My wife recently replaced her Thinkpad T40 with a MacBook Pro (MBP). To save me time in the future, when a crash or data loss occurs, I decided to get Time Machine and SuperDuper! set up on a Western Digital Passport USB drive (I love those passport drives!).  The problem with this setup was that it relied on her plugging in the USB drive into the MBP on a regular schedule.  The solution was to set up some network attached storage (NAS) on our home network.

I quickly settled on two options.  Apple’s 1TB Time Capsule or a combination of a Western Digital MyBook World Edition (MBWE) and Linksys Gigabit N. In terms of backup, storage and network connectivity, the MBWE plus Linksys router provided equivalent function to Time Capsule.

What to do?

Time Capsule was $30 cheaper than the MBWE plus Linksys router option.  However, since MBWE is running a Linux kernel, the ability to add functionality to the device was almost limitless.  There’s a strong community of MBWE users that have everything from BitTorrent clients, to PHP, to a PBX running on MBWE devices. Even out of the box, the MBWE provided more functionality than Time Capsule, such as a Media Server. These “extra” features that the MBWE provides out of the box versus Time Capsule were not features I’d originally considered part of the purchase decision. But when I learned about them, I tried to figure out if I could add these to capabilities to Time Capsule. While Time Capsule runs a stripped down FreeBSD, it seems that the code is loaded onto a chip and is not modifiable.

While both Time Capsule and MBWE are built off an open source kernel, the user freedom afforded by the two products are vastly different. Time Capsule is not meant to be tinkered with. MBWE is arguably not meant to be tinkered with either, but Western Digital knows that their customers are doing so, and is making it easier to get more out of the device than the functions the device ships with. For instance, the old version of MBWE did not support SSH access to the device out of the box. But since that was the first thing that MBWE users built a hack for, Western Digital smartly responded by adding this function in the new version of the device.

I struggled with the choice. Using Time Capsule meant that Time Capsule and SuperDuper! just worked with the MBP.  On the other hand, there were a few system tweaks I’d have to make to get Time Capsule and SuperDuper! working with the MBWE and the MBP.

In the end, I went with the MBWE solution over Time Capsule. I liked the extra function and ability to add yet more by choosing MBWE over Time Capsule. To me, the freedom, in open source terms, that MBWE delivered was well worth the extra cost and effort to set up.

What do you think? Good choice?