Thinking About Hardware

News of Google’s plans for Chrome OS have started me thinking about computer hardware – trying to decide what my next upgrade will be. While I can’t afford anything new in the immediate future (I’m a poor college student), I’m beginning to grow anxious about my aging PowerBook’s health.

Besides my laptop’s impending and inevitable demise, my cell phone contract will be up soon, and I’m considering downgrading from my BlackBerry to a “dumb” phone when that happens. Rates for data are exorbitant when you consider the ubiquity of WiFi coverage these days.

More and more, I find myself wondering if I might be in the market for a netbook. I ridiculed a friend of mine for months after she bought a tiny MSI Wind, but now that I’ve seen how convenient it is, I really think it might be just what I need: a lightweight computer that I can type on and carry almost everywhere.

The thought of phasing out my laptop – my “real computer” – is frightening. However, I recall that I had similar fears about phasing out my desktop when that was my “real computer” and I bought this PowerBook to take to college. Netbooks are a whole different animal though, especially when you consider the growing demands of media.

I’ll cut to the chase. One possibility for the future of my digital life is this: a dumb phone with unlimited text messaging, a netbook of some kind, and a NAS/Media server. It’s the last piece of the puzzle that’s leaving me… well, puzzling.

I’d like to digitize my entire CD collection. I’d like to store the audio on a server in some lossless format (FLAC perhaps) to save having to re-digitize from the physical media in the future when I might want better quality files (than if I had stored them all as MP3s). I’d like to keep my movies on there too, and my photos, and backup all of my documents (including a small but growing reference library of articles and research papers for school). I’d like it to hook up easily to a television or stereo (read: surround sound HDTV). Oh, and it’d be really nice if I could get at some of this stuff while I’m away from home too.

Humoring my imagination (and helping me wrap my head around the costs of this next generation of computing hardware), can anyone recommend a good NAS/media server (and/or netbook)?

I’ll be looking for myself too, and I’ll post what I find in the comments here.