Linksys by Cisco Media Hub

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Setting up the Linksys by Cisco Media Hub is very straightforward. The printed 16-page Quick Installation Guide includes detailed, step-by-step instructions. Additionally the software installation itself provides the same set of instructions. A removable orange warning label blocks the ports on the back of the device and the label commands you to "Run CD First before connecting cables." When you pop the CD in and the install software starts, it asks you if you are setting up the device for the first time or installing the software on subsequent systems that will be connecting to the Linksys by Cisco Media Hub. You don't necessarily have to install the software to use the Linksys by Cisco Media Hub, but you will need the software if you want to take advantage of some of the device's features. The installation wizard also automatically sets some of the device's settings such as the name of the device and establishing an administrator password.

 
   
Linksys by Cisco Media Hub installation wizard.
 
The next step of software installation is for setting up a system to access the Linksys by Cisco Media Hub. This step maps the device as a drive letter in Windows, and installs the NTI Shadow backup tool and Linksys Media Importer applications. The installation process doesn't give you any configuration options for setting up the backup software, so you have to launch the NTI Shadow backup tool after installation is complete in order to set it up the way you want it to back up your system.

 
More of Linksys by Cisco Media Hub installation wizard, including installing the NTI Shadow
backup software and the Media Importer tool.


The import tool, however, lets you configure its settings during this initial installation process. The Linksys Media Importer scans your system's local hard drives or specific folders you select for any media or other file types you designate. Any folders or files that match the criteria you choose are automatically uploaded to the Linksys by Cisco Media Hub. When we first set up the Linksys by Cisco Media Hub, the Media Importer software informed us that it would take approximately 7 hours to upload the 90.25GB of photos, music, and videos stored on our test system. We let it run overnight and all the media successfully uploaded to the Linksys by Cisco Media Hub by the next morning. The Media Importer application is meant to always be running on your system in the background, copying any new media that is added to the pre-designated system folders up to the Linksys by Cisco Media Hub.

  
Media Importer tool.


Imported media gets
its own folder.

While the Linksys by Cisco Media Hub has dedicated folders for music, photos, and videos, media imported to the device from systems is not actually stored in these folders. Imported media is actually stored in a series of subfolders that matches the directory structure of the system from which the files we imported. These subfolders sit in a folder that corresponds to the name of the system. All the media that gets imported from different systems resides in this "import" folder structure.

On the other hand, when you copy media directly to the device, you copy files directly into the "music," "photos," and "videos" folders. This might sound confusing, but the Linksys by Cisco Media Hub is designed in such a way that you needn't necessarily worry about where on the device's hard drive the media is actually stored. Every time that new files are added to the Linksys by Cisco Media Hub--either manually or via the Media Importer application--the device scans the contents of the drive in order to build an updated database of what media is stored where. When you access the media on the device via its built-in, Web-based Media Browser, you simply choose what you want to watch or listen to in the Music, Photos, or Videos sections, which are sorted alphabetically or chronologically based on criteria such as album, artist, song name, date, or recently added media.

While this can potentially make getting media onto the device easier--regardless of where the media was originally copied from--as well relieving you from the potential headache of trying to figure out where on the device your media is stored, it does introduce the possibility of another problem: duplicate media. If you have the Media Importer set to automatically search your systems for media and are also uploading media directly to the device, then there is a good chance that at least sometimes you will be accidentally uploading media that is actually already there. But as the imported media is stored in a different directory than directly uploaded media, you may never realize it.



 Now you see the photos and videos...  Now you don't.


Duplicate music files.

We ran into an unfortunate bug with the Media Browser, however. During the initial setup of the device and while setting up connected systems, media was being frequently added to the Linksys by Cisco Media Hub. As such, it would often be in an active state of scanning the contents of its hard drive in order to update its database of where the media files were stored. We found that whenever the device was performing a scan, the database would temporarily lose track of much of the data that was previously uploaded, until the scan was nearly complete. This was especially noticeable with our relatively small photo and video collections, which completely disappeared from the Media Browser. Only once the scan was near completion did the missing media start reappearing in the Media Browser. The files never actually went anywhere; they were always in the directories where they had been initially copied to--it was just that the Media Browser's file database temporarily lost them. We asked Cisco about this problem, and this was their reply:  "It is something that we have heard of occasionally, but have not been able to replicate so we have not been able to remedy the issue. We are definitely working on it though."

  

NTI Shadow backup tool.

Setting up the NTI Shadow backup software is also fairly easy as it is wizard-based. When it gets initially installed, its default settings are to back up only the system's Documents folder for the currently logged-in user, every hour, and to keep one previous version of all files. NTI Shadow can be configured to backup any set of folders or files that the system has access too (even networked connections). You can specify or exclude certain file types, such as MP3, TIF, DOC, or any other user-definable file extension. Backups can be scheduled to occur on specific days and times, or at regular intervals based on minutes, hours, or days. You can also choose to save previous versions of files as well--anywhere from none to up to 9 file iterations, or you can choose to save "all the previous file versions." NTI Shadow is a rather powerful backup tool and it does not even have to be used only with the Linksys by Cisco Media Hub. Perhaps the only drawback is that when you restore files, they do not automatically get restored to their original location.

  
Restoring files from backups.

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Linksys media hub looks like a solid, feature packed product, but for that price, couldn't you build a HTPC of SFF PC instead for better value?

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Looks like a great product with the exception of the missing DivX certification/compatibility and it is SATA 150.

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This thing got panned hard...

http://www.engadget.com/2009/03/26/cisco-media-hub-reviewed-hated/

Edit: Ha, the engadget article links back to the HH review, that's what I get for posting too quickly.  Well congrats on getting on Engadget Dave :P.  I'll be sure to submit more of your stories to them in the future.

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