iTunes 9 Home Sharing/Sync the Wrong Solution. Give us automatic media caching!

We live in an age when homes don’t have a single computer on a desk, everyone has their own laptop. It’s great that iTunes9 recognizes the need to share files between computers so that everyone in a home can make local copies to hear each other’s music and watch each other’s videos.

Except that we have tiny storage in iPhones, MacBook Air and netbooks — some iPods hold more. We need to solve the problem of keeping only the files we need with us and having the rest stored on the network. I want an automatic system to swap in and out the files on my machines based on my requests and favorites, caching all the most used files locally and pulling less-often used files off the network as needed.

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. Continue reading