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Sunday, June 17, 2012

Review of MyBook Live NAS

The MyBook Live Network Attached Storage (NAS) hard drive

by Thomas Briant

I recently bought a Western Digital MyBook Live 2 Tb NAS. I bought it to replace another drive that I dropped. My bad. This review will cover its utility as a networked storage device and the additional features it included, such as the Twonky media streaming software.

Initial Impressions

As a storage device, the My Book Live worked perfectly from the get-go. I read the instructions in the PDF manual on the installation disk. The Set-up programs for both the Mac and Windows installed the disk on my desktops and let me view the pre-established public shares.

When I wanted to access its Web-based Dashboard program, I ran into problems. I discovered this drive was a refurb. Someone else had set up the password for the Dashboard program. I couldn’t get into it.

I don’t blame Western Digital. I do blame Frys Electronics, where I bought the disk. They did not shrink-wrap the refurbed package and didn’t reset the drive for the next user.

Fortunately, Western Digital’s instructions in the PDF manual on the installation CD told me how to reset the drive with a straightened paperclip. With the power and network connection on, just stick the paperclip into the reset hole and hold it down for 4-5 seconds. The drive reset itself, showing the progress through changes in color of the front LED.

After that, I could access the Dashboard program through my Web browser of choice. I reset the password and set up a private share.


Using the MyBook as my Time Machine Drive

The PDF manual gave simple instructions for setting up the MyBook Live as your Time Machine backup drive. I accomplished this with no problems. Even before I reset the drive, I could use it as my Time Machine drive. It works without problems to my complete satisfaction.


The Twonky Media Streaming Software

I read the PDF manual on-line before purchasing it. The Twonky media streaming software particularly interested me. Could this solve the problem of streaming music to all my computers? Could it replace the free forked-daapd Linux software that I have used in the past?

The answer is: Yes, Twonky can stream music to Mac and Windows iTunes and to the Linux Banshee music player. No, it doesn’t have the features of forked-daaped. The music streaming, though, doesn’t conk out after two songs.

You access Twonky though the Dashboard. You have two settings: turn on Twonky and turn it on for iTunes. Twonky automatically scans the media files in the shared Public directory.

The developers of Twonky intended it for DLNA equipment, such as the Xbox 360 and PS/3 game consoles. iTunes is a fringe benefit.

I encountered two problems with Twonky. First, I tried putting my music into subfolders within the public Shared Music folder. This didn’t work. You have to put the files themselves into the folder all mixed together. Use iTunes to parse them apart when you want to play them.

Second, Twonky lacks transcoding capabilities. I could put .ogg music files (a Linux format) into the folders that forked-daaped read and it would automatically transcode them into a format that iTunes could read. No such luck with this version of Twonky. The .ogg files wouldn’t appear in iTunes.

When I used music files in the .mp3 and .m4a formats, then Twonky worked with iTunes. Oh, and the files can’t have DRM protection. That will only prove a problem with older music files that you bought from the iTunes Music Store.

So, to sum up, Twonky will stream your music to iTunes if you put the files into the Shared Music folder within the Public folder. You must use an unprotected format compatible with iTunes, such as .mp3 or .m4a.

Twonky sells the software for Windows, Mac, and Linux on their web site. The software versions are more current than the firmware version provided with the MyBook Live.


In Conclusion

The MyBook Live provides a very simple solution for a stand-alone network drive accessible from your various computers on your LAN. Western Digital’s instructions in the PDF manual give you all the information you need to get it up and running.

If you find you need to reset the device, you can easily do that with a straightened paperclip through a hole in the back.

The Twonky media streaming software works well. It is simple to setup and use.

All in all, a a good value. Available in 1, 2 , and 3 Tb capacities.

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