External Hard Drive Note….

Let’s take a moment to talk about hard drives and their role with a NAS.

If you’ve caught my previous blog entries, then you’re aware I have a WAP bridge that also has a hard drive attached and performs as a NAS.

One thing I learned in all of this, not all external hard drives are created the same.

A few years ago I had picked up a Western Digital Passport 1TB external hard drive. Apparently it had a ‘green feature for saving power. Normally not a big deal if your mobile and plugging your hard drive into a laptop just long enough to do what you need to do. You keep it occupied while attached.

Fast forward to some later time in the future, you plug in the hard drive to a WAP bridge and try to use it as a NAS. It’s recognized and things look good. You step away for a half hour, come back to access the network and get to files on the NAS and, well, it’s not able to access the files.

You spend hours unplugging the hard drive, checking the data, realizing that it keeps disappearing, knowing that it doesn’t make sense UNTIL…..

You take the time to look up the particular make and model of the portable external hard drive you have and find out that it has an inherent feature for a power saving mode that, if dormant, makes the hard drive sleep. Not a huge issue with a hard drive when connected to a pc, but apparently the WAP bridge your using doesn’t have the right ‘nudge’ to wake the thing up again. Ugh.

So how to change that? Western Digital support says the hard drive has firmware and needs to be confirmed to be the latest. AND there is a specific utilities software package that has to be used to change the power saver /sleep option.

Needless to say I did both and turned off the power saving function.

Previous lesson learned: Update to the latest firmware especially when something isn’t operating the way you want.

Current lesson learned: Know your hardware.

Sometimes design ‘features’ have unintended consequences and can be a real PITA when they aren’t obvious.

And yes, it appears that the firmware update and using the utilities configuration to remove the sleep feature solved the problem with the hard drive worked. Yay for progress.

Let’s do the Samba

That’s networking samba if you please.
Recently, I’ve been making some changes to my home network. Next on my list was to add a nas (network addressed storage) for media and regular files and samba fit the bill. 
Weighing the options took a while. I have a full desktop PC which would be my primary source for files to be backed up, but that uses a lot of power so it’s not practical as a nas. I had a few hard drives as options. I have a raspberry pi currently configured as a Google cloud printer.
I started with the desktop and the raspberry. I was going through the setup meeting a few roadblocks where the desktop, running Windows 10, couldn’t see any of the other devices on the network. I had a Kodi setup and a Linux laptop that could see the Desktop files, but the desktop saw nothing either automatically or manually. 
And I had a WAP (wireless access point) bridge that might possibly do something. [see this previous article]. The web searches indicated a nas wasn’t supported in bridge mode. But, I tried anyway and I’m glad I did. The hard drive appeared available to everything, except the Windows 10 desktop. If I browsed with Chrome on the IP address, it sent me to a “Twonky” session, which I am no fan of and it didn’t have the functionality I was looking for. 
Frustration led me back to the web. And then I had a light bulb moment.

I was taking it for granted that Windows was configured correctly to support nas file access across a network. And yet none of the forums or blogs mentioned this incredibly simple and basic thing related to Windows 10 (W10). I decided to check the features in W10. 

Open Control Panel → Programs and Features → Turn Windows
Features On or Off → search the list and click: 

      Enable SMB
1.0/CIFS File Sharing Support
Network Management Protocol – and anything under it [WMI SNMP
      Simple TCPIP

Once that was done, when I opened up the Network option under file manager for W10, everything I had hoped for showed up. Problem solved. Samba was online and file transfers between the NAS and other resources worked fine. 

Lesson learned: Never take it for granted everything is already configured and just going to work. 

My Raspberry Pi as a Media Center

I had one justification for buying the Raspberry Pi (as a Google Print Server) and when it arrived I decided to try the media center options before putting it into play as a Google Print Server.

The nice thing about the Raspberry PI is you can easily grab an SD card, load up NOOB boot loader with a number of different OS’s and you are good to go.

I tried RASPBMC and OPENELEC. My experience is that OPENELEC was more responsive.

After loading it up, I liked the idea that I could use an old android cell phone I had laying around as a remote. This works in both RASPBMC and OPENELEC.

Also, let me give a laymans view. OPENELEC provides the same Media Center views and options as RASPBMC, but seems to have a difference in the underlying workings. So anything you can do with RASPBMC you can do with OPENELEC.

The scope and depth of channels available was very impressive. The ability to stream music (like from SKY.FM). It might be a little slow in some of the transitions, but so long as it has an ethernet connection, it streamed pretty well.

My absolute favorite part of the OpenElec on the Raspberry Pi is the simple ability for it to access all the media on my NAS where I have a LOT of movies, series, tv shows and music. They streamed up to 720P quality with no hiccups. I didn’t have to deal with special codecs or software loading. It worked.

And OpenElec includes “scrapers” which performs a data gather with thumbnails against your files. If you look at info on a file it will provide you with the thumbnail and a quick write up on what the file is about.

Of course, the functionality goes far beyond streaming NAS files. If you have time, searching against XBMC for the plethora of channels you can stream, whether internet content or normal broadcast content.

I really can’t go on enough about it. The OpenELEC distribution is pretty solid within the limitations of the hardware.