Remote Disc: no movie playback, no HD support, and everything else you need to know

via Engadget by Ryan Block on 1/24/08

One of the more more interesting, albeit minor, announcements at Macworld was Remote Disc, Apple’s method to undermine the need to bundle an optical drive with the Air. To our chagrin, Apple also undermined the ability to do much fun or useful with the disc sharing system. Here’s what you need to know about Remote Disc, top to bottom:

  • The Remote Disc installer is 42.3MB for Mac, and takes almost 86MB of space! AND it requires a restart of the host Mac. (Windows, ironically, does not require a restart to begin sharing media.)
  • You have to ask permission to use the drive every single time, there’s no client whitelist or anything like that. Even if you’ve already asked permission on that drive and disc, if you stop using it and come back to it, you have to ask permission again.
  • Every time you ask permission as a Remote Disc client, the host gets a popup asking if it’s cool to share your drive. You can, of course, accept or decline (but the only way to stop getting prompts is to turn off disc sharing).
  • Ejecting the disc on the client side does not eject it on the host side.
  • Ejecting it on the host side, however, gives a host-side prompt about the disc being in use. You can override and eject, however.
  • To reinstall or boot from CD using Remote Disc, the host must use the installed Remote Install Mac OS X application. It’s a fairly simple process, but sharing an install CD over a wireless network is asking for trouble. It took an absurd amount of time (nearly 10 minutes) to boot over 802.11g. You need bandwidth.
  • To remote boot from a shared CD, hold the option key while starting up. You’ll be presented with a BIOS-level WiFi / network selection that looks surprisingly unpolished for Apple (but works with WPA and advanced WiFi crypto all the same)

Bummer for media:

  • You can browse the file contents of DVD discs, but you cannot actually play that media back over the network.
  • You can’t rip DVDs over the network using a tool like Handbrake.
  • You can’t even browse a music CD or listen to tracks. Don’t even think about burning a disc remotely.
  • Remote Disc appears only to be able to share CD / DVD drives and CD / DVD discs, not high capacity / HD optical drives.
  • We tested sharing a regular DVD over an HD DVD drive, no luck. Data CDs on DVD drives worked fine though.

We’ve heard of some client firewalls harshing on Remote Disc, but we didn’t see any issues when testing. Despite its shortcomings, it did work exactly as advertised, and with zero fuss. We miss anything?

Gallery: Remote Disc: install and host side disc sharing

Gallery: Remote Disc: client side disc sharing

Gallery: Remote Disc: shared remote install, host and client

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