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How can I get my hard drive to work with my TV and computer at the same time?
December 30, 2009 10:06 PM   Subscribe

My new Samsung HDTV plays lots of content off a USB Hard Drive. Works great. What's the best way for me to setup a hard drive that stays connected to the TV but allows my computer to write files to it? Seems like all the drives I have or look up only allow 1 device to connect to it at a time.
posted by jakeaust to Computers & Internet (24 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
 
Seems like all the drives I have or look up only allow 1 device to connect to it at a time.

Yup. That's how USB works. USB is not built for networking.
posted by flabdablet at 10:17 PM on December 30, 2009


Right - but is there any sort of switch that is smart? Say, for instance, it allows connection to the TV unless the computer wants to write to it - in which case it locks out the TV for the moment?

Basically, I want the drive to sit there and be available to the TV. Occasionally I will have new downloads to copy to the drive and I'd rather not have to unlug all the time.
posted by jakeaust at 10:29 PM on December 30, 2009


Plug the computer into the HDTV via its DVI connector (directly to DVI, or via DVI-to-HDMI) and connect the hard drive to the computer.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 10:30 PM on December 30, 2009


The problem is that operating systems don't write all the data to the drive when you click save, copy a file, delete things, etc. Important parts get cached in memory. Things like the file name, how large it is, what directory it's in, where to find physically find it on the disk, etc. It's a very, very common performance enhancement. And really, why should the operating system write things out immediately? It has exclusive access after all.

Systems do exist that allow multiple machines to access the same storage at the same time. But they involve special cluster software, or even a dedicated server to coordinate the disk access. I seriously doubt you're going to find a cheap solution for your problem.
posted by sbutler at 10:40 PM on December 30, 2009


Blazecock Pileon - if I do that, I'm not taking advantage of the TV's ability to act as the computer and play the files directly. It will tie up the computer to playing the movie files.

More interested some smart way to make the Hard Drive easily accessed by both the TV and the computer. The best solution I can find right now is something like this:
http://bit.ly/6UwvEP
posted by jakeaust at 10:41 PM on December 30, 2009


sbutler - thanks. That makes sense.

One thing is nagging at me, which is that the TV only needs read access, while the computer will need read/write.

I would think that there would be something out there that would navigate that sort of situation for me...
posted by jakeaust at 10:44 PM on December 30, 2009


I bought a similar Samsung HDTV last week and have been wondering the same thing. Haven't had a chance to do any investigation yet.

My initial thought is to find a software package / driver which emulates a hard drive via USB. In other words, I would directly hook the TV USB to my computer's USB and the software running on the computer would fool the TV into thinking it is connected to a hard drive. Conceptually not difficult but I haven't seen any such existing software.

Second idea was to find a dual-ported external drive. I can't think why the TV needs write access to the hard drive, all it's doing is playing avi/mkv/mp4 files, so if such a beast exists it should be workable (with the TV connection being read only and all writes to the drive coming from the computer). Most externals have multiple ports (USB/Firewire/eSata) these days, but I've never heard of a drive allowing more than one to be active simultaneously.
posted by aguy at 10:51 PM on December 30, 2009


There do exist external drives which have both USB and Firewire interfaces. But I don't know if such a drive will allow you to use both at once.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 11:19 PM on December 30, 2009


USB switchbox is your only option. It's easier to do it right and just get a network enabled player like the WD TV Live, which are fairly inexpensive.
posted by wongcorgi at 11:30 PM on December 30, 2009


Others have covered the reasons USB doesn't work like that, but afaik the Samsungs that support playback off USB also support DLNA via ethernet (& WiFi, if you have the Samsung adaptor). So you should be able to set up a NAS with built-in DLNA server, one that can be hacked with a linux distro (e.g. Unslung / Optware) to run a DLNA server, or a stand alone PC running a DLNA server?

Disclaimer: I don't know the current status of the various free/OSS DLNA servers, I gather the Samsungs may be a bit iffy with certain DLNA servers, and it only supports a certain subset of codecs / formats over DLNA compared to USB, so I give no guarantee that it'll work…

And after dicking around with that, I suspect the WD TV devices would start to look rather good ;-)
posted by Pinback at 12:14 AM on December 31, 2009


wongcorgi - thanks for the advise on the WD TV Live. I've not looked at these devices in a while and this seems rather good. Anyone have experience with them?

Pinback - my TV in fact DOESN'T support DLNA. I wish it did. I have the LN40B630.
posted by jakeaust at 12:24 AM on December 31, 2009


er, why not a networked hard drive, access it from across the network, nas enclosures are cheap, and you could still have it attached to the tv
posted by spyke23 at 12:28 AM on December 31, 2009


Blazecock Pileon - if I do that, I'm not taking advantage of the TV's ability to act as the computer and play the files directly. It will tie up the computer to playing the movie files.

A switchbox doesn't keep the hard drive connected to both devices simultaneously. So you still have to manually switch between control devices (TV or computer) and keep the computer physically attached to the television (through the switchbox). I'm not sure how that arrangement doesn't also tie up your computer.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 12:43 AM on December 31, 2009


spyke23 - is the a NAS that allows simultaneous access through the network and through USB to the TV?
posted by jakeaust at 12:44 AM on December 31, 2009


A switchbox doesn't keep the hard drive connected to both devices simultaneously. So you still have to manually switch between control devices (TV or computer) and keep the computer physically attached to the television (through the switchbox). I'm not sure how that arrangement doesn't also tie up your computer.

Blazecock - the switchbox allows me to tie up the computer only during the time that I want to copy a file from the computer to the hard drive. At that time, I'd have to switch control at the switchbox to the computer, making the hard drive unavailable to the TV for the time it takes to do the file copying. Then I could switch it back to the TV.

My equipment is close enough together that running the USB from the TV and the computer to the hard drive (via the switchbox) wouldn't be a burden. The burden would be in manually switching to do the file copy.

Your solution to connect the TV to the computer via DVI means that I have to use the computer to playback the media. That's what I'd rather not do.
posted by jakeaust at 12:48 AM on December 31, 2009


Digital TVs are actually reasonably capable computers in their own right. I wonder if persuading the TV itself to act as a NAS might be a possible way forward? Some Samsung TVs apparently run a Linux kernel. If yours has an Ethernet port, I wonder how feasible it would be to make Samba run alongside the closed-source proprietary bits?
posted by flabdablet at 4:07 AM on December 31, 2009


Here's somebody who has got stuff to a 46B650 via NFS.
posted by flabdablet at 4:28 AM on December 31, 2009


I think what spyke23 is saying is if you purchased a NAS storage box... quite a few of them come with both a USB connection AND a network connection. Plugging a network cable into the NAS box would attach it to your network (and allow your computer(s) to access it).. and then additionally you'd connect the USB cable from the NAS to your TV.. so that the TV could access it.

The only things I dont know:

1.) Do most NAS boxes allow you to have the network and USB connections active at the same time? (or does plugging into USB automatically disable the network ? ) That feature probably varies from NAS box to NAS box.. so do some research before you buy.

2.) If you dump a bunch of files onto the NAS from your computer,.. will the TV automatically re-scan the USB connection so that it is aware of the new/updated files?.... I would think so, but I don't know how smart (or not-smart) TV's are these days. ( I dont have a TV).
posted by jmnugent at 6:03 AM on December 31, 2009


If your TV is like mine, it also has an ethernet port on the back, and works as a DLNA/UPNP player. You also can buy a (USB) wireless networking adapter, but they are crazy expensive, like $70. I am using the networking functionality with my linux computer running the latest version of ps3mediaserver. It works very well.
posted by ArgentCorvid at 6:46 AM on December 31, 2009


All the USB/network NAS boxes I've used (mostly WD and dlink) worked with either networking OR usb, not both at the same time - though there may certainly be one out there that does.

Anyway, assuming you're happy with the manual USB switchbox approach as you want to keep your main PC off while watching TV, something like this should do the trick. It's designed to manually switch one USB device between up to 4 devices. All the 2-port ones I've found so far are USB 1.1 (12Mb/s) only, so make sure you get a 480Mb/s USB 2.0 device if you look for a different one; I searched for "USB 2.0 switch" and got the videk USB 2.0 manual switch.

Such a USB switchbox basically is the same as physically unplugging from your machine and plugging into the TV when you switch over, thus avoiding the 'usb can only be plugged into one thing at a time' problem. It even has hotkey support via PC (double-tap scroll-lock) to switch which port is active, as well as the physical button.
posted by ArkhanJG at 6:53 AM on December 31, 2009


NAS's which have USB ports have master ports, not slave ports. They are so you can hook HD's up to the NAS, not so you can hook the NAS up to something that wants to use it.

NAS's are accessed through ethernet only.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 8:09 AM on December 31, 2009


Depends upon the NAS, Chocolate Pickle; the D-Link DNS-313 has both USB slave and GB ethernet NAS support for example, but only one at a time. Whereas the DNS-323 does have a host port for printserver duties, but no USB slave capability.
posted by ArkhanJG at 8:35 AM on December 31, 2009


flabdablet, that would probably void the warranty. I bought a 7100 on Black Friday and I've since found out that accessing the service menu is enough to void the warranty.

My external HDD has a firewire and two USB ports so it might allow multiple connections, but it's formatted as NTFS (which Samsungs apparently can't read) so I haven't tried plugging it into the TV's USB port.
posted by Thoughtcrime at 1:44 PM on December 31, 2009


Thanks for all the input. Ended up getting the WD TV LIVE and I love it.
posted by jakeaust at 1:38 AM on January 3, 2010


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