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Printing & External Drives

The ability of the Shared Storage device to act as a network print server was a nice feature and getting set up was fairly simple. The first step was to go to the Printer Support Management menu under Advanced Settings and turn support on. It would have been nice if support were automatically turned on when a printer was plugged in, but I suspect that keeping the print server off unless you need it saves memory, which in turn should increase file sharing performance.

Once print server support was turned on, I plugged in my USB printer. On my Windows box, I simply connected to the Shared Storage device, selected the printer and added it in the normal Windows fashion. Under Mac OS X and Linux I just added a "Windows Shared Printer" using their standard configuration tools. In a matter of a few minutes, all of my systems were able to print to the network printer. In keeping with its no-frills design, however, I found the MSS lacked the ability to monitor, kill, or reorder print jobs in queue.

The USB 2.0 ports on the device can also be used for external storage, which I tested with three different USB Flash drives. Once a USB drive is plugged in, it automatically gets exported as a full-access network share - or at least that's the way is it supposed to work. One of my three drives failed to be recognized even though all of my other systems could use it without problem and it was formatted with the required (and solely supported) FAT32 format. The drives that were recognized worked fine and I was able to use them like any other network share. To use external drives properly, you'll also need to go into the Advanced menu to unmount the disk before unplugging it.

I found the physical design for the USB ports to be somewhat lacking. Both ports are on the rear of the device (Figure 3) and are located very close to the power connector, making it somewhat awkward to plug and unplug. For a permanent connection such as a printer, this wouldn't be an issue, but if I were frequently using this feature to transfer data via a USB key, it would get old quickly.

Figure 3: Rear Panel

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