standalone media hardrive
February 19, 2009 8:48 AM   Subscribe

Does anyone know of a straightforward way to have a standalone networked hardrive that will play music and videos via any computer that connects to it?

The hardrive comes with some preinstalled firmware that enables you to connect it to a network. I was hoping to be able to have some itunes-esque equivalent that would directly run off the hardrive and could just be viewed through a computer. I also wanted to have a way so that you could add media to a folder and it would update what it stored in it's library.
posted by a womble is an active kind of sloth to Computers & Internet (10 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
iTunes uses the DAAP protocol for web sharing and browsing. NAS link device + hard drive + DAAP server software should make MP3s visible to DAAP clients (such as iTunes).
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 9:12 AM on February 19, 2009

If your network connection is fast enough to keep up with the bitrate of the media, you can just play the files in a normal media player just like you would play them from an internal hard drive.

Otherwise you'll have to come up with some sort of streaming solution like what BP suggested, which will generally need some sort of computer-like hardware device in addition to the hard drive itself.
posted by burnmp3s at 9:20 AM on February 19, 2009

It looks like theres a portable version of Winamp that should work for you. You could run it over the network or off USB.
posted by wongcorgi at 9:38 AM on February 19, 2009

Seconding Blazecock Pileon. If you use iTunes, look for a NAS (network-attached storage) box that comes with a DAAP server (often just referred to as a media server), as many already do. I've got a Synology box that can do this.

When an iTunes-running computer joins your network, if iTunes has "look for shared libraries" turned on, the NAS box will just appear like magic in the source list. The caveat on this is that you can't treat the NAS box' library as your library—I don't think you can't make playlists of those files within your copy of iTunes (although any playlists created on the server should appear), you can't burn discs, and I'm not sure if you can assign star ratings, if any of that matters to you.
posted by adamrice at 9:50 AM on February 19, 2009

Many new wireless routers have a port for a USB drive.
posted by caddis at 11:45 AM on February 19, 2009

Just to clarify, the hardrive is ethernet compatible and linked to our wireless router. So it can be seen by any computer on the network.

Do you know if I use the iTunes approach, if there is a way of automatically updating data that someone adds? It is a shared hardrive so it could get tricky to always know which folder to add if there is something new.

Thanks for all the suggestions/answers.
posted by a womble is an active kind of sloth at 12:25 PM on February 19, 2009

Just to clarify, the hardrive is ethernet compatible and linked to our wireless router. So it can be seen by any computer on the network.

The wireless router needs to run a DAAP service that streams the contents of specific folders from the hard drive. This depends on your router.

If your wireless router does not support DAAP, you would mount the hard drive on one of your workstations and run a DAAP server from that, streaming files from the network drive. You would need to keep that workstation running in order to keep the DAAP service available to all your other computers.

If you go with the network mount option, you can always serve from iTunes that way, by setting iTunes preferences to make a folder on the hard drive the iTunes "home folder", and then enabling sharing. As you add tracks with iTunes, the DAAP index is updated and other clients should see updated playlists and tracks, etc.

I don't know if you use the NSLU NAS option, if the NSLU or the DAAP server will automatically update the streaming index as new files are added to the folder. You might need to restart the DAAP service to rebuild that index.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 2:56 PM on February 19, 2009

You could try a DNS-323 from Linksys. It's a toaster-sized box with two slots for hard drives (supply your own SATA drives) that can be configured in various handy ways right out of the box. One of them is to have it act as an iTunes Server; Call the library on it "shared Itunes", and anyone on the network can find it and play the music that's on there, and any music saved to it is shared with everyone.
Doesn't have to be iTunes; VLC is a very lightweight and FREE app that will play most media files - you just have to point it at the "library" you store on the DNS-323 and away you go.
posted by bartleby at 3:00 PM on February 19, 2009

I'm liking my DNS-323. My Xbox 360 can connect to it and play music in game, for example. I can also store videos and random stuff on it. Its a straight forward network attached storage device.

Your question seems to be asking if you can hook the hard drive up directly to a stereo and control it. You might be able to hack a DNS-323 to hook it up to a USB stereo, but primarily it's purpose is to store files (including music) for other hardware to access. DAAP is a protocol to announce the presence of music to OTHER computers running iTunes, and should handle the addition of new files gracefully. Several implementations exist for network attached storage.
posted by pwnguin at 3:26 PM on February 19, 2009

Get a router or hard drive that can run a DAAP or UPNP server. Your hard drive or router might be able to do this already using an alternate firmware.
posted by PueExMachina at 4:27 PM on February 20, 2009

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