My whole system centers around my wife's old 2009-era white Macbook. It acts as a "media server" for the house. That's in quotes because it's not a server, it's just a regular old Mac. I definitely recommend having a dedicated computer for this - you (or your wife) will get frustrated if their personal computer is also the one that everyone wants to use to play media. And everyone else will get frustrated when you (or your wife) take that computer out to a coffee shop to get some work done in some $*%&-ing peace and quiet.
So what's happening on this old Macbook?
- All our media lives here. Movies, music, photos. It's the master copy of all of it.
- iTunes is running all the time. We use Airplay to sling music and movies around to the TV's and speakers we want. The Macbook is on an automatic wake and sleep schedule so it's available from about 7am until midnight.
- It's the kids computer to use to go on the internet. They each have a separate login, I control which websites they can visit, and the Macbook itself imposes time limits on them.
I'll do separate posts on each of those, but that gives you an idea of what is happening. In order to get the Macbook to handle all this, I did upgrade the hardware. The Macbook had a 256GB hard drive, and 2GB of RAM. I needed more space to store media (we've probably got 256GB of movies alone), and I needed more RAM so that it could handle streaming music while kids played on websites with lots of memory sucking Flash games.
An aside on the internal drive. I considered just using an external hard drive connected to the Macbook. However, it's a bad solution for several reasons. First, external drives need time to spin up, and it would mean lags between when I said ``play this song'' and when that song actually started playing. I knew it would drive me nuts. Second, I've found that using iTunes with an external drive introduces some hiccups into the system that require me to manage things regularly. And I don't want to manage things, I want to play music.
Last, an external drive is, you know, external. That means there's an additional thing sitting there with the Macbook. My wife doesn't want "all that crap cluttering up the table" where the Macbook lives. So a new internal hard drive it was.