Networking (maybe?) our Macs
November 1, 2013 7:43 AM   Subscribe

My wife and I use Macs, iOS devices, and Apple networking gear. We're thinking about sharing the desk where my Mac Pro is; as a result, if she needs the desk, and I need a computer, I'd have to use her MacBook Pro. What's the best way to network our computers so that we could do our work from whatever computer we're using, have music and/or programs available, etc.? Some details inside.

My Mac Pro has 5 internal HDs (using the second optical bay for an SSD), and at least another 5 external drives for photos, old documents etc. I expect if my wife were to use my Mac, she'd just log in to my user account, where I have a lot of our household documents (bank statements, budget, plus iTunes, Spotify, movies).

My wife has a standard Mac Book Pro from a few years ago; I think I'd create a new account for me on her machine, since she keeps her icons tiny, and all I'd ever use it for is internet, Word/Excel, and Garageband, and may need files off of my many hard drives.

We tend to keep each machine asleep when not in use. We'd like to ensure that any work either of us did on the other's machine is available once we go back to our respective computers.

How do we do this? Should we get a little Mac Mini to act as a file server/HTPC (and if so, how? I don't actually know how this would work)? Provided that both machines are awake, could I get files off of my account on her machine if she's logged in to her own account? If our home WiFi network is password protected, what (if any) additional security should we set up to share our hard drives with each other (given that she's wifi-only, though I'm wired to our Airport base station)?

Also, is there a way to have, say, the Haddock documents folder on the laptop automatically copied to a folder on my Mac Pro?

Many thanks!
posted by Admiral Haddock to Computers & Internet (6 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Dropbox syncs amazingly and is pretty much created for this type of thing. Although you might have to pay for it to have ALL of your files.
posted by Brainy at 8:33 AM on November 1, 2013

So many ways to approach this. The following will work as long as you're both on the same network at home, and doesn't require any new investment in software, hardware, or net-based services. This will work with one machine being on a wired connection and one on wifi.

Set up a user account for each person on each machine (System Preferences > Users & Groups). Not strictly necessary but it will keep things cleaner.
Enable fast user switching, for convenience (System Preferences > Users & Groups > Login Options). I'd probably keep both people logged in all the time and fast-switch between them for convenience.
Enable Fisk Sharing (System Preferences > Sharing > File Sharing) on each machine.

Now in the Finder you should see the other's hard drive in the sidebar of Finder windows, under "Shared." You can create aliases of your remote hard drives on the desktop for easier access, if you want. You can save directly to your respective hard drives when working on the other's machine.

There are probably a few details I'm overlooking, but I think this'll get you started.
posted by adamrice at 9:15 AM on November 1, 2013

Besides Drop box, you each have a Public folder (and a folder that is just a drop box within that). If you save all you want to share in the Public folder, and set up file sharing you will have access whenever without the expense of buying more space with Dropbox. The only drawback is when you are on the road. It gets complicated file sharing without a proper server. In that case the Dropbox app is your best bet overall.
posted by Gungho at 11:33 AM on November 1, 2013

I use Synk, which is like the Dropbox syncing without the cloud (not a Dropbox fan). It locally syncs things I specify automatically with all kinds of options.
posted by bongo_x at 12:54 PM on November 1, 2013

Should we get a little Mac Mini to act as a file server/HTPC?

If this is in your budget, look at Transporter. It might be what you need without any setup issues. Basically Dropbox without the cloud, but on its own drive, so you're not sacrificing space on each computer for files you want available on both, and not requiring both computers to be awake when you want to read something.

As a bonus, you can get a second box, keep it in your office/Ma's house/whatever, and get automatic remote backups that way.
posted by RedOrGreen at 2:00 PM on November 1, 2013

My wife and I have been using Chronosync for a few years now to keep files updated between systems. You can call it to run when asked, when a volume mounts, on a schedule.... License is perpetual (meaning all upgrades are free for as long as the company lasts). You'll probably want the main program for the Mac Pro and the Agent for the laptop. Set up all rules on the Pro; it will use the Agent to connect to the Pro. It does an excellent job of syncing (including options to back up changed files if desired) and even maintains permissions and ownership if possible (mapping owner can be managed by the program, so for example files owned by you on the Pro will be owned by your profile on the MBP, etc.)
posted by caution live frogs at 7:46 AM on November 2, 2013

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