Reviews

Jul 07 2010

Review - Vidabox Wireless RF Keyboard

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Vidabox Wireless RF Keyboard

Your wireless keyboard is the connection between you and your Home Theater PC. From extensive system configuration, to daily web browsing and media playback, to quick trouble shooting when your remote craps out your choice of keyboard can dramatically impact your user experience. Vidabox has updated their wireless keyboard offering so just click through to take a more detailed look at the Vidabox Premium Wireless RF Keyboard.

 

Jul 06 2010

Review - Actiontec Ethernet over Coax MoCA Network Adapter

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Actiontec Ethernet over Coax MoCA Network Adapter

 

Have you ever been in that situation where wifi just doesn't cut it, forcing you to try other network solutions such as Ethernet over power line and wanted tear your hair out in frustration? Whether you have a HTPC, a network media tank, or a video game console system you've been to that point where you just wish you could run an Ethernet cable, however due to constraints in your living situation you just can't hard wire that Ethernet cable like you want to. Today we look at the Actiontec Ethernet over Coax MoCA network adapter and run it through the paces to see if this adapter is just the answer to all your hard wired woes. 
Jun 13 2010

Review - Moneual MonCaso 320

Moneual MonCaso 320

 

Finding the perfect case for your Home Theater PC (HTPC) when it is going in the A/V stack is hard.  The system needs to blend in with the other components and pass the Spouse Acceptance Factor (SAF) all while having enough space for expandability and be easy to keep cool and quiet.  From our earlier look at the MonCaso 312, we know that Moneual has what it takes to make a premium low profile, micro-ATX chassis at a premium price.  Let’s take a detailed look at the MonCaso 320 and find out if it is the right case for your HTPC.

May 24 2010

Review - QNAP NMP-1000

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Review: QNAP NMP-1000

 

These days, small form-factor networked media players are all the rage.  It seems that you cannot turn around without tripping over a device from another manufacturer trying to compete in this market.  We recently had a look at the Box Office from Patriot and the O!Play HDP-R1 from Asus.  Today I bring to the table the NMP-1000 from QNAP.  Starting where others leave off, this unit offers similar specs as other units but with the addition of a 3.5" hard drive bay.  Read on to see how it will fit into your home theater setup.

  

Introduction

QNAP Systems, Inc. is a privately held company founded in 2004 and is dedicated to bringing world class NAS storage, professional NVR video surveillance, and network video players to consumer, small/medium business, and entry level enterprise market segments. QNAP leverages not only hardware design but also a growing core competency in software engineering that is precisely focused on bringing to market products that offer the highest available performance coupled with outstanding reliability, scalability, and ease of installation and use. QNAP is a multi-national company with headquarters in Taipei, Taiwan, and subsidiary offices in China and the United States.

Here is a closer look at the specs from QNAP:

Networking TCP/ IP, HTTP, CIFS/ SMB, NFS, AFP, FTP, DDNS, DHCP client, BitTorrent P2P
File System NTFS (system default)
FAT32, EXT3
Client Supported Microsoft Windows 2000/ XP/ 2003/ Vista/ 7
Mac OS X
Linux and Unix
User Management User account management (max. 128 users)
User group management (max. 32 groups)
File System Management Network share management (max. 128 shares)
Unicode support
Web File Manager
System Tools HDD standby mode setting
System firmware upgrade
System logs
TV System NTSC/ PAL
Max. Resolution 1920 x 1080p (Full HD)
Screen Aspect Ratio 4:3 or 16:9
Audio Formats FLAC, WAV, WMA, AAC, PCM, AC3, MP3, M4A, DTS, OGG
Video Formats

Codec: MPEG1, MPEG2, MPEG4, XVID, H.264, H.263, WMV9, VC1

Container: AVI, MPEG/MPG, VCD (ISO, MPG, NRG), DVD (VOB, IFO, ISO, NRG), WMV, ASF, TP, TS, TRP, M1V, M2V, M4V, M2P, M2T, M2TS, BDMV, MTS, MOV, MP4, RMP4, MKV, TOD, MOD, 3GP

Image Formats BMP, JPEG/ JPG, PNG
Playlist M3U, PLS, WPL, ASX
Subtitle Compatibility SRT, SUB, SMI, TXT, ASS, SSA, SUB (with idx)
Online Contents Flickr photos, Apple movie trailers, Internet radio, weather forecast
File Server Share files across Windows/ Mac/ Linux and UNIX and centralized management
FTP Server Access file from remote location via FTP server
Supports up to 16 concurrent connections (NAS mode)
Download Station PC-less BitTorrent download
Unique remote download utility QGet (Windows/ Mac) for remotely drag download task
Content Management Automatic categorization of local and remote disk data
User rating of video and music files
Photo sorting by date taken
Parental control
User Customization Home menu style selection
Subtitle size and location settings
Multilingual Support English, Traditional Chinese, Simplified Chinese, Japanese, Korean, French, German, Italian, Spanish, Russian, Swedish, Norwegian, Finnish, Danish, and Polish
Remote Share Up to 6 remote shares via SMB/CIFS or NFS
Auto share folder discovery on Microsoft network
Discover and playback from UPnP/DLNA supported storage devices

 

Hardware Up Close

 

The NMP-1000 is a nice unit.  While not quite as small as some other media players, this unit also supports the use of a 3.5" SATA hard drive internally so that media can be stored locally on the unit instead of being forced to stream everything over the network. 

The unit itself is made up of lightweight hard plastic material found all over the place today.  The front is has a smooth black finish to it while the rest of the unit is matte black - similar to the Patriot Box Office device. The side of the unit contains a removable panel which hides a tray that slides into the unit to hold the 3.5" drive which makes it very difficult to insert the drive improperly.

 

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NMP-1000 Front NMP-1000 Rear

 

The front of the unit provides a home for a power button on the left and a 4-way directional pad with OK button on the right.  This directional pad allows the user to navigate through the NMP-1000 menus without needing to use the remote.  The middle of the unit hides an LCD that displays whatever menu option is currently highlighted as well as relevant media info when displaying content.  This allows the user to navigate through the menus without needing to turn on a display.  This can be very handy for playing music without turning on a TV.  Along the entire bottom of the front panel is a decorative blue LED that turns on when the unit it booted up.  This light can now be turned off with a menu setting if desired (with a recent firmware upgrade).

The rear of the unit holds enough IO ports to make this unit useful in practically any environment.  Besides the obligatory power connector there are also USB and eSATA ports that allow this device to show up as an external drive when connected directly to a PC; HDMI, Component, S-Video and Composite outputs for video, Coax, TOSLink and Composite outputs for audio, Ethernet and two USB ports to add external storage as well.  There is also a small fan but there is no need to be concerned over noise levels.  Throughout the extent of my testing I never once noticed more than a quiet whir that was quickly forgotten in the background.

 

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NMP-1000 accessories

 

Included with the NMP-1000 are the power supply, RCA cable, HDMI cable, Ethernet cable, USB cable, multi-language users guide, remote (with battery) and a CD with software for connecting to the NMP-1000 from your PC.  This is a fairly comprehensive kit that should be enough to get you started.  I applaud QNAP for including the HDMI cable which is often left out with other units.

Usage

 

Right off the bat, I have to say that setting up the NMP-1000 is extremely easy.  If you plan to stream all of your content to the device all you need to do is connect the box to your network and to your TV/AVR.  If you plan to store content locally in the device you will need to do the previously mentioned steps, but also install a 3.5" hard drive.  Once the unit is powered up you are ready to go.  There are of course a few settings that can be tweaked to your liking such as assigning a static IP address or specifying HDMI or SPDIF audio, but for many users the default settings work well enough.

 

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NMP-1000 splash screen
Main menu

 

Navigating the NMP-1000 is very easy.  The main menu divides your content by types, meaning that there is a separate area for videos, music or pictures.  You can also select all content types.  Once you select which type of content you are looking for you can navigate through your directory structure and see only that type of content.  All other types of content will be filtered out and not show up.  If you select All Media then nothing is filtered and all of the folder's contents will appear.

 

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Media location selection - local, networked or streamed
Example of YouTube streamed content

 

There was only one problem that I ran into while using the NMP-1000 and it was related to getting the files onto the unit.  There are two ways to move content to the NMP-1000: remotely over the network or locally via USB or eSATA.  When using eSATA I was never able to get the device to show up on my laptop.  USB however worked as expected with the unit showing up as a removable hard drive so I expect that the eSATA issue is a problem with my laptop and not the NMP-1000.  Network access works well due to a gigabit Ethernet port which allows fast file transfers.

 

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NMP-1000 video player
NMP-1000 music player

 

When not functioning as a media playback unit the NMP-1000 can either be completely shutdown or else go into NAS mode where all of the media playback functionality is turned off but the unit can still be accessed over a network.  This allows you to copy files to and from the unit like a regular (single drive) NAS device without spending the extra electricity on things like video output or decoding.  It's not a huge power savings at 17 watts in NAS mode versus 18 watts in regular mode but every little bit helps.  And switching back to regular operation is nearly instantaneous with a touch of the power button.

 

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Weather on NMP-1000
Shutdown or NAS mode

 

The item of primary importance when considering a unit like this is not looks however; the primary feature is the unit's ability to play your media.  In this respect I can say that the QNAP NMP-1000 works very well.  The specs indicate that the unit can play back almost any formats known to man and I can say that the specs are correct.  I threw a battery of video and audio files at the unit - which included VC1 with AC3 audio in M2TS, VC1 with PCM audio in MKV, TS, AVC with AAC audio, VC1 with WMA2 and WMA3 audio, MP4, VOB, well you get the idea - and it was able play them all back without issue or hesitation.

 

Conclusion

Overall the NMP-1000 is a very capable unit.  It is very responsive when navigating menus.  The unit was able to play a multitude of audio and video formats which covered everything in my test suite.  In the end, the hardware was more than capable of handling the workload.  And on top of its ability to playback your media the NMP-1000 can also function as a home NAS as well as a BitTorrent client.  While the unit may not be as small as other media player devices the NMP-1000 offers the ability to use a 3.5" hard drive allowing up to 2TB of internal storage.  However, these capabilities do come at a price and that price is an MSRP of $440. 

Pros:

  • Native support of most video codecs
  • Quiet operation
  • Sleek design
  • High stability
  • NAS functionality
  • Bit Torrent client

Cons:

  • Cost
  • Size

You can find the QNAP NMP-1000 at AMAZON for $432 or NEWEGG (unavailable at the time of this writing).

Thanks to QNAP for providing the review unit.

May 10 2010

Review - EFO Wireless Keyboard Comparison

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Review: EFO Wireless Keyboard Comparison

 

Recently we looked at the EFO RF Wireless Handheld Keyboard which worked pretty well overall.  Today we are going to compare that with the new Bluetooth version, the EFO Bluetooth Wireless Handheld Keyboard.  How well will bluetooth compare to RF?  What else has been changed with this keyboard?  Is it worth the additional cost?  Read on to find out.

May 09 2010

Review - IOGEAR GKM561R Wireless Keyboard

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IOGEAR GKM561R Wireless Keyboard

Finding the right wireless keyboard and mouse for your HTPC can be a huge chore.   For me the ideal solution has to have a wireless range greater than 10’, good battery life and combines a compact keyboard with a pointing device in the same chassis.   The IOGEAR GKM561R has the looks and specs to get it in the door; let’s take a closer look to find out if it has the capability to make it a keeper.
Apr 12 2010

Review - S1Digital 100 Disk Blu-ray Changer

My experience with S1Digitals 100 disk Blu-ray changer was just about flawless. It would have been 100% except for the first unit they shipped me had an optical drive failure after ripping around 40 disks. Anyone who has had the pleasure of dealing with S1Digial knows there support is top notch, so after trying a few things I was quickly sent a replacement changer.

For my test of the unit I ripped 53 store bought Blu-rays (the changer and My movies support DVD and Music disks also, but I didn’t test those features). The changer integrates with My Movies for Windows Home Server, and later will integrate directly with a Media Center PC. Ripping copy protected Blu-rays such as these requires AnyDVD HD from Slysoft. Neither My Movies nor the Changer remove the encryption required to make a successful copy. As you’ll see in the video below the entire process from setup to loading disks to ripping couldn’t be any easier.

Check out the HD video above and if you have any questions check out S1Digitals product page or leave  a comment and I’ll do my best to respond.

Mar 30 2010

Review - Moneual MonCaso 312

Moneual MonCaso 312 Review

If you’ve decided to put your HTPC where it can be seen, you owe it to your eyes to put it in a chassis that makes it look like it belongs. A nice case is an essential part of any build but unfortunately are not inexpensive. The Moneual MonCaso 312 looks the part of a sleek low profile case; let’s take a detailed look at if it is worth the price and can provide a good home for your next HTPC.

Mar 07 2010

Review - Intel DH57JG and Core i3-530

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Intel DH57JG and Core i3-530 Review

With more mini-ITX options than ever it’s a great time for small form factor (SFF) PCs.  Enthusiasts are finding more ways to get the most out of these tiny boxes both in the A/V stack and backing it.  Take a look with us at the soon to be released Intel DH57JG motherboard paired with a Core i3-530 to find out if the tiniest member of Intel’s Clarkdale offering can bring a full featured HTPC to the SFF world.

Feb 23 2010

Review - ASUS O!Play HDP-R1 Media Player

oplay_20-thumb.JPGWe have covered a number of different media players with a variety of features in the past, so no surprise that ASUS decided to get involved in the game. Their O!Play HDP-R1 brings a lot of familiar items to the table, but with so many competitors in the market, the ASUS will need to play hard to stand out. 

Feb 22 2010

Review - Logitech's Touch Mouse for iPod Touch or iPhone

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Logitech Touch Mouse

At this point you have seen a number of different apps for the iPhone and iPod Touch designed to let you control your PC. Logitech has recently released their Touch Mouse app designed to do the same but at an impressive price--free. So what is the catch? Logitech already has established themselves with some wonderful hardware touch devices, so how will their first software app doing so match up to other similar yet more expensive items? The answer may surprise you.            

Feb 02 2010

Review - Thinkflood's Redeye: A True iPhone Infrared Remote

 

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ThinkFlood's RedEye

The idea of an app for the iPhone that allows you to control your A/V equipment is not new, but Thinkflood is unique in that it adds hardware into the mix.  RedEye by Thinkflood attempts to convert the iPhone into an activity based learning infrared remote that is competative with the biggest players in the industry.  The infrared extender is similar in form factor to the standard Apple charging cradle but packs some specialized hardware.  Inside the base station are multiple infrared LEDs that when connected to the iPhone via Wi-Fi allow you to control just about anything with an IR sensor.  At an MSRP of $188 this device is priced in the middle of high end activity based radio frequency remote controls.  Will it be the "ultimate evolution of the remote control?"                  


Jan 30 2010

Review - EFO RF Wireless Handheld Keyboard

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Review: EFO RF Wireless Handheld Keyboard

 

Everyone comes to a point sooner or later where having a remote control in front of you just doesn't meet all of your needs.  For those times it is handy to have a keyboard nearby.  But who wants to lug out a big keyboard that tethers you to the HTPC?  It's much more convenient to use something wireless and easy to hide.  Let's have a look at an offering from EFO to see if it fits your needs.

Jan 25 2010

Review - Patriot Box Office HD Media Player

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Patriot Box Office HD

Patriot has been around for years, mainly known for memory type products. Recently however, Patriot has branched out quite a bit in their product lineup and have now introduced a viable high definition media player to compete in the somewhat crowded world. This particular unit takes a similar media player concept and hardware platform and expands upon it, allowing hard drive expandability and a few other neat extras to go along with its already solid file support. Could this be the media player to replace all others?

 

Jan 18 2010

Review - QNAP TS-419P

   
 

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QNAP TS-419P Review

Recently released from QNAP the TS-419P is the new addition to their four slot NAS family. Read on to see if it will fit your storage needs.

Introduction

We recently took a look at the TS-219P NAS from QNAP and found it to be a good unit at that price point. Today, we are going to take its big brother, the TS-419P , for a spin to see how it compares.

Hardware Stuff

Similar to the TS-219P, the packaging for the QNAP TS-419P is covered with information about features and stats. There is no blank brown box here.

 

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Packaging front Packaging back

 

 

The NAS itself looks very similar to the TS-219P but with the addition of two more drive bays for a total of four, and an LCD panel for a digital readout of the NAS status. To navigate information on the LCD screen there are Enter and Select buttons.

The front of the TS-419P has four LED status indicators for STATUS, LAN, USB and eSATA. There is also a power button as well as a USB port encircled by a Copy button. Pushing the Copy button with a USB drive attached will automatically copy the contents of the USB drive into a predefined folder called QUSB. This makes it very easy for a user to copy MP3s or photos onto the NAS for safe keeping.

 

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TS-419P front TS-419P back

  

The rear of the TS-419P has a 90mm fan, 2x eSATA, 2x LAN, 3x USB, reset button and power input. As with the smaller TS-219P unit, the fan on the rear is powerful enough to keep the drives nice and cool while still remaining extremely quiet. I have been running this unit on the shelf next to me for a couple of weeks now and do not notice the fan noise unless I put my ear right next to it. While this is not a quantitative analysis I would feel comfortable putting this unit directly on top of my entertainment center and not need to worry about noise. According to QNAP the operating sound level is 35.1dB during operation.

The TS-419P is necessarily larger than the TS-219P due to the additional two drive bays but still maintains a small footprint with overall dimensions of 177(H) x 180(W) x 235(D) mm. The bare unit weighs in at just over 6.5 lbs with no drives installed. Of course, a fully populated unit will be a bit heavier.

The TS-419P uses the same drive sled mechanics as the TS-219P reviewed earlier . The drives screw into the bottom of the sled with four screws without any rubber isolators but no drive noise appears to be transferred into the rest of the system. Once attached to the sleds, the frames are inserted into the NAS using  the latches on the front. When closed, these latches hold the drive sleds in place to keep them from moving. Locking the mechanism keeps the lever in place preventing you from removing the drive. In order to reduce confusion when swapping out drives, each sled is marked with HDD1, HDD2, etc and there is a sticker on the top of the unit that indicates the order of the drives in the NAS.

 

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Drive sleds Drive sleds in NAS
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Sled bottom with screws

  

Specs and Features

Hardware:

CPU Marvell 6281 1.2GHz
DRAM 512MB DDRII RAM
Flash Memory 16MB
HDD

4 x 3.5" or 2.5” SATA I/II HDD

NOTE:
1. The system is shipped without HDD.
2. For the HDD compatibility list, please visit http://www.qnap.com/pro_compatibility.asp

HDD Tray 4 x hot-swappable and lockable tray
LAN Port 2 x Gigabit RJ-45 Ethernet port
LED Indicators Status, LAN, USB, eSATA, HDD 1, HDD 2, HDD 3, HDD 4
USB

4 x USB 2.0 port (Front: 1; Back: 3)

Supports USB printer, disk, pen drive, USB hub, and USB UPS, etc. 

eSATA 2 x eSATA port (Back)
Buttons Power button, USB one-touch-backup button, reset button
LCD panel Mono-LCD display with backlight and buttons for configuration
Alarm Buzzer System warning
Form Factor Tower
Dimensions

177(H) x 180(W) x 235(D) mm
6.97(H) x 7.09(W) x 9.25(D) inch

Weight Net weight: 3 Kg (6.61 lbs)
Gross weight: 4.6 Kg (10.14 lbs)
Sound Level (dB)

W/o HDD installed: 33 dB
Stand by: 33.2 dB
In operation: 35.1dB
(Background: 25.5 dB)

Power Consumption (W) Sleep mode: 11W
In operation: 26W
(with 4 x 500GB HDD installed)
Temperature 0~40ËšC/ 32~104°F
Humidity 0~95% R.H.
Power Supply Input: 100-240V AC, 50/60Hz
Output: 12V DC, 10A, 120W
Secure Design K-lock security slot for theft prevention
Fan 1 x quiet cooling fan (9 cm, 12V DC)


Features:

The following is a list of the features found in the TS-419P as described by QNAP. Many of these features were recently discussed in our review of the TS-219P .

 

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QNAP TS-419P Turbo NAS is the 4-bay, 2.5-inch and 3.5-inch SATA HDD network-attached storage server with

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iSCSI applications dedicated to SMB, SOHO and home users. As a storage centre for mass data backup, management and sharing, the TS-419P Turbo NAS supports excellent hardware design, outstanding performance, high system reliability, and numerous powerful software applications.

Excellent industrial design and hardware specifications

The low-powered TS-419P Turbo NAS adopts Marvell 1.2 GHz CPU and 512MB DDRII RAM and is able to maintain superior performance in an intensive data access environment. The NAS supports four hot-swappable SATA hard drives, two Gigabit LAN ports for multi-IP settings, failover, and load-balancing, four USB ports and two eSATA ports for external storage backup, and is also equipped with an LCD panel for convenient system status checking.

Superior performance and abundant server applications

The TS-419P Turbo NAS supports cross-platform services across Windows, Mac, Linux, and UNIX. Enhanced industry-leading features are also provided, e.g. EXT3 and EXT4 file systems, built-in iSCSI target service (max 8 iSCSI targets), virtual disk drive (VDD) by built-in iSCSI initiator for storage expansion, RAID 0/ 1/ 5/ 6/ 5+spare, single and JBOD disk configurations, online RAID capacity expansion, online RAID level migration, RAID recovery, policy-based IP blocking, instant SMS alert notification, schedule power on/ off, and 4 IP cameras (optional purchase) for network surveillance.

Maximize the enjoyment of your home multimedia centre

The built-in UPnP/ DLNA media server (with TwonkyMedia enabled) of the Turbo NAS supports a wide range of DLNA media players such as Sony PS3 and Microsoft Xbox 360 gaming consoles and works well with NFS-supported High-Definition (HD) digital media players for HD video streaming. By installing the DLNA/ UPnP application on your iPhone or iPod touch, you can access the Turbo NAS on the local network and play the multimedia contents, e.g. videos, music, and photos on the server. In addition, the high-speed PC-less Download Station with the unique QGet utility enables you to manage the BT/ FTP/ HTTP download tasks remotely over the local network or the Internet.

Brand new user Interface available

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Advanced RAID Management with Hot-swap Design

The NAS offers advanced RAID 0, 1, 5, 6, 5 + Spare, Single, and JBOD disk configurations. It also supports hot-swap design that a failed drive can be replaced by hot swapping without turning off the server. Besides, the best-in-class RAID on the NAS brings users a higher level of data security by allowing one more hard drive failure than other NAS of the same level. Online RAID Capacity Expansion

Online RAID Capacity Migration

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The storage capacity of a RAID configuration can be expanded by replacing the hard drives with larger ones. All the data will be kept and seamlessly moved to the newly installed hard drives. There is no need to turn off the server during the process.

 

 

 

 

Online RAID Level Migration

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You can upgrade the disk configuration to higher RAID level with the data retained. There is no need to turn off the server during the process.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Virtual Disk Drive (VDD) adds flexibility to storage expansion along with ease of management

The unique "Virtual Disk Drive" adds flexibility to expand the capacity of NAS. By using the built-in iSCSI initiator, the NAS can connect to other iSCSI targets on the network and turn them into virtual disks, which become multiple single volumes on the NAS. Up to 8 virtual disks can be stacked. The NAS serves as the storage stack chaining master. The user only needs to connect to this single entry (QNAP NAS) and is able to reach and use all the iSCSI target storages on the network.

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Built-in iSCSI Target Service

The TS-419P can act as a NAS and iSCSI target server at the same time. It provides a cost-efficient iSCSI solution to set up an IP-SAN. You can make use of the built-in iSCSI target service to add up to 8 iSCSI devices. Different iSCSI Target LUNs (Logical Unit Number) can be defined as storage expansion or backup destination of the existing application servers, such as database servers and mail servers.

Furthermore, the "Virtual Space Allocation" (Thin Provisioning) feature is provided which allows you to flexibly allocate the capacity of iSCSI LUN (Logical Unit Number). When the physical storage capacity of the volume is going to be full, you can easily expand the storage capacity by "Online RAID Capacity Expansion", or adjust/ remove the current unused volume space according to the demands.

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S.M.A.R.T & Advanced HDD Health Scanning (HHS)

The NAS supports Hard Disk Drive S.M.A.R.T (Self-Monitoring Analysis and Reporting Technology) for monitoring the hard drive status. Moreover, the NAS is embedded with HHS Technology which supports disk checking and bad blocks scanning.

UPS Support

The NAS supports the majority of USB UPS devices (usbhid-ups supported) which enables the users to store the data in time and avoid critical data loss when power outage occurs during data transfer.

Complete Backup Solution

QNAP Backup Software - NetBak Replicator

The backup software, NetBak Replicator, is provided for the NAS users to perform real-time synchronization or schedule backup from multiple PCs to the NAS.

3rd Party Backup Software Ready

The NAS works well with other backup software, e.g. Acronis True Image, CA BrightStor ARCserve Backup, EMC Retrospect, Symantec Backup Exec, and LaCie Silverkeeper.

Encrypted Remote Replication

The data on the NAS can be backed up to or from another Turbo NAS over the network securely.

One Touch USB Auto Copy

The one touch button can be configured to trigger instant data backup from the external USB device to the NAS or the other way round (applies to the USB device connected to the front USB port of the NAS only).

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Cross-platform Data Sharing and Storage Centre

Sharing Files across Windows, Mac, Linux, and UNIX

The NAS is designed for users to share the files across Windows, Mac, Linux, and UNIX environment.

Support Windows AD

The Windows AD feature enables server manager to import user accounts from AD domain to NAS to reduce the time and effort for account setup, and users can use the same set of login name and password.

Web File Manager

The NAS provides Web File Manager for you to easily download, upload, and manage the files on the server by web browser.

Ease of User and Share Folder Management

The NAS supports batch creation of users and share folders to save the time and effort of the server manager in account and folder creation. For the security of Windows network environment, server managers can hide or show network share folders.

Power Management

Hard Disk Standby

You can configure the hard disks to enter standby mode if there is no disk access within the specified period.

Schedule Power on/ off

The flexible schedule power on/off feature is now provided on the NAS for IT administrators to manage the NAS server's up time according to the working hours. You can set the time for automatic system power on, power off, or restart on any days of the week.

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Secure data storage, access, and sharing

  • Comprehensive event logs: Detailed logs of file-level data access to the NAS via samba, FTP, AFP, HTTP, HTTPS, Telnet, and SSH, and networking services accessed by online users are all recorded.
  • SSL security (HTTPS): The NAS can be accessed and configured by web browser securely.
  • Remote login to the NAS by SSH (secure shell) or Telnet connection is supported.
  • Secure FTP: The data can be transmitted with SSL/TLS (explicit) encryption. Passive FTP port range setup is also supported.
  • Write-only access right on FTP server: The third party partners are allowed to upload data to the NAS but not able to read or edit the data on FTP server.

Policy-based Automatic IP Blocking

To prevent the NAS from malicious attacks, the server manager can create an IP filter policy to allow, deny, or auto-block the IP address or network domain which attempts to connect to the NAS via SSH/ Telnet/ HTTP(S)/ FTP/ samba/ AFP.

Powerful All-in-one Server Features

 

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File Server

You can create the user ID and password, and define the access right and storage quota of each user on the NAS.

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FTP Server

You can establish your own FTP server using the NAS and share the files conveniently with others.

feature11.jpg Backup Server

The automatic backup software, NetBak Replicator, is provided for you to perform real-time synchronization or schedule backup from multiple PCs to the NAS.

feature12.jpg Remote Replication

The data on the NAS can be backed up to or from another Turbo NAS or Rsync server over the network.

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Web Server

The NAS supports Joomla!, MySQL, SQLite and editable php.ini.

feature14.jpg MySQL Server

The NAS can be flexibly applied in various deployments such as a database server of another web server in remote site or as an additional backup database server.

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Printer Server

The NAS supports network printer sharing function (max 3 USB printers).

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UPnP Media Server (with built-in TwonkyMedia Server)

The NAS is a perfect media storage centre and it works well with DLNA (Digital Living Network Alliance) compliant media players. You can play the photos and videos on TV, or listen to your favourite music and Internet radio on your Hi-Fi System.

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Multimedia Station

You can share you photos, video, or music over the network by the Multimedia Station of the NAS.

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Download Station

The NAS supports PC-less BitTorrent, FTP, and HTTP download. TCP/ UDP, encrypted BT download function, and DHT (Distributed Hash Tables) are also supported.

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iTunes Server

You can stream the mp3 music on the NAS to the computers on the home network and listen to the music by iTunes over wired or wireless network connection.

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Surveillance Station

The Surveillance Station enables you to configure multiple IP-based security cameras simultaneously for real-time monitoring, recording, and playback.








 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The most comprehensive support for numerous brands of IP cameras

The Surveillance Station of QNAP NAS supports all the leading network camera brands such as AXIS, D-Link, IPUX, LevelOne, Linksys, Panasonic and Vivotek etc. By using particular models, users can use two-way video and audio monitoring and recording, and smart PTZ control to control the monitoring direction via the web interface. Each of the supported cameras has been put through stringent tests with the NAS series in QNAP's laboratory to guarantee 100% compatibility and reliability with all these camera brands.

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Live audio and video monitoring, recording and playback over the Internet

  • High quality video recording in MPEG-4 and Motion JPEG format
  • Real-time monitoring and recording for up to 30 fps per channel
  • Live 2-way audio supported for monitoring and voice broadcasting
  • Easy installation and management from remote location

Powerful System Management Tools

Smart Fan

The fan rotation speed is automatically adjusted according to the server's temperature. You can also define the system temperatures to trigger high speed or low speed rotation of the fan. By manually setting the fan rotation speed, the fan will rotate at the defined speed continuously.

Instant SMS/ Email Alert

You can configure the SMTP server and SMSC server settings on the NAS in order to receive instant system warning or error messages by email or SMS.

SNMP (Simple Network Management Protocol)

Enable SNMP service on the NAS to collect the information, warning or error of the NAS and send to max 3 SNMP servers for centralized management and real-time monitoring of your NAS.

SSL Secure Certificate

The administrator can upload a secure certificate and an RSA private key in X.509PEM format issued by a trusted provider in order to allow the users to access the NAS by secure SSL login.

Syslog Settings

All the system event logs and connection logs can be saved to a remote syslog server.

Network Recycle Bin

The files deleted from the network shares of the NAS will be moved to a particular recycle bin folder. You can restore your data anytime in case of unintended file deletion.

Comprehensive Event Log System

The logs of connections to the NAS via samba, FTP, AFP, HTTP, HTTPS, Telnet, and SSH, and networking services accessed by online users are all recorded.

Detailed System Information

You can view the system status, e.g., CPU usage, total memory, free memory, packets received, packets sent, error packets, system up time, CPU temperature, system temperature, HDD temperature, and system fan speed.

DDNS Support

You can register a unique domain name from a DDNS service provider and assign it to your NAS. Your users can access the NAS by the domain name instead of the IP address.

Excellent Hardware Expansion

The TS-419P supports 4 USB 2.0 and 2 eSATA ports. You can connect external storage devices to the NAS for data backup or storage capacity expansion.

Software Expansion and Website Management

QPKG Software Package Platform

The QPKG software package platform enables the users to maximize the usage of the NAS by installing additional software packages developed from the users and community worldwide. This can be done by simple "download & install" clicking without going through any complicated process.

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Installation and Use

 

Setup:

Installation of the QNAP TS-419P was literally a ten minute process. First, connect the power and network cable to the unit. Then, connect the other end of the network cable to your switch or router. Next, use the QNAP software to find the newly attached NAS. Modify settings as necessary although the defaults will work OK for most people to get up and running with. Finally, map the NAS to a drive letter and start copying files.

It really is that easy. As with most things however, there are additional settings that can be tweaked and features that can be enabled to better meet your needs. Some examples include Linux NFS support for sharing files with a Linux network, and the Download and Multimedia Stations.  The Download station allows you to setup http, ftp or BitTorrent downloads directly to your NAS and the Multimedia Station allows you to share your multimedia with other people (on your internal or external network) with user accounts that you setup to control who can see what.  It could be an easy way to make your shows available outside of your home when combined with the built in ability to use DDNS.

User Interface:

The web interface used by QNAP has received a much needed facelift. As you click on the icons in the background of the initial web page, they rotate into the foreground. It is a very stylish look. Within the administration portion of the UI the layout remains similar to what it was before but the look and feel of it has been improved nicely.  The overall flow of the configuration pages seems much easier to navigate.

 

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Main page
Administrator page

Test Setup and Results

  

Test Setup and Results:

Many of the value added features of the QNAP series of NASs have been covered in our review of the TS-219P . With this in mind, instead of repeating ourselves this review will cover only the NAS functionality itself in a home environment. The unit came with four 750GB Western Digital Caviar Black hard drives in a RAID5 configuration. Given that this is being reviewed from a Digital Lifestyle perspective, the unit was tested with a large number of small file transfers (i.e. backing up digital photos or MP3s) as well as with individual and groups of large files (i.e. backing up TV/movie recordings).  Each test was performed by transferring a group of files three times and averaging the times.

Writes to NAS:

No. of Files Total data size (MB) Elapsed Time (min:sec) Transfer Rate (MB/s)
294 606 0:36 16.8
84 45597 36:24 20.9



Reads from NAS:

 

No. of Files Total data size (MB) Elapsed Time (min:sec) Transfer Rate (MB/s)
294 606 0:26
23.3
84 45597 8:13
24.1

 

Power Consumption:

 

Idle 40W
File Copy 43W

Conclusion

If you read our review of the QNAP TS-219P you will know that it is a good NAS unit.  The TS-419P reviewed today shares all the same features but also increases the storage capacity to four drives instead of two while also adding an LCD to the front.  If you are looking for more storage for your home theater environment this is a good solution.  It's more than capable of streaming HD content to and from your HTPC without causing any buffering.  And with a max storage capacity of 8TB it's hard to go wrong.  After using the review unit for a couple of weeks I have seen nothing but stability from it.  It runs silently and uses very little power.  With the addition of the other features that QNAP has designed into their units which are accessible via a nice looking, easy to use interface, the TS-419P offering is a very good product.  Its size and looks allow it to fit into almost any setting and QNAP has suggested a reasonable price for what you get @ $599.  All in all, if this unit fits your needs you will not have any regrets.

Jan 04 2010

Review - Intel's DH55TC and Core i5-661 - Clarkdale

 

intel core i5

Intel DH55TC & Core i5-661 (Clarkdale) Review

The family of processors code-named "Clarkdale" has sparked a great deal of interest since its existence and some basic performance information spread out across the web in late September.  Teasing home theater PC (HTPC) enthusiasts with incredibly low power usage and built in HD codec bit streaming all packaged together with enough performance to tempt those in need of a full featured HTPC. 

Given Intel’s somewhat troubled history with integrated graphics there has been a lot of skepticism on how well (and if) Intel can deliver a serious contender for space in your A/V stack.

 

Dec 29 2009

Review - QNAP TS-219P

  
 

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QNAP TS-219P

Recently released from QNAP the TS-219P is the new addition to the two slot NAS family. Read on to see if it will fit your storage needs.

Introduction

Previously, we took a look at the TS-209 Pro II NAS from QNAP and found it to work very well. Today we will take a look at the new addition to the TS-2xx family, the TS-219P. Instead of making this review into a quick-start guide as was done in the past, I wanted to quickly cover the TS-219P hardware and then touch on some of the value-add features that are included in addition to the generic NAS features that you will find in most, if not all, NAS units available today.

Hardware Stuff

The packaging for the QNAP NAS hasn’t changed much from our last review of the TS-209 Pro II except that the box background is white now instead of black. The packaging otherwise contains similar information about features and stats.

 

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Packaging front Packaging back
 

The NAS itself has undergone quite a facelift though. The last unit that we reviewed required that you remove the front faceplate to get access to the drives. The plate was held on with four screws that I thought stuck out quite a bit. In this unit however, the drives are always accessible but can be locked in place for security reasons.

 

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TS-219P front TS-219P back

 

The front side has four LED indicators for HDD1, HDD2, LAN and eSATA activity. There is also a power button and a One Touch Copy button as well as a USB port. The One Touch Copy button allows you to insert a USB stick into the front USB port and then copy the contents from that drive onto the NAS without need of a PC. This is very handy if you want to transfer photos or MP3s or something onto the NAS with minimal hassle.

The rear of the TS-219P has a 70mm fan, 2x eSATA, 1 LAN, 2x USB, reset button and power input. The fan on the rear is powerful enough to keep the drives nice and cool while still remaining extremely quiet. I have been running this unit on the shelf next to me for a couple of weeks now and do not notice the fan noise unless I put my ear right next to it. I know that this isn’t a quantitative analysis but I would feel comfortable putting this unit directly on top of my entertainment center and not needing to worry about noise. According to QNAP the operating sound level is 36.3dB.

This unit has also undergone a size reduction compared to the TS-209 Pro II with overall dimensions of 150(H) x 102(W) x 216(D) mm. One of the ways that this was achieved was by rotating the drives to be vertical instead of horizontal. This also aligns with some of their larger offerings, such as the TS-419P, which will be reviewed here shortly.

The drives attach to the unit by way of drive sleds. The drives screw into the bottom of the sled with four screws. The drives are screwed directly to the sled without any rubber isolators but no drive noise appears to be transferred into the rest of the system. Once attached to the sleds, the frames are inserted into the NAS with use of the latches on the front. When closed, these latches hold the drive sleds in place to keep them from moving. When locked, the mechanism prevents you from being able to lift the lever which prevents you from removing the drive. In my opinion it is a very nice design.

 

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Drive sleds Drive sleds in NAS
 

====================================

Power level:

====================================

 

Hardware Specs

 

CPU Marvell 1.2GHz
DRAM 512MB DDRII RAM
Flash Memory 16MB
HDD

2 x 3.5" SATA I/II HDD or 2 x 2.5" SATA HDD

NOTE:

  1. The system is shipped without HDD.
  2. For the HDD compatibility list, please visit http://www.qnap.com/pro_compatibility.asp

 

HDD Tray 2 x hot-swappable and lockable tray
LAN Port 1 x Gigabit RJ-45 Ethernet port
LED Indicators HDD 1, HDD 2, LAN, eSATA, Status, USB
USB 3 x USB 2.0 port (Front: 1; Back: 2)
Supports USB printer, disk, pen drive, USB hub, and USB UPS, etc.
eSATA 2 x eSATA port (Back)
Buttons Power button, USB one-touch-backup button, reset button
Alarm Buzzer System warning
Form Factor Tower
Dimensions 150(H) x 102(W) x 216(D) mm
5.91(H) x 4.02(W) x 8.5(D) inch
Weight Net weight: 1.74kg/ 3.84 lb
Gross weight: 2.92kg/ 6.44 lb
Sound Level (dB) W/o HDD installed: 32.5 dB
Stand by: 32.7 dB
In operation: 36.3 dB
(Background: 25.2 dB)
Power Consumption (W) Sleep mode: 5W
In operation: 21W
(with 2 x 500GB HDD installed)
Temperature 0~40ËšC/ 32~104°F
Humidity 0~95% R.H.
Power Supply External power adaptor,60W, Input: 100-240V
Secure Design K-lock security slot for theft prevention
Fan 1 x quiet cooling fan (7 cm, 12V DC)

Extra Features part 1

Linux Shares:

Linux uses a protocol called NFS to mount network folders locally. In order to mount directories from the TS-219P the first thing that needs to be done is to enable the NFS service in the NAS. This can be done by connecting to the NAS web interface (enter the NAS’s IP address into a web browser or open the QNAP Finder tool and double click on the NAS of interest) and logging into the administration section.

 

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QNAP Finder Administration icon

 

Once logged in click on the Network Services folder and then NFS Service. In the NFS Service window check the Enable NFS Service box. Then click the Apply button. At this point the NFS service has been enabled and you can either mount one of the default folders or create a new one. Folder specific NFS access will be described shortly.

 

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NFS Service

 

Windows Shares:

Windows uses a similar setup as Linux except that it is done via Samba. To share folders on the TS-219P with a Windows system, log into the NAS as described above. Then select Network Services and then Microsoft Networking. Here you need to verify that the Enable file service for Microsoft networking checkbox is checked, although this should be selected by default. Once that is completed click on the Apply button and the default folders should be available to your Windows systems.

 

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Windows Networking

 

Creating new folders:

If you would like to create new folders to share from your NAS, log into the NAS as previously described and select Access Right Management and then Share Folders. This will list all of the folders currently available from your NAS. To create a new folder click on the New Share Folder button. This brings up a wizard to aid in the creation of a new folder. Click Next. On the next screen give the folder a name. You can optionally enter a description here if desired. Click Next. Select the privileges you want to give this folder – Full Access, By User, By User Group or Only the system administrator (admin) has full access. General users have Read Only access. Click Next. Confirm your settings and click Next. Once the folder has been created successfully click Finish. The new folder should now appear in your Share Folders window.

 

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Share Folders Share Folder Settings
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Access Control

 

Linux folder access:

Once the folder has been created the NFS permissions can be modified specifically for that folder. To do this, click on the NFS button for the folder you wish to modify. In the NFS Access Control window you can modify the Access Right – available options are Deny access, Read only and No limit. There is also a section that allows the user to specify which IP addresses and domains can access it. Wildcards (*) are accepted here. For example, if you want to allow your local network to access the NAS but not anyone else you can enter 192.168.1.* in the box (assuming that you use 192.168.1.xxx for your IP addresses). Click Apply when finished.

 

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NFS Access Control

 

To mount the drive under Linux, as root run the following command:

mount –o vers=3 (IP address):/(share folder) (directory to mount to)

For example, if the IP of the NAS is 192.168.1.109, the folder that you want to mount is Public and you want to mount it under /media/TS-219P then the command would be:

mount –o vers=3 192.168.1.109:/Public /media/TS-219P

Note that the directory that you want to mount to needs to be created ahead of time. In the case of our example above, this means that /media/TS-219P was already created. You can create folders in Linux using the command:

mkdir (folder name)

For example: mkdir /media/TS-219P

If all has gone well, at this point you should be able to run the df command and it will show that the NAS folder has been mounted to your local filesystem.

 

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df output

 

Windows folder access:

Mounting folders from the NAS in Windows works the same way as mounting any network folders. Open Windows Explorer, and click on Map network drive at the top. In the Map Network Drive window, select a drive letter to assign to the share and then choose the folder to map. You can use the Browse… button to select the folder if you are unsure of the server name and folder share name. Click Finish when done. Once that has been completed the shared folder will show up as a local drive in Windows Explorer.

 

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Windows Explorer Map Network Drive

 

Apple Networking:

Untested in this review, the QNAP TS-219P also has the capability to work with an Apple network. Similar steps are followed to enable the Apple Networking functionality as described for Microsoft Networking and NFS.

 

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Apple Networking

 

Multimedia sharing – UPnP:

An easy way to share your multimedia files stored on the NAS with other systems is via the TwonkyMedia Server. To enable this feature, log into the NAS as described previously, select Applications and then UPnP Media Server. Check the box for Enable UPnP Media Server and then click on the URL on that page to configure the server.

The linked URL brings up the TwonkyMedia Configuration page. By default the QMultimedia folder will be shared. Additional folders can be added by using the Browse button. If you would like to keep adding more folders to share there is an Add new content directory button that will insert new folder text boxes.

There are a number of additional settings available that can be further tweaked, but things work pretty well with the defaults.

 

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UPnP Media Server TwonkyMedia Configuration page

 

iTunes:

Another feature available on this QNAP system is the ability to have it serve up your iTunes media collection. In the TS-219P administration section under Applications there is a section called iTunes Service. To enable this functionality check the box labeled Enable iTunes Service and enter your iTunes password. When that completes click on the Apply button. After enabling the service you can create playlists by selecting the SMART PLAYLIST tab and entering in the appropriate information.

 

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iTunes service  iTunes playlists

Once it has been setup you can use the TS-219P to act as an iTunes server, sharing your music collection throughout your home.

 

Extra Features part 2

  

Photos:

Using the Multimedia Station portion of the QNAP NAS, you are now able to share digital photos easily via the web. Multimedia station allows for user accounts as well as guest access so that you can control who has access to each photo. If you do not wish to have the NAS connected directly to the Internet (i.e., if you are using a router to share the Internet connection with multiple systems) QNAP also includes DDNS access that can associate a website with your NAS IP address.

Once setup, making your photos available is as simple as uploading the photos to the NAS and configuring album access. QNAP also provides CoolIris photo browsing support for a little extra bling if that is of interest.

Web Server:

Another value-add feature for the QNAP NAS units is a built in web server. The server is enabled in the admin page under Networking Services -> Web Server. Check the Enable Web Server box and away you go. QNAP NAS units use phpMyAdmin and Joomla! for their web server support – phpMyAdmin to administer the MySQL database and Joomla! for the actual website. QNAP has a good page on how to get things setup.

Backup:

QNAP also provides a Remote Replication feature which allows you to mirror a shared network folder to the NAS for backup purposes. This allows you to setup either a manual or scheduled backup of other systems in your house so that you never have to worry about a drive failure again.

Bit Torrent:

Another feature that is provided is a built-in bit torrent downloader. All you need to do is enable the Download Station (Applications -> Download Station -> Enable Download Station) and then add the bit torrent task with a previously downloaded torrent seed. No longer do you need to have a full system running to do BT downloads. As the download progresses there is even a nice download status window available.

Not only does the download station download torrents, it also allows for downloading from http or FTP.

Home Surveillance:

For those of you that have security cameras at home, the QNAP TS-219P also includes a Surveillance Station. This allows you to monitor and control IP based camera feeds. The interface allows for Pan-Zoom-Tilt control and can be set to record continuously or on motion detection.

Print Server:

For those looking to use this in a home or small business, the QNAP NAS units also have the ability to act as a print server, allowing connection of up to three USB printers. The printers are then made available across your entire network.

Conclusion

  

If you're looking for additional storage capacity for your HTPC but don't have more drive bays or SATA ports available, a NAS is a good option for you.  The TS-219P being offered from QNAP is one such option and as you've seen it has many features to offer in addition to its storage capability.  The TS-219P can house two drives for a total capacity of up to 4TB.  After using the review unit for a couple of weeks now I have seen nothing but stability from it.  It runs silently and uses very little power.  Adding to that all of the other features that QNAP has designed into their units accessible via a nice looking, easy to use interface, the TS-219P offering is a very good product.  Its size and looks allow it to fit into almost any setting and QNAP has suggested a reasonable price for what you get @ $399.  All in all, if this unit fits your needs I don't think you will have any regrets.  This unit is MissingRemote Recommended.

Dec 15 2009

Review - VIA Artigo A2000 2-Drive Barebone System

Via Artigo A2000
VIA ARTIGO A2000 2-Drive Barebone Storage Solution

 

We have covered a wide range of home server storage solutions, from the popular four drive systems from HP, to simple NAS solutions from QNap and even the 8-drive offering from Via. For a lot of people that simply don't need that much storage, Via has developed the Artigo A2000. It's a two hard drive barebone systems that offers an increasing amount of flexibility for your storage needs.

 

Nov 10 2009

Review - HippoRemote - An iphone Remote For Your HTPC

hipporemote_logo.png

HippoRemote: An Iphone Remote For Your HTPC

Every HTPC user has had a time where they needed a keyboad and mouse; whether it was for software updates, viewing streaming video content from a popular website or you just wanted to use your 100" front projector screen as the worlds largest word processor.  There are many products that fill the niche of a small keyboard with a touchpad mouse for HTPC use but few have precision and accuracy of a capacitive touch screen.  This is where the iPhone and HippoRemote come in.

Nov 06 2009

Review - MCE: Digital Cable Advisor Tool Available Now!

Well, shortly after word hit that the ATI 1.19 copy free firmware has hit Windows Update, now we have the Digital Cable Advisor tool making its appearance on MCE Extras Galleries across the country. This will enable any capable Windows7 Media Center system to be able to use the ATI Digital Cable tuners. Here's the full process in screenshots.

MCEAdvisor1.JPG
 
Click Read more to see all the screenshots!

 

MCEAdvisor1a.JPG
 Once installed you can find it in your Extras Library as well
 MCEAdvisor2.JPG
 First page of the installer
 MCEAdvisor3.JPG
 Nice 10' Installation process
 MCEAdvisor4.JPG
 Downloading the app
 MCEAdvisor6.JPG
 Installing - Note, you will need to click OK on the permissions popup, which may work via remote
 MCEAdvisor7.JPG
 The Advisor is automatically launched
 MCEAdvisor8.JPG
 Beautiful terms of service required agreement
 MCEAdvisor9.JPG
 One more button, almost done!
 MCEAdvisor10.JPG
 Analyzing your system...
MCEAdvisor10FAIL.JPG
 Three phase checklist, if you fail you'll see this screen and no cable card fun for you
 MCEAdvisor10AlreadyConfigured.JPG
 If you try the app on a system already cable-card enabled you'll see this
 MCEAdvisor11.JPG
 If you pass the tests, you are able to click the "Update System Settings" button to complete!
 MCEAdvisor12.JPG
 Need permission to finish this step...
 MCEAdvisor13.JPG
 Once completed, you'll get this lovely message!

And that's all there is to it! Kudos to ATI and Microsoft for finally making the process, and then making it really simple to implement! Now all we need is the ATI Tuners to be sold via Newegg and make everyone's life that much easier (or for Ceton to release theirs)!

Nov 03 2009

Review - GlideTV Navigator

 

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GlideTV Navigator Review

The GlideTV Navigator has gained a significant amount of buzz recently, being a handheld device with a fairly unique design. Its premise is simply to provide a handheld touchpad device which allows you full control of your HTPC to with literally the click of its touchpad button. With remotes growing ever increasingly complex in size and number of buttons, the GlideTV goes the opposite way, featuring a minimalistic number of controls and leveraging the wide touchpad at your fingertips. With so many options and with the GlideTV MSRP of $150, can it be the end all control device you have been missing?

 

 

Nov 02 2009

Review - VidaBox Wireless Keyboard Review

I use my HTPC for computer uses a good portion of the time, so I am always on the lookout for a quality keyboard that can help me on my endeavours. My first foray into this was the Gyration combo that I enjoyed but was always plagued by reception problems and eventually the keyboard died after a couple of years of use. Next up, I decided to go for the king of wireless keyboards to solve my problems, the full-sized diNovo. A great key board, with the best reception I have come across. However, the touchpad was not not terribly convenient.

This brings me to VidaBox's offering. I wanted to try something that felt more natural when using. The trackball and mouse keys seemed like a perfect fit to me. Specifically, I was looking for something that would allow me to access Hulu, message on occasion and surf a bit. Of course, having solid reception while doing this is pretty damn important as well.

 

Specifications

Oct 22 2009

Review - My Movies 3.0

Hello MissingRemote.com! I’m CrAzY, a moderator of TheGreenButton.Com and former Media Center MVP. I’ve been using Media Center since its release in 2002 and still using it to this day (now on Windows 7 Media Center, of course), but find my needs vastly different than when I first entrenched myself in the HTPC world. When I first started, my goal was to build a DIY Tivo box because I was not going to pay subscription fees for a service that I knew I could accomplish myself. Now, I host my recorded TV shows on a NAS and watch them from my desktop in my room or the HTPC in the living room when I have time.

Over the years I have ripped my DVD library and compressed them to ISO’s and no longer have a standalone DVD player set up in my home theater--I now use My Movies almost exclusively to watch movies on either Media Center.

I’ve been using My Movies since the original version of Windows Media Center Edition and have never felt like I was missing out on anything until Mike’s review, Battle of the Media Center Movie Managers. It had me thinking it might be time to consider a new solution for managing my DVD library. Mike, however, personally convinced me to stick to My Movies and not sacrifice the simplistic management that I have become accustomed to for the frontend aesthetics of its MCML competitors.

With the release of Windows 7, Brian and the gang of Binnerup Consult present My Movies 3.0 to the Media Center Community!

My Movies 3.0

Click Read More to continue reading the review!

 

I am not going to fluff things up, dumb things down or blow any smoke-- I don’t have time for all of that, my time is valuable to me, and I’m not going to pretend yours isn’t as well, so I’ll give you what I have and spare the speculation of what I don’t know. I’ll share my experience with My Movies 3.0, the user interface changes from 2.x and a few things that I felt were shortcomings for Version 3. And to make things simple, I tested the Standalone version of My Movies 3.0, so I won’t be touching on any of the Server-Client functionality in this review.

Here are the key changes from 2.x:

  • A Single Installer
  • Updated User Interface (MCML)
  • Addition of “Similar Movies”

All I keep hearing the back of my head is, “One ring to rule them all.” And that’s exactly what 3.0 has done here – one installer for them all! A single installer for everything – One file for either OS Version; 32-Bit or 64-Bit, and the same for the installation of your choice; Client, Server-Client or Standalone. All of that in a lean 35MB package – How is that possible!?! It’s pretty simple actually, it no longer includes the SQL Server installer within the package. If you already have SQL Server on your system the installer detects it and proceeds to install everything else. If you don’t have SQL Server on your system, not to worry, it automatically downloads it within the Setup window and then completes the My Movies setup. Including the download of SQL Server, the installation of 3.0 clocked less than 5 minutes. A very simple and quick process for newbies and experts alike.

My Movies 3.0 My Movies 3.0

My Movies Collection Manager appears to have maintained the same look, feel and construction as 2.x and because of that, I didn’t have a problem finding my way through my collection and importing new titles. However, one thing you should note with My Movies 3.0 and the Collection Manager: if you’re running Windows 7 64-Bit and using images, be sure you download SlySoft’s Virtual CloneDrive--if you’re not using it already--as 3.0 does not work with Daemon Tools Lite, even if you were using it with 2.x.

My Movies 3.0

My Movies 3.0 is installed and the Collection Manager is all set up, so let’s see what we’ve been waiting for…

The user interface has finally received a much anticipated face lift while many of the options remain unaffected; sort (By title, By star rating, By production year, By cinema release date, By disc release date, By parental level and By published date) and section (Movies, Movie Genres, Movie Trailers and Cast & Crew) are now accessed through a top panel with search and view.

Ushering in MCML so you can look upon your movies in a whole new way, 3.0 gives you four ways to adore your collection; Covers full screen, Covers and details, Covers centered and List and details.

Collection Views

My Movies 3.0

Covers full screen Covers and details

My Movies 3.0

My Movies 3.0

Covers centered List and details

My Movies 3.0

My Movies 3.0

I’ve taken a liking to “List and details” - staying on one selection long enough takes away the list and gives you a full screen background image with movie description on each one (this is achieved in other views as well).
My Movies 3.0
Select a movie and you’re given a bevy of details and movie options, not to mention the full screen background image of each movie. For movies that did not have a background image, the background remained blank.
My Movies 3.0
I was expecting the UI changes in 3.0 and was completely ecstatic with the eye candy my movie collection now provided me, yet I wasn’t expecting the last thing I discovered…

My Movies 3.0 now brings the Amazon.com and Netflix concept of, “You may also like,” with Similar Movies. If you are in the mood for a comedy, but maybe not the one you were just looking at, you can easily check out what else might tickle your funny bone without having to go back out to your main collection.

My Movies 3.0
Conclusion

I am pleased with 3.0. I plan to move my environment to a Server-Client solution shortly and I’ll give you a more in-depth look at how it performs along with the Collection Manager of My Movies. If you are an existing user of My Movies 2.x, there is no reason you should not already be downloading 3.0 by the time you read this. It is everything you have loved with a new paint job and that new car smell. If you have never used My Movies before, 3.0 is the perfect opportunity and enticement to get started. There is no reason you should not already be downloading 3.0, it brings everything you need in reliability for your collection and the track record of a Camry. Brian has been developing My Movies for more than five years and a number of system integrators and builders leverage this exceptional tool. You can put aside your hesitation if you are worried about maintaining an unsupported library, Binnerup and My Movies will not be leaving the community any time soon. While I’m happy to get an updated user interface to my beloved movie manager, there were a couple of shortcomings. While not deal breakers or showstoppers, they are things I hope to see addressed in the very near future:

  • SQL Server 2005: We’re stuck using a database technology that is nearly 5 years old. SQL Server 2008 offers better performance, especially on 64 Bit systems. From what I understand, it may be possible in the near future for expert users to install SQL Server Express 2008 themselves and utilize it for their collection.
  • More…:  Similar movies is great! It was like an Easter egg when I discovered it – And now I want more! Similar actors, similar producers, similar movie butter popcorn… Okay, the titles could use some work, but you get the idea.

My Movies 3.0 is an excellent addition to the Media Center Community, thanks Binnerup!

Oct 21 2009

Review - Video: InternetTV for Windows 7 In Action

Along with the Netflix icon for Windows 7, users will also see a tile for InternetTV, which is the next version of Microsoft's online video content offering. A short while ago, it was rumored and hoped that Microsoft was in the works with Hulu.com on being able to integrate their amazing library of shows into Media Center...however, it's clear that is not going to happen.

InternetTV brings together a number of online video content sources, some new and some previously present in the InternetTV Beta in Windows Vista. Previously existing was the content from MSNBC and MSN TV, which provides news clips and some older shows such as the Twilight Zone. New to Windows 7 is some content from CBS and a Zune Video Podcast section. CBS' offering is some full episodes and a lot of clips and trailers, while Zune's Podcast section has a large selection of Videos such as HD Nation. Rounding out the offerings is full episodes from PBS, and clips from Showtime and the CW network.

Here's Part 1 of my video recording of InternetTV in action, specifically covering the installation not only of the application itself, but of the Flash plugin (yes, I said Flash) for Media Center.

 

The 2nd Part covers usage of the application itself. As you can see, there's no clear way to find full episodes to watch. You basically have to go to each show and then just hope there's an "Episodes" section instead of "Clips." This is an increasingly frustrating piece, and becomes more so given that a lot of the content is available as full episodes online.

 

My favorite part of the InternetTV app is actually the Zune Video Podcasts, which has a nice selection of content, but not nearly as much or customizable as the now defunct TV Tonic application. Also, the ability to launch Netflix from within this app will allow me to hide the Microsoft Movies row so I can continue to use Media Browser, My Movies or whatever Movie app I prefer. Maybe I'll use Media Center Studio in the future to move the Netflix tile, but honestly I just don't use Netflix enough to justify. 

Oct 21 2009

Review - Video: Netflix for Windows 7 Installation and In Action

I've seen lots of screenshots of the new Netflix inside Windows 7 Media Center, but to get a better sense of the experience I thought I would capture some videos of it. It hasn't had a HUGE facelift since Windows Vista, but I found it to be very responsive and I like the new interface.

I separated this into two parts for a reason. First up is the actual Netflix installation which BLEW me away! I'm actually more impressed with the install process more than the application itself. After years of begging, we finally have a plugin for Media Center which can be installed without having to leave the 10' Interface!! And the entire process took less than 30 seconds!

And then the action of Netflix within Media Center. You can see the slight UI changes as well as the responsiveness of the app. Overall Very pleasant and should make you fans happy it's back.

 

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