Wednesday, June 01, 2005

LinkSys NSLU2

Two things happened at once:

  1. I ran out of disk space, and was trying decide between buying more or archiving onto DVDs. Whilst checking out external storage I came across the idea of Network Attached Storage (NAS). This is essentially a hard disk and a file server attached to the network.
  2. Reading the Twonkyvision website I discovered the linux implementation of the mediaserver for use on NAS devices.

The second point mentioned is the exciting one in terms of the ultimate in media streaming setup. Imagine that - no computer turned on, just your media receiver talking direct [effectively] to network attached hard disk. Just imagine it - mmmmmmmm. :)

There's a lot of options in terms of NAS, but none that are so cost effective (in the short term at least) as a Network Storage Adapter - which allows you to connect USB external hard disks to the network. Especially when you already have a 200GB external USB hard disk!

The cheapest of these is a LinkSys NSLU2, which is a tiny box that runs linux and allows 2 USB hard disks. Best of all this is one of the few NAS devices that is supported by Twonkyvision. Perfect.

Again a bit of shopping around and I find the cheapest local place on run off and buy it straight away for $155 from

You may see a bit of trend here? I buy the thing in a spurt of enthusiasm, and then go looking for all it's faults and what it can and can't do - rather than what it claims it can do. Well it works for me. Besides there's always eBay for dud purchases :) [Hear that DLink dsm-320 - you're not safe yet]

So what did I discover about the NSLU2? :-

  • No FAT32/NTFS Support.
    You have to re-format your USB hard disks to ext3 (linux) format. Not such a big deal providing you have somewhere to put your data or have a brand new disk and that you don't want to connect it to a Windows PC again (without reformatting).
  • Not for the technically shy.
    You have to go through a fairly complicated (including a lot of trial and error) process in order to update the box to run install and run the Twonkyvision mediaserver software. Though by the looks of it, it is a hell of a lot easier now. Once you get used to the process updating the twonkyvision software becomes easier.
  • Inconsistent implementation of twonkyvision.
    TV mediaserver does not behave and perform in the same way as it's windows based sibling.
    It does not like Xvid files. It [also] does not like DivX files.
  • Slow.
    Transferring 200GB of files onto a freshly formatted disk takes FOREVER. Okay so you don;t expect to get USB2 speeds (400Mbps) but I'd expect to get 100Mbps network transfer speeds (probably 50Mbps) over ethernet. So I was doing it over wireless from my laptop on 54Mbps network so I'd probably expect 20Mbps? Nowhere near - maybe 2 or 3 Mbps, confirmed by more googling research.

Anyway it does work. MP3s are great. Mpeg1,2,4 is great. The only thing lacking here is Xvid and DivX, and the problems there may be caused by the implementation of those formats on the DLink DSM-320.

For more information on the LinkSys NSLU2 please visit


Blogger Paul Bickwermert said...

Lynksys came up with a new upgrade for this unit. Version 2.3R63 will support fat/fat32/ntfs/ext3 and the unit is a little faster. I was impressed when I upgraded my flash. I like the fact that in the future, I will not have to depend on the box reformatting my drive and loosing my data just because I want to use the box as a hub to access my data. Thumbs up for Linksys! They have realized the potential for this little box.

Paul Bickwermert

6:26 PM  

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