desktop from my iMac?
  13. claimed4all macrumors 6502

    Sep 26, 2008
    Its very easy, just enable screen sharing on the Powermac, and after that as long as its on you can log into it from anywhere on the network. Just open finder and you should see it under Bonjour, go from there.
  14. electricmook thread starter macrumors newbie

    Feb 2, 2009
    Guys, can you start a new thread for that discussion please?

    So, I managed to hook up and get a decent transfer across local ethernet and am back up and running again, but am now experiencing really painful buffering and it's making me not want to listen to my itunes.

    Previously, it ran smoothly, as if the music was on a local folder, but since it knackered my itunes library and i had to re-add it all, its just being a real pain.

    It takes ages to load, which I dont mind, and ages to close down, again which I dont mind, but it's the constant stuttering, and loss of streaming that is doing my nut in!

    Tomorrow, have you encountered any problems like this with your linkstation?

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