Use a net­work gate­way to share files

With Air­port base sta­tions out of pro­duc­tion, there is a way to cre­ate a net­work file server with a non-ap­ple router.

Macworld (USA) - - Contents - BY GLENN FLEISHMAN

Af­ter the writ­ing had been on the wall for years, Ap­ple only re­cently of­fi­cially stated ( go. mac­world.com/datc) that it won’t be pro­duc­ing Wi-fi base sta­tions any­more. Many of us have re­lied on the Air­port line as an easy way to han­dle a num­ber of ba­sic net­work tasks with­out learn­ing the va­garies of other hard­ware. One of those is net­work file shar­ing.

You can share files from macos or Win­dows, but it’s not al­ways con­ve­nient or

ap­pli­ca­ble, es­pe­cially if you (or your fam­ily) re­lies largely on lap­tops. An­other op­tion is net­work-at­tached stor­age

(NAS), which are stand-alone file servers that of­ten come with a lot of ad­di­tional fea­tures, and now start in the low hun­dreds of dol­lars for “bare” units with­out any in­ter­nal drives.

For ex­am­ple, the Synol­ogy DS218+ ( go. mac­world.com/ds28; $300 with­out drives) is a pretty pow­er­ful piece of hard­ware that can transcode video in real time to stream it over a net­work, as well as serve files over sev­eral pro­to­cols, like the widely used SMB and the out­dated AFP (Ap­ple Fil­ing Pro­to­col). Add a cou­ple of $50 to $100 drives, and you’re smok­ing.

But if $300 plus $100 to $200 for drives is too steep for your pur­poses, and you’ve got a Wi-fi gate­way with a USB port that you’ve never used be­fore, crack open its man­ual. You’ll typ­i­cally find that you can add one or more stor­age de­vices (a thumb drive, an SSD, or a hard drive), and have it show up on the net­work.

Many gate­ways have just USB 2.0 ports, which sup­ports up to 480 Mbps of raw data, but in prac­tice works more slowly. Newer gate­ways should han­dle USB 3.0 or later, which can hit 5 Gbps for high-per­for­mance de­vices. You won’t see any­thing like that rate via a gate­way­con­nected drive, but USB 3 drives gen­er­ally out­per­form USB 2.0 ones.

You’ll need to con­sult your man­ual to sort out what is of­ten an un­der-ex­plained web­based in­ter­face to en­able drive shar­ing and

Many gate­ways have just USB 2.0 ports, which sup­ports up to 480 Mbps of raw data, but in prac­tice works more slowly.

then, if avail­able, add a pass­word or cre­ate a set of shared fold­ers with spe­cific per­mis­sions if you don’t want to share the en­tire drive to all the users of your net­work. For home use, that’s usu­ally not a big prob­lem.

TRICKY AC­CESS

The trick for macos users is that not all net­work gate­ways pro­duce the right “dis­cov­ery” an­nounce­ments for macos to show the em­bed­ded file server in the Fin­der’s Net­work browser (Go → Net­work). With my cur­rent gate­way, a Tp-link model, the drive doesn’t show up at all, but it’s fully ac­ces­si­ble from macos. Here’s how you gain ac­cess.

First, in the ad­min­is­tra­tive in­ter­face for your gate­way, find out its IP ad­dress on your lo­cal or pri­vate net­work. With nonAp­ple gate­ways, this is al­most al­ways 192.168.0.1. If you’re con­nected by Wi-fi to it from a Mac, hold down the Op­tion key and se­lect the Wi-fi menu-bar icon. A bunch of ad­di­tional in­for­ma­tion ap­pears un­der­neath your cur­rently con­nected net­work, in­clud­ing Router: the num­ber fol­low­ing Router is the gate­way ad­dress. Note this IP ad­dress.

Now, in the Fin­der, choose Go → Con­nect To Server. En­ter the IP ad­dress in that di­a­log and click Con­nect. Af­ter a mo­ment, a lo­gin di­a­log should ap­pear. You may be able to con­nect by click­ing Guest, or you may need to use the ad­min ac­cess cre­den­tials of the gate­way. If you’ve con­nected user ac­counts or en­abled a disk-ac­cess user, en­ter those cre­den­tials in­stead.

If mul­ti­ple vol­umes are avail­able, you should be given a choice of which to mount. If not, the server’s shared vol­ume should mount im­me­di­ately, show­ing the en­tire drive or nested fold­ers in a vir­tual vol­ume.

The over­all per­for­mance of a router­based shared drive won’t be fan­tas­tic, un­less you’ve pur­chased a very high-end gate­way, some of which even of­fer stream­ing, UPNP dis­cov­ery (which lets it be found by apps like VLC with­out mak­ing a file­shar­ing con­nec­tion), and DLNA com­pat­i­bil­ity with net­worked de­vices, like game sys­tems. But the built-in per­for­mance may be plenty if you’re mostly mov­ing files around or us­ing soft­ware, like Plex, that can use net­worked vol­umes via Mac, Win­dows, or other server soft­ware and han­dles en­cod­ing on a host com­puter as nec­es­sary. ■

The trick for macos users is that not all net­work gate­ways pro­duce the right “dis­cov­ery” an­nounce­ments for macos to show the em­bed­ded file server in the Fin­der’s Net­work browser (Go > Net­work).

A bare-bones disk-shar­ing in­ter­face ap­pears in a Tp-link router’s Web-based ad­min­is­tra­tive front end.

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