Many full-features Linux-based Networked Attached Storage (NAS) devices support a plethora of multimedia features. Many have native support as an iTunes server, web server, ftp server, photo share, and Universal Plug n Play (UPNP) server. UPNP allows devices such as the Playstation 3, Xbox 360, Squeezebox, and many other streaming clients to play your music and videos in different rooms throughout your house (or office).
There are some limitations to the NAS servers that prevent easily exanding your UPNP library without upgrading your entire storage system. The Synology and QNAP NAS devices we’ve tested have a special system-created share (e.g. “video” and “music”) that you must put your media files in order for the uPNP server to see them, and this share is usually on the first volume.
In order to increase the capacity of your UPNP library then you normally have to just upgrade your entire array, which can be rather costly with NASes using 4 disks or more. Although hard drives are cheaper today (you can get a 1.5TB drive for less than $100 check prices here), you have to buy at least four of them at once.
If you don’t have money flowing out of your wallet, then you can purchase a single hard drive, slap it in an enclosure, and connect it to the USB or eSATA port of your NAS. But then the problem arises about how to get the UPNP server to see your video and music files. The answer lies with the use of Symbolic Links!
Symbolic Links to the Rescue!
A symbolic link (or “symlink”) is a special file that contains a reference to another file (or even directory) as an absolute path. The operating system transparently translates this file to any program looking at it (such as a UPNP server). If you create a symlink reference to another volume within your special “video” directory, then the UPNP server will start indexing all of the files on your external hard drive. You can create multiple symbolic links for multiple drives and directories, so you could have one drive for TV shows, one for Movies, and another for music.
Other uses for symlinks
Another creative use of the symbolic link is organizing your media. Some music (and movies) fit into more than one genre, so it can be helpful to create a symlink to find your media better. For example, we have some music folders that contain kids music (“Kids”). I also have some sountracks of Disney movies in the “Soundtracks” folder, but I would like them to show up in the “Kids” directory. Instead of having duplicate files, I can merely create a symbolic link, and can then find my Disney soundtracks in both the “Kids” and “Soundtracks” directories.
On the next page we show you what you need to get the job done…