Media Browsing with Android and Seagate NAS

The slow evolution of our internal technology use meant an upgrade to a larger network attached storage unit.  I selected a Seagate GoFlex for space and cost reasons.  It seems like a pretty sturdy consumer device, providing both an iTunes server (DLNA) as well as supporting UPnP.  It has some easy-to-use wizards to get set up although I find the interface pretty clunky, and you definitely don’t need the utility they provide.  It seems to only contain links to the Web interface.

Once installed, I copied over the media that I had been storing on our old NAS.  It is primarily music and photos, since I have ripped hundreds of our CDs to make them easy to access from multiple devices.  Windows Media Player easily found the Seagate device and started indexing the music and other media.  We could use iTunes except that I try not to use any Apple software in our environment unless I can absolutely help it (not for religious reasons but because it seems so crappy).  But I also wanted to be able to access the information easily on my Android tablet.

DLNA Browser

I looked at a couple of apps in the Google Play store, primarily by searching for DLNA or UPNP enabled apps.  There doesn’t appear to be a good media player with this built in, with apps instead providing a browser that then sends the file to your default player.  In the end, I started using Qualcomm Atheros’ Skifta app which didn’t actually appear anywhere near the top of the results sets I was getting on the Play store.

It’s a very easy app to use: select the remote server, the device you’d like to use, and then browse the content.  It will use the server capabilities to sort content (browse music, videos, etc.) or you can browse folders.  It fulfills its utility purpose well.  On my Android tablet, it worked seamlessly.  On an Android phone (4.0), we had to add a second app so that we could force a default media player because the one that was default (a) couldn’t play some media and (b) couldn’t be removed as the default in the Applications manager.  Once we’d done that, the handoff from Skifta to the media player was perfect.  I tend to use VLC for video and the default music player (when I’m not listening to Slacker).

Thoughts on the GoFlex

Ethernet works great but I turned off UPnP because it hogged port 80 on our connection, blocking access to a Web site running on the same port.  It isn’t necessary and you can still access the NAS.  At first I had to reboot it when I plugged in additional storage via USB and it didn’t always seem happy with that.  I may have got it cycling because it seems fine now.

It will force a login each time your remote device tries to connect after restarting.  It looks as though you can force it to remember the username and password by giving it the username “WORKGROUP\username” instead of just “username” in the prompt.  The “WORKGROUP” is the one you’re using on your network and set up in the device.  If you don’t do this, it doesn’t seem to stick.  I initially set up the shares using Windows command line net use letter: \\server_name\share_name /persistent:yes but it wouldn’t persist.  If you’re playing with this, take a look at Windows Credential Manager (hit the Windows key, type “credential manager” and select the program that appears – I’d never used it before).  When I was successful, the Credential Manager showed “Persistence: Enterprise” for the NAS.