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DLNA More difficult than it should be servers Video

DLNA and video

Background

Quite a while a go we got a Netgear ReadyNAS Duo to act as a file server and, more importantly, be a Apple Time Machine server. Later when we got a really, really good deal on a then brand new Roku2 I discovered that I could use the built-in web server on the ReadyNAS to serve up video files to a “channel” called RoksBox. So all the home videos got put on the Duo and I also made backups of our commercial VHS tapes and DVDs on to it. All the metadata (name, dates, subject, description, running time, etc.) I put into a spreadsheet for easy human maintenance and a quick and dirty program converts that to the XML file that RoksBox can use.

But a couple of weeks ago the ReadyNAS Duo died. My guess is a software/firmware issue rather than hardware. I could ping the box but there was no response by its built-in web server, its management console, etc. A restart would get it going again but only until one of the Apple computers in the house attempted to do a Time Machine backup. Disabling Time Machine backups on the computers gave me time to look into things. Amazingly, Netgear actually published some new software for this old Sparc based box last fall to address a shell security issue and the release notes also mentioned a fix for a Apple Time Machine lockup. I installed that and sure enough, it did nothing for my problem. I tried tech support but apparently I either registered the box with an old email address or maybe got it in a previously opened box that was put on back on the shelf at Fry’s Electronics (Silicon Valley’s fee based hardware lending library). So they were more interested in having me come up with a many year old receipt than helping me fix the problem. Fair enough, time to go out and buy a new NAS box.

Western Digital MyCloud

The two most important items for me was Apple Time Machine support and at least RAID 1 (mirroring). There was a Buffalo brand box, but I’ve had mixed success with them. Far cheaper than the new ReadyNAS boxes was a Western Digital MyCloud. Has a cloud based sharing which I immediately turned off. Time Machine is now working again! Success.

Except I’ve grown accustomed to being able to call up our homemade and purchased videos on the TV via the Roku and RoksBox and there appears to be no provision for serving up files on a local network via a web server on the MyCloud. Maybe if I enabled the cloud services which seem to need UPnP on the router and maybe some directory service support from Western Digital I could do it. But these are local things and I shouldn’t need an external connection for them.

DLNA

There is a DLNA (Digital Living Network Alliance) server built in to the box. It is actually a Twonky Media Server and your can directly access it via port 9000.

Fairly recently Roku has upgraded their Local Media channel to support DLNA. In theory a decent DLNA server ought to fill the bill so why not try it for video files? While we are at it, might as well put the family photos on the server as well as my iTunes library. Turns out the photo support works very well. The music support works pretty well (issue with pulling up music by composer apparently because iTunes tracks that outside the music or uses a different ID3 tag). But videos, while they played fine, had a problem. Actually they had multiple problems.

The first issue I have run into is that documentation on Twonky appears to be nonexistent. Most of my searches on the web result in simply finding other people who can’t find the documentation either. Twonky is paid software so there is no source code to look at. And when you go to the Twonky site for tech support you need a registration number for your paid copy of the server. But I don’t have that because it came bundled with the MyCloud NAS box.

For videos, the second issue is that the file name is not honored as the video name. Dug around and finally figured out that Twonky will use the title specified in the video metadata if it exists and for some reason a number of my videos had garbage there. I didn’t find a Mac based GUI program that allows easy edits of video metadata but you can do it through ffmpeg.

Third issue is that the date shown for videos is file based. So now videos where the name was fixed show as 2015. If there is some metadata tag that Twonky uses for date, I haven’t found it. I did try a couple of tags that are documented for other DLNA servers but did not work for Twonky.

Final issue is that there is no explanation on how to get other metadata into Twonky. Things like a summary, a description, genre information, etc.

Back to HTTP and Roksbox

Finally, turned on shell access and poked around inside the WD MyCloud box and found that the control web page is being served up by Apache and they haven’t disabled following symlinks. So adding a symlink in the root directory that points to the top of the media share now allows RoksBox to operate just as it did on my old NAS. Nice having correct dates shown along with a description, etc.

DLNA and maybe even Twonky Media Server could have some uses, so I’ll probably poke around with this in the future. I can get a DLNA app for my smart phone and more devices supporting DLNA are likely to show up in the future so it would be nice to have this working. But for now it is not ready for prime time video serving until the metadata issue can be addressed.