Gadgets

Using Linux and WD’s My Box Live

For a while I’ve had a hankering to be able to share content (mostly music) between my various laptops via a network drive, mostly to avoid having to either attach a drive or waste laptop SSD space. A cursory look through Amazon gave me Western Digital’s My Book Live, which seemed compatible with Ubuntu while mostly being presented as an OSX/Windows product. However the official line is actually “if it works with Linux great, if not we don’t support it”.

Actually getting things working was harder than I had anticipated, if I had a Ethernet connected computer switched on then the drive appeared normally however as soon as I switched off the computer then the drive disappeared as well, presumably meaning that the drive was being shared via mesh networking rather than being available to the Wifi devices as a first-class network citizen.

Some online comments suggested that the issue was that the device was not using a static IP, so I went into the settings and changed that. While in Static IP mode the drive started to give a warning it wasn’t connected to the internet, which presumably is something to do with port forwarding for the WD2GO service which also requires some router config. Despite this the drive was available once the static IP binding was done. However any music player (Rhythmbox and Banshee) that tried to connect to the drive failed to connect and there didn’t seem to be a way to provide the required anonymous login.

The final stretch was helped by this post about mounting network drives, on mounting the drive manually it was possible to access the new drive and generate playlists for the new drive. I didn’t want to edit fstab for this so I’m think of creating aliases for the mounting and unmounting operations.

I am now able to share my music collection to my Ubuntu laptop but it has not been a simple experience and I do think WD are short-sighted in not making the operation smoother. Linux may not be a massive market but it doesn’t seem that complex to support it better, if nothing else in the FAQ for the product.

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Gadgets

Wifi extension using Solwise power adaptors

I have a problem in my building of having many competing wifi networks, having tried upgrading my router and also scanning the networks to try and find the least used channels I decided that the only way to improve things was to try a wifi extender. My initial plan was to try a range extender but figuring that my problem was congested airspace I thought I might give powerline transmission a go instead since at least my electrical cabling ought to be mine alone.

I’ve been kind of aware of powerline transmission from former colleagues and the tech publications but I have to say that I don’t know how it works and it feels kind of magical right now. After looking at some recommendations on Amazon and BE forums I selected a package by Solwise and bought it direct from them but via Amazon Marketplace for convenience.

Setup wasn’t complicated but wasn’t exactly plug and play either. Contrary to what I had read it was perfectly possible to use the adaptors in gang plugs which was helpful in getting the pairing and initial connectivity to work. There is a helpful leaflet in the package that shows you how to pair the adaptors but I seemed to be struggling to get the individuals into pairing mode rather than resetting. In the end I think I put the extender into pairing mode first and then the adaptor that was going to connect to the router.

Once they were paired then getting access going was as simple as connecting a ethernet cable to the router. LEDs indicate whether the connection is being shared or not but I would recommend connecting to the default unprotected wifi network first to make sure everything is working.

Setting up the SSID and password was again a little more involved than I expected, there was another leaflet that explains the whole process and the easiest way to do the setup is by connecting a laptop directly via Ethernet cable. However at one stage I was modifying my laptop’s IP address to get it to connect to the in-built webserver which is fine for me but I wouldn’t want to be explaining that process over the phone on parent support.

With the setup up done then the whole thing works really well, the adaptors give a great signal and fast connections, transforming my previously flaky connections for the PS3 and AppleTV. The extending adaptor runs too hot for my liking but you can just choose to unplug it. A pretty cheap solution to my problem.

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