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I'm looking to move from an XP desktop full of music to a server-based solution but I have no idea where to start! Can anyone give me a hand?
April 19, 2010 7:13 PM   Subscribe

I'm looking to move from an XP desktop full of music to a server-based solution but I have no idea where to start! Can anyone give me a hand?

My current home computer set-up:

- Macbook Pro - Leopard install, bought in Feb 2008; not much data on it at all, only used for Internet access for the most part
- home-built XP Pro desktop - contains a few hundred GB of music, videos, pictures, documents; built in 2007 and the USB ports are wonky so I'd rather not use it for parts for the server
- XBOX 360 - I rarely use it but I figure this MIGHT factor into this solution

Ideally, I'd like to move to a solution using the laptop for Internet and server control with a server on the back-end somewhere containing all of the data that now resides on my desktop.

Requirements for this server:
1. large capacity (that's the easy part)
2. must be able to stream music, movies, videos, pictures, documents to my laptop, 2.1 system in my room, and HDTV/5.1 system in my living room
3. either having redundant drives or NAS for backup

At the moment, the laptop half would be this Macbook Pro that I paid too much damn money for in 2008. However, in the future I can see myself moving over to a Windows 7 laptop that's cheaper than this damn expensive Macbook (that I'm sorta wishing I didn't buy).

The server half is totally lost on me. I've never built one before and I don't even know where to begin with the software. I've come across this article on Lifehacker about server software. Other than that, I'm not sure where to go.

I realize that the server software is dependent on the client laptop. Right now, I have OSX but I'm not sure if I'll always have that. Does Windows Home Server work with this Macbook Pro? Is there an easy cross-platform solution? Part of me thinks I should buy a cheaper Windows 7 laptop just to use for Internet, word processing, etc. That way, when that Windows 7 laptop is out of date, I can buy another cheap one and continue the tech refresh cycle on the client end. However, maybe that's an unrelated story.

Anyone have any recommendations? I'm not big into command line, programming, etc. I'm pretty competant with computers but I don't enjoy all the nitty gritty programmer stuff.
posted by decrescendo to Computers & Internet (13 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
 
I can do all of that, including printer sharing and remote desktop between computers, at home with the Windows 7 Homegroup. It took about 5 minutes to setup on the PC plugged directly into our internet router, then we have two laptops that happen to also run Windows 7 that can easily stream media from the PC (which is incidentally also plugged into the HDTV via HDMI).

Sorry to sound like an ad for Windows 7, but it works great and required about two brain cells to set up.
posted by Burhanistan at 7:19 PM on April 19, 2010


Oh, and backup is done with an external HDD and the Windows 7 backup utilities.
posted by Burhanistan at 7:20 PM on April 19, 2010


Right now, I have this XP desktop sharing a few folders over my Linksys G (old, I know) router to my Macbook Pro and it really doesn't work well. I guess that's theoretically a server, but it doesn't really work well. The audio has to buffer before it'll play on my Macbook if the file is on my desktop.
posted by decrescendo at 7:21 PM on April 19, 2010


I can do all of that, including printer sharing and remote desktop between computers, at home with the Windows 7 Homegroup. It took about 5 minutes to setup on the PC plugged directly into our internet router, then we have two laptops that happen to also run Windows 7 that can easily stream media from the PC (which is incidentally also plugged into the HDTV via HDMI).

Yeah, I want to be able to have remote desktop access of this server via my laptop, too. How do mp3 files stream to the client laptops? Do they have to "buffer" like what I just mentioned in my previous post?
posted by decrescendo at 7:23 PM on April 19, 2010


And is your server PC just a Windows 7 PC with some folders shared? Or is it a full-blown Windows Home Server installation?
posted by decrescendo at 7:24 PM on April 19, 2010


The PC is just a vanilla Gateway running Windows 7 Home Premium. The Homegroup thing automatically sets up shares, and the Videos folder has a pause buffer built-in. It's kind of the elementary version of Home Server, but it really works well for doing things like watching videos on the laptop while I'm folding laundry in my closet or what have you.
posted by Burhanistan at 7:28 PM on April 19, 2010


But, yeah, you'll need a new wireless router. Ours is the "gateway" unit that ATT U-Verse ships out, but any new Linksys with the N protocol will work fine for streaming video.
posted by Burhanistan at 7:29 PM on April 19, 2010


Hell, I even have a hard time copying folders of mp3s over from my Macbook Pro to this XP machine. Do you think that's due to the slow router?
posted by decrescendo at 7:36 PM on April 19, 2010


The audio has to buffer before it'll play on my Macbook if the file is on my desktop

I even have a hard time copying folders of mp3s over from my Macbook Pro to this XP machine

Together, those two things say "flaky wireless connection" to me.

In my experience, most wireless connections are flaky, if that's any comfort. N is better than G, but you need N at both ends or it just falls back to G. Wired networking beats both, hands down.
posted by flabdablet at 8:12 PM on April 19, 2010


Together, those two things say "flaky wireless connection" to me.

In my experience, most wireless connections are flaky, if that's any comfort. N is better than G, but you need N at both ends or it just falls back to G. Wired networking beats both, hands down.


Yeah, my desktop is constantly wired since I use it for torrents, etc. The laptop is on the G. I suppose that after I moved to the server, the server would be hard-wired to prevent the flakiness. However, the laptop would still be wireless N, naturally. I hope that would be decent.
posted by decrescendo at 8:19 PM on April 19, 2010


Put your laptop on a wired connection temporarily, to see whether your existing setup is likely to work well enough once you de-flake the wireless arrangements. You might find you don't actually need to do anything cleverer than you're already doing.

802.11g wireless really is about at the edge of usability for decent-resolution media streams. I have an old Pentium III box running Ubuntu Gutsy (which I must get around to updating one day) acting as media repository for my house. I'm not using anything special for streaming, just a Samba file server. Even so, DivX-compressed movies run just fine on my laptop via 802.11g with no lagging and bandwidth to spare. Raw DVD rips will run OK provided there are no more than two walls between my laptop and the WAP.

I guess I could install N, but instead I've just put wired network outlets where I want them.
posted by flabdablet at 10:11 PM on April 19, 2010


I would guess the router is to blame for a lot of the issues. I have a wired network using an xp box as a media server for my mbpro and original xbox, and haven't had any issues with buffeting (including video), etc.
posted by backwards guitar at 4:32 AM on April 20, 2010


I'm the same as backwards guitar. XP file server serving movies to two original xboxes running XBMC. Those three are wired to the router. Wireless clients access the iTunes share on the server, with no issues.

File transfer over wireless networks are generally slower than you might expect. If I've got to transfer data of any size from one of the wireless clients to the server, it is invariably faster for me to copy it to a flash drive and walk over to the server instead.
posted by chazlarson at 8:04 AM on April 20, 2010


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