Apple’s new Airport Extreme N base station has a neat feature called AirDisk. You can attach drives to the USB 2 port on the base station and share them with users on your network, or over the internet apparently.
Installation is easy. With the Airport Utility, you click Disks and choose how you want to share the drives you might attach. You can simply use the same password as the base station, assign a password to access the disks, or create disk accounts with privileges.
I chose to assign a single disk password. I pressed Update to save my changes and the base station rebooted. I found this fairly poor, as if I want to do basic disk administration, I have to knock off other users who might be using Skype, etc. You should not have to reboot the base station to change anything other than WAN settings.
I attach my drive and my laptop says “hey, I see new drives!” because I had installed the Airport software. I told it to mount the drives and gave it the password. Instantly they showed up.
Disk performance is poor. Over gigabit ethernet to the base station (which only has 100/10) I got roughly 700K/s to the drive. I don’t know how this compares if the drive is attached directly to the computer, but I will test later and update.
I do however think this will be nice for Time Machine in Leopard. What one could do is have one time machine drive per computer in the house. Attach it directly via firewire and let time machine do its full backup. Then attach it to a hub in the base station and let the nightly backups happen, slower of course, but they should be much less data.
This way, the drives won’t need to always be on the machine, which in the case of a laptop, is nice.