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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