Sunday, December 16, 2007

Kingdom of Media

I got the HP Media Vault in the mail about a week ago. I’m not going to say it is the best thing to ever happen to home networking, but I will say it is easy to set up and use, it does what the advertising claimed, and it didn’t cost much.

So far so good.

For those not familiar with it, The Media Vault is a NAS (Network Attached Storage) device. If you have DSL then you most likely have a router. The media vault plugs in to the router and gives you a way to share files with any other computer plugged in to the router. The idea is to store all music, video, and photo files on the vault and then be able to access them from any PC in the house.

The unit was $214 delivered to my door. It is about 4-inches wide and stands a little under a foot tall. It looks like a very small computer. You plug in the power, then plug in a network cable from the router, and then turn it on. That is the extent of the set up. There is software to install for some bells and whistles, but the software is not necessary to use the device. It has a web interface for tweaking the settings, but there are very few to tweak and the web interface is simple and easy to use.

Tech Lingo Alert
It can also act as a web server and FTP server. This means that you can set up a web page for the house, or configure it to be able to allow you to access files from a computer outside the house. Individual folders can be password protected and the web interface for settings can be password protected. All folders are blind shares by default.

You create folders on the device either through the web interface or with My Computer, and access them by mapping network drives, just like any other network. You really don’t need to know how to do this because the software that comes with it does this for you. When I first set it up I tried to access it from my laptop, which has a bad CD Drive in it. I was not able to install the software and the 4 default folders are set up as blind shares, so I couldn’t see them to be able to map them. Instead, I pointed my browser to HTTP:\\HPMediavault and after that I knew the folder names, so I could just map to \\hpmediavault\foldername\.

Expanding the storage is done through a pull-out tray on the front panel. Any internal, 3.5-inch SATA drive can be put in to the tray to add more hard drive space if you need it. It is not a USB type set up, but a real hard drive installation, only made simpler. No opening the case. It does have 3 USP ports on it and it can act as a print server by plugging any printer in to one of the three ports. Again, very simple to do.

The one potentially bad thing is that the OS is a stripped down Linux kernel that is proprietary to the media vault. If there are hard drive problems there are no tools available to try and salvage some of the data. Any failure is absolute failure. The up side of this is that the kernel is built for speed. It does nothing but file I/O.
End Tech Lingo

It has 300 gigabytes of storage, which is enough for a lot of videos and music. One full-length movie runs about 1 gigabyte in size. The device came with The Bourne Identity preinstalled, which was supplied by CinemaNow.Com, a movie download site. It also came with an offer to download two more movies from CinemaNow.Com. At CinemaNow.Com you can buy or rent movies. The prices run $2-$5 for renting and $5-$20 for buying. It seems like an OK service, although the selection seemed a bit limited. I first tried to find the movie Children of Men, which came out last summer, and it wasn’t available. A few other movies that have come out in the past few years weren’t on the site either. I ended up getting Crash and Kingdom Of Heaven.

The movies play beautifully off the media vault. I watched them on a 20-inch flat panel monitor, with external speakers and a small sub woofer. The picture and sound are very nice. You forget that you’re watching the movie off a computer. The next step will be to get the movie to output to the TV. That will happen next month.

All in all, I’m very happy with it. It seems to accomplish a lot of what I wanted, without having to fool with a full-blown networking server. I still may play around with that idea, but for now, this will go a long way to getting my home network up and running, and it is extremely easy to set up and use.


Ron said...

"It does have 3 USP ports on it"

Did you mean USB?

300 gb is not a lot of storage these days. I assume the drawer is in addition to regular 300 gb, so at today's prices you could add 1 TB for about $200 extra. Makes this even more attractive.

Like the plug and play aspect of it however. Techie as I might be I don't have the patience to mess with hardware and software any more.

STAG said...

I liked "Kingdom of Heaven".

Greg said...

I'm not sure if there is a limit to the size of the second HD. One use for it is that you can have RAID 1 backup system with a mirrored drive. Frankly, my stuff is not that important. I have 250 gb on my main computer, and with the 300 gb on the NAS, it should hold me for a while. (Famous last words, right?)

If I really needed the space I could have gotten a "Buffalo 1TB NAS" for just under a $1000. That is a bit much for me.

Greg said...

Oh, and yes, the pull out door is in addition to the 300 gigs. HP makes 2 other models of this start start with large capacity.

Anonymous said...

Don't let the linux OS trouble you, as it has absolutely nothing to do with whether or not you can salvage data from another OS.

Since you're not using RAID (i think) all you have to worry about is the file system that is used by the device. And that's where you're in luck. While microsoft has actively sued companies trying to provide ntfs support, pretty much all linux file systems are open, or at least officially supported from every OS from windows, to unix, to linux, to Macintosh, etc.

Just check the specs, it probaby says the NAS uses ext3, reiserfs, or some other popular and fully transportable file system.

Ron said...

"Computers in the future may weigh no more than 1.5 tons."
- Popular Mechanics, forecasting the relentless march of science, 1949

"I think there is a world market for maybe five computers."
- Thomas Watson, chairman of IBM, 1943

"I have traveled the length and breadth of this country and talked with the best people, and I can assure you that data processing is a fad that won't last out the year."
- The editor in charge of business books for Prentice Hall, 1957
You said, I have 250 gb on my main computer, and with the 300 gb on the NAS, it should hold me for a while. (Famous last words, right?)

I think you hit the nail on the head. Some famous last words relative to computing follow.

"But what ... is it good for?"
- Engineer at the Advanced Computing Systems Division of IBM, 1968, commenting on the microchip.

"There is no reason anyone would want a computer in their home."
- Ken Olson, president, chairman & founder of Digital Equipment Co, 1977

Greg said...


Yea, the lack of insight among those that are supposed to know can be astounding at times.

Another favorite was John Sculley, the Apple CEO back in the 80s, who once said that "no computer would ever need more than 10 megabytes of hard disk space"

Jason & Heather said...

"The one potentially bad thing is that the OS is a stripped down Linux kernel that is proprietary to the media vault. "

The Linux kernel itself is not proprietary, it is completely open source. I'm sure the HP software running on top of it is proprietary though.

Also, as the anonymous poster mentioned it most likely uses a journalized file system like EXT3 or ReiserFS. If you have a PC running Linux you could mount the drive to recover data. If you're not running Linux there are tools to mount an ext3 filesystem under windows.

Greg said...

If you have a PC running Linux you could mount the drive to recover data

You seem to know a lot more about the linux kernel than I do. What I read in more than one place was that this is exactly what you can't. Hopefully it will be a very long time before I need to find out.