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Launchpad

Upon completion of the connector software installation, you’ll find that you have two new programs: Launchpad and Dashboard. I'll cover Launchpad first.

The Launchpad shown in Figure 6 has a limited number of options and is intended to be used by the clients on their computers. Let's walk through the features.

Launchpad used by clients

Figure 6: Launchpad used by clients

Backup - This option provides only two choices: Start Backup, which the administrator has pre-configured); and automatically wake up the computer to run a scheduled backup.

Remote Web Access - Prior to using Remote Web Access, the administrator has to set up the DX4000 for remote access and configure user accounts to allow remote access. I’ll discuss that a little later. To access the DX4000 remotely, you open a secure HTTPS session to devicename.remotewebaccess.com (devicename is the name the administrator configured for the DX4000). This is basically a dynamic DNS service hosted by Microsoft that lets you bypass the hassles of router port forwarding (if you have a UPnP-enabled router...more later) and configuring your own dynamic DNS.

After signing in with your username/password, you’ll land at the remote web access home page shown in Figure 7. Here you can see computers attached to the DX4000, view shared folders for which you have permission, and view the Media Library. The Media Library aggregates all of the media content for which you have permission. So whether the media content is in a private share, such as “cellison” below, or in folders named for media types, it’s all aggregated when you browse the library.

Remote Web Access home page for user Craig

Figure 7: Remote Web Access home page for user Craig

If you click on Shared Folders, you’ll see your files displayed in a browser window similar to Figure 8. You can upload or download files, create new folders, copy, cut, paste and delete files. As with Windows explorer, the column heading lets you sort your files. This is a really nice file management interface.

Shared folders

Figure 8: Shared folders

In the Media Library, you can browse pictures, music or videos. For pictures, you can see a traditional thumbnail view of each folder, or you can select Play slideshow. Alternatively, you can search the directory for a file name. Partial names may display multiple matches. Slideshow options are limited to duration: slow, medium or fast. The transition is “dissolve”, and you don’t have the ability to rotate any photos that may be oriented incorrectly.

Figure 9 shows a slideshow in progress. You can navigate directly to any photo by clicking on the corresponding thumbnail on the right side of the screen. Up and down arrows allow you to navigate through all of the photos in a directory.

Slideshow served over the web by the DX4000

Figure 9: Slideshow served over the web by the DX4000

Similarly, the Remote Web access for the Music library is also robust. Figure 10 shows that you can sort your music by Albums, Artists, Genre, Ratings, Playlists or Songs. Apparently the DX4000 reads the ID3 tags and organizes your library, as all I did was copy some folders onto the server. The server does have a DLNA-compliant media server, but not an iTunes server.

Music interface

Figure 10: Music interface

Figure 11 shows what the player looks like as you are playing music. The moving background is a collage composed of all of your available album artwork. You can show the current queue, and you can also save queues to a playlist. Note: IE is showing a certificate error, as I’m connecting to the web remote access over my local network. There is no certificate error when you connect remotely over the Internet using the devicename.remotewebaccess.com address.

Browser-based media player

Figure 11: Browser-based media player

I tested slideshows, playing music and playing video in both IE9 and FireFox 8, and everything worked in both browsers. It's worth noting that Windows Storage Server 2008 R2 Essentials supports on-the-fly video transcoding. Not many NASes do this, so the feature could be a plus for the DX4000. However, the Microsoft help note linked above notes that "To stream high definition video through Remote Access, you need a processor with a score of at least 6.0". Given that a notebook with an Intel i3-2310M, which is much more powerful than an Atom D525, has a score of only 4.6, you can probably forget about remotely viewing HD video.

Video quality setting

Figure 11a: Video quality setting

My only disappointment with remote access came when I tried to connect for a remote desktop session. Several of my computers were reported as a “not supported operating system” even though they were running Windows.

In order to access the remote desktop via the Launchpad Remote Access feature, you must be using Internet Explorer, and have the remote desktop services ActiveX component installed (Figure 11b). I was able to connect to one of the computers, but not to the DX4000. For the one computer I connected to, it was a standard Windows remote desktop experience.

Remote access error

Figure 11a: Remote access error

 

Given WD's stated business focus for the Sentinel, it's odd to see so many media features. But I guess since they come with WSS 2008 R2 Essentials, WD figured they might as well pass them on to the user.

Shared Folders - When you click on Shared Folders, it opens a window showing the shared folders that you have access to on the DX4000. Figure 12 shows my shares on the DX4000.

Shares configured for access by user cellison

Figure 12: Shares configured for access by user cellison

Dashboard - This is just a shortcut to access the Dashboard program, which I'll discuss next.

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