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I"m gonna guess that the only disadvantage of using an external firewire HDD to the Mac Mini vs NAS is that the Mac Mini would have to be on all the time (or perhaps set up for "wake up on LAN"). Then again, a Mac Mini hardly consumes much power - though perhaps a bit more than a NAS.The disadvantage with a NAS - might be slightly more cost vs the external HDD, depending on what model you go with. Some NAS also allow web access - so if you're away from home a lot & don't have other ways to carry or access your music, that might be a consideration.I do a Mac Mini w/ a firewire 800 external HD. I can remote control it w/ the apple Remote app on iphone & stream it through various devices (apple tv's / etc). When I got a squeezebox & loaded the squeezebox server software on the mac mini, that was able to access the music on the external HD as well without a problem & stream it. Lastly, my Marantz receiver / processor that has network capability (including DLNA) and I've been able to stream music w/ the above set up. I'm not sure if it's seeing / using the squeezebox server software, or accessing the HD via the mac directly, but in either case it works. So if your DLNA device cant see the mac mini's external HD, loading & using the free squeezebox server software may resolve that problemAlso I think theoretically it doesn't matter to your DLNA devices if it's an external HD off a mac or a NAS - they are both "network drives" for all intents & purposes. So you'd just have to point the DLNA device to the right address.As for performance, I haven't noticed substantial lags - but I guess I'm used to a bit of a pause as I used Pure Music in memory play mode when I'm playing direct from the Mac Mini, and that has a small lag. So I'm used to not have immediate nano-second gratification.Hope that helps.......P.S. I'd use iTunes w/ Pure Music vs XBMC or JRiver, particularly as you have an iphone to use as a remote w/ Remote App. Itunes + the app are free. Pure Music isn't - but it helps to make itunes sound a lot better.P.s.s. In case you have an XBOX360, I've also been able to stream music / video / photos to an XBOX 360 using a low cost ($20) program called Connect360, which you load on the Mac. See : http://www.nullriver.com/products/connect360
I have no experience/opinion on the networked drive thing, as I just use the local drive in my Mac Mini for my server. But I do have an opinion on JRiver vs. Pure Music. I've tried both (and others), and I am very happy having settled on JRiver. The main reason is that it's incredibly feature-rich compared to any other player software I've tried. The DSP studio is awesome, and you can use VST plugins, for example. Very powerful. I also like the organizational aspect of it. It's still in Beta, so there are some glitches, but it plays music beautifully.The only caveat being that if your system is headless or you really need to control everything without being able to see your monitor, I'm not sure there are good apps yet for controlling JRiver Mac with an iPad, for example. With PM/iTunes, of course, you can use the excellent Remote app for iOS.
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