DriveQuest: The hardware strikes back

February 28, 2020

By Matthew E. Milliken
Feb. 28, 2020

My plan to add a network-attached storage device to my home computing setup and thereby create a personal cloud has yet to come to fruition.

I put in an online order for a network-capable hard drive on Thursday, Feb. 13; it was set to arrive the following Tuesday, Feb. 18. But after my post on this topic went up, I received an email saying that the NAS drive was out of stock and that I could cancel my order and receive a full refund.

I did so and instead bought what I believe is a slightly newer device made by WD, or Western Digital. It was a little bit more expensive than the item I’d originally bought. It came on Thursday the 20th.

It was easy enough to place the new equipment on my desk. I don’t have a lot of available power sockets — I’ll need to address that in the near future — but I was able to plug the drive in without much fuss. It was also a simple matter to connect the drive to my router thanks to an included Ethernet cable. I downloaded an iOS app and was able to access the drive on my smartphone.

I tested the app by uploading a photo from my phone to the drive. It appeared, with two caveats. Firstly, there was no thumbnail or preview, which meant that I couldn’t view the picture without downloading it back to my phone or another device; that’s far less convenient than just looking at a preview. And secondly, for no reason that I was ever able to ascertain, at least five copies of the photograph showed up on the drive after I uploaded it. So… mixed success?

Unfortunately, I couldn’t configure the drive through the app. And even though my computer and the drive were now using the same wireless network, they didn’t connect.

Which meant that they didn’t connect at all, because I didn’t have a USB cable with Type A connectors on both ends that would allow me to physically link the two machines. Unfortunately, such a cable didn’t come with the drive.

To be tiresomely accurate about the matter, I found that I owned one cord with dual Type A connectors, but the cable didn’t seem to work at all. I’ve had this cable for a few years; I don‘t remember how, where or when I acquired it, and I can’t recall ever having successfully used it to do anything.

I visited two different office-supply stores in search of a USB cable with A to A connectors, but I came up empty. After my second visit, I did some online shopping.

I wound up visiting two different websites before settling on a third that seemed to have good prices and a comprehensive selection. I purchased a pair of USB cables with Type A male to Type A male connectors — one for the house and one for my computer bag, I figured. I also got a third USB cable with a dual Type A male to Type A male ends plus a third connector.

I also purchased three hubs. Two had a quartet of (female) Type A sockets that accept USB cables with Type A male connectors; each of these came with a USB cable with a Type A male end that plugs into my computer, which was made in 2015. The third came with the same quartet of female Type A sockets, but its USB cable has a Type C connector; this hub also sports a fourth USB C socket that is supposed to deliver power to compatible devices.

I don’t yet have a device that uses Type C connectors. However, it seems to be the new normal — for instance, beginning in 2017, new Apple laptops abandoned USB Type A ports in favor of the Type C. (Type A ports had been standard since the MacBook line was introduced back in early 2006.) So while I don’t need this new hub just yet, I’m confident that in the not-too-distant future I or someone I know will own a computer that could use a hub with a Type C cable.

Although I ordered all this stuff from the same website, it came from three different vendors. I’ve now received everything except the two USB A to A cables that I need to plug the network-attached drive into my computer.

Actually, the cable with three connectors might work, and it arrived at my house Thursday night. Unfortunately, it wasn’t configured the way I thought, and just to try it out I’d have to make a major effort to move the NAS drive from its current spot on my desk.

My two new A to A cables are scheduled to arrive sometime Saturday, so I probably won’t be able to do anything meaningful with them before Sunday at the earliest.

The bottom line, my friends, is that the saga continues…

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