When you connect to the Media Hub through your web browser the Hub displays its own Media Browser web page. This shows you a brief list of the most recent files copied on to the Media Hub, and also provides links to further browser pages where you can view your files and adjust other settings. Music files can be organised by album title, artist name or individual song titles, while photos are arranged into albums or listed by date or file name. Video files are simply listed by file name.
Control the Media Hub through its web-browser interface
The Media Browser interface also includes a File Browser option that can be used to transfer individual files from the Media Hub to your computer. If you want to transfer multiple files, it’s faster to just access the Media Hub from your desktop and treat it like an ordinary network hard disk.
This browser-based interface is tidy and easy to use, and it also provides a ‘Remote Access’ option that allows you to connect to the Media Hub over the Internet, as well as just your local home network. That’s handy as it allows you to download or view files remotely when you’re away from home, although you’ll obviously need access to a decent broadband connection for playing video or large file transfers.
However, internet remote access requires you to log on to a special web site set up by Linksys, and while this is free for the first year, Linksys told us that there will be an annual "maintenance" fee of €10 (£8.95/$12.90) after that. That’s a bit disappointing, especially as there are rival products that provide similar Internet access options free of charge.
We also encountered a few rough edges when using the Media Browser web interface to play some of our files. When you select a music album there’s a ‘Play Entire Album’ button that tells the Media Hub to simply play straight through all the songs on the album. This option works with MP3 or WMA audio files, but it didn’t work properly with our collection of AAC music files, so we had to keep clicking on songs one at a time in order to play them. We had almost 2000 AAC songs in our library, so the idea of clicking each one individually didn’t exactly endear us to the Media Hub.
The Media Hub plays MP3s and WMAs OKO, but had problems with AACs
A phone call to Linksys confirmed that the Media Hub needs a firmware update in order to handle AAC files properly, although the company didn’t say when that update's arrival is imminent. That’s annoying – especially as AAC is listed as a supported file format on the Media Hub’s spec sheet. However, the Media Hub does have an iTunes server option that allows it to stream music files to iTunes on any Mac or PC on your network. If you have iTunes installed on your computer, you'll see the Media Hub listed as part of your iTunes Library, allowing you to use any of iTunes’ normal playback controls for listening to your music.
Further proof, if any were needed ...
... that this device is too damned expensive, today I ordered:
- 1x IcyBox IB-NAS4200-B (£97 inc.VAT)
- 2x WD 'Green' 1Tb drives (£80 each inc.VAT) - could have had SeaCrates for slightly less, but after an interesting incident with a bricked Barracuda that was a road I wasn't prepared to travel.
Delivery costs came to about £15 as I used two different suppliers, so we're looking at £270-ish for a 1Tb NAS solution with gigabit ethernet and RAID capability that pulls around 27W at full load (see: http://www.bit-tech.net/hardware/storage/2009/02/01/icy-box-ib-nas4220-b-network-storage/4) - not too shabby.
Certainly better than paying a £70-80 premium for the Cisco name and a pretty looking LCD-type display.
Additional - ICYBOX - Hint
Where as I'm a great fan of the ICYBOX, I would urge caution when 'hacking' it. If you leave it 'as is' (albeit with the supported downloads on the Raidsonic site), it works like a charm. For those that want to 'hack' it, make sure you know what you are doing (and have a good understanding of Linux [BusyBox]) - unlike this muppet typing this, I'm sure you'd get more out of it. For me, I'm crap at Linux and have since given up on adding extra things to it (shame really, but as a vanilla box, it's awesome!)
My experience with Cisco Linksys is similar.
I bought a WRT54G years ago, and it was great. The stock firmware was fine and there's numerous 3rd-party firmwares for it. (I have DD-WRT on mine.)
Bought one more recently (ver 5). Useless! The firmware was so buggy, it'd crash within hours, AND scramble the settings! It was nice, you'd power it back up and it STILL wouldn't come back up without hooking ethernet up and resetting the settings on it. Right after Cisco bought Linksys, they stripped the fully-functional Linux firmware, cut the RAM and ROM in half, and put in a barely-working version 1.00.00 firmware. Why they didn't at least get the hideous bugs out first, I don't know. I returned it!
I think they still sell them. I don't know how the stock firmware is, but there's a special extra-small DD-WRT version for it I guess. But, if you're running 3rd-party frimware anyway, the WRT is like twice as expensive as competitors (since Cisco cut RAM and ROM, but not the price.)
Cisco Linksys - we don't need no stinking customers!
I have a couple of Linksys Media Center Extenders (a DMA2100 and a DMA2200). The DMA2100 is a great little box at it's current "street price" of ~$100, but the only support from you'll get from Linksys is to have your posts on the Linksys forums deleted if you suggest that Cisco doesn't give a damn about supporting these products.
They have moderators that actually read the forums editing or deleting posts that they don't like, but in the 2 months that I checked the forums out on a regular basis, I never once saw any of these moderators actually answer any questions.
There are a couple of small firmware changes that these devices need (support for "magic packet" WOL, Divx fourcc tweaks, some aspect ratio consistency between differnt codecs) to make a good device better, and a couple of slightly more involved changes (support for multiple pairings, much shorter boot time - 90 seconds, wtf?). But good luck getting a response from Linskys/Cisco admitting that these flaws even exist, never mind that they'll do anything about them.
The bottom line is that Cisco/Linksys seems to still have some pretty good engineers creating their products, but the beancounters won't spend the money needed to make the products great. Those little niggely bits spoil the whole effect.
For a box that may be always on, it would be a good idea to include the power consumption in the review. And no, the Linksys product page does not include this in the specs either, which is not a good sign.