Elsewhere we've looked at the Buffalo LinkTheater, a network media player that sits between your TV or hi-fi and your PC network, relaying digital media between the two. But you don't have to connect the LinkTheater to a PC - you can keep your digital media on an external hard drive such as the LinkStation Live. External drives have become extremely popular, but Buffalo’s LinkStation Live distinguishes itself from the common herd in a number of ways.
Available in sizes from 250 to 750GB, it's a NAS (network-attached storage) device, which means it can run independently of a PC. It's got a pair of USB ports so you can further expand its capacity. That's a nice touch, and the good points don’t stop there.
For a start, it's fast. Equipped with a Gigabit Ethernet port, a high-performance Marvell Media Vault chipset, DDR-II RAM and a high-speed Sata drive, it claims to be capable of a throughput of 35Mbps.
The LinkStation is a DLNA-certified server, which means it links seamlessly with any other DLNA-certified device - obviously this includes the LinkTheater. See The DLNA: a brief history, below, for more on DLNA.
It even has iTunes Server functionality, allowing iTunes 7.0 to directly access music files on it, and the USB port doubles up as a print server. Last but not least, the LinkStation live has a built-in FTP (file transfer protocol) server.
The DLNA: a brief history
The DLNA (Digital Living Network Alliance; www.dlna.org) is an alliance of consumer electronics, mobile and PC manufacturers whose objective is to develop guidelines based on open standards and promote cross-industry digital convergence. The DLNA sets guidelines for implementing standards, with the ultimate aim of making all DLNA devices interoperable and as configuration-free as possible.
Its initial guidelines were published in 2004, and focused on two device classes: digital media servers and digital media players. It has since added support for 10 additional device classes, including printers, digital media renderers, mobile media servers and controllers. Guidelines also cover the ability to manage media with mobile devices - for example, using a cameraphone to upload and download files to and from a digital media server on the home network - and technology to address QoS (quality of service) issues, such as support for Bluetooth connectivity.
Absent from the current guidelines is any mention of DRM (digital rights management). A draft version of content protection guidelines is in preparation.