Make some space on your lap

Hard disk space can be a problem for those of us who depend on laptops for our day-to-day life. It’s now easy and relatively cheap to install a terabyte in a desktop machine, but my Macbook Pro has a 100G disk and I seldom have more than about 2G free. I only achieve that by shuffling stuff onto a portable Firewire drive. And now I have a camera that shoots RAW images I’ll need to reorganise things again!

Slowly, however, the capacities of laptop drives are increasing. Hitachi now have a 200GB drive and people have successfully installed it in a MBP.

But I can’t help feeling that I’m going to have to start basing my life on desktop machines soon and use my laptop as a cache of the bits I need to be portable…

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I think the new Apple Airport Extreme router might be a good approach for this. It’s a low-cost blurring of the line between router and server, having the ability to automatically mount remote USB2 HDDs for OS X and WinXP clients, it’s also picked up good reviews for wireless coverage, administration and (yet to be ratified) 802.11n support. I bought a cheap PC last year and rolled my own similar solution with Linux, but one failed motherboard later I’m rather regretting it and looking at this alternative approach for backup and offload of data.

That’s actually Toshiba, not Hitachi…

I’ve once given an invited talk at the factory where they make them, in Ome, Japan.

Oops – yes – Toshiba! I beg their pardon!

Dave, the NSLU2 is a nice cheap network-storage device too, and a fun platform for reflashing and installing your own Linux.

These things are good as a centralised repository or backup unit, but won’t work for the kind of image and movie-editing I want to do on a fairly regular basis.

The question for me, if I had a desktop machine, is whether I could split my life into two or whether I’d have to try some synchronisation technique.

I’d like to pool my storage at work, at home, and on my laptop, and use it all as a virtual file system, with frequently used stuff cached close to the places where it’s used (so it’s also available when I’m offline).

It shouldn’t actually be that hard to do using something like MacFUSE.

Both the 15″ and 17″ MacBook Pro models are already available with a 200GB as a build to order option (66 upgrade on the standard 160GB drive on the 17″ model). I’m guessing it should be fairly easy to retrofit a drive of this capacity to earlier models, if you feel like breaking out the screwdriver and voiding any remaining warranty!

Ah! Now that’s tempting. But I have (and value) Applecare on this machine, and an upgrade even by our local Apple dealer would void it.

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