The new geek toy in the household is a QNAP TS-109 with a 1TB Western Digital Caviar Green disk inside. Now that I’m regularly downloading video for podcasts and TV shows, my disk-space needs have increased considerably, and I figured that as long as I’m buying I might as well get something with more functionality than a plain old disk. Here are some of the considerations driving my choices.

  • I’ve always favored storage that’s accessible to more than one machine. Having it instantly accessible, without having to deal with both power and connectivity for a USB drive, is even better.
  • Prices for home NAS (Network Attached Storage) devices have come down a lot lately, and functionality has increased.
  • One particular feature that has become common is a built-in FTP/BitTorrent client, which allows the NAS device to do its own downloads without requiring that an attached host be left running.
  • If I’m going to leave something running in the office, then power consumption and acoustics are both important considerations. These were major factors in choosing the TS-109, and practically the only factor in choosing the Caviar Green.

So, how did all this work out? The instructions were good, and it only took a few minutes to install the drive. Software setup took a bit longer, and I’m glad I had a Windows box handy because there seemed to be no option for doing initial setup via Linux. Grrr. Getting through the setup stages was very straightforward, and after a few more minutes it was formatting the new drive. Half an hour later it was done, so I went to try mounting the drive on my laptop.

I hit a bit of a glitch because my UID on my laptop didn’t match the UID for the account of the same name I had set up on the QNAP. Writing files directly within the machine-created directories worked OK, but writing files within subdirectories would yield permission errors. There didn’t seem to be a way to force it to create an account with a particular UID, either, but it’s Linux inside (2.6.12-6 on a 500MHz ARM with 128MB memory to be precise) with ssh enabled and I’m not exactly new to this stuff so I just fixed up the UIDs that way and restarted the appropriate services. Voila, problem solved.

Other than that, things have been great. The performance isn’t stellar, but that’s the fault of the switch built into my wireless access point, which is how everything upstairs is connected too even when it’s wired. 100Mbps never seemed like an issue before, but it’s still faster than my internet connection and I didn’t have any real need for anything better inside the house. Right now it just doesn’t bother me anywhere near enough that I feel like paying for a better switch. The unit is quiet, all right, and seems to stay cool. I’ve used the built-in BitTorrent client once already, to download an ISO, and it got good download speeds. It seems a mite antisocial that you can’t tell it to keep seeding for completed downloads, though. Overall, I’d have to say I’m very happy with this little guy. There are a bunch of features I haven’t explored yet – it can be a web server, database server, and iTunes server as well as a file server, and there’s even an established mechanism called QPKG for users to contribute code to do even more things – but it’s already doing what I need and doing it well.

In the future, there are two more directions I might take with this toy. One is that I might set things up so it’s accessible from outside, for when I’m at work or on the road. There are some situations where I can imagine that being handy, but security concerns (and associated limitations on what I’d put on the device at all) outweigh that slight level of extra convenience. The other thing I might play with is remote replication. One of the things that distinguishes the QNAP product line from most of its direct competitors is that it supports automatic remote replication. It’s presented as something that requires similar devices on both ends, but it looks like it’s just rsync so I don’t think that’s really the case. Backing up to my web host, or even to S3, might be kind of nice.