TimeCapsule sucks as Network Attached Storage for iTunes or Sonos

Apple, please announce a beefier TimeCapsule (and/or Apple TV) today!

Here’s what I learned through trying to set the TimeCapsule up to act as drive space for music and video: The TimeCapsule works well as a wireless router, and works OK for backups, but it sucks to use as general storage.  This is a shame since it was introduced at the same time as the MacBook Air, a machine which is great as your main computer but for the fact that it doesn’t have enough hard drive to manage any but the smallest collection of photos, music and videos.

I’ve struggled with this issue since I first got my Air 18 months ago: where to put all the files that don’t fit on the tiny 80gb drive? It meant I’ve kept only a small music collection. Hell, some iPods come with larger drives, a few are even twice the size.

It seemed simple enough to fix. Apple’s TimeCapsule is a combined 802.11n wireless router and Network-Attached Storage (NAS) device. It is designed to give you a place to backup your computers via the OS X Time Machine software, but it also lets you mount a drive for any other purpose.  I’d bought one at the same time as my Air. But now I’d finally set it up as a shared drive, mounted it on both laptops, pointed iTunes to it (instead of the default local directory), copies all files there and started ripping CDs to it. This was going to rock.

Only it didn’t.

Now I’m walking around the house wearing nothing but a pair of red boxer-briefs, but not in the sexy way the hot blonde girlfriend prefers. See, I’m going back and forth between pieces of equipment, rewiring and reconfiguring. Actually, it’d be more accurate to say I’m not walking around in my underwear in THAT sexy way my girlfriend prefers — geek is also its own turn-on for her.

She asked me to move in with her recently. Thrilled that she likes me so much as to proposition me that way, I was still slow to accept. Aside from wanting to take such a step seriously, I knew what kinds of issues might come up. Issues that involved too many hours in red underwear.

Fixing the music problem was one of those kinds of issues.

Earlier this afternoon, her girlfriend Ann was over for Laura’s help to vacuum-seal a week’s food for Burning Man. While Ann was here, we listened for a while to a Pandora station on the living room stereo. Then we handed her the Sonos controller to pick music from our library. She quickly put together a playlist and started it, but a few songs in, the music stopped abruptly. After the first couple of times it restarted, but then it quit for good.

“What happened to the song?” the girls cried in unison.

“I think I know.” I replied. And it wasn’t pretty. “It’s going to be a while for me to fix it.”

I’d already done a lot of work on the system in the past week. Besides setting up the server and reconfiguring iTunes, we bought a Sonos from Best Buy and got it going (more on that later — it’s a fantastic piece of kit, but provided some of it’s own adventures). We’d also started ripping songs from CDs to the Time Capsule around the clock. Laura (the hot blonde) is a former rave DJ. Her CDs are organized alphabetically by artist. So far, we’re only up to Depeche Mode.

Besides dealing with the music, we’d also cancelled Comcast and upgraded DSL (also deserving of it’s own post). So we subscribed to Mad Men on iTunes and watched an episode over the network during the weekend. Had a few glitches there. Not a good sign.

Well, when the music froze up the most recent time, I noticed that my Macbook Air was in the middle of a Time Machine backup. To the same Time Capsule that was also our Media Server. That wasn’t what was happening earlier in the weekend (I’d disabled the backup feature), but this was the final straw.

My conclusion was that the Time Capsule was just underpowered to serve as a router and a backup device and to serve music and video files at the same time.  I was going to have to pick a machine to be up on the network all the time and put the files there.

Since we both have Macbook Airs, this meant buying a new machine. The Apple TV has too small a hard drive and too little flexibility to serve. So we ran to Best Buy and grabbed a Mac Mini to try out (the cheap model with 1GB RAM).

So far, it’s working like a champ at storing all the audio and video files, playing them on the TV, serving them up to the Sonos and the Airs (which also synchronize our iPhones). We’ve watched more TV episodes and run tests of doing several things simultaneously, never have had another glitch.

I wish Apple would sell a TimeCapsule sufficient to the task of serving all the media files it stores (or a beefier Apple TV). If I’m lucky, maybe they’ll even announce it today. I suppose it’s in their best interest to force us to purchase a third computer, one to hook up to the TV.

Hopefully Apple realizes the demand for a device that does more than backups — if they’re going to use iTunes to sell us media at the same time we switch from desktops to laptops, we need a place to store it.


2 thoughts on “TimeCapsule sucks as Network Attached Storage for iTunes or Sonos

  1. Using a Time Capsule to back up multiple machines, deliver internet content, AND serve as a media storage device set up for streaming audio and video content? It's obviously clear that your expectations of a device (albeit, one that is basically a wifi hard drive) should live up to something far more exaggerated than what reality can offer.You mentioned a Mac Mini handing the streaming of media just fine as an alternative to the Time Capsule. I am curious, was the Mini streaming video, backing up multiple computers, and serving as your point-of-access for your multiple devices' internet connection? Even if it was, that COMPUTER is more capable to handle the amount of information going on with the extra power added by the processsor/memory/wireless hardware.I understand your desire to have a device that can actually handle all of the information simultaneously being synced/streamed/stored/saved, but the hardware technology does not exist to actually manage that much data on one device's bandwidth. Even with an iMac, try backing up to a wired hard drive, downloading some music in iTunes, syncing contacts/calendars/email accounts, and streaming content from Hulu or some other video content and I'm pretty sure that as that device starts to multi-task at that rate.. it will inevitably choke and buffer (no matter if it's a netbook, MacBook Pro, -or- Intel i7).Cut Apple some slack and just spring for a dedicated media server, keep that Mac Mini, or even consider looking at the 160gb Apple TV. It's the same reason why professional music studios run dedicated towers to their craft… you have certain devices for specific purposes (not putting all your eggs in 1 basket).And last but not least, you could always even think about getting a real computer as opposed to that lightweight MacBook Air you've got as your wimpy iTunes machine.PS: Congrats on the techthehalls engagement.

  2. Using a Time Capsule to back up multiple machines, deliver internet content, AND serve as a media storage device set up for streaming audio and video content? It's obviously clear that your expectations of a device (albeit, one that is basically a wifi hard drive) should live up to something far more exaggerated than what reality can offer.You mentioned a Mac Mini handing the streaming of media just fine as an alternative to the Time Capsule. I am curious, was the Mini streaming video, backing up multiple computers, and serving as your point-of-access for your multiple devices' internet connection? Even if it was, that COMPUTER is more capable to handle the amount of information going on with the extra power added by the processsor/memory/wireless hardware.I understand your desire to have a device that can actually handle all of the information simultaneously being synced/streamed/stored/saved, but the hardware technology does not exist to actually manage that much data on one device's bandwidth. Even with an iMac, try backing up to a wired hard drive, downloading some music in iTunes, syncing contacts/calendars/email accounts, and streaming content from Hulu or some other video content and I'm pretty sure that as that device starts to multi-task at that rate.. it will inevitably choke and buffer (no matter if it's a netbook, MacBook Pro, -or- Intel i7).Cut Apple some slack and just spring for a dedicated media server, keep that Mac Mini, or even consider looking at the 160gb Apple TV. It's the same reason why professional music studios run dedicated towers to their craft… you have certain devices for specific purposes (not putting all your eggs in 1 basket).And last but not least, you could always even think about getting a real computer as opposed to that lightweight MacBook Air you've got as your wimpy iTunes machine.PS: Congrats on the techthehalls engagement.

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