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Local Content

The Hub provides a few ways to access content. One way is to use a USB port to plug in a disk full of movies, photos, or music. When you plug a disk in, the system will start scanning it for available multimedia files. This can take awhile and slow down the Hub if you're trying to do something else. When it's done scanning, the files will be indexed and available for playback.

But since you're paying $100 extra for the 1 TB drive (vs. its Live and Live Plus siblings), you probably will want take advantage of it and there are several ways to do it.

First, you can mount the internal drive as a network share and just drag-and-drop your files into it. A handier way, though, is to set up network synchronization. In this mode, you tell Hub to mount one of your existing network shares and keep it in sync with a directory on the internal hard drive. This method is best to use with a wireless network connection because once the files are on the Hub's drive, they will play without any of the problems usually encountered when trying to play HD wireless streams.

The third way to use the internal drive is to set up USB sync. This works like network sync, but from an attached drive. This might work best if you're moving a lot of data and also works around a network issue that I encountered. For whatever reason, the network synchronization feature did not see all the shares I have on my network. So I could not copy their content over to the Hub.

If you want to leave your content on the network and not copy it to the Hub, you can either access content via your own UPnP/DLNA server or tell the box to mount one of your network shares. Note that once again, the Hub did not see some of my network shares. And if they aren't auto-detected, they can't be used because there is no way to enter a share or UPnP source name or IP address. Figure 9 shows a media selection menu, where a couple of UPnP servers on my network were auto-detected (one on my cell phone!).

UPnP media server selection

Figure 9: WD TV Live HUB UPnP Media Server Selection

Note that this selection of media sources brought up an important limitation of the Hub—ou can't mix-and-match your sources into a coherent library. You must choose between using local content, network server content or DLNA content. I hope this limitation will be fixed in a future release because it was annoying. Several times I wondered why a particular file wasn't present in a menu before I realized that I had to switch my source to play it.

Music

The first local feature I checked out was music playback. Figure 10 shows the main music menu when I navigated into a folder of audio files.

Music Playback

Figure 10: WD TV Live HUB Music Playback

With all content, you can display your files either in a list or in a grid, which is shown here. Note that only a couple of the songs have album art showing. If a song doesn't show up with album art and other metadata , the Hub has a nice menu-option to go fetch it from the Internet using either the filename or a self-typed name.

This is great when it works, but in this case it didn't succeed on these songs from the album London Calling by The Clash. Rolling Stone magazine rated this album as number eight on the list of the 500 greatest albums of all time, but evidently it's not in the database that Western Digital is using.

Besides the metadata issue, music playback worked fine. Western digital advertises support for a wide-range of formats including standards such as MP3, AAC, WAV, OGG, WMA and others. It won't, of course, play any file restricted with DRM. Once you start playback of music, you can navigate out of the menus to start something like a slideshow and the music will continue to play. This is also true with music playback from the online services.

Photos

Figure 11 shows a collection of my photos displayed as thumbnails.

Photo Selection

Figure 11: WD TV Live HUB Photo Selection

From this menu, you can either select a single photo for playback or you can hit the play button to display the entire directory. There are also options for photo rotation, zooming, panning, etc. There was even an option for uploading your photo to Facebook. I was a bit surprised to have this work without even asking for login credentials, so evidently the photo application reused the login info I had entered for the Facebook application.

I did encounter a hiccup a couple of times with photo playback. In both cases, when I went to display my photos I would get a little animated "working" icon, but no photos would display until I rebooted the box. When I was in this state, my screensaver display would also fail. Western Digital advertises support for the following formats: JPEG, GIF, PNG, TIFF and BMP.

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