Somebody needs to invent this storage device

July 5, 2010 in Startups

I’ve got this problem. It’s a problem which is probably affecting a lot of people out there. It goes something like this:

I have a storage device that I use to watch movies through on my TV. I have a dropbox account. I have my mp3 collection. I have a lot of stuff on my computer which I need to backup. Some of these things I would like to have access to wherever I am. I would like my girlfriend to have access to all or some of those files as well. I would like all of this to work really simply.

The solutions out there

Storage. It’s an even lasting problem which a lot of companies out there are trying to solve. There are so many requirements and so many limitations. There are a few solutions out there which are pretty good but they are all tackling a separate problem.

  • Dropbox – great for a few small files on a computer or a mobile device. You can share those files online and you can share some files/folders accross multiple dropbox accounts.
  • TonidoPlug – A small computer which you plug your hard drive to using USB. This actually goes a long way to solving all problems, but it only has a USB plug for one hard drive (which you can probably extend with a USB hub, it can’t play back anything, no remote, etc.
  • External hard drives with a network connector / USB port – some of these have media playback features etc. The ones I’m most familiar with are inoi, Play ON, argosy, etc but there are probably other solutions more common in the states, etc.

The storage device of my dreams

These are all great, but they don’t solve all my needs. Somebody needs to invent a computer/storage device with the following features:

  1. It has to be a stand alone device – always on – where I don’t need to have my computer turned on to use it.
  2. You use it to store all your movies, your mp3 files, your photos, you can use it to back up stuff from your computer.
  3. It has to have a high speed wireless adapter + a LAN connector
  4. Has to be able to play back video and output to TV. It would also be nice if it could play back photo slideshows, play back music to a separate audio output.
  5. Since it’s a playback device it has to have a remote. duh.
  6. You’d have access to it anywhere in the world through a web interface.
  7. You could share any file, folder using a URL like you can using dropbox. You could declare it private, public, etc.
  8. It would of course be awesome if you could record your TV broadcast onto the device *and* stream your tv’s broadcast to your mobile device through this thing.
  9. It would either have a raid controller with a couple of hard drives, a single hard drive with a slave backup drive or simply a device with multiple USB/eSATA connectors which you could configure to back up automatically from one drive to the other in case of a single drive failure.

It’s very possible that these things can all be mixed together using a media playback device, the Tonido Plug and a few external hard drives, but it would be so nice if this thing was available in a single unit. Please god, let this become the future.

The future of storage devices

I’m guessing this is the future and one day this will be in a lot of homes, probably with *all* the features I listed – even though some specifics might change like the way you connect it – it doesn’t matter. This is what the future will hold.

It’s even very possible that Apple and Google are working on something like that. Apple is setting up a giant cloud facility, so who knows. There’s just such an obvious need for this.

  • Moschops

    Sounds like the machine I have on my desk. I’m typing on its keyboard right this second.

  • Malcolm

    sounds like what you need is a desktop :)

    Just set up a linux box and you would have everything you need. I suggest myth for the front end.

  • LoadTester

    Sounds like you need a MythTv box. It will do a lot (all?) of what you want. Worth checking out…

    • arnorhs

      Thanks’s @LoadTester, MythTV is new to me, I haven’t heard about it before. It does require a computer for itself, though and then you’d have to set up the remote file access yourself etc. But it goes a long way in the media capabilities.

  • Aximilation

    Home theater PC! Route through your firewall to a dyndns domain name, set up your shares and you should be good!
    I’ve heard good things about mythTv as well, worth a try!

  • Thibaut Barrère

    Maybe you could have a look at this:

  • Mike

    • arnorhs

      @Mike is super sweet. It doesn’t play back media files, but other than that, it looks awesome.

  • Christan Grant

    I think the xbox 360 and other gaming devices are real close to having all the features you requested.

  • Andy

    Different parts of your dream exist already, but it will be hard to put them together. Most importantly, the neccessary broadband for such a device doesn’t exist yet.

    At home, try Western Digital TV Live. Streams over LAN and USB.

  • Horst

    Why does Ctrl-F “crypt” not find a single hit on this web page, neither in the blog post nor the comments? Are you guys really not concerned about security at all? I’d demand industry-level encryption on both the storage device and the communication protocols. Stealing the device should leave the thief with nothing but worthless random data, decryption/encryption should completely take place on the clients.

    • arnorhs

      @Horst, that’s a good point. That’s something to consider as well.

  • Filip Mares

    This sounds a lot like the functionality found in Windows Home Server. You can install this on any PC that has the minimum specs. This can then be tied into Amazon S3 storage.

  • Dan

    You can do most of those things using SpiderOak ( online backup and sync, given that you have to set it up intelligently.

  • David

    You are right on for a lot of these especially the need to support video/media. We are actually about to launch a solution that has most of the features you are looking for. Send me a note if you want to give it a run.

  • Mark

    The problem with designing storage solutions is that they are rife with taboo topics. So most discussions of them, including this one, are incomplete and thus fail to address real-world usage scenarios.

    Among all the obvious things, the things that are less discussed include:

    - storage and backup for porn

    - storage and backup for private files

    - actual user control over the data (not “your data is private UNLESS your ex gets a subpoena”)

    - ability to know that deleted data is deleted

    - ability to copy files from work to home, even when it’s not allowed

    - ability to copy files from home to work, even when it’s not allowed

    - ability to protect files that are copied against the rules, to ensure that they are still protected even though the user’s behavior can be deemed not ideal

    - ability to enforce DRM to a reasonable degree

    - ability to circumvent DRM when needed

    - ability to let anyone in the household use the storage while still fulfilling all of the above use cases

    - ability to travel internationally and move my data freely to and from any storage device I have access to, from any place

    Most companies doing storage solutions just don’t want to talk about this stuff.

    And no doubt there are several items missing from this list.

  • Gerald W

    Sounds like you want the home server from

  • lushootseed

    Windows Home Server (

    WHS + AddIns should solve your problems. Have you also checked

  • Jonathan

    It sounds like the MacMini I have plugged into my HDTV, but with MobileMe for sharing, and a tuner.

    We have a DVR, so we don’t need the tuner (but can’t stream recorded TV), but with judicious setup and MobileMe, you can get a long way towards what you want.

    Incidentally, I’d highly recommend a Mac Mini as TV computer. It just rocks.

  • curmudgeonly troll

    I believe Boxee has an app to show videos stored in Dropbox

    in this case, you can run Boxee on your computers, and get a Boxee Box for the TV or connect a computer to your TV.

  • Chris

    Mythbuntu is awesome this time of year.

  • David


  • Patrick Tescher

    I think that Drobo is doing something like this (minus the video playback) with the Oxygen Cloud. Should be out this month.

  • Dean

    wtf are you talking about?

    I have a ~6.6TB file server. All my home computers can access it (and play movies from it), it’s also internet accessible via ssh; meaning I can securely mount a samba or nfs share via tunneling. I can ssh, vnc or remote desktop into it.

    I can access it from the internet, from my school and from the local library. My gf can access it from her net book.

    I don’t know what more you want here buddy.

    oh, also it’s RAID; so if a disk dies, I’m not out of luck. Everything is backed up to usb hdd.

    I can share files via sftp or http.

    Some of the volumes are securely mounted and can be dismounted at anytime.

    It has performance monitoring and nice graphs on about everything you would want. It also has a battery UPS which keeps it running even if the power is out.

    It even has a web cam so I can check up on my house even remotely.

    Seriously guy, what the fuck are you doing? Use Linux or FreeBSD and roll your own to whatever you want.

  • Martin Klepsch
  • Peter Baldwin

    cloud = cheesy infographic. Funny.

    I’m one of the lead developers for ClearOS Enterprise — a web-based network gateway server for small and distributed businesses. We’re about to start an open source “home server” project based on the ClearOS platform. This is a side project and a labor of love though. In other words, keep those expectations looow.

    Regardless, you can already hack together everything you need. It really just needs improved integration, more polish, a GUI targeted for home use, and enough momentum to make it worth maintaining. ClearOS Home will have:

    - Integrated cloud storage with more cloud integration on the way (already exists in the business product).

    - An API that will get a small makeover in our next release to make it mobile friendly. Technical details (including required mobile app screenshot) at

    … and all the goodies that you desire -

    If anyone is an open source hacker and interested in the project, just drop me a line –

    • arnorhs

      Hey Peter, that sounds interesting but also very “enterprisey”. I will keep an eye on ClearOS.

  • Clyde

    I work for a start-up that’s doing just what you outlined in this post. Email me for details. I think you’d definitely be interested.

  • Simon

    Any updates on this? Have you tried Synology? Installing Plex and CrashPlan on it and using it with an apple tv could be your solution…