Sunday, July 20, 2014

Western Digital My Cloud - Streaming Music

Western Digital My Cloud - Streaming Music.



I bought the Western Digital "My Cloud" drive for backups and found it is a capable and useful device (see this article:  "Western Digital My Cloud Review").  to my surprise, it also acts as an interesting music, video and photo-streaming device.  I can get to my music and photos from all of my internet devices, including my phone and tablet.  This has been entertaining and convinient. 


Streaming Music from the Cloud Drive
has been unexpectedly fun

In the past, I stored all music on a laptop, making the laptop a particularly large MP3 player.  Now I store all of my music on the Western Digital drive and use my phone, tablet or PC to play the content.  This works at my office, in coffee shops, and at home. 



Benefits:
  • Listen to your entire music library without a PC
  • Listen from your Smart Phone, tablet, laptop, PC, or Internet-aware TV
  • Up to 3TB 
  • No need to synchronize or download music to each device
  • DLNA compliant
Drawbacks:
  • You must be on either your local network or on the Internet
  • I do not recommend running over a cellular network (expensive data-plan)
     
  • The WD "Cloud" app is a primitive music player, only allowing you to pick a folder (think album) and play the music within.  You cannot pick genres or multiple albums simultaneously.  It also does not show album thumbnails, allow you to mark favorites, etc.  However, in practice, this is ok; it is easy enough to pick a folder, but it is weak.  Update: 2014.08 - the latest version supports building a play list.
Unresolved issues:
  • Windows Media Player (Windows 8 and probably older versions) are having troubles mounting the remote library.  Although I added the \\SAN\public\Music folders to the list of scanned libraries, it has yet to index all of the albums, for reasons unknown and each time I load the program, it grabs more of them.
  • The WD Cloud App for the PC does not play music correctly; it only plays a single-track.  The same program on other devices works well, as described below.  Instead, use Windows Media Player.  Update: 2014.08 - the latest version can now play multiple tracks from a play list, within the app and you no longer have to use Windows Media Player.  However, this is still a relatively simple feature - but workable.
     
  • You still have to use a PC to digitize Album/CD's and migrate them to the Streaming Folders.  Details, below.

 Regardless of the drawbacks and issues, it works fairly-well, especially on my Android devices.  Apple devices should work equally well.


Streaming Setup:

Instructions assume a Windows Desktop and Android or apple tablets/phones.  (For general instructions, from the WD System Tray icon, choose Learning Center, How To, "Stream HD Content" or go directly to this WD site:  Stream HD Content)


1.  Get the drive operational (where the Dashboard works and you have installed the software recommended in this Keyliner article: Western Digital Cloud Drive Review.

2.  Launch the Dashboard and enable Media Streaming

From the System Tray's icon, open the "Dashboard" or alternately, open a browser session to http://wdMyCloud  (or as you named your drive.  Mine is http://wolfhouseSan.

a.  From the Dashboard, choose Settings, then from the left-nav, "Media"

Click for Larger View

b.  Turn Media Sharing On

c.  Optional:  Examine the drive's Twonky Services -- especially if you have multiple streaming devices. 

WD is using a service called Twonky for streaming.  Although not listed with the vendor's documentation, open this session in a browser to look at your drive's settings:

http://yourSANname:9000    (http://myWDCloud:9000)

For example:
http://wolfhousesan:9000   or

http://192.168.200.200:9000  (where your IP address will be different)

Confirm this responds.  The default settings should be adequate.


4.  Copy your music Library to the Cloud Drive:

a.  Using Windows Explorer, locate your Music library, typically "This PC/Music"  (or in my case, C:\Data\Music).  Highlight all sub-folders (the albums/artist), select Copy.

b.  In Network (Network Neighborhood), tunnel to your SAN drive:

\\myWDCloud\Public\Shared Music\Uploaded

c.  Paste into the Uploaded folder (ignore the "Mirrored" folder).  See Windows Media Player notes below for other information.

The initial copy will take time.  The DLNA Streaming Service (Twonky) will automatically detect the files and catalog. 


Playing Music

To Play Music from a Tablet or Phone:

a.  From your tablet, install the WD Cloud Application.
b.  Open the App, authenticate (login) to your drive.
c.  Tunnel to the Public\Shared Music\Uploaded folder
d.  Tunnel to an (album) folder
e.  Double-click any (MP3) song in the library; it will start playing


To Play Music from a PC using My Cloud App:

The WD Cloud App behaves similarly to a tablet, as described above, except, as-of this writing, the WD Cloud Application "My Cloud" will play only one track at-a-time from an album folder.  It will not move automatically to the next track, making the feature useless.  -- Update: 2014.08:  This has been fixed and it now plays the entire album or multiple albums against a 'play list'.  Version 1.0.541 or newer.
 

To Play Music from a PC Windows Media Player:

This documentation assumes Windows 8, Windows Media Player 12.  Older versions are similar.  I no longer recommend this step and would rather use the WD My Cloud software.  Regardless, here are the steps.

a.  Launch Windows Media Player

b.  From the top-menu, >Organize, Layout, [x] Show menu bar

c.  Select File, Manage Libraries, Music.  Click "Add".  Tunnel to Network, your SAN, then tunnel to this location:  Public\Shared Music\Uploaded, Selecting the "Uploaded" folder.  For example, mine shows as "\\wolfhouseSAN\Public\Shared Music\Uploaded"

d.  The program will detect the albums and add to its database.  I have had troubles in this area, where Media Player does not see all the albums.  Reloading the program several times, seemed to have fixed the problem.


e.  Once loaded, albums will play from Media Player normally.


To RIP music directly to the SAN (Windows Media Player):

Note:  At my house, my main music machine is a laptop, which is used to RIP music CD's and it copies them to a local drive, local Windows Media Player library.  This is the library I copied to the SAN. You can change the write-location with these steps:

* Launch Media Player and expose the top-menu:  >Organize, Layout, [x] Show Menu Bar
* Select Tools, Options, [RIP Music]
* Change the Rip Music Location, choosing the (Browse, Network) SAN Upload folder

At my house, this is "\\wolfhouseSAN\Public\Shared Music\Uploaded

* Recommended:  Change RIP Settings to
- Format MP3,
- Choose High or Best Quality

However, at my house, I am comfortable in keeping my laptop as the main music Library, but this means manually syncing (uploading) new albums to the SAN drive (literally, copying the folder).  I may re-visit this idea in the future, but right now the laptop travels to places without a network connection and the library would be nice to have.  Besides, this acts as a backup. 

Using Itunes:

I have no current experience with Apple's music player.  The WD Learning Center, or better yet, the downloaded WD Cloud Drive Owner's manual, has more details on this topic.


Conclusions

Even with the shortcomings, I now use my tablet and phone to stream music.  I no longer have to download albums to these devices (unless I am off the grid).  It works well, especially on the local network.  On slower networks, the devices may hesitate while building the cache, as expected, but overall I have been happy.

The Western Digital My Cloud app is a poor program, but it will at least play the music.  I have enjoyed this feature.

Related Articles:
Keyliner: WD Cloud Review


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