I've been looking for a way to have easy-to-use add-on hard drive storage that could be shared easily across my home network between both Mac and Windows machines.
And the good news is that if, like me, you want to share your Mac OSX external USB Hard Drive with your Windows XP computer (and, for that matter, any other Macs on the network), it is pretty easy ... once you know what to do!
First, you need to get SharePoints and install it to your Mac. When you configure SharePoints, add your USB drive and give it a name like "My USB Drive". Remember to enable SMB file sharing (this is the Samba protocol that allows your PC to see the software; your other Macs can use it too).
Right, now that is done, how do you actually see the drive ? Easy!
Mac: Finder: Network ->; Workgroup -> (your Mac computer name) -> press the Connect button.
You'll be presented with this message "Select the SMB/CIFS shared volume you want to connect to". Select the one called "My USB Drive". You will need to enter your user name / password. An icon representing the drive then appears on your Mac desktop! You can drag this icon to your Trash to Disconnect the drive.
Windows XP: Windows Explorer -> My Network Places -> Entire Network -> Microsoft Windows Network -> Workgroup -> (your Mac name!) ->My USB Drive. You will need to enter your *Mac* user name / password. Sorted!
There you go, as easy as you like. Follow this advice and you should be able to get a cheap USB hard drive, plug it in to e.g. a Mac mini, and use that as a cheap, shared file storage device in your local network for e.g. backing-up photos (or code!) or as a common place for storing/streaming your MP3 files and what have you.
Certainly a lot cheaper than buying an AirPort Extreme with AirDisk!
Now, can somebody please tell me why the functionality in SharePoints isn't built-in to Mac OS X?
One more comment: I strongly recommend that you connect two USB drives, and configure them as a RAID array (in a RAID 1 mirrored configuration - see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/RAID for more information). This is really easy on a Mac, as it has software RAID built-in. Having such a RAID array has already saved my bacon once, when one of my cheap USB drives failed on me a few weeks ago. Have a look at the USB Floppy Disk Striped RAID for a fabulous example of how easy it is to build RAID arrays on any Mac!