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Airdisk on Airport Extreme=extreme frustration

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Here is the desired setup:

Airport Extreme Base Station w/ USB drive holding library

Airport Express for streaming

One windows xp pc (T40)-->hagusb-->dac

one windows pc (T61) and one macbook (dual core) to control itunes streaming to AE-->Dac


Everything works but the USB drive.


I hooked up the drive, with 850 gb of alac files, set a new itunes profile on the T40 laptop connected via ethernet to the base station. Files all there, itunes created the full library. Fine, this is what's supposed to happen.


Then i go to the second Windows XP machine (T61), connected via 802.11n to the Extreme, and do the same. Didn't look closely at the time. It reports it's done and I move on to the Macbook.


Turns out the mac and T61 only have about half the library. And when I look at the drive via explorer or finder, only half the files show up. They are still in place, as verified by direct connection to any of the pcs. They are also addressable in explorer when connected through the network. In other words, if I type the name of a file into explorer it brings it up even though it was invisible in the directory, and it will even play it, though it still doesn't show up in the directory.


I have done everything I can think of, including resetting the Extreme, renaming the drive, disabling firewalls, etc., etc. Yet still, the directories of both Mac and PC insist half my files are missing. With the first PC I can still play my files because they all made it into the library files and they are still addressable. But with the other two I can't. [And also, the vast majority of my files won't play via the shared library feature either. ]


I have to say I am EXTREMELY unhappy with Apple. The manuals are worthless, leaving out crucial info. The support has been lousy, keeping me on the phone for hours without solving my problems. I could go on. and on about the ignorant phone support, particularly with regard to pc's.


But my main concern is this: how do I get my files visible? I've already wasted far too much time on this.


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How did you format the drive? I've got a Drobo with several terabytes of data attached to my extreme and I haven't had any problems like you're describing. While apple claims support of FAT, my experience in the past has indicated that they don't necessarily do the best QA with non-apple formats/protocols.


As you're indicating that you can attach physically to either your PC or your mac I'm guessing you used FAT32. You're probably better off using HFS+. You'll lose directly connected PC support, but you'll be operating entirely in Apple's domain, which is probably best when using the airport.



mpdPup maintainer

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But interoperability is a must. I rip with dbPowerAmp to take advantage of AccurateRip, and I do a bunch at once, then upload directly to the USB drive, which would take a LONG time and a lot of network resources (enough to upset streaming) if I do it through the network.


I did disconnect the drive physically without "disconnect all users." However I can't recall if that was before or after the problems. I'm almost certain it was after.


Here's the thing. It worked. It saw everything. Then it didn't work. I have rebooted the AEx and I have renamed the drive, yet it still comes up with the same subset of my files. Yet they are all there and they will even come up if directly specified in Explorer. So it seems like the AEx marked the drive somehow to say "don't look here" or "the directory lossless only contains these files" or something. But if the directory doesn't show the files, iTunes can't add them, so I can't use them.


Whereas my first PC, it can use all the files, since it loaded them properly into iTunes, and the pointers are all correct, even though if I do a directory of the z: drive now, it shows the same subset of files. That's fine for now, but the next time I add files and do the add folder command, it will drop al the links to the files the directory doesn't see.


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Have you checked the subset of files that can't be seen, to see if the folder attribute is set to 'hidden'? Certainly on a PC, a hidden file or folder can still be directly addressed but will not show up in explorer unless you set the folder options to display hidden files. Might be some aberration has left half your folders marked as hidden. Maybe.


This also looks interesting : http://discussions.apple.com/thread.jspa?messageID=8007944


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Hmm... Did you try scandisk while it was physically attached to the PC? Defrag might possibly help as well. It could be some filesystem level issue that the AE is more sensitive to than a PC or OS X.


Regarding HFS+ compatibility, myself I keep a number of USB disks around that are FAT32, so I rip to those and then transfer to airport disk. Also, if you physically attach your ethernet cable to your PC you can access your shared drive on the AE using gigabit ethernet, which still isn't as fast as a direct USB connection, but isn't as mind numbingly slow as trying to do large transfers over wifi. That's what I do when I need faster access from a PC. So HFS+ is still an option if you're willing to do that.



mpdPup maintainer

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I just disconnected the drive, created a new folder, moved all my music to it, reconnected to the AEx, and loaded on to iTunes. It did great on my Lenovo T61, loading 36000 songs in 2-3 hours.


However, with a Core Duo Macbook, connected by ethernet, it basically could not add the whole library at once. While itunes loaded the library from the network drive on my Lenovo, it went a 1000kb/s. When I added the same folder to itunes on the Macbook, it bogged down, going as high as 700kb/s, but spiking for 5-20 seconds then bogging down to 15kb/s for 30-100 seconds. It failed to load the library once, getting only 700 songs, then the second time it was so slow (it would have taken days, literally), I force quit. I could only get the files on by loading the folder in chunks. BAD BAD BAD Apple. What a PITA!


I have to say I am distinctly unimpressed with Apple hardware and software. I'm not saying Windows stuff is better. But the Apple mystique is at odds with the reality. My experience with Apple so far is that their gear is just as touchy and unstable as Windows gear. It just looks nicer. Apple fanboys just drink the Kool-Aid and gainsay its flaws.


And finally, I wonder what's going to happen when my 820gb/36000 lossless files becomes my full cd collection, which will be four times that if I never buy another cd.


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I wouldn't really consider myself a fanboy of Apple, but they've got their plus sides. One big downside is Apple generally wants you do do things their way, and on the rare occasion when they try to meet in the middle they usually do a pretty mediocre job of it. With filesystems in particular I've had pretty bad luck for years. As your collection grows you're probably best off either switching to HFS+ or seek out a vendor agnostic NAS solution....



mpdPup maintainer

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When I fill this disk I'm definitely getting a NAS--unless there is a good argument for an HP Mediasmart. But I like RAID and expandability, since I am only slowly ripping my thousands of cds so I can go from RAID 1 with two disks to RAID 5 with three and then four as my collection expands and disks get cheaper.


But can Itunes/finder handle 100000 tracks without tripping over itself?


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I'm sure the finder and OS X file system will be fine. iTunes is another story, all accounts indicate that it doesn't scale to that degree due to the fact that the library isn't a real database - it's just an xml file. XML doesn't really scale when those are the kinds of numbers that are being tossed around.


Some interesting reading on the subject:




mpdPup maintainer

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but if it's itunes that's the problem, why no issue with either of my pc's, one a mere 1.5 ghz single core pentium m that's five years old, but issues on a dual core macbook less than one year old?


Either way, I'm not getting the idea that apple is attuned to the issue of serious music hounds. People have been begging for transcoding from lossless to lossy for ipod use like the shuffle does, and better handling of multiple libraries, etc. And if you could hang a usb drive or three off an Apple TV, I bet they'd sell a lot more and kill the squeezebox/sonos market. I'd have bought one.


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By the way, I put a USB hub on the Extreme (supposed to be kosher) and added a 320GB MyPassport (also FAT32) which carries a duplicate of my library in 192 AAC. It made the AEx go haywire, unable to keep a connection either by wireless or ethernet, with any of three computers. The new drive would show up, but any time I tried to access it or the existing drive, the Extreme shut down (I could hear a click from it) and drop all connections. I loaded Airport Utility on my T61 and it bluescreened!


Now this is really one ridiculous product. I rue the day I decided to buy it. I would have been just as well plopping the drive on the T40, leaving it always on (which I hoped to avoid), and using Windows home network to access the files. I've wasted so much time on it, which is what Apple tries to convince you makes their premium prices worth it--the ease.


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As stated from the get-go, your current iTunes/airport problems are stemming from using FAT32. A google search shows that there are a lot of problems with this combo.


Here's the official Apple support page on this:



Note that while it states FAT32 is supported, there are some very specific requirements. Using FAT32 will also switch the AE to using 100% SMB/CIFS, which is a windows protocol. If it was formatted HFS+ then the AE would use windows protocols for windows and Mac protocols for mac. That could explain why itunes on windows is fine but flaking out on the mac. Mac gear and microsoft protocols are a recipe for trouble. If you want to get your investment out of the AE you really need to reformat.


I don't think 36,000 tracks is anywhere near the choke point of iTunes xml database - I think everything you're dealing with right now is file system formats and transfer protocols.


Can't comment on usb hubs and multiple disks - too many variables to cause trouble there, not something I would personally mess with.



mpdPup maintainer

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"As stated from the get-go, your current iTunes/airport problems are stemming from using FAT32."


I would agree.


HFS+ is the way to go. Basing a high volume music server on a 'mixed' OS setup is basically asking for trouble. The 'ease' of the Macintosh platform can NOT be expected when asking it to deal with the 'limitations' of Windows platform, esp. a file format like FAT32 whose roots go back to the mid 70s.


Like Chris, I've had no issues at all using USB drives with my Airport Extreme. Piece of cake. I could see why the fanboys would never experience these kinds of issues since they (presumably) use an Apple native environment.





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  • 1 month later...

So, I bought a new external so I could copy my library over and reformat existing drives to Mac OS X Extended (former HFS+). And now it does work. It's a drag in that I would like to be able to directly access my drives for transfers and then pop them on the network. And Apple should be upfront about drive format in their documentation. But it does work as you guys suggested.


I should add that disk writes via the network are substantially faster from both Apple and XP computers.


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"And Apple should be upfront about drive format in their documentation."



agreed. And also glad that you got it working.


In my experience, neither Apple or M/S products function as well on the other's operating system as they could/should. Entourage (the M/S Outlook stand-in for the Mac) is an abomination, actually.


It's very frustrating - but I guess it's a fact of life that neither want their own products to be used against themselves in the OS 'war'.





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