Thecus N3200PRO NAS Server ReviewNemo - June 14, 2009
» Discuss this article (1)
User Web Interface
We've spent the last several pages using the web administration interface, but everything we've seen so far is only available to the admin account. User accounts you set up will not have access to these pages, but instead access an interface designed to give users access to files through the Web Disk interface and separate interfaces for the music and pictures folders.
The WebDisk service is enabled via the Network Service section we examined earlier. WebDisk is web-based file manager that gives users access to all public folders as well any private folders to which they have access rights. When you click on a folder name you can view all the subfolders and files in the share. Across the top of the page you will see icons that enable you to create a new folder, upload files to the server, search for a particular file and delete files. The Create New Folder, Upload Files and Delete options are only available if the user has write access to the particular share.
WebDisk is a very basic file manager and has a few limitations. You can not use it to rename files or move files from one folder to another and the upload feature is limited to a single file at a time. If you have more than a handful of files to load you are better off using FTP or your client computer's file manager to copy multiple files. If you choose to delete a file using the Delete function there is no warning message asking you to confirm the delete, so make sure you want to delete a file as there's no recycle bin functionality on the N3200PRO.
The Music option lists all the files in the Music share, much like using the WebDisk feature. There are no additional features provided over using WebDisk other than limiting the files listed to what's contained in the Music folder. If you have the iTunes service enabled on the N3200PRO, you can access all the music from iTunes equipped computer as the N3200PRO will be listed under the Shared heading on the left hand menu in iTunes.
The N3200PRO allows you to store your photos in albums and access and share them from the network. Working with the Photo Gallery on the N3200PRO is a bit awkward until you figure out how things work. The Photo Gallery is based on the concept of albums. Outside of Photo Gallery albums will appear as folders. By default, each user will have his/her own folder, or album, on the root of the /Picture share. There is no capability within Photo Gallery to create a new album at the root of the /Picture share, although you can add one using Web Disk.
This is where things get awkward. If you load pictures directly into one of the user albums you can not view them in Photo Gallery. You can confirm the files are there and open them in WebDisk or from your PC's file manager however. In order to make this work, you must first open the user album off the root of the /Picture share and create a new album and place your pictures in the the second-level album. You can also choose to upload a folder containing pictures from you PC into the high-level album and the N3200PRO will treat the folder as a new album.
To keep things simple, it's best to store your photos in the folder associated with your user name. You can access the album by double clicking on it. You will see five icons at the top right: Back, Set as Gallery Cover (which has no functionality here), Add Album, Modify Album and Delete Album. We want to add an album by clicking on the Add Album icon which looks like a plus sign. The Create Album page lets you enter a subject (album name) and description. Pressing the Create Album button adds the album as a subfolder under your user name. Just beneath the album icon you'll notice a radio button which you can click to select the album if you want to use the modify or delete album buttons. The modify icon lets you change the name and description as well as add an album password to prevent others from viewing the pictures without permission.
Double clicking on the album icon you just created allows you to view the contents of the album as well as upload new pictures and add annotations. You'll see the same set of icons as with the user album described above, some of which have different meanings now, plus a sixth icon for viewing the photos in a slide show format.
Let's start with the add (+) button which is now used for uploading photos to to album. Clicking the Upload Photos icon brings up a new page where you can select up to ten photos at a time to add to the album. Once you have selected the desired files you can press the Upload Photos button at the bottom of the page to add the photos to the album. You can also add a subject line and a 100-character description to each photo using this page. There is no provision to do a bulk upload from within the Photo Gallery interface so you're stuck doing the uploads in batches of ten after having selected each photograph individually. While this works fine for a handful of files, moving large amounts of files this way would be a very tedious and frustrating task. I wasn't able to load files to the album using Windows Explorer either due to permission issues. Interestingly though, I could load files to the user folder using Windows, just not to any albums contained within that folder. Fortunately, moving a block of files using FTP worked flawlessly and is your best bet for transferring a large number of files.
Photos are displayed as a series of thumbnail images (100 x 100 pixels) and the files seem to be ordered by latest creation date first and you can't sort them in any other order. Clicking on a thumbnail brings up a larger thumbnail (up to 300 x 300 pixels). Clicking the photo again will display a full size image. You can also display the exchangeable image file format metadata information by clicking on the EXIF tag next to the photo. There's also an icon in the upper right you can use to view the photographs as a slide show or you can scroll through the images using the scroll buttons below the picture.
The Cover button allows you to select a photo to display as a thumbnail icon for your album in place of the generic outline of a person which is used by default. To do this you tick the checkbox below the picture you want to use and hit the Cover icon. You can also set the cover picture for the user share by clicking on the radio button below an album and hitting the Cover button.
Modify Photo is a way to add/change the subject and description of a photograph. The subject will appear below the photograph in the Photo Gallery and the description allows you to add a short annotation about the picture. 'Modify Photo' is probably an unfortunate choice of words as in doesn't change the photo in any way – which is a good thing. The original file isn't affected as the N3200PRO stores the subject and description in separate files in the album and only uses them for display purposes.
There are also icons available to delete photos, launch a slide show and return to the previous level in the folder/album directory.
I had not originally planned to spend this much time and effort in the review on the Photo Gallery but as I was examining the features I became frustrated and once I figured out how everything worked I found it wasn't as bad as I first assumed. There are several limitations as I've mentioned but I'd like to cover a couple more that I think Thecus needs to correct.
Password protecting an album will keep others from viewing your photos in Photo Gallery and I also found you can't sneak around that by using either Windows Explorer or the WebDisk file manager. However, the N3200PRO does have a large hole in its security on password protected albums. As I mentioned earlier, photos are displayed in the gallery as either 100x100 or 300x300 thumbnails. The N3200PRO creates folders in each album where it stores the thumbnails – the thumbnails are actual files. Those thumbnail images in a protected album can be viewed by anyone either using WebDisk or your PC's file manager as the password protection doesn't extend to those folders.
Another issue I have is that folder security is only at the root level and can't be set on subfolders so a user can delete files in another user's album. Of course, this is a issue with any share on the NAS because the access rights apply to the root share of all folders and can not be set differently for folders contained within a share.
Logout allows the user to log off the N3200PRO and there is no prompt message to confirm the action. User's can manage their own passwords and change them using the Change Password option which is a useful feature as it does not require access to the admin account, although the administrator on the server can also change the password as we saw earlier in the review.
That brings us to the last of the setup and use of the N3200PRO so we can finally move on the the list of features and specifications as we get ready to look at the performance testing results.