Managing multiple computers at home

ross at ross at
Sun Mar 26 15:15:32 MST 2006

So I'm moving next week and, in preparation, I'm contemplating how I want 
to have my computers set up, and so I'm interested to hear how the 
pluggers manage their own configurations.

I have a Mac Mini, a Windows laptop, and a Linux desktop machine, each of 
which I use on a regular basis for varying tasks: web browsing, email, 
coding, chat, games, listening to music, and watching videos (hooked up to 
the TV).

The biggest issue is that of sharing data. Some data can be stored and 
accessed remotely (mp3s, for example) and streamed to whichever computer 
wants to use that data at the particular time. Other files would 
preferably be cached locally (videos, for example, which at high 
resolutions can hiccup if streamed--or perhaps even programming projects 
I'm working on, since compilation, editing, and searching through large 
codebases goes faster with a local copy). Others will need to be capable 
of merging changes (if I'm coding on the road on my laptop, for example).

Samba seems like the solution of choice for filesharing from a central 
server (which would more than likely be the always-on Linux box), but I'm 
not sure about the rest of it.

It seems like what would be coolest would be something where I could, for 
example, have everything stored on the Linux box as a central server, and 
then each computer could "subscribe" to a subset of directories, which are 
then cached locally and changes mirrored. For example, the Mac Mini might 
subscribe to a directory of digital photos. If I plug my digital camera 
into the Mac Mini and copy photos into that directory on the local hard 
drive, that night they'll automatically get mirrored to the server. If I 
plug my digital camera into my Linux box and copy photos onto its local 
hard drive, that night they'll automatically get sent to the Mac Mini.

My Windows laptop could be "subscribed" to a different set of directories, 
for example a directory containing a bunch of Windows games. If I'm on the 
road and download a new game, when I get home that night I can sync up and 
that game will be stored on the server. I could even have my Windows 
laptop also subscribe to my digital photos directory, maybe to edit some 
of the pictures or take them over to someone's house. While subscribed, 
any new photos I downloaded to the Mac Mini would automatically get 
mirrored to both the Linux box and the Windows laptop as well. If I was 
running short of disk space on the laptop, I could unsubscribe to the 
photos directory and everything would be deleted locally, but I could 
sleep soundly knowing that all the photos were safe on the server. If I 
ever needed them back on the laptop I could simply resubscribe and wait 
for everything to copy back over.

Does anything like this exist? Would something rsync-based work, or would 
it break whenever (a) the clocks got off-sync, or (b) multiple changes 
happened to a single file? Do any of you use something similar, or do you 
have an entirely different (and perhaps superior?) arrangement?

 	~ Ross

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