I am BARRY HESS > Blog

The Time Sink Server

My home networked server for media delivery is becoming a bit more of a time and money sink then I imagined. My goal was to complete the network server, backup server, and cable clean-up in my basement by the end of March. I am certain I will not meet that goal.

Unfortunately (or fortunately depending on how you look at it) stopping in the middle of this project is not really an option. The computing environment in my house is in complete flux until I have the basic systems in place (meaning the network access server for media delivery). At the very least, I need to have the server containing my media online in its final state (in terms of configuration, not data storage) and have my Xbox media client configured such that The Wife can access whatever she could desire on the system. I can breathe a little once that is in place.

The first major hurdle to this was arriving at the realization that I own significantly more movies and music than I realized. To the point where I actually just purchased another computer to provide additional hard drive storage space for my network. This added about $200 to the price tag of my system. The more I get into this project the more I find myself willing to throw money at certain problems or make compromises that require more disk storage (i.e. more money) in order to make the problems go away. I’ve always been very conscious of my use of time, and often spending money to save myself time or headaches seems the way to go. Now I don’t have money laying around, but more so I don’t have time to waste.

Another way to keep costs down would be to eliminate some of the movies and music. As I started archiving some of my collection I came to the realization that, well, a lot of it is expendable. Really, what needs to happen if all of these movies are going to remain in my home is I need to convince The Wife that cable is not necessary. Otherwise, I see no scenario where I’m going to watch Bad Lieutenant or Peter Frampton: Live in Detroit. No matter how good the movies are or how inexpensive their purchase.

The way to make the most out of this movie influx would be to sell each extraneous item on eBay. However, the time it would take me to do any of that would be way more than I’m willing to spend. I may potentially list an entire lot of all of my unwanted DVD’s and throw them all in a box to the highest bidder. This would possibly net me a bit more money than a garage sale. Would it be worth it in order to avoid the cases on the shelves and having to browse past the titles every time I’m looking for a movie on my network? Perhaps.

But these issues are small potatoes to the problem that will most likely keep me from making my goal. I enlisted my brother to write a Perl script that would essentially centralize the browsing of all of media into a single location so a user wouldn’t need to map a movie or album to a hard drive. Basically all movies would appear to be on one hard drive in the folder called “movies.” This is very important in a system that will eventually necessitate 8-10 hard drives. My brother’s commitments are a couple orders of magnitude greater than mine, however, and I believe the programming will fall to me. Rather than me learning from the script he writes, I will need to learn the scripting language and come up with the algorithm to complete this process. Theoretically fun, but a much more difficult and time consuming way to learn.

In any case, when it is all done I’d love to show you how it works or at least how it works from a user standpoint. Perhaps I will put something up here for you to peruse. It will be impressive, usable, and if I follow through with all of the related projects, easily scalable and dynamic. From what I can tell, there will be around 1.5 terabytes of storage when the base configuration is completed. I suspect it will grow to around 2.5 terabytes within the next couple years.