technology, hospitality, and plumbing…

Apple’s Missing Piece

In General on May 25, 2010 at 18:30

I’ll admit it — I’m an Apple fan. I own an iPhone, a MacBook Pro, a couple of Mac Minis, an iPod and an iPad. Needless to say, I love them for their user-friendliness, and the way they let me do what I want to do without any serious techsupport.

TV in my house has been replaced by a Mac: using Front Row, the kids choose their TV programs using a cutesy little Apple Remote, so simple even my 2 year old can use it. They don’t know that there’s a server sitting upstairs, storing all the TV programs and movies, and serving them over our wifi. The server’s nothing special, a generic box with FreeNAS (a Linux-like operating system) and a few large hard disks.

The same system means that anyone with a computer in the house can watch movies over the wifi. This works fantastically, even on my iPad (Air Video is a killer app for this, converting files on the fly if they’re the wrong format fort the iPad).

However, there’s a serious gap in the whole puzzle. I can’t share my music from iTunes without iTunes running on another computer. I can’t view my photos on iPhoto without iPhoto running on another computer. My server is always running, but if I want to listen to music or look at photos, I have to run upstairs to switch on the computer that has that program. Either that, or i need to leave the computer with my photo and music libraries running all the time — a waste of electricity, as i have my server already running.

Likewise, I always need to use the same computer to add music and photos — in the Apple world, i can’t add to my main library from a different computer; if I chose to add music or photos to a different computer, syncing media between different computers is a pain that can’t be achieved without hacks.

Clearly, what’s needed is an Apple Home Server — a stylish white or aluminium box that sits somewhere next to your wifi router, with a couple of big hard drives, and a server version of iPhoto and iTunes. Any computer on the network could access the movies on there (through Front Row); music could be accessed from any computer on the network; any computer could be used to add photos, as they share the same library that sits on the server — plug in a camera anywhere, and zap! they’re added to the server.

This device would also handle backups, using Time Machine (which the Time Capsule already does).

Then we’d have a great way for all the Apple products in the house to freely share all content without headaches. Surely this isn’t too much to ask, Steve?

Anthony Green – May 2010

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