Old System -- All in one
Old System — All in one
Old Dell
Old Dell
New Gear!
New Gear!
New Media Setup
New Media Setup
New Office Setup
New Office Setup

Since 1999, the hub of my home computing environment was a Dell Precision 220 (dual P3, 1.3 Ghz processors; 265MB SDRAM; ultrawide SCSI hard drives (40 GB), an IDE hard drive (80GB), with an eclectic array of PCI cards and peripherals. I ran Windows 2000 on it, never upgrading to XP. I love this machine because it is so funky and I’ve spent days tinkering with the hardware and software. I bought it years ago to crunch a lot of data, and over time it has grown in size, complexity and importance.

I rely on this computer to:

  1. be my primary business computer. I use it to work, all day, every day.
  2. be my print server.
  3. store my digital music collection, and integrate it with my analog stereo system.
  4. play my dvd’s on my TV and serve up the audio to my home stereo.

Last Thursday this old Dell suffered yet another crash, and I found during the reboot and subsequent diagnoses that my OS was unrecoverable and my boot disk damaged. Brutal. I knew my data was safe, but I was facing another McGyver type solution to keep this thing lumbering along. I could spend hours patching up this machine, or I could bite the bullet and spend mad dollars to upgrade my home computing environment. I chose the latter. This was the day I would upgrade/overhaul my home computing environment. I had already given some thought to how I might fill of my computing needs.

I decided to go modular. Instead of trying to cram all of my myriad computing needs into on box, I’d split up the system. Buy a couple, maybe three machines, and link them up via my home network. I pretty much knew the components: a Windows laptop for work and a Mac Mini for my media server. I also needed a couple of peripherals. I wanted an Airport Express to be a print server, and I needed to pull out the 80GB IDE in the Dell and extract the precious data on it. The third photo to the right shows what I bought:

  1. An HP Pavilion DV1688 laptop.
  2. A Mac Mini
  3. An Airport Express server dock. From here, I should be able to serve up all of my media files to my entire home network.
  4. An internal IDE drive encasement. Pull the IDE drive, mount it to the Mini, and everthing’s cool, right? Sike. mount_ntfs: your bff. This command saved my digital music collection: mount_ntfs /dev/disk4s1 /Volumes/mounted_data

All said, this overhaul cost me about $2,500 and took me about two days to set up. I’m quite pleased with the new architecture. It allows me to remove several old modules, and gives me a lot of new functionality and mobility. The new footprint is much smaller, clearing up all kinds of space in my apartment. My processing power has quadrupled, memory has increased eight-fold, and hard drive capacity has gone up 80 GB. All of this at less than half of what my previous system cost. I should note I’m still not fully recovered – – I’m still missing two major features that I had: the “Now Playing” plugin, and the “last.fm” plugin (both for the blog). I should get those set up in the next few days.

My favorite part of the new architecture is that I can access my music collection from my bedroom laptop, and play the music through my main home stereo speakers (living room and kitchen) *and* in the speakers in my bedroom. I’ve achieved the goal of being able to play music in all the rooms in my house. Now that’s fresh!