Friday, June 26, 2009

Media Server & NAS project - Part 1 Background

My house has modest computer needs. We have a few computers with what I consider quite a bit of data (maybe 1.5 TB total). Our computer sittuation looks like this:

  • Laura's Computer: Mainly used for day to day tasks as well as Photoshop work for her business and her hobbies. She shoots with a Canon 5D and has been doing so for a while. When you figure in scans from her film days she is quickly approaching the 1TB storage limit on her computer. Laura's data is stored on Striped (RAID 1) array of 2x 1TB drives, she is rapidly approaching full on those. I should note, it is Windows Raid, and her desktop runs Vista Ultimate x64, which if my experience with windows RAID means it could be difficult to recover if, for example, we were forced to reformat and reinstall everything. Though it is protected against a single hard drive failure. She does NOT back up her data (I know begin the boo's now).

  • Larry's Computer: This is mostly used for day to day stuff. I too dabble in photography, but to a much lesser degree then Laura. I have probably 100-200 GB's of photos. I also have a lot of music. I like to buy CD's and immediately rip them to my computer (I've been bitten before by the random car theft leaving me musicless). Because of my anal retentive OSS nutcase nature I tend to rip things in a lossless open format, so my cd's are ripped into FLAC (Free Lossless Audio Codec). I have some .MP3 files, but for the most part I'm a FLAC man. My music Collection runs about 100GB's. Throw in my willingness to support the Ubuntu project by seeding torrents of the latest various releases, as well as other .iso's I have accumulated over time and you can see I have a mish mash of data, running around 300GB). Most of this data is spread accross 2x 250GB hard drives that operate completly independently of each other. I occassionally backup the pair to a third 400GB drive that I keep in my case, but it is only irregular and manual backups. This is just on my main computer!

  • My Laptop: There is not much stored here, because I am frequently reconfiguring and reinstalling things to tweak it a bit, i'm a glutton. I do on occasion copy things down from my main machine to play around with them, so lets say... 100GB here (an overestimate I would say). My laptop has one 250GB SSD drive in it, it is not backed up at all.

As you can see your storage needs are not insignificant. And adding some data redundancy via a recoverable RAID solution seems like a good idea. So that is what I decided to do!

I decided to setup a NAS for our storage needs. I was thinking something that could cover our storage needs for the next 6 months without buying extra hardware, but would allow us to basically drop in extra disks to expand capacity.

I looked at a lot of different options, some ready to go NAS solutions from different companies (DROBO, Netgear, DLink, etc) and finally decided to build my own using a tower case (should give lots of room to add drives) that a friend has been storing for me for a while (Thanks Luke) and some new hardware.

We have been enjoying the Instant watch thingy on Netflix the last few months and I had been thinking how cool it would be to have the same functionality for my own personal DVD collection. So I got to thinking about adding a Media Center PC to the project. I looked at different projects like MythTV ( as well as XBMC ( and decided I would try and throw something together using XBMC, since it did everything I wanted it to do.

Once I decided what I wanted to do I just had to figure out how to make it happen. Next you will see my shopping list for both projects :)