Linksys by Cisco Media Hub

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Media Browser Interface

The Linksys by Cisco Media Hub's Web-based Media Browser is meant to be the primary interface through which you access the media stored on the device. The Media Browser has an intuitive interface and is capable of playing back a good number of popular media types. Playing media through the Media Browser also means that you don't necessarily need to install any special media playback software on systems in order to play the media. As the Linksys by Cisco Media Hub is both UPnP and DNLA complaint, any connected devices, such as an Xbox 360 can also access and play the media.

The main page of the Media Browser shows thumbnails for recently added music, photos, and videos. You can click on either the Music, Photos, or Videos icons to access those respective features. The Media Browser's main page also includes a simple pie chart graphic indicating how much of the Linksys by Cisco Media Hub's storage capacity is used and how much is available. Icons for USB and Memory Cards indicate if a USB device (such as a flash drive or external hard drive) or memory card are presently connected to the device. (Note that the Linksys by Cisco Media Hub cannot act a printer server.) You can search the Linksys by Cisco Media Hub's contents for specific media by name, and you can manually tell the device to rescan its contents in order to rebuild its database.

 Media present and accounted for...
After a scan, all of the media vanished

As we've already mentioned, every time the device scans its contents, there is a possibility that the device will lose track of some media that is stored on it. In a worst-case scenario, following one scan, the device lost track of every single piece of media we had stored on it--about 200GB worth of music, photos, and videos. The media wasn't gone, it was just that the database no longer knew it existed. If you use the Linksys by Cisco Media Hub's Media Browser to access the media, then this can be extraordinarily inconvenient. When we encountered this complete loss we tried rebooting the device as well as having the Media Browser scan the device--several times; but it kept reporting that there was no media stored on the device. At this point our only option was to reset the device back to the factory default settings. Thankfully, all the reset does is set the device's configuration settings back to their defaults and does not impact the files that you've already copied to the device. This temporarily (at least until subsequent scans) resolved the issue, but we had to wait quite a while for the device to finish the scan so that all the media once again appeared in the Media Browser.

Media Browser Music Page, sorted by artist;
integrated media player with playlist.
A typical Media Browser Music Album Page. 

As long as the music file format type (or codec) is supported by the Media Browser, it plays back music files via a small player window at the top of the browser. You can add songs to a playlist, and music will continue to play while you browse other portions of the Media Browser. As is a problem with most music software, thumbnails are not always available for every album or song. If a music file type is not supported, the Media Browser will attempt to play the file using an external application if an appropriate one is installed on the local system.

Media Browser Photo Albums page.
Sometimes the Media Browser is slow to
display photo thumbnails.

Media Browser Photo slideshow in action.

Waiting for the photo slideshow to start...
And waiting...

Using the Photos section of the Media Browser, you can browse through photos or watch photo slideshows. Any music that you are playing will continue to play even during slideshows. At times, the Media Browser was slow to populate the photo thumbnails; this was especially problematic when the device was scanning or performing any file transfers. When they worked, slideshows worked well. However, on numerous occasions, we spent a significant amount of time staring at a blank screen, waiting for the photos to eventually appear.

Media Browser Videos Page.
 Media Browser Videos Page;
integrated video player.

For video playback, the Media Browser is dependant on the video playback capabilities of your browser. If you browser supports the video file type, format, and codec, then the Media Browser should be able to play the video either in a window or full-screen.

The Media Browser also includes a File Browser section, where you can see the entire contents of the device's hard drive. This is one of the few sections of the Media Browser that is password protected. In order to access the File Browser, you must supply the administrator password. By default, all media and imported files are stored in the media folder; and all system backups are stored in the backup folder. Also, by default, both of these folders are easily accessible directly via Windows without requiring a password--where you can read, write, delete, copy, and move files and folders (except those at the root directory level, where you have read-only access; if you want to create any additional folders from the root directory, you can only do that using the Media Browser's File Browser). This means that anyone who has access to your network has full access to all of the files stored on the device. To block that access, you would need to disable the device's Windows File Sharing setting.

The Media Browser is a less-than-ideal interface if you need to copy or move any folders or files. It has very limited options, such as the inability to move folders and it can only select up to 50 files at a time. You are much better off using Windows' much more robust interface. Externally connected devices, such as USB flash drives, show up in the media/devices/mnt folder, which provides a peek into the device's underlying linux-based OS.

 The File Browser in action.  The File Browser out of action.

When you connect an external device or media card to the Linksys by Cisco Media Hub, the device's LCD prompts you if you want to import media from the device. If so, the media gets copied to the media/import folder in a set of folders that correspond to the date the import took place and the name of the device from which the media was imported. When we connected an external hard drive that was formatted with the FAT32 file system, we were able to read and write to the drive. When we attached a drive that was NTFS formatted, we could only read from the drive.

We also ran into a problem where we could no longer access the Media Browser's File Browser. Either we would get stuck on the password screen or we would receive the cryptic message: "Error  #2302." The only way we were able to resolve this problem was to perform yet another factory reset of the device.

 The simple remote access portal.
Remote access Media Browser is nearly identical
to the device's Media Browser interface; notice
the security certificate error.

By registering the device with the CiscoMediaHub Website through the Media Browser's Configuration settings, you can access the Linksys by Cisco Media Hub remotely from virtually anywhere over the Internet. You use the CiscoMediaHub site as a portal to access the device. All you need is the name of the device (you assign a unique "Remote Device Name") and the administrator password to get access. This service is provided free for one year, after which "fees may apply thereafter." The Web-based remote access interface is almost identical to the Media Browser interface--even down to the frequent missing media. We were able to successfully access the device remotely, but not before wrestling with an invalid security certificate. The Linksys by Cisco Media Hub also supports FTP access as well. We easily connected to the device via FTP over out local network, but we were unable to successfully establish a remote FTP connection over the Internet, even after following Cisco's instructions as to which ports we needed to open up on our router.

Picassa is a good photo viewer alternative to the
Media Browser.
 iTunes is a good music player alternative
to the
Media Browser.

Based on the many problems we encountered with the Media Browser as well as its limitations, we don't recommend using the Media Browser for actually accessing media stored on the Linksys by Cisco Media Hub. Instead, we recommend using something like iTunes to access music, and Picassa for accessing photos. The Linksys by Cisco Media Hub can be easily set as an iTunes server, and Picassa can easily be set to use networked folders. There are a few downsides to this approach, however. First and foremost is that iTunes and Picassa only serve your needs on your local network. If you want to access the Linksys by Cisco Media Hub remotely you have no choice but to use the remote Media Browser interface or perhaps spend more time than we did wrestling with the FTP access. Also, in order to be able to access your media with these applications from local-network connected devices, you need to make sure that the Linksys by Cisco Media Hub's Windows File Sharing setting is enabled.

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