Review: Drobo FS Network Storage Array

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Wow, that title’s a mouthful — Network Storage Array — but don’t let that technical-jargony sounding term scare you, this Drobo FS device is really as easy to use as your Fridge. And for me, that’s a Holy Grail — something that you use and basically forget the complexity.

Whut?
But let me back up a moment and describe what a Network Storage Array (or NAS – Network Attached Storage) device is.

Basically, it’s a box with a bunch of hard drives in it, and some network intelligence. You connect your NAS to your home or office network, and it appears to your computers as if it’s another computer on your network that’s sharing some drives.

You copy stuff to your NAS and share files with any other computer on your network.

Pretty simple, yet difficult to do well

And this is where things get a little squirrely. Some people have a household with mixed computers sharing the same network. In my case, I’ve got Windows (2 varieties), OSX and Linux machines. And some network storage devices don’t play well with different machines on the same network. Sure, the box may say Win/Mac, but invariably issues arise. Not so with the Drobo FS. Continue reading “Review: Drobo FS Network Storage Array”

How-To: Streaming stuff around your house

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In this increasingly wireless world, it seems odd that it’s actually kinda difficult to get music or other media from one device to another.

In my case, I have photos, movies and music all stored on a central storage device on my network — a Network Attached Storage device, or NAS.

Getting to that media easily with other devices means I have to have a something running and acting as a server to manage access to the media. In my case, it’s a small windows based computer that acts as the server.

Or should I say ‘servers’ because to get my media streamed around the house is a feat that requires more than just one piece of software.

ituneslogo.jpgLet’s start with iTunes
I have that running  and sharing its library (which is pointed at the media on the NAS). iTunes allows any other copy of iTunes running on my network (and that I’ve enabled Home Sharing on) to see the shared library and use the media on it.

So now any computer running iTunes can play music from my shared iTunes library. This means my Apple TV (2nd Gen) can see my media library too.

But moving a computer from soundsystem to soundsystem is a little clunky, so read on, gentle reader, read on.

iPad, iPod Touch, iPhone
It’s fairly easy to plug your iDevices into most home sound system these days, so I won’t go into details on that, but that’s how I get the music to the room I want listen in.

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WiFi2HiFi

Now things get a bit more complex. Streaming media to these devices requires another piece of server software running on that server box. And a matching application on the iOS device.

The iDevice is the receiver, and the Server is, erm, the server.

There are currently three solid iOS receiver apps (and matching free server software):

With all three, the basic principal is the same:

1) Point the server software (on the PC) at the directories you want to share with the iOS devices
2) Let the server software build a catalogue

Now things get a bit different
With Air Video and Stream To Me, you just:
3) Point the app (on your iOS device) at your server (usually using an IP address).

If you’re using WiFi2HiFi, it’s easier — you just start the server software, and it automatically detects your iOS device with the app running and streams all your computer’s audio to it. So whatever you’re playing on your computer will be streamed to the iOS device.
4) With Stream-To-Me and Air Video, you have more control. The matching server software lets you view your media libraries and select the media you’d like to stream.

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Stream-To-Me

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Air Video

As of this writing, Air Video only streams video (with on the fly conversion or queued conversion), while Stream-To-Me sends most video and audio formats without conversion.

So depending on your needs, you’ve got hardware and software options for getting your media to you using your existing devices. Very cool, and convenient way to get your stuff to where you are.

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