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Setup and Administration

The first tip-off that you're not dealing with a NAS device is the NetDisk's Win2000 / XP-only requirement. The FAQ on Ximeta's website says they'll release "beta software for Windows 98SE and Macintosh OS X at the end of September (2003)" but there's no mention of support for Linux or other OSes.

The other "gotchas" - also listed in the FAQ - are that "there is an issue with Hyperthreading and Dual Processors" and that the NetDisk must be used with a 100Mbps/full duplex capable switch in NDAS mode. I learned about the first problem the hard way, suffering through two days of unexplained lockups in my recently acquired desktop - which happens to use a 2.4GHz P4 with Hyperthreading!

Beta firmware (Version 2.1.4) is now available on Ximeta's downloads page, and it appears to fix the lockup problem on my P4/HT system. But note this Beta doesn't have the promised Win98 and MacOS X support.

Setup depends on the OS and mode you're using. If you just want to run it as a USB device and are running WinXP, just plug it in and you won't even have to install drivers. If you're running Win2000, you'll need the drivers on the install CD.

After installation completes, you should be able to see the drive in My Computer - Drive I in Figure 1.

Ximeta NetDisk - NetDisk in MyComputer

Figure 1 - The installed NetDisk

If you want to connect via Ethernet, you'll need to run the Windows-based installer. Figure 2 shows your choices, with each one presenting a series of screens that takes you through the steps for that particular mode.

Ximeta NetDisk - Installer choices

Figure 2 - Installer choices

Ximeta did a nice job on the Installer, which walks you through connection and other details of each type of setup. I connected the NetDisk to my LAN's switch and selected the NDAS (Ethernet) option since that's the unique part of what the NetDisk is offering, but didn't get a successful install unless I ran it twice. I found the NetDisk S/W Install choice the most reliable and after a mandatory reboot found the NetDisk Administrator icon on my Desktop and running in the System Notification (Tray) area.

Tip TIP: The 2.1.4 Beta software installer seems more robust and has eliminated the mandatory reboot - at least on XP systems.

Ximeta's NDAS doesn't make the NetDisk a true NAS device accessible through My Network Places / Network Neighborhood, but instead installs a NetDisk SCSI and RAID controller that shows up in Device Manager (Figure 3).

Ximeta NetDisk - Device Manager entry

Figure 3 - Device Manager entry

The NDAS mode allows multiple LAN clients read access to the NetDisk, but only one client at a time has full read/write access. This process is managed by the Administrator program, which must be installed on each system in order to access the NetDisk. The Administrator also allows you to register a new disk as shown in Figure 4 by entering information from a label on the bottom of each NetDisk.

Ximeta NetDisk - Register screen

Figure 4 - NetDisk Register

Right-clicking the NetDisk Administrator icon in the System tray pops up a color-coded status indicator among its menu items, but I didn't find it very helpful since there are seven different colors and no on-line help to tell you which is which! I found the Administrator's Properties menu shown in Figure 5 much more helpful for figuring out what the NetDisk was up to.

Ximeta NetDisk - Properties

Figure 5 - NetDisk Properties

I didn't like the Read/Write control system at all. There's no ability to prevent users from freely grabbing write access and when access changes you get only an audio indication and no pop-up message or warning. I can see where this system could easily frustrate users in even a small work-group. There should at least be a way to lock write privileges to a single client, or require a password to obtain it.

In addition to the Administrator program, Ximeta supplies an Aggregation and Mirroring utility. As its name implies, you can use it to get multiple NetDisks to appear as one, or to mirror each other, but I didn't try it out since I had only one NetDisk to play with.

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