Mac Mini Media Center Project (Part 3)

After I filled up my Mac Mini’s hard drive with my encoded videos from my DVD collection there was not much more I could do till I ordered the Qnap NAS. This would be the most expensive peace of my Media Center setup.

Qnap NAS

After reading about NAS solutions online and talking about it with friends who have experience with such devices I proceded to order a four bay Qnap NAS TS 459 Pro+ Turbo NAS with five, 2 Terabyte Western Digital Caviar Black hard drives. The spare hard drive is incase one of the other harddrives fail.

I ordered both the Qnap NAS and the Western Digital hardrives from Newegg. I have had good experiences ordering products from them in the past and this was no different.

Both the hardrives and the Qnap arrived well packaged on a Friday. It was Martin Luther King weekend and I had all three days to work on this project.

The first thing I did was head to a local Electronics store and picked up this APC Battery Backup, and this Apple Airport Wireless Extreme Base Station. I spent a lot of money on this equipment and I don’t trust it to Juneau’s dirty electricity.

From unboxing everything to final setup only took me an hour. Which was great! I think it speaks volumes on how easy setting up a Qnap NAS. It also left me with a three day weekend to enjoy.

Following the easy to read directions for the Qnap, I took out four of my five harddrives totaling 8 Terabytes worth of storage and inserted them into the Qnap Unit.  I plugged in my APC Battery backup and plugged the Qnap and the Apple Airport into it, then plugged an ethernet cable from the Qnap to the Airport and turned it all on. By default the Qnap wanted to set up it’s self as a RAID 5. The unit supports other RAID options, but I chose to go with it’s suggested default of RAID 5. It took the Qnap maybe twenty minutes to partiton the harddrives and set its self up as a Raid 5 server.

RAID 5 IN A NUT SHELL

RAID 5 means is that event hough I loaded up 8 Terabytes of harddrive storage, I would have 6 Terabytes of usable storage. If I have understood what I have read the data I store on the Qnap is more or less available on two of the harddrives at any one time. The point of this is that one harddrive of the four can fail and I wont necessarily lose any data. Should that happen I would just follow the easy to read directions it came with regarding how to replace the failed hard drive. The Qnap system will rebuild it’s self and all will be right in the world again.

YOU STILL NEED TO DO BACKUPS

Let me stress to anyone who does a project like this or owns a computer in general, please back up your data. I still do backups. Things I keep on the Qnap that I can’t afford to lose, things like photos, home videos, and documents I still back up off of the Qnap on to another hard drive monthly.

With the Qnap up and running I first went into the settings and enabled Time Machine backups. Again, this was a simple process that only took a couple of minutes. Before long every computer in my house (that would be 5) where backing up wirelessly to the Qnap Nas.

Next I went into the settings enabled APC Protection. Should my house lose power for longer then to minutes the Qnap Nas which would be running off the APC battery at this point would shut down after 2 minutes if the power is not restored.

Finally I setup a shares and users accounts on the Qnap NAS. This allows me to store the encoded movies I had on the Mac Mini on the Qnap. After transferring over the movies I was able to start encoding more of them again.

FINAL THOUGHTS ON THE QNAP NAS

At the time of this post I have had the Qnap Nas for a little over three weeks now with no real complaints. I was able to set the whole thing up in under an hour and it’s been very easy to use. I do recommend the Qnap, but also know I have no bases for compression. This is the first NAS I have ever setup.

The Qnap is capable of doing much more then it currently is. I really want to explore the tons of options it has. I do need to compete this first task before I start playing with it more. I have to finish encoding my DVDs first, then I will go back and see what other Qnap options I might like to play with.

I have discovered that the Qnap and iPhoto 11 do not get along well togetherl. This is because of the format of the hardrives in the Qnap. iPhoto 11 requires HFS+ formatted hardrives to run correctly. Qnap does not support that format (yet). My workaround for this has been to use a separate external hardrive for iPhoto 11 which I also backup. I could keep all the photos and iPhoto 11 on my main computer’s harddrive, but I have so many photos  that the space it requires is very large for me. At this point it just makes sense to keep it on a separate external drive.

In my next post I am going to be talking a little bit about file and media organization.

To Be Continued…

How To Organize Your D&D Miniatures

Dungeons & Dragons Logo

Table Of D&D Minis

My Table of D&D Minis

I had a need to organize my D&D minis. I was finding that just to  locate a particular one for D&D night had become a chore. I was always sifting through a box or bag of them just to find one in particular. Not to mention storing minis in a box or bag is not the best thing for them.  Parts get bent or broken if your not careful. So I have come up with a way to organize your Minis. For the most part your only going to need 3 things.

  1. Sterilite Draws (You can find them most retail stores)
  2. A Label Maker
  3. Apple’s iPhoto (mac only) or Google’s Picasa (Mac or Windows) Software

STEP 1: LABEL THE DRAWERS

The first thing I did was to label my drawers. I printed labels from my label maker saying “Drawer 1”, “Drawer 2”, “Drawer 3”, and so on and stuck them to the front of each drawer. The drawers I am using I picked up from Wal-Mart and they are called “Sterilite“. Just little plastic drawer storage units big enough to hold my minis.

STEP 2: LOOK UP EACH MINI ONLINE

I layed out all my D&D minis on the kitchen table. I then proceeded to look up each one online. I would use a site like Alter Reality Games to search for each mini individually. When the search would come back I would be presented with an image of the mini and some text including the mini’s name and the set it came from.

iPhoto D&D mini collection

iPhoto D&D Mini Collection

STEP 3: PUT THE INFO INTO IPHOTO

Save the mini’s picture to iPhoto (or Picasa).

SIDE NOTE: You can create a brand new iPhoto library so as not to add a bunch of pictures of minis to your personal photos by holding down the option key and launching iPhoto. The program will ask you if you want to create a new library or open an existing one. I created a new library and saved it in my computer’s D&D directory.

Next I created an album for each drawer. So I have one album named “Drawer 1”, “Drawer 2” and so on. As I copied pictures of minis into iPhoto’s album named “drawer 1”  I would select the image and paste in text related to the mini that I found from the website.

In both the iPhoto and Picasa programs you have the option to enter text information about the image. Here is where I enter the mini’s name and the set it came from. (See the image on the right)

D&D mini drawer

D&D Mini Drawer

STEP 4: PLACE THE MINI IN THE DRAWER

After all the all the information about the mini was entered into iPhoto I then put the mini in the corresponding drawer. Repeat steps 2 through 4 till your whole mini collection has been cataloged in iPhoto.

So now If your looking for a green dragon all you have to is type in “Green Dragon” In your search field and iphoto or Picasa and it will tell you what draw the mini is located in.

SOME HISTORY

I have almost been playing Dungeons & Dragons for a year now. For less time then that I have started collected D&D minis. My collection has grown quickly and I needed a way to store then. Rather then reinvent the wheel I turned to Google for help. I figured I was not the only one with this question and someone else must have come up with a solution that I could use.

Well sure enough I found a hand full for websites selling products for miniature storage. But I was not finding a lot of end user experience. Since I was not satisfied with what I found on a few Google searches I turned to Twitter and asked the following question of some DM’s I Follow.

@theodudek, @SlyFlourish, @newbiedm I need a way to store my growing #DnD miniatures collection. Do you guys have any suggestions?

NewbieDM sent me the following response:

@Nicap (thats me)  I buy these plastic drawer storagethings at Wal-Mart. keep them there, sorted by undead, PC’s, creatures, etc…

Right off the bat that sounded like a good idea to me. I went to the store and picked up a couple of these plastic drawer storage things and tossed my minis in them and life was good. Life was good till my collection of minis grew to the point that finding ones needed for a particular game was becoming a chore.

After some time thinking about the problem I am up with the solution above that has been working out for me very well. I hope you all find it useful.