Imagine you have hundreds of Gbs of nicely tagged mp3s, but you are tired to listen to them using your PC/Mac only (waste of space in your internal drive, waste of cpu for playing music and managing such a big library, your wife complaining she wants to listen some of your music tho but you are 24/24h in front of that computer etc..).
What you want is a centralized storage/streaming station on which you can save your music and from which you can stream your tunes using the great DAAP Protocol to your LAN-attached and DAAP-friendly devices (such as your computer, your wife’s computer, your Roku SoundBridge etc..).
A centralized storage/station can be achieved in three ways: – using an old computer with big disks inside it and running the great Firefly Media Server; – using a hacked Linksys NSLU2 + 2 external disks; – using a NAS (Network Attached Storage, an external hard disk with Ethernet/Gigabit port) with built-in DAAP server. The first solution is the most customizable but it takes space, it’s noisy, ugly and sucks lot of energy.
The second solution is nice and the NSLU2 is cheap (80-90€), but you need to install an alternative firmware on it (by default, Linksys firmware just share the content of your USB disks over your LAN) and it’s not exactly a noob-proof solution. After installing the slug firmware, in order to allow NSLU2 to recognize your drives, you need to reformat them to Ext3 filesystem (so if you have already your mp3s on them, you have to get a same size disk to backup datas to/from – painfull!) and you will have lot of power adapter bricks all around your desk (1 for NSLU2 and 1 for every external disk you will pug to it).
The third solution is the best and most elegant one: you just buy a NAS, plug it to your router/switch, copy your mp3s on it and you are done: it will take care of storing and streaming your tunes for many users at once :)
LaCie Ethernet Disk Mini:
There are many mainstream diskfull NAS on the market, but if you do a serious comparison between them, you will be notice that LaCie Ethernet Disk Mini provides the best price/features ratio.
I quote stuff from LaCie site: “With Gigabit Ethernet for file sharing and USB 2.0 for personal storage, the Ethernet Disk mini works with or without a network. Use it as a simple, cost-effective data server with your office or home network. Accessible on every wired or wireless network, sharing files among Windows®, Mac® and Linux users becomes very easy. The user-friendly Wizard Install and web page administration make network set-up and configuration accessible for anyone. With the additional USB expansion port, the available capacity on your network can be expanded or you can share your photos stored on your camera***. The LaCie Ethernet Disk mini can also act as your home multimedia server – ideal for streaming digital media files on your TV via your UPnPTM AV-compatible digital media player (DMA). “
And here the most important specifications: Capacities: 320 GB / 500GB Interface : 1 x Gigabit Ethernet 10/100/1000 1 x Hi-Speed USB 2.0 (TCP over USB – acts/appears as a Network drive) Expansion Possibilities: 1 x USB 2.0 for additional storage & photo sharing Processor/RAM: 400Mhz / 64MB DDRAM Network Protocols: File Server: SMB (Windows/Linux), AFP (Mac); FTP Server; HTTP for online browsing; Multimedia server: UPnP™ A/V; Apple Bonjour Network Setting: Wizard Install with automatic IP configuration (DHCP client-compatible); web-based managemen
What does all this stuff mean? It means that you get:
- an external 320/500Gb disk with built in processing power and operating system (Linux);
- that supports every common network protocol around;
- that can be plugged to your existing home LAN using a standard Ethernet cable (if you want to plug it directly to you pc but it lacks of an Ethernet card, you can use an USB cable);
- that can be expanded using its USB-host port (it recognizes every filesystem around, not only FAT32 like other NAS; if you are a Mac-fan, reminds that this is the only mainstream NAS that recognizes HFS+ filesystem! This feature is very important because, regardless of what filesystem you use on your external disks, you can plug it succesfully to your NAS without unusable reformatting!);
- that can be accessed via browser exactly like you do with your router! Nice, isn’t? ;-)
I want to add that the design is amazingly beautiful and that the built quality is the best I saw back in the days: it’s really a well built product :) Strong, neither vibrations nor noises. The internal disk, in my unit, is a nice 500Gb SATA disk by Seagate, so the quality is assured (Seagate is one of the best hard disks brand on the market).
I bought this little baby just to use its builtin DAAP Server. I had 460Gb of music I wanted to store on a streaming station, and after some months passed reading datasheets, forums etc I came up buying this LaCie NAS. I was sure of LaCie quality because I have other LaCie products since years right now and it’s definitely one of my favourite brands. They build good peripherals and they have an eye for design, that is lovely. I hate ugly tech-stuff.
I plugged the NAS to my Mac, I run LaCie IP Configurator, I did a bit of customization (shares, users etc) via browser and then I transferred all my music on it. It took 2 days to finish (I’m on Ethernet 10/100 and you know it’s slow). if you have such big collections of music and you have not Gigabit, start your transfer tasks on night, because, as you read, they take time :) My music was on my “Music” share, everything went fine. So I enabled DAAP (Apple Boujour) on it and it started indexing music.
But… =[ at ~55000/90000 tracks it crashed and I had to reboot the unit. I tried several times to do this job, but without success. It seems that this NAS hasn’t been designed to handle such big collections, there is not enought RAM according to the NAS logs. I did a smaller share called “Music 2″ and I added some GBs of music into it. DAAP works pefectly on small collections: the indexing process is blazing fast and iTunes loads the DAAP share very fast too.
So, DAAP works very well, but only if you haven’t gargantuan music collections like I do, because the baby has not enough resources to do that. I read on some forums that this NAS can stream max ~30000-tracks collections, but I can’t confirm this. So, I repeat, If you have big collections, maybe you need a dedicated computer instead of an embedded solution, but for the rest of you, LaCie Ethernet Mini Disk could be the ultimate DAAP server :) Small, just one power adapter, cheap, expandable, beautiful, full of features, noob-proof configuration.