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QNAP Intros the First 2.5-inch SATA, 8-bay, Intel Atom-based NAS – QNAP Press Release

QNAP Intros the First 2.5-inch SATA, 8-bay, Intel Atom-based SS-839 Pro Turbo NAS. ( Press Release ) – Quality Network Appliance Provider

HEXUS.Net article, EHomeUpgrade article

My comments on this 2.5” hard-disk NAS

Initially, the use of a 2.5” hard disk in a NAS would have been simply considered as a “toy” but there are more “business-class” multi-disk NAS units like this one come on the scene that use these disks. This QNAP unit – the SS-839 Pro – impressed me because of the fact that there is a NAS fit for the business or “muscle-NAS” market that give respect to this low-power small form factor.

It also can hold 8 of the disks in the same footprint as a typical 5-bay “muscle NAS”, with support for sophisticated RAID and “business server” functionalities available in this class of device. Another benefit that I also like is the ability to have less power consumption than a NAS of this class and can provide for more expandability as one’s data needs grow.

Once the 1 Tb 2.5” hard disk comes on the scene, this will certainly wipe the 3.5” form factor off the map as far as hard disks are concerned and make that size only for certain removeable media.

22 June 2009 Posted by | Hard disk storage | , , | Leave a comment

HEXUS.net – News :: Deal of the day: 1TB Hitachi Deskstar hard drive for under £52 : Page – 1/1

Is this a sign of the times with hard disks? Time to keep an eye on the swap meets and the Internet for this special so you can add extra capacity to the PC or NAS. You may even consider running 2 or more of them in a fail-safe RAID array to protect against loss of data

Cited article

HEXUS.net – News :: Deal of the day: 1TB Hitachi Deskstar hard drive for under £52 : Page – 1/1

Hard-disk storage continues to get cheaper by the day, but we’ve yet to see anything as cheap as this:

It’s the Hitachi DeskStar 1TB hard drive, and it’s being offered at bargain-basement prices on various websites. The cheapest we’ve seen, though, is Ebuyer.com who is currently offering the drive for just £51.82 delivered. That’s around 5p per gigabyte, for a 7,200rpm SATA drive with a 16MB cache. It just doesn’t get much cheaper than that, if at all.

Ebuyer’s website reckons the etailer has over 800 in stock, so this could be a good opportunity to max out your PC or NAS.

11 June 2009 Posted by | Hard disk storage | , , | Leave a comment

RipNAS Statement SSD Windows Home Server Unveiled | eHomeUpgrade

RipNAS Statement SSD Windows Home Server Unveiled | eHomeUpgrade

My comments on this Windows Home Server-based NAS

Is this for real that a network-attached storage system for a home network will employ solid-state storage? You might think that the typical network-attached storage will be required to use regular electro-mechanical hard drives for its storage, but this unit has brought the idea of solid-state storage to this class of devices.

Why does this device implement solid-state storage as a main storage solution? It is designed from the outset to be a music server that can exist near one’s hi-fi equipment which will be located in the main living area or home-theatre room. The typical NAS box will be making a whirring or whining noise as the hard disks come to life while a fan keeps the system cool. But this design implements the solid-state disks and the use of a heatsink to cool the unit without any need for noisy fans.

The RipNAS Statement is a DLNA-compliant “ripping NAS” with a built-in optical drive and intended for keeping your music library on a hard disk, available to UPnP AV media clients, iTunes setups and the Logitech Squeezebox. It does implement “best-case” ripping practices where the music will be held as FLAC files but can be transcoded to LPCM or MP3 to suit most UPnP AV devices. The software can do other tricks such as keep highly-accurate metadata for all of the albums held on the hard disk and implement server-side volume levelling for albums recorded at differing volume levels.

This machine is one of a class of NAS units which will be dedicated to storing personal music, photo and video files and it could be a reality that we see households running one NAS for backing up data and another strictly for media-server functionality.

Welcome to a world where the serious music enthusiast can have access to the fun of network media! This may now mean that the home media network can be an acceptable path for the great recordings like Miles Davis’s “Kind Of Blue”, Donald Fagen’s “The Nightfly” or Pink Floyd albums of the 1970s as well as the great classics.

10 May 2009 Posted by | UPnP AV / DLNA media-server hardware | , , , | Leave a comment

Feature Article – DLNA Network Media Series: Setting up PC-less networked AV

Why set up a PC-less networked AV setup

A PC-less networked AV setup doesn’t need a particular computer to be present and running to provide AV media to DLNA client devices.

The media is provisioned by a box that is designed for providing AV media to client devices 24/7. This avoids situations where the media is not available due to the PC crashing or being infested with malware; both events that can be very common occurrences with most home computers. There is no need to worry about a PC which is being used for playing games or doing other system-intensive activities limiting media availability. Similarly, these setups use less energy than a PC working as a media server.

This setup also suits today’s laptop-based computing environment where laptop computers are more likely to be moved from place to place. It also suits environments like holiday houses where there is no real use in keeping a desktop computer on the premises but there is the desire to have occasional Internet access at such locations.

As well, this kind of setup appeals to computer-shy people who may want to benefit from digitally-hosted media. This is because there is no need to have a noisy ugly computer in the house for this kind of activity to occur.

Another bonus is that when you add more media client devices to the network, a dedicated media server can handle the increased demand more capably. Contrast this with a PC where the odds of failing when serving more devices can increase rapidly.

What kinds of PC-less media server exist?

Dedicated DLNA music server (Philips Streamium WACS-7000, Sony GigaJuke  NAS-S55HDE, etc)

This unit is typically in the form of a hi-fi system or component that is part of such a system. It has a single hard disk that is primarily for storing media, typically music files and have a network interface, either in the Ethernet or 802.11g wireless form.

Such units will have a built-in CD drive and can “rip” audio tracks from CDs loaded in that drive. They will have access to a metadata service like Gracenote so that the tracks are properly indexed by song title, artist (both album and contributing), genre and album title. As well, they could record audio to the hard drive from a device connected to the server’s line-level input or, where applicable, from a built-in radio tuner. This is in a similar manner to recording music to tapes from the radio using that good old cassette deck.

A lot of these systems expose features and functions that only work best with selected client equipment sold by the server’s manufacturer. They may have limitations concerning transferring audio files to and from the unit’s hard disk, which may limit backup or secondary-storage opportunities. Usually they require a computer to run a special utility in order to transfer music files to or from the unit.

Standalone NAS (network-attached storage) box

These devices are simply a dedicated file-storage device that is connected to the home network and handles files according to standard network-based file-handling protocols. They often provide backup file storage and secondary file storage for computers on the network as well as media-server functionality.  Some users may use the hard disks in these units as a “holding bay” for their computer’s hard-disk contents while they are upsizing that computer’s hard disk.

These boxes will typically come either as a single-disk unit which is the size of a book or as a multi-disk unit that is typically the size of a toaster or breadmaker. These units  either uses the hard disks as a huge storage volume or sets aside some of the disks as a “shadow store” for the data should any of the disks fail. This latter technique, which also provides higher data throughput is known as RAID which stands for Redundant Array of Independent Disks.

They are available as a unit fitted out with the necessary hard disks to the capacity you pay for or as an enclosure where you install hard disks that you buy separately. Earlier versions of these enclosures required the user to mess around with a screwdriver and end up losing screws in the assembly process, but the newer units just require the user to slide in or “clip in” the hard disks.

This class of device includes “headless” small-scale server platforms like Windows Home Server and some Linux distributions which can be expanded by the user to perform different functions. They may include this kind of software being loaded on an otherwise-redundant PC that is being repurposed as a small-form file server.

This device will be the way to go eventually because of its ability to provide a flexible media-sharing solution for most small networks.

“Ripping” NAS units

There are a class of NAS boxes that are just like a regular NAS box, having the same number of hard disks as these devices and having the same capacity and functionality as these boxes. But these units, such as the RipFactory RipServer, have a built-in optical disk drive and software which “rips” CDs loaded in to the unit’s optical drive, in a similar manner to a dedicated DLNA music server. They will use a music metadata service like Gracenote to index the tracks that are ripped from the CDs loaded in the unit’s optical drive. These units would be considered as a “bridge” between the dedicated DLNA music server and a general-purpose NAS box.

USB hard disk connected to a DLNA-compliant USB file server

Another common method is to use a USB network file server device that is connected to a USB external hard disk. The device can typically be part of another network device like a router or just become a standalone box. These units, again, handle files according to the standard network-based file-transfer protocols.

They work best with one self-powered USB hard disk because most of these server devices usually run on a low-output power supply that typically powers the electronics within. They also don’t have the logic to properly handle a USB hub or multiple USB hard disks. If you are using a small hard disk that doesn’t have its own power supply, you may need to connect it via a self-powered USB hub.

These setups are useful for a temporary media-sharing arrangement where you are providing media to one or two devices.

Storing your media on these devices

If you use a dedicated NAS unit without a built-in optical drive, you will need to make sure that you have SMB (Windows, MacOS X, Linux) or NFS (Linux) read/write access to the media share on that NAS unit. As well, make sure that there is a desktop shortcut, mapped drive letter or other mount point to that share on your computer(s) that you are preparing the media on.

Prepare your media as you normally would, with it ending up in your computer’s media directories. Then copy the media directories to the NAS media share using the standard practices that you use for copying files and directories. You may need to set up a “sync” routine to automatically copy new media to the media share so you can be sure that the new media is available on the network.

Avoid the temptation to “rip” a CD directly to the network share because there is the increased likelihood of errors and slow performance due to multiple points of failure existing between the CD and the NAS’s hard disk, being the optical drive, the ripping and encoding processes and the network transfer process.

Increasing and evolving the DLNA networked media system

One media Server, work towards a NAS unit

This is more analogous to a business’s file server where the IT department want to make sure that all company data is seen as one collection to back up and manage and is at one location. This may appeal to you if you want to have only one primary storage point for your media.

The only limitation about this is that if you need to “do anything” with the NAS unit like upsize it or replace a failed hard disk, you will have to have the media library out of action.

Two or more Media Servers serving different content

You may want to have the media on two or more media servers rather than one media server. This may appeal to a household which has young adults or adolescent children living in it. In this situation, they may want to keep their media on an NAS that they have responsibility for and can take with them when they move on. This avoids you having your media server being “clogged up” with their media which you will less likely want to touch whether they are with you or when they have left your place.

Similarly, you may have media to do with your personal activity as well as media to do with your business or community-engagement activity. Here, you can run a separate media server which houses your business media and this one can be managed under business standards and be financially underwritten by your business. This includes Web developers who run a NAS box as a “Web-page workbench” and want to view primary pictures for their Web page on a DLNA media client attached to the big-screen TV.

Here, you create the different media servers but you make sure they have different names so that your DLNA client devices can differentiate between the server devices. You may use different types of server such as a USB hard disk connected to a DLNA-capable USB file server for a small project or a business-class NAS unit for your business data.

An increasing number of NAS devices pitched at the domestic market are starting to support the ability to aggregate multiple DLNA media libraries in to one large media library. This allows the user to point their media client device at one reference point for all the media that exists on the one home network.

Media Servers in different geographical locations

There may be the possibility of running another DLNA-based media network in another geographic location like a business premises or another house.

The main issue about this is keeping both locations in sync with the desired content. You may have to use an Internet-based sync utility which is supported by your media server to synchronise content between locations.

On the other hand, you could set up an IP-based NAS-NAS backup set for incremental or differential (only files that are new or have changed) backup, but the backup jobs could still be large if any metadata is changed.

You would have to make sure that both NAS units are accessible from the Internet. This may involve establishment of a “dynamic DNS” setup through the use of “DynDNS” or similar utilities; or having each location have a fixed IP address. Then there is the issue of setting up a port-forwarding rule in your router, which may be easy if your NAS units implements UPnP-based port forwarding and you are using a UPnP-compliant router in each location. On the other hand, you may have to visit the router’s Web page to set up the port-forward rules.

This situation hasn’t been made easy because typically the concept of using multiple NAS boxes for applications like multi-location file storage hasn’t been defined as a key application.

Conclusion

Once you have moved towards the PC-less DLNA-based media network, you will thank yourself that you have headed down that path. You won’t need to keep a noisy computer on all the time just to enjoy your music over the network.

3 December 2008 Posted by | Feature Article, UPnP AV / DLNA media-playback hardware), UPnP AV / DLNA media-server hardware | , | 1 Comment