One request I have seen repeatedly regarding other NAS devices is a method to cause the hard drive to shut down. For most of us, a home NAS device may be used only sporadically, and it would be nice to have it shut down when it's not being used. Some devices don't have a way to set this, but the DS-101 has a nice little menu that allows you to specify how long the system has to be idle before the drive spins down.
The logging capabilities of the box worked well. Different logs are maintained for general system events, such as the system starting up, users logging on, file shared being mounted, etc. Normal events are displayed with a green icon; warnings, such as failed log in attempts, have a yellow icon; and errors such as the failure of my disk copy have a red icon.
One type of log that I did miss was detailed printing information. The only log message that appeared was a message indicating a connection to a printer had occurred. When I was setting up the print server, I could have used a lot more detail!
Figure 4: Log selection screen
(click image for larger view)
The DS-101 also has the capability to act as a network print server. This means that everyone on your LAN can access a printer that is connected to the DS-101 instead being hosted by a computer. The problem that I've always had with network print servers is their limited support for different printer models, and the DS-101 is no exception. I was disappointed to look at their list of supported printers and not find mine, but I went ahead to see if I could make it work anyway.
Like the rest of the DS-101, the instructions for adding a printer are well done. Detailed instructions are available for Windows, Mac OS X and Mac OS9. Basically, under Windows, you find the network printer under My Network Places, select it for installation, and then select the proper driver. Going through this under XP was straightforward, and despite my printer not being on the "supported" list, it worked! I compared the output from the printer hooked up locally and from across the network and could find no difference. Very nice.
Next I brought up a Linux laptop and pretty much went through the same process. "Add windows networked printer", "select driver", etc. and it worked! Next on my list was my real desire, my Macintosh boxes. This was the real test because most of my desktop work is done under OS X. The DS-101 documentation specifies that only Postscript printers are supported and my inexpensive Samsung laser printer doesn't fit the bill. I tried going through the same steps as under Linux and XP, but no dice. I would either get a cryptic OS X error, or I would get no output. This is where I could have used more detailed logging to see what errors were occurring. As a final attempt, I upgraded my printer driver and tried again. Success! I now had Linux, OS X, and Windows XP all printing to the print server using my "unsupported" printer.
A final feature worthy of mentions is backup. The CD that comes with the device includes a utility that is designed to run on your Windows (only) system and back up files to the DS-101. The utility appears to be fairly complete, with a number of features such as incremental backup, compression and encryption. I didn't have a chance to fully explore it, but a cursory test showed that it seemed to do its job well.