Problems with Technology Interfaces

My network-attached storage began to fail this week and I preemptively replaced it.  Better now, while both the main drive and backups are viable, than when I only have the backup and whatever inevitable data loss between backup and failure.  That’s a story for another time.  During the process of putting my new NAS into place, I ran into a couple of odd interface issues that could, did in one case, throw off a user.

First, Get the Language Right

You know how, when you’re going to do one project, another one seems to need to be done first?  That was my case.  When I unpacked and plugged in the storage device – a Western Digital MyCloud Personal – it didn’t recognize the network.  Now this and most drives are configured to auto-connect to a network using DHCP to enable you to access them.

In my case, I had some latent network issues that I’d put off until I had time to work on them.  It was clear that now was the time.  I’d decided to replace the firmware on my Linksys router, currently the open source DD-WRT, with the latest from Linksys.  This was surprisingly easy, thanks to instructions from others who had already done it.  After a slight moment of panic, and that I’d bricked the router, I was back up and running at the default Linksys firmware interface.  I logged in and was ready to re-configure my settings.

When I saw this:

Sprechen sie router?  English language interface on Linksys router has mixture of English and German instructions.
Sprechen sie router? English language interface on Linksys router has mixture of English and German instructions.

These things are essentially small Web servers with Web pages and it looks like someone was cutting and pasting and left one language behind.  Whether it was English or German, it’s hard to know.  But, while my German is workable, I was glad that it was just a minor error.  It wouldn’t be unreasonable to expect that a company’s product was reviewed, though, to ensure that the same language was used throughout.

Blink Once If You’re Okay

This one flummoxed me until I finally tumbled to a possible (and foolish) solution.  I plugged in the Western Digital drive and it didn’t connect to my network.  In order to have a clean environment, I proceeded (as described above) to reset my firmware.  All of the previous problems I’d had on the network did, in fact, disappear as soon as I did this.  Problem solved.

Except not with the MyCloud Personal drive.  I plugged it in and it started to do its warm up blink.  The white light went on and off for a few minutes and then kept going.  Five minutes.  30 minutes.  After doing some Web searches, I found that this wasn’t at all uncommon.  Some people had waited hours for their drive to respond.  But I’d just disassembled another NAS and knew that there was no way this system needed that kind of time to connect.  I could not figure out why my blinking light had not turned blue, like it should.

Then I stumbled on the answer:  the light wasn’t white, it was yellow.  Now, I wear glasses so my eyesight isn’t great, but this was not a very clear yellow light.  But a blinking yellow light on a MyCloud means that it is running fine but can’t find the network.  I unplugged the network cable at both ends, then reseated it on the router, and on the MyCloud drive itself.  I heard a nice firm click and, after waiting a minute, the light turned blue.

My fault for not pressing the network cable in hard enough.  But, if I had a chance to talk to the designers of this drive, I’d suggest that the blinking yellow “network not found” light be (a) made a more vibrant yellow and (b) consider adding additional lights to the device.  The NAS is quite streamlined with a single multi-purpose light.  Not too long ago, you’d have had a different light for different colors (or even a different blinking pattern) but it seems that devices are moving away from that.  I suspect many of the people who had waited for hours for their MyCloud drive to get to the blue light had a similarly not-quite-seated cable.  Western Digital could save some time and money – in people complaining and returning drives, nevermind the support – by reviewing this element of the drive.

All’s well that ends well.  I used another person’s suggestion of connecting the NAS directly to my laptop, for an ultra fast connection, and quickly had the backed up USB drive copied over to the NAS.  I had already given my MyCloud a static IP, which is the only trick: both the NAS and your laptop need static addresses, since you won’t have a router between them.

David Whelan

I improve information access and lead information teams. My books on finding information and managing it and practicing law using cloud computing reflect my interest in information management, technology, law practice, and legal research. I've been a library director in Canada and the US, as well as directing the American Bar Association's Legal Technology Resource Center. I speak and write frequently on information, technology, law library, and law practice issues.