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Under the Covers

MP115 main board
Figure 8: MP115 main board
(click image to enlarge)

Taking off the cover on the box revealed a few details about the MP115's implementation. The video decoding appears to be accomplished with an ALI T6306 chip and wireless capabilities are provided by a mini-PCI card based on an Atheros AR5004.

I was also interested in seeing what was going on under the covers on the network. Often times, the first thing I do when plugging a new device onto my home network is to use nmap to do a port scan of it to tell me what services, documented or otherwise it may provide. But when I tried this with the MP115, I got no results - this little device was stealthy!

Another thing I do is watch network traffic going into and out of a device. When I tried this with the MP115, I saw the expected UPnP traffic and also noticed a manufacturer's name fly by: Digital5. This told me that the manufacturer of the device was probably Digital5 and a visit to its web site comfirmed it. Of course, had I looked closer at the front-panel of the box, I would have noticed a small Digital5 logo - but that wouldn't have been as much fun as sniffing the network traffic!

Since the device supports the standard UPnP protocol, I was eager to try it out with the Twonkyvision servers running elsewhere on my network. I had servers running on my NSLU2, KuroBox, iBook and laptop under both Linux and Windows XP. That should be enough!

In general, I found compatibility to be good. In some cases, I could play movies with the Twonkyvision server that wouldn't play with the NETGEAR server and vice-versa. But I also had a couple of difficulties with the Twonkyvision server and the MP115. The first problem was that the Internet radio station selection from the main menu was missing when using a Twonkyvision server. Stations would show up under Music, but they wouldn't play.

There was also a problem when attaching to the server running on my NSLU2. When I selected this server, I would get a long pause, and then go straight into the Music sub-menu. I would never get a choice to select Pictures or Movies. Music would play fine, but I had no other options. Twonkyvision lists an incompatibility (a TCP/IP stack issue) between its server on the NSLU2 and the NETGEAR MP101, but looks like it may also have trouble with the MP115.

Despite these problems, using the MP115 with a small server such as the Kuro or the NSLU2 is an attractive option. Using network storage devices means you don't tie up a "real" computer and the devices are small, power efficient, nearly silent and can have a great deal of storage space.

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