Forget Time Capsule, I want a Space Ship

Apple’s Time Capsule is great. Seriously. When has backup been easier? But I need more.

The MacBook Air’s small storage highlights a problem I’ve been suffering for some time: there’s never enough storage. The slower processor and limited RAM expansion are sufferable, but storage isn’t. The 120GB drive in my MacBook Pro now is stuffed with 8GB of music (and that’s after spending hours paring it down a few weeks ago), and almost 50GB of pictures. I’ve piled up almost 10GB of email, another 10GB of stuff in my downloads and desktop folders that I can’t quite place nor get rid of, and a paltry 5GB of just plain old documents.

That’s about 80GB of my own stuff, add to that 8GB of applications and 15GB of stuff in /Library, /System, and /var (well, /private/var). Now recognize that a “120GB” drive can really only store about 110GB and you see my problem.

My photo library grows fast. I took 1.5GB of photos last weekend. Most of them are junk, and I’ve started actually tossing ones I don’t think I’ll ever use, but it hurts. I’ve also tried burning photos of to CD or DVD, but that defeats the point of having a library in the first place. And none of this changes the fact that, even without my photos, I’d be bumping in to the limits of the Air’s disk capacity (let’s assume that I’d be getting the 80GB HDD model, not the 64GB and at least $1000 more expensive SSD model). And then I have to ask myself “do I really care if I have a Mac if I can’t have iPhoto?” The short answer is “less so.”

So here’s my real question: Why hasn’t Apple figured out how to offer me a storage solution that puts frequently used items on local disk, and less-frequently used items on a network disk? Seamlessly.

Really. I want my iPhoto and iTunes to work just like they always have, but if it’s been a while since I looked at the pictures of my sister’s graduation from a few years ago, I want it to put them on a remote disk. And when I do decide to look at them again, I want it to fetch them from that remote disk and show them to me as though they’d never left. It might take a moment longer for me to load them from the network, but I can suffer that. Especially if it means I don’t have to manage where they are for myself.

It’s amazing how many pieces of this are already in place. The network is nearly ubiquitous. Unix and Linux have had union filesystems for years. Clearly somebody would have to think seriously about what happens if the network isn’t there, but that’s solvable. The value of having a hard drive with elastic capacity and seamless live backups is certainly worth it.