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post #1 of 313 Old 12-28-2003, 07:44 PM - Thread Starter
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Couldn't find any discussions on this:

Roku Soundbridge

From the CES site: A masterpiece of design, the Roku SoundBridge is an MP3 network music player that stands out from the rest with it's beautiful structure and well-proportioned Noritake 512x32 vacuum fluorescent display.

Anyone know more about this yet? Otherwise I'm definitely tracking them down at CES. I'm looking for a good wi-fi streamer and nothing seems to fit the bill so far. Fingers crossed on this.

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post #2 of 313 Old 12-28-2003, 10:03 PM
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This one surely looks interesting. Very nice display, and I'm waiting to here what formats it supports, what outputs it has, and the protocol it uses to interface to the server.

Have you taken a look at Slim Devices Squeezebox? Just wondering why that hasn't fit your bill for a wireless media device. I got one a few weeks ago and absolutely love it. The display isn't quite as nice as this one, but it does its job and is easy to use, yet powerful.
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post #3 of 313 Old 12-29-2003, 01:02 PM
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The Squeezebox retail at $300 and only for Audio Files. And people complain the the Roku HD1000 is $500.

I do really like the Soundbridge display - much better then the Squeezebox.
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post #4 of 313 Old 12-30-2003, 09:32 PM - Thread Starter
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Well the Squeezebox is a what I'll probably go with if the specs on the Roku aren't all that or the price is obnoxious. The only thing that is honestly holding me back from it is that it's wireless-b -- I'd really like to have a wireless-g solution, but perhaps I'm being too picky.

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post #5 of 313 Old 12-31-2003, 04:17 AM
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You can attach a wireless-g bridge to the Roku (although they are a little more expensive - cheapest close to $100).
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post #6 of 313 Old 12-31-2003, 07:46 AM
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Other than not wanting to mix network technologies, there is really little sense in wanting 802.11g on an audio player. Even if you are streaming uncompressed audio files, the bandwidth of 802.11b far, far exceeds that of the audio file. Since these devices do very little else on the network besides streaming a single audio file at a time, putting g on them probably isn't going to happen at the manufacturer, especially if they can save a couple bucks by using b.

In any case, almost all g access points are compatible with b networks as well.
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post #7 of 313 Old 12-31-2003, 08:03 AM
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I would think 802.11g would keep up with DVD playback where 802.11b would not - thus the reason I got the 802.11g bridge.

The Roku has no wireless installed at the factory. You have to add wireless via the USB port or through the 10/100 Ethernet port with a bridge. USB requires drivers on the Roku and currently the drivers only allow for the older Prism chipset (many 802.11b USB devices). I believe there are now Linux drivers available for the new PrismGT chip which I would be very suprised if Roku did not add in an upcoming firmware revision (thus providing ability to connect 802.11g USB devices).
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post #8 of 313 Old 12-31-2003, 05:38 PM
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Quote:
Originally posted by jaredhanson
Other than not wanting to mix network technologies, there is really little sense in wanting 802.11g on an audio player. Even if you are streaming uncompressed audio files, the bandwidth of 802.11b far, far exceeds that of the audio file. Since these devices do very little else on the network besides streaming a single audio file at a time, putting g on them probably isn't going to happen at the manufacturer, especially if they can save a couple bucks by using b.

In any case, almost all g access points are compatible with b networks as well.
My understanding is adding a 802.11b device to an 802.11g network will slow all network traffic to the lowest common denominator.

...joe
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post #9 of 313 Old 12-31-2003, 06:12 PM
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Quote:
Originally posted by joewmaki
My understanding is adding a 802.11b device to an 802.11g network will slow all network traffic to the lowest common denominator.
Yes and no. Using 802.11b in a mixed b and g network will slow the whole network down some. However, it is still faster than a pure 802.11b network. Here's a good reference table (in protocol - bandwidth - actual bandwidth (approx) format)

802.11b - 11 Mbps - 6 Mbps
802.11g only - 54 Mbps - 27 Mbps
802.11g with b support - 54 Mbps - 20 Mbps

This is referenced from:
http://www.hackorama.com/wifi/
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post #10 of 313 Old 01-07-2004, 08:30 AM
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roku now has info up on their web site...

http://www.rokulabs.com/products/soundbridge/index.php

the placement of the connector jacks at first glance seems odd - i'd rather have connections on the back instead wires sticking out the sides...
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post #11 of 313 Old 01-07-2004, 10:19 AM
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Wow, looking at the specs it seems the only difference between the 1000 and 2000 is the display. The price difference between the 2 models seems to warrant a whole lot more than that.

Still, the M1000 seems like a mighty nice deal, I'll probably be preordering one.

"Fry, you're wasting your life sitting in front of that TV. You need to get out and see the real world."
"But this is HDTV. It's got better resolution than the real world!"
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post #12 of 313 Old 01-07-2004, 10:33 AM
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Interestingly, Roku's page on the Soundbridge indicates:


Quote:
The SoundBridge players use the open-source SlimServer software. This software is open to enhancement by end users and third-party developers, so new features can be added and functionality enhanced over time
This is the same software that drives the SlimDevices SliMP3 and Squeezebox.

They also say:

Quote:
The server software runs on Mac and Windows platforms
but SlimServer also is well supported on Linux.

Walter...
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post #13 of 313 Old 01-07-2004, 12:43 PM
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Close--still no cigar ;). If they'd get rid of the streaming software component and make it mount and play files directly from shares, like the the AT ...

It says that it "integrates smoothly with iTunes". I wonder if it handles the DRM on files purchased from Apple's music store? That would justify the server software, I guess.

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post #14 of 313 Old 01-07-2004, 01:37 PM
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Quote:
Originally posted by michaeltscott
Close--still no cigar ;). If they'd get rid of the streaming software component and make it mount and play files directly from shares, like the the AT ...

It says that it "integrates smoothly with iTunes". I wonder if it handles the DRM on files purchased from Apple's music store? That would justify the server software, I guess.
I'm just wondering why you put such a high priority on no streaming software on the computer. If a device is mounting shares, it is streaming the data as it reads the share accross the network. Sure, this comes built into Windows and samba runs on Macs and UNIX, but it is still a "server" on the computer.

In the case of iTunes, there is a server app running that provides Rondezvous and DAAP services to the network. SlimServer is just another server.

I understand not wanting to have a zillion apps running in the background, but all these wind up with some form of server on the computer streaming data down the network to the device. In anycase samba, iTunes, and SlimServer are all relatively light weight and shouldn't be too much of a burden on any modern computer.
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post #15 of 313 Old 01-07-2004, 09:50 PM
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Quote:
Originally posted by jaredhanson
I'm just wondering why you put such a high priority on no streaming software on the computer. If a device is mounting shares, it is streaming the data as it reads the share accross the network. Sure, this comes built into Windows and samba runs on Macs and UNIX, but it is still a "server" on the computer.
What the server serves is the big difference. SMB, et al, are protocols which serve data on filesystems to devices which mount shares. The software doesn't care what the data is, and treats all data the same. It doesn't matter what operating system is running the server, or what version, and if I have media files spread out across a number of computers on my home network which I want to be able to access, I don't have to worry about having to install anything on all of those computers or having to keep them all up to date.

In fact, you can set up an AT to play files from shares on your computer without installing any new software on your PC. If you have a number of networked computers in your home, you can configure the AT to play music files located on any and all of them--just create protected shares using the software already provided with the operating system and give the AT a list of paths to those shares and the passwords required to access them, through its embedded web server.

In a recent thread, we were discussing the pros and cons of using networked-attached storage devices with an AT. No such discussion necessary with streaming-server based systems--they can't use standalone networked-attached storage.

The main reason why proprietary streaming-PC-software-coupled devices bother me is that I am a software engineer, with 12 years experience writing embedded software in large-scale networking devices (primarily distributed management agents in optical switches, routers, etc--all behind me now, thank providence :)). I find the AT's no-software-installation-required approach admirably elegant. I hope that they manage to hold on to it, at least for music files. Reliably playing video files over a home network, particularly over wireless B links, might actually require a true media streaming protocol, which the standard file-sharing protocols are most definitely not (see this for an example of a media streaming protocol--a believe that one, RTSP, is used by Real). Support of DRM-protected music will probably also require some special server software--I still feel that this should be kept separate from requirements for playing open music files. A device might require a server co-located with the files for these purposes, but if you don't use any of that, you shouldn't need to run any server at all.

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post #16 of 313 Old 01-08-2004, 05:59 AM
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Quote:
Originally posted by brente
the placement of the connector jacks at first glance seems odd - i'd rather have connections on the back instead wires sticking out the sides...
I agree, odd choice to have a nice looking unit, and then a fugly cable jutting out of the side - anyone know of any right-angle, low profile cat-5 cables?

Also, this seems pretty competitive with the squeezebox - but without the built-in wireless. Which seems good to me, why should I pay for wireless if I don't want to use it?

As far as streaming server software, yeah, I think OPTIMALLY you would have a network-attached storage device holding your media that each player could access without running software. But NAS seems like it hasn't quite hit the mass-market consumer level yet.

The roku soundbridge seems like a nice product. Roku is set up to be a major player in this emerging niche.


Oh, lastly, whats AT mike?


Lee

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post #17 of 313 Old 01-08-2004, 07:02 AM
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AT stands for Audiotron. :cool:
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post #18 of 313 Old 01-08-2004, 07:12 AM
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Roku confuses me a bit. Their HD photo server has so much potential, but falls very very short, especially on music.

This Soundbridge (as far as I can tell) offers zero advantage over an Audiotron or a Squeezbox. And the wires on the side is completely absurd.

What's the point?
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post #19 of 313 Old 01-08-2004, 07:56 AM
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Quote:
Originally posted by LeeG23
As far as streaming server software, yeah, I think OPTIMALLY you would have a network-attached storage device holding your media that each player could access without running software. But NAS seems like it hasn't quite hit the mass-market consumer level yet.
True--but then, neither have these music servers. I don't personally know anyone who knows anything about them other than what I've told them, and I'm the only person that I know who actually owns one. Face it--we're talking about technophile toys here. It'll be years before any of this becomes commonplace.

I'm not particularly an advocate of home NAS devices. Almost every one on the market costs more than a PC which could do the same job, and which could run streaming media server software as well. There does turn out to be one 120GB device on the market which can be had for less than a PC--at about $280, delivered, considerably less than any PC with 120GB of disk space. At that price, such a device becomes attractive.

It is highly desirable to have my media files served to the network by a device or a PC reserved for that purpose. It's a large pain in the butt to upgrade to a new PC; I just did it and lost the disk with my ripped music collection in the process (thank the powers-that-be that I had the entire thing stored on a portable jukebox, so I didn't have to rip hundreds of CDs all over again). If I'd had it stored on an NAS, my collection would have been safe and my AT wouldn't have been down for a single second. If I had to put the PC in the shop, the AT would still be up and running.

Almost every one of these "Digital Audio Servers", or whatever you want to call them (most of them are really "Digital Audio Clients"), only works with its own proprietary server software running on one or more PCs on your home LAN. You could run their server software on a PC which mounts shares on an NAS, but with that you've doubled the network traffic necessary to play a single file.

The Roku thing is cool in most other ways (I do prefer that all of the equipment in my entertainment center be contained in flat, stackable, 17" wide cases, though). I look forward to seeing what other announcements come out of CES. Turtle Beach is expected to show their next generation device(s), which many of us have been waiting a long time for.

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post #20 of 313 Old 01-08-2004, 07:54 PM
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Hey Mike-

Thanks for the triton link - thats a nice looking NAS, and significantly cheaper than what else is out there. There was another product last year called "martian netdrive", but they stopped selling to the public, and I can't (at the moment) even get their website to open (www.martian.com).

I agree these are technophile toys, but the increasing number and decreasing price of them is reassuring. Even if their not mainstream, we will get more for our money. Throw HDTV into the mix this year, and DVRs, etc, and in a year or two the digital life will be sweet-


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post #21 of 313 Old 01-10-2004, 11:23 AM
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Quote:
Originally posted by brente

the placement of the connector jacks at first glance seems odd - i'd rather have connections on the back instead wires sticking out the sides...
I see one of the accessories they offer is a wall mount adapter. This may explain the jacks on the endplates. Easier to design a good looking wall mount if you don't have to allow cable clearance between the unit and the wall. Cords poking out of the end doesn't add to the look though.

I think I saw something on the site about "cable management" so there may be a solution that isn't showing up in their PR photos.

...joe
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post #22 of 313 Old 01-10-2004, 07:25 PM
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Quote:
Originally posted by joewmaki
I think I saw something on the site about "cable management" so there may be a solution that isn't showing up in their PR photos.
Good call. I thought the same thing and just finished checking out the .PDF they have on their website. It states that there are "removable end caps with rear cable exit slots." If you look at the picture of the M2000 that they have set up on what appears to be a nightstand, it has these end caps on and none of the jacks or cables are showing.

They probably should've clarified this on their website.

-Tarek
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post #23 of 313 Old 01-13-2004, 02:32 PM
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Quote:
Originally posted by Cruft
Interestingly, Roku's page on the Soundbridge indicates:

quote:
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
The SoundBridge players use the open-source SlimServer software. This software is open to enhancement by end users and third-party developers, so new features can be added and functionality enhanced over time
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

This is the same software that drives the SlimDevices SliMP3 and Squeezebox.

Is there any relationship between Slim and Roku? And does the SlimServer software also drive the device UI? If so, it seems the Roku and the Squeezebox would be funtionally equivilent, with the exception that you can choose to go 802.11g if you wanted...and a better preorder price...
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post #24 of 313 Old 01-13-2004, 05:03 PM
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Quote:
Is there any relationship between Slim and Roku?
NO
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post #25 of 313 Old 01-17-2004, 05:39 PM
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Howdy all,

Thanks for your interest in the SoundBridge!

Let me take this opportunity to answer some of the questions raised here, now that we're all back from CES and somewhat recovered... ;)

First of all, as has been mentioned, the cables connect inside the end(s) of the unit, but are concealed and routed out the back by the end caps. This results in a nice, sleek look without a bunch of wires everywhere. Thanks for the feedback about the web pics; we'll improve it to make this clearer.

Regarding differences between the M1000 and M2000 -- the capabilities of both units are the same, but the M2000 has a physically much larger display, and the unit itself is larger as well. The large display offers about 4x the resolution of the smaller display, which makes it easy to read from far away, and also offers more resolution for potential future features like visualizers. This display is very expensive, and that cost difference in parts is reflected in the price of the products.

Regarding the SlimServer. Roku doesn't have a formal relationship with Slim Devices. We have taken the SlimServer open-source server software and made enhancements and modifications to support our products. When the products are released, we will release our changes to the open source community per the GPL. Some of those enhancements may be picked up by Slim Devices for use with their products, and some may not.

For example, our hardware supports WMA and AAC playback, while the Slim products do a format conversion on the server. And, our displays are bitmapped while the Slim products are character-based. So, our code to stream WMA and AAC to the SoundBridge or use the bitmapped displays wouldn't be relevant to their products at this time.

Incidentally, while we did mention Mac and Windows on our web page, I don't know of any reason why our version of the server shouldn't run on other platforms. Linux, in particular, will almost certainly work well given the Linux fanaticism amongst some of our employees... ;)

Regarding concerns about installing server software on the computer, there are a couple of points to be made here.

First, while the SlimServer is the first server that SoundBridge supports, it's not planned to be the only one. Like Roku's other products, the SoundBridge is an open platform, and will be able to use other servers and other platforms. Apple's iTunes has its own built-in streaming, for example, and Microsoft and other companies have similar offerings. We plan to support as many systems as we can, so people have a choice.

But, why have a server at all? One major reason is cost. The client device can be simpler if some of the work of sorting through the content is performed on the computer, rather than the device. It means that the player can have less memory, a smaller CPU, etc. and still deliver excellent functionality.

Finally, regarding DRM. The iTunes Music Store files (as we all know) are encrypted. At this time, Apple has not opened up playback of ITMS files to third parties, but if they do we plan to support it. Similar offerings from other companies are also not open to third parties at this time, but as those opportunities become available, we will pursue any that make sense.

I hope this information is helpful. Please don't hesitate to ask questions!

Mike Kobb
Senior Software Engineer
Roku
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post #26 of 313 Old 01-17-2004, 10:08 PM
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I have a question about the operation of the unit. What I do most often with my current media player (I won't name any names) is to do random play of certain genres. This is easy because the remote has "favorite" buttons which I can program to be a certain genre. So, in effect I only have to turn the unit on and press one button to do this and don't have to try to read the tiny display.

Based on the picture of the remote for the Soundbridge is doesn't seem to have any "shortcuts" like this. Could you please describe the steps I would have to go through to perform a random play in a genre with your product? Thanks.
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post #27 of 313 Old 01-22-2004, 05:44 PM
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Sure, although keep in mind that the software is pre-release at the moment, so the specifics could change.

This answer also assumes that the SoundBridge is running from the SlimServer.

1. Turn the unit on.
2. Down-arrow once to the Browse Genres item.
3. Arrow right.
4. Down-arrow to the genre you want to play.
5. Press Shuffle.
6. Press Play.

If you're an iTunes user and the SlimServer is getting its data from the iTunes database, you can also create a "Smart Playlist" in iTunes that has songs of your favorite genre(s) in it. Then the steps become:

1) Turn the unit on.
2) Down arrow to the "Saved playlists" item.
3) Right arrow.
4) Down arrow to the appropriate smart playlist.
5) Press Shuffle.
6) Press Play.

You would do this second option if you had fewer playlists than genres (and you're using iTunes). You can, of course, also name your smart playlists so that they sort to the top.

Hope this is helpful.

Mike Kobb
Senior Software Engineer
Roku
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post #28 of 313 Old 01-22-2004, 06:10 PM
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The NAS market is about to change... NetGear showed (ok, had a mockup and little details) at CES a residental gateway (router/firewall/11g/etc.) that included a USB2.0 port. The port would support either a printer (making it also a print server), or an external USB hard disk, turning it into a very cheap NAS solution. The product is supposed to be out mid-year, and is just their new "high end" consumer router product. Meaning that it will retail for like $150 SRP, instead of their lesser model at like $120...

I talked to them about it, hoping to hear that it supported SMB (Samba) so that it would work with the AT... They didn't know anything ("it's just a model"), but they took the feedback. I also pointed this out to TurtleSeth as something they should be aware of... I've been expecting Linksys/Cisco or someone in that market to do this for a year now - they're finally catching on. And the fact that NetGear showed one (very early) means to me that Linksys, D-Link, et. al. will probably all have one by end of year...

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post #29 of 313 Old 01-22-2004, 06:16 PM
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niceeeeeeeeeeeeeee. are usb 2.0 external hardrives chainable?

rather be lucky than good.
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post #30 of 313 Old 01-23-2004, 12:00 AM
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Quote:
Originally posted by jautor
The NAS market is about to change... NetGear showed (ok, had a mockup and little details) at CES a residental gateway (router/firewall/11g/etc.) that included a USB2.0 port. The port would support either a printer (making it also a print server), or an external USB hard disk, turning it into a very cheap NAS solution. The product is supposed to be out mid-year, and is just their new "high end" consumer router product. Meaning that it will retail for like $150 SRP, instead of their lesser model at like $120...

I talked to them about it, hoping to hear that it supported SMB (Samba) so that it would work with the AT... They didn't know anything ("it's just a model"), but they took the feedback. I also pointed this out to TurtleSeth as something they should be aware of... I've been expecting Linksys/Cisco or someone in that market to do this for a year now - they're finally catching on. And the fact that NetGear showed one (very early) means to me that Linksys, D-Link, et. al. will probably all have one by end of year...

Jeff
Is there any benefit to this USB method as opposed to directly connection a drive to the network? It is, after all, *network* attached storage. I don't see why anyone would want to limit themselves to a USB port and this device rather than the general, all-purpose solution of buying a NAS device that attaches directly to your network. But, maybe I am missing something.
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