Purchase Ponderings

File this in the “idle window shopping for stuff I don’t need” category.

BUT.

If can anyone see any gaps or improvements to the following (and yes, I am largely going with Apple because it is easy to setup and I have no desire to hack, configure or otherwise spend ages of my time to get the thing working), please let me know. You might save me a lot of money.

Not that I’m gonna be spending anything on any of this, no no, that’d be silly and I have more important items to buy soon, like a bed, that kind of thing. This is purely and utterly an academic exercise, a small indulgementation if you will to keep me from going stir-crazy in this house.

So, the proposed new system is as follows:

  • A Mac Mini – which will be hooked up to the TV
  • Drobo S – which will (in the short term) hold two 500GB drives from my PC with music/photos/movies/work stuff
  • Airport Express – so I can stream iTunes to a set of speakers
  • Karmon Soundsticks – because they look and sound good

I’ll pick up a wireless keyboard and mouse for the Mac Mini as well. Which means that, when version 2 of the iPad comes out, I can slot that in for ‘casual web usage’ and the like.

My thinking is that I want a quiet and energy efficient machine that I can stream music from, and do a little web design work on too (with a nice big 40″ screen!). The Drobo allows me to easily add more storage space (just slot a new drive in), and if I want music elsewhere I can always buy another Airport Express (or stream through my iPhone/iPad?). Mind you, I’ll be moving to a flat so not much need for that in the near future.

Yes, it’s a bit pricey as it’s Apple equipment but it gives me a system that SHOULD just plug and play (previous experience suggests this to hold true), and is expandable to meet my needs. I could probably get the same with another (cheaper) system but having looked into it, PC/Linux equivalents require a level of configuration that I just can’t be arsed with any more, happy to pay more to have it just work.

Am I missing anything? Performance wise the Mac Mini will be more than enough for me for many years, and they’ve good reliability. The Drobo I’ve heard a lot of good things about and I’ve used an Airport Express before with my PC. I think it’s about as future proof as it can be, add in a USB hub for things like card readers and whatnot and I don’t think I’m losing out on anything.

Well, apart from the money to buy it all with…

11 comments

  1. Mac mini is a great purchase for under the TV – teamed with Plex or Boxee and you’ve got a lovely system. My only niggle with your list – the Drobo. As much as I like the hardware and it’s design, there’s a couple of things I just don’t like about it now that I’ve had one for 7 months.

    Firstly, the disk format it uses means the drives only work with a Drobo. So it’s great if you just want to throw more/bigger drives in over time but if that Drobo goes bust your looking at buying a brand new Drobo to see your data again. It’s fan can also distract if your not listening or watching to something when it kicks in. Final niggle – the software doesn’t match the hardware. Unless I boot the Mini the Drobo software will say that no Drobo is attached which isn’t true as there is and I can use it without issue. Re-launching the software doesn’t help – requires a hardware reboot of the Mini. It feels like the software isn’t done by Drobo themselves which is a shame.

    I don’t regret buying the Drobo, but at the same time if I knew then what I know now I would probably have gone for a NAS & raid configuration that at least makes the drives readable if the box goes tit’s up.

  2. Dude, it’s like you copied my thoughts entirely.

    I got the new Mac mini (small “m” in mini, btw!) a few weeks back, have it under the TV and HDMI’s to it via my big amp, and the surround sound is self-configuring, too. Only problems you might have are due to resolution, if your TV is 1080p, most of the text onscreen will be impossible to read unless you’re four feet from the screen! Easy system preference adjustment though. I’d opt for the faster processor and at least 4GB of RAM though (the 8GB upgrade is a rip-off), plus the bigger HDD.

    It’s great sitting back on the couch with the super-sexy wireless keyboard on your lap, I have to say. Do you have an Apple Remote? I’d recommend you get one, if you don’t. Front Row plays a surprising variety of codecs for all those torrents you download, err… I mean… movies you took while on holiday, and you can sleep/wake the mini with it too.

    I’ve had an Airport Express for years, zero configuration (well, there is when you also have an Airport Extreme set-up and working, all you choose is “join network” and you’re done), plus both it and the mini both show up on my iPhone’s Remote.app as separate zones/speakers, which is awesome.

    iPad should be winging it’s way to me from the states in a few weeks via my bro-in-law coming home (big reduction in price!), and I’ll use that for, as you say, casual browsing, looking at photos, etc, plus there’s a few great VNC apps I can use to do stuff on the mini in case the TV is “busy” with the wife and child.

    Iphone 4 is out here on Friday, so I’ll be queueing from 6am or 7am for that (you didn’t mention it in your post, but I know you have one)!

    I don’t want a Drobo (although Sevitz has one, and I think he’s pretty happy with it), but I really wouldn’t mind a 1TB Time Capsule. And I’d love a pair of those Soundsticks!

    And the money for it all? I’m selling my old MacBook Pro to finance the iPad, and NKV helped a little with the mini as it’s going to be the machine all our iPhones/iPods/iPads are synced with.

    Which is nice.

    Is it any wonder Apple’s stock price is through the roof? It’s not just me and you doing this stuff, you know! Everyone’s at it!

  3. Ian, ta for the headsup on the Drobo, as Matt mentions I’m basing it largely on Adrian Sevitz recommendations but didn’t realise the formatting done like that.

    Matt – yeah iPhone 4 too obv (I queued from 6.20am!), I’ll upgrade the RAM in the mini myself (cheaper) and don’t need the bigger drive as all the chunky files will be on the separate external drives (backed up etc). Should really make sure they can ‘sleep’ as well and only fire up when the mini needs them (or just sync power cycle with mini?).

    And I’m NOT paying for this, it’s fictious! I won’t even remotely consider all of this instead of a nice shiny new LED TV… really I won’t… ahem…

  4. Yeah I got the mini with 4GB because the upgrade from 2GB on the Apple Online Store wasn’t too bad (~€75, plus it saved me waiting longer to get the extra RAM and to set the whole thing up as it’s pretty tucked away), but the 8GB upgrade was completely larcenous (~€450). You will not BELIEVE how easy it is to upgrade it though. Click, click, snap, done.

    I dunno, I thought about not getting the bigger drive, but in the end and in the long run, I though it was worth the bit extra.

    What do you mean, you’re not buying all this! You say that now, but I know you and shiny stuff. I’d definitely consider the mini if I were you though, it’s a no-brainer.

    And maybe the iPad… Really looking forward to getting mine (squeeeeee!).

    Mind you (deep breath…), I’m quitting work in January to be a stay-at-home dad (surprise!), so I’ll need all these toys to keep me sane. Sam will be getting my 3-year-old 1st-gen iPod Touch when he is one(ish), as his first “computer”. Teach ’em early, that’s what I say!

  5. I have had a Drobo for a few years now and while reliable, I am looking for something else.

    Read / Write speeds are abysmal, if you happen to be copying something to the drive (or any drive activity at all really) don’t expect to be able to do anything else. For example, if I unzip something on the Drobo and try to listen to music or watch a movie that is on the Drobo at the same time, it stutters, skips and basically freezes the OS.

    I even made the mistake of buying the DroboShare. I can’t even begin to describe how awful they are…

    I have had recommendations for Synology and D-Link so hopefully they will let me watch a film and browse the web at the same time!

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