Ok, so you’ve gone through the previous steps and configured everything for your network environment. Now time to press on and see what makes this more than just a hard drive in a box.
STOP PRESS: as at this instant (4th Jan) it appears that a new version of the software (4.1) is in Beta and the online manual has already been updated to reflect some of the changes which directly impact some of the applications. This update also appear to address the fact that the Time Machine backup facility no longer works with the latest version of OS X so hopefully I’ll be able to test that now. As such, I’ll hold off going into any more detail for the moment until this is officially released.
The two applications I had already written about below don’t appear to have changed so check them out.
All the following applications can be enabled (and in some cases downloaded first) to allow your files to be accessed in various alternate ways, and also reveal some powerful new features.
QNAP provides the concept of ‘Stations’ which are a dedicated interface to manage different media or functions.
Ok, I must admit I haven’t tried this yet. I have an Apple TV and use that for viewing photos from my iPhone, but I have hundreds of photos which are locked away on my laptop and when I get a chance I will look at moving them to the QNAP and enabling this feature.
Having said that though, these ‘stations’ tend to provide two things: a web interface to view photos/play music/play videos etc, and a remote API so mobile apps can also access those files.
What they do not provide is something that you can view and interact with via your television – for that you require XBMC (which QNAP includes under the ‘HD Station’ banner which is described later on).
Thus, there seems little point enabling this feature for photos for example since the photos are already accessible as a network share which I could browse using any existing software such as ACDsee. And I have no burning desire to squint at my photos on a mobile device (although if you wished to re-purpose an old tablet as a digital photo frame this would be ideal).
However, if you wish to make your photos available to the outside world, then this will allow you to do that, and has facilities to create slide shows, albums and even has some photo editing capabilities.
Same deal as Photo Station but for music. The web interface allows you to browse your music and play it within any browser – no extra software required. If you open it up to the outside world then you could listen to your entire collection of music at work for example.
Enabling this station will allow you to use the Qmusic mobile app that provides a similar feature set but on a mobile device.
The Qmusic app does have an interesting feature: it allows you to download the music to your device so it is available offline. Thus it could allow you to sync music to your phone without requiring iTunes. There are at least 134 reasons why that is a good thing, but the number one for me is simply the fact that iTunes doesn’t stay in sync with my music – it doesn’t automatically recognise when I add new files to the NAS while this software does – as you will see later on there are options to ‘watch’ your files and make sure they are added to the library automatically. Using the NAS as an iTunes server will mitigate that somewhat but iTunes is still painfully slow with large collections and I’m not sure if I can sync files from a shared iTunes library to my phone – I haven’t tried that yet.
Finally, for iPhone users, you can play files from this app via AirPlay so if you have Apple TV, you can play music to your hifi without needing to:
- Turn the TV on to navigate through your files
- Physically connect the NAS to your hifi
That works pretty well, and the software will handle playback of formats that the iPhone/Apple TV can’t handle natively (i.e. FLAC). Of course, the ridiculous hardware limitations of the current Apple TV mean you are stuck with 16 bit/48Khz playback, so no HD audio.
One final thing: the Qmusic app has a glaring omission (at least as far as I know). As it is designed for a range of QNAP devices, it doesn’t know about the HDMI output on the TS-269L. Thus there is no option to tell it to play your music through the HDMI connector! It downloads/streams it via the app first and then you listen to it on your phone, or send it back to your hifi via AirPlay.
Clearly that is very silly and hopefully will be addressed at some point (or someone please tell me where to find this feature). Luckily there is another way to achieve this result as you will see later.