InsomniMac: What’s Keeping Your Mac Up at Night

I’ve found that while this past year has been great for Apple (s aapl) and Apple users, it hasn’t been so great for my Apple computer.  My Mac Pro has been up late almost every night this year.  Backing up my data, keeping a watchful eye on my iTunes library, and more recently, providing 24/7 printing services for my iOS devices. It requires I leave my local user account logged on and running certain applications, which is bound to increase the wear on my Mac and potentially shorten its life. And the list keeps growing.

iTunes Home Sharing for Apple TV

I have three Apple TVs up and running in my home.  Each is associated with my iTunes Library.  All require that I remain logged on to my Mac Pro with iTunes up and running. If I quit iTunes, log off my Mac Pro or allow it to go to sleep, I will no long be able to access my iTunes Library and thus, my TV content.  If other family members in my household want to access their iTunes Library as well, then we must each remain constantly logged on, using separate instance of iTunes and separate iOS devices to control the media we want to play.  That’s a lot of Apple kit enduring wear and tear.

iOS AirPrint Solution Printopia

I wasn’t too happy to discover I had to purchase a new printer in order to take advantage of AirPrint in the latest iOS update from Apple.  Luckily, Printopia software provides a much cheaper alternative.  Printopia couldn’t be easier to install and use.  It installs as a preference pane in System Preferences, and it just works.  The only drawback I’ve noticed is that it’s a user-specific feature, meaning as soon as I log off of my Mac, Printopia will stop running. It provides a great service to an oversight by Apple, but once again, it requires my machine to be constantly running.

WebDAV File Share for iOS Devices

This was a fun service to enable on my internal network in order to share files between all of my Macs as well as all of my iOS devices.  WebDAV stands for “Web-based Distributed Authoring and Versioning protocol”, and it works over HTTP. WebDAV was designed for read/write access on web servers, which is great, because every Mac ships with a web server built-in.  Like iTunes Home Sharing and Printopia, WebDAV requires my Mac to always be on.  Unlike iTunes and Home Sharing or Printopia, this service can run in the background without a user being logged onto the system, which makes it a little less taxing on hardware and power demands.

DLNA Servers

Before getting Apple TVs up and running everywhere, I was using the DLNA capabilities of my home theatre equipment to share music, videos and photos to the various media outlets and iOS devices on my home network.  I do still have my Twonky Media Server up and running, though it points to the same collection of folders that my iTunes library points to. Twonky can be run as either a user application, or as a background system service. It’s a great way to accomplish everything that AirPlay now offers, and has been available on both Mac and iOS for quite some time now. At least it can run without a user logged on, but the Mac still has to be running.

Other Complications of Always Being Logged On

When you have one shared Mac in a family of avid media lovers, each with varying tastes, hence different iTunes music libraries, you’ll start to find multiple accounts are remaining logged on for days or even weeks at a time.  This creates problems when performing maintenance on the same Mac, and the update requires a restart.  Getting everyone to stop using the media sharing capabilities and log off of their accounts for routine maintenance will become a household burden.  There’s also the chance that you’ll burn out your Time Capsule at a faster rate given the that you could be performing backups every hour around the clock as well.  I now use a utility called TimeMachineEditor to control the frequency of my backups, and my Time Capsule is running much cooler and happier now. At least it can get some rest.

But unless there are some great new features coming out in the next major release of OS X Lion, it appears my Mac will be up and running for quite some time. Cutting the cord may provide cable bill relief, but what does providing on-demand media across the house end up costing in terms of computer and device strain? I fear I’ll soon find out.

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