My Home Network SetupPosted: September 30, 2012
There are a few things that I do with the computers at home. One of them is simply to watch videos. Up until recently, I was using a Network attached Storage system from Buffalo. It was one of those cheap ones that you can buy at Fry’s Electronics. Came with 2Tb of storage.
That thing has been good for storing all the family photos, and copies of DVDs for viewing on the TV. It’s a decent enough setup, but what about backups? What about reliability, what about performance.
So, recently, I convinced myself that it made sense to buy a real NAS, so I purchased the Synology DiskStation 1512+. Now, this is a real NAS, created by people who make it their business to make these things great. You can read the specs online. I filled my current box with 2 disks, of 2Tb each. It’s nice. It does RAID controlling, and you can easily attach another unit for backup. You can hot swap failed disks, etc. And this thing is fast. One thing I did was copy the movie library from my desktop machine over to the DiskStation. It took a short number of minutes to copy the 10s of Gigabytes. I was surprised. I thought, maybe it’s just copied the filenames, and it’s going to slowly copy the contents. But not, there they all were, from 8-Mile to You’ve Got Mail.
Home network: Comcast cable to the internet. Right from the cable modem, I connect to my Vonage box. From there, Netgear router, with one port dedicated to a Netgear electrical outlet network extender. The router is wireless. the tv, blueray, and XBox devices connect to the router, wired. In the home office, I’ve got another of the netgear electrical outlet boxes, and another local router. The routers are 1Gbit, so that anything connected locally will be fairly quick. Off this router hangs the Synology, desktop machine, and Hp Printer. The Raspberry Pi, iPad, and various laptops, are connected through wireless connection.
It’s really interesting what you can do with the Synology box. It runs Linux, on intel Atom chips, so it’s as capable as any Linux box might be. Out of the box, it does DNLA for media streaming, and it does file sharing of course, but you can also setup a web server, and you can have it act as your DHCP server as well. You can add users, and even make the content available through a cloud based service that the company runs for free!
This makes for some very interesting home activities. Here’s one test I did yesterday.
Setup a Raspberry Pi with a version of XBMC. Start streaming Dark Night, to the monitor attached to the Pi.
Grab the iPad, start streaming 9 at the same time, and project that stream to the giant tv in the living room, using AirPlay.
Go into the den, and browse internal web pages from the desktop machine.
A couple things get stressed here. The home network, both wired through electrical outlets, and wireless. The NAS itself, serving up video content on two fronts, as well as web pages, and the various devices involved. No problems with the RPi, no problems with the iPad, no problems with the NAS.
To go further, I want to get luajit running on the NAS because I have some programs that will be useful running on that central server for my home.
It’s a very interesting prospect what’s happening here. First of all, in the distant past, this stuff would be taken care of by what would have been a “desktop” machine, or perhaps a “home server” running Linux or Windows. But here, it’s just a box, that works out of the box. You can’t even attach a monitor to it. You access it through a web page interface, and to be honest, once you’re into that interface, it’s no different than your typical desktop interface. Things just work, with drag and drop, graphics, and all the rest. you can login using a terminal (telnet, ssh), and at that point it’s just like any other terminal into a Linux machine.
Having this setup, I now look at my “desktop” machine in a different light. I don’t need it to stream media. I can do that with an RPi attached to any monitor anywhere in the house. I don’t use it for playing audio (same deal). I can use it for email, and I can use it for games (although we have plenty of consoles). I can use it for programming, and I can use it for high end graphics work that I can’t do with those other devices.
This gives me some focus as to what I really need when I’m about to upgrade my desktop machine. All I really need is the absolute bestest graphics performance my money can buy. I’ll go for a motherboard with the specific purpose of running the highest end nVidia graphics board (or two) that I can stomach. I won’t worry about audio performance, video playback performance, or anything else. I’ll go purpose built, because most of the other tasks I might have put this machine to in the past will be taken care of by single purpose devices.
And thus, we come full circle. Before the invention of the PC, we had “Word Processor” machines. Can you believe it? A machine dedicated to the purpose of “processing words”. And now I’m back to that. I can have a machine dedicated to playing media content. I don’t need it to also do email, as I have a completely other machine to do that, if I want, so I can attach media processors to their appropriate screens/speakers, and leave them in “media processing” mode for the duration of their lifetimes. No need to “upgrade”, or rather, an upgrade consists of totally replacing that bit of hardware. It’s only $35 after all, which is the price of a typical software upgrade.
I can dedicate my desktop machine to the programming tasks that I need from that machine. gobs of RAM, a couple of installed operating systems, the latest dev tools, a couple of 24″ video monitors, nice wireless keyboard and mouse. I’ll not worry about trying to hook up any other peripherals, like high end speakers, or joysticks, or even a fancy printer, as that can be taken care of by some other device that is dedicated to the purpose of printing.
All things shared through the central server, which has backup online, and in the cloud.
This is starting to be a flexible ubiquitous computing environment.