Switching to NAS with my WDTV Live

With a mounting DVD collection, it was inevitable that I switched over to a media player to handle my multimedia. After a bit of research, and finding good reviews, I settled on Western Digital’s WD TV Live HD. Whilst its UI may lack some finesse of the Apple TV, it’s excellent file support easily betters that of Apple’s device, and its small footprint gave it a very low profile alongside my other media equipment.

I was very impressed with the playback quality from a USB-attached Samsung 1.5 external drive, and life was good. I improved the experience by trawling the internet for suitable cover art to accompany the media files. All I had to do was find a JPG image, ensure it was less than 70k in size, name it the same as the media file, and hey presto, it would be shown in the UI. This made it a lot easier for my four year old son to identify the film he’d like to watch. What’s more, I could even organise TV episodes into folders, and assign an image to that folder. UI heaven.

So, fast forward about a year to the present day. My collection of media files had swollen to many gigabytes, and despite the reliability of hard drives, I had a niggling feeling that if the drive failed, I’d be left high and dry. All those hours spent converting the DVDs and finding those JPGs would have been wasted.  I needed a NAS.

After another cycle of reading reviews, I plumped for the QNAP TS-210, which offered RAID 1 redundancy. Setup was simplicity itself, and after installing two 2TB drives, I had peace of mind and a little bit of extra storage. I disconnected the external Samsung drive from my WD TV Live HD and plugged it into one of the two USB ports on the back of the NAS. I fired off a copy from external drive to NAS and headed to bed.

By morning, all the data had been copied, and I pointed my media player at the network share I had configured on the NAS using the ‘network share’ option on the media player. After a couple of permissions issues that I quickly resolved, I then had a ‘wtf?’ moment. The JPGs that were previously assigned to the movie files were suddenly being shown twice – once as the image file, and once against the movie file. So, every image was shown twice. Which is quite an issue when you have lots of movie files.

I was up-to-date with the media player’s firmware, and since I assumed that lots of people were using a network share and NAS, I thought it must have been something I needed to do to resolve the issue. After all, it was quite a sloppy UI issue, and surely, after all this time, it wasn’t actually a software bug was it? Surely not. Surely Western Digital were aware of it, and had a workaround.

Straight to google then, and the realisation that it is a bug after all.

Browsing video in network shares also shows the jpeg images separately (unlike locally attached drives) making them practically useless.  Make the network shares video browsing work exactly the same as local drives (namely: hide the thumbnail jpegs except as standins for the videos)

A response from a Western Digital employee:

Status changed to: In Review

We’ll see what we can do about this. Because a Network Share drive is not the same as a USB storage, the support is a bit difficult as there are more uncertainties.

The date of the first post was 20 March 2010. That’s 17 months. Firmware updates over the air (or wire) are a great way to fix bugs and to tweak and improve the feature set of an existing device. Why oh why this hasn’t been fixed yet is anybody’s guess.

I had no idea I’d face this issue – I just thought it was a given that the device would work as was with the device physically connected. Having got my NAS configured and media copied, it was a tremendous disappointment (to say the least) that the media player let me down, having performed so well up to then. What is even more disgruntling, however, is the lack of action from Western Digital in the matter.

This comment sums up my feelings rather well:

There really is no good reason imo that this hasn’t been fixed yet, and if it’s the programmers that are telling you that it’s “hard” to fix then you just need to replace them with people who CAN get the job done.  What’s worse is that the thumbnail system has actually degraded and isn’t even as “stable” (if you could ever call it stable) as when I got it.  Now, I (along with many others) who have more than 100 folder.jpg files (at least I’ve been told that that’s the “cause”) can’t even cache all of our thumbnails without the unit freezing and requiring a hard reset.  This is only as of the latest firmware, 1.02.21, but that firmware is now 2 months old and they haven’t done anything to fix what they broke.  Please WD, listen to us, and fix this stuff.

So – Western Digital, please fix this issue. My opinion of this little player has gone downhill.

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