Seagate FreeAgent DockStar Network Adapter Review – STDSA10G-RK

If you ever had to make a lot of data accessible on the network, there are several solutions available: You can use NAS (network attached storage) units, you can use dedicated servers as well. The disadvantage of a dedicated server is the power requirements as the electricity bill will be considerable for 24/7 operation. Newer NAS devices are build around embedded processors are are quite frugal in terms of power needed, but are not necessarily cheap. In this article I’ll review probably the cheapest NAS available on the market, the Seagate FreeAgent DockStar Network Adapter model STDSA10G-RK, and we’ll also discuss about what makes it such a good deal.

1. Unpacking

Seagate packed the adapter in a completely environmental friendly box which is a nice touch. Inside, you can find the main unit, the power adapter and a network cable. The manual is very sparse but for its intended use you don’t really need it.

2. Description

Seagate STDSA10G-RK FreeAgent DockStar Network Adapter allows you to share up to 4 USB storage devices on your home network or on the Web. The Ethernet port supports Gigabit speeds. One USB port is dedicated for a Seagate FreeAgent hard-drive but you might be able to squeeze a generic portable USB hard-drive as well if you cut the plastic margins around it. The other 3 USB ports are generic and you can plug any USB hard-drive you have available.

Now, let’s go into why the unit is so cheap: It is also designed to make your data available on the Web (password protected, of course) via the Pogoplug Internet file sharing service, so that means additional fees. In the Configuration section I’ll describe in detail how you can use it on your home network without paying any additional fees to Pogoplug. If you on the other hand needs to access it from the Web, you’ll have to pay the $20 fee.

When properly configured, all 4 hard-drives that can be connected to the unit will appear as standard network shares and you can access them without any restrictions from any Windows/Mac/Linux computer in your house.

3. Configuration

Since I do not use Pogoplug service, I won’t touch that part. Instead I will provide detailed steps to configure the adapter to share USB drives inside your home network. No configuration will have to be performed on the Seagate STDSA10G-RK FreeAgent DockStar Network Adapter itself, but on the USB drives themselves. The current firmware supports SAMBA (Windows File Sharing) shares.

Step 0: Don’t forget to connect the DocksStar via an Ethernet cable to your home network. A DHCP server (usually in your router) will be needed as well.

Step 1: Format the drive (or ensure it is already formated). NTFS works perfectly and I tested a 1TB drive with no problems

Step 2: Plug the drive in a computer. Using a text editor (Notepad works fine) create a file called .ceid on it (in the root). If your text editor doesn’t want to save the file with this name, use quotes in the file name .ceid” when you save it. Inside the file, add the following lines:

servicename=NetworkShareName
xcode.metadata=never
xcode.thumbnail=never
xcode.stream=never
cifs.mode=rw

Notes:

  • Replace NetworkShareName with the name you want to share the drive on your network. I used PocketDrive for one of my USB portable drives.
  • cifs.mode=rw ensures read/write capabilities. If you want to share the drive as read only, use cifs.mode=r
  • Ensure that there is no space in the file after rw.

Step 3: Disconnect the USB drive from the computer and connect it to the Seagate STDSA10G-RK FreeAgent DockStar Network Adapter. Be sure it is powered on. The drive should be available as \\fadsXXXXXX\NetworkShareName (where XXXXXX are the last 6 numbers/letters of the device MAC address. You can find the MAC address on the bottom. Sometime, you need to add “_” at the end of the share name, so the drive will be accessible as \\fadsXXXXXX\NetworkShareName_. If you followed the steps properly, it should be enough to navigate to \\fadsXXXXXX\ and you’ll be able to see all the shares available on the DockStar.

Step 4: Repeat Step 1 to 3 if you want to plug additional drives. be sure that you are using a different NetworkShareName for each drive.

4. Conclusion

I have seen reports around the web of low speeds when accessing the unit. I did not experienced any speed issues and I am able to successfully stream 1080p video from the shared drives. If you connect the DockStar directly on your network switch/router, you’ll probably get around 20MBytes/sec on a wired connection(limited by USB speed), about 4 to 5 MBytes/sec on a wireless N connection. If you plan to access it from outside your home, the unit will be slow, of course because it will be limited by your internet provider upload speed .

For the price, Seagate STDSA10G-RK FreeAgent DockStar Network Adapter is by far the best deal in sharing USB drives across your home network and an excellent alternative to the more expensive NAS units. However, be prepared to tinker with it.

Pros:

  • Low Power
  • Supports 4 USB drives
  • Cheap
  • Gigabit Ethernet
  • based on the hackable SheevaPlug
  • 1.2ghz ARM processor inside

Cons:

  • Not that easy to configure

5. Additional info (for advanced users)

Seagate STDSA10G-RK FreeAgent DockStar Network Adapter is a scaled down version of the Marvell Sheevaplug and contains 128mb ram, 256mb flash (224 free) a 4 ports USB hub and Gigabit Ethernet. As a result it can be hacked really easy for interesting results. How to hack it is not really the object of the present article but you can find more info on the Web.

6. Gallery

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  • wondering

    Will following the above directions both stop the Dockstar from going to Pogoplug to update, and stop all the data on the drives from going to Pogoplug and/or going out to the internet?

    I want to be able to use this thing to be able to share data among computers in my house, including confidential data. I don’t want this data getting past my home network – ie I don’t want it accessed via the internet. Will following the above directions accomplish that?