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Toshiba Magnia's Magnificent Possibilities
Oct 7, 2003 (Updated Dec 30, 2006)
a Very Helpful Review
by the Epinions community
2005 Update -- The price of this server, now discontinued, has actually gone UP! It's a great solution and I wish someone would make these, competitively priced, with the Linux OS and server capabilities. These units are gems. The hardware says it all. My unit has been going 24/7 for 2 years and, despite a lightning strike, continues to work.
Recommend this product?
There is one good reason to review this router, gateway, wired, wireless, firewall, ftp server, Intranet server, file server, network appliance.
The reason is that the price has gone from more than $2,000 to around $200. That's just about to the point where the 20GB Hitachi Travelstar Harddrive inside the Magnia SG20 is worth the price alone.
Why such a price drop? Is there something wrong with this so-called 'Appliance Server?'
But maybe it comes down to a question Toshiba and its customers haven't been able to easily answer: Just what am I supposed to DO with this thing?
There isn't just one answer. Whether this device will be useful to you depends on how you can put it to work.
The Magnia SG20 is a Linux server that can potentially do almost anything. Linux is powerful and versatile and there are excellent server programs out there for free, in most cases. Toshiba cannot possibly support all of those configurations. Don't plan to rely on their support service if you depart from the original system design.
UPDATE -- SOME IMPORTANT INFORMATION
Toshiba has stopped selling the Magnia. Although discontinued, I would still strongly recommend this product. E-Bay and other outlets are still selling them and really, there's little to go wrong.
But there's a whole lot that's right about these units. I recently lost a few Network Interface Cards, telephones and an expensive HP Print Server to a lightning strike. Instead of paying another $225 to get an "exchange" from HP, I hooked up the Magnia to my printer. Voila! It functions as a perfect printserver with your drivers loaded on the client computers. Windows doesn't recognize the network share as connected because the Linux system has no drivers...it's just printing from your files. But it works perfectly.
This unit has been working almost 24/7 on my home network as a file server, digital music library and photo library for nearly a year. Flawless. I'm thinking of buying another one!
Whatever you think you know about Windows, it has little do do with how this Operating Sytem works. Be warned. Customizing the system will require research, care and backups of the original configuration. I have installed a second backup hard disk in my Magnia. It has already saved my bacon...TWICE.
I've updated this review to include an 'Appendix' at the end with some useful links.
If you are a basic Windows user who likes "Press OK to Continue" as the limit of technical adventure, the Toshiba Magnia SG20 will perform as an Intranet server for you exactly as described. But don't try to change anything you don't understand fully.
The biggest use this is probably getting right now is as a digital music server for networks. It can serve hardware/software solutions like Audiotron and SliMP3 with reasonably easy modifications. iTunes will also work to play all the files and files in subdirectories, like SliMP3. Both systems can be used simultaneously. There are about 15GB of diskspace available on the default system for audio or image files. As you'll see below, you can add 60GB more with a second laptop hard disk.
WHAT YOU GET WITH THE MAGNIA SG20
First, let me tell you that when you unpack the box you will be pleasantly surprised to find a sleek, compact case the size of a laptop computer on steroids. It's rock solid. I love the feel of this thing! Hold it in your hands and the solid, silver server seems to whisper "A lot more quality than you expected, perhaps?"
If you wanted to put it to work without thinking, you could plug the Magnia into your DSL or Cable modem and instantly connect 7 computers in a wired workgroup. A firewall would be up and there would be an Intranet site waiting for the users to customize as soon as you gave them their logins and passwords. Everyone would have access to the Internet.
Here's what comes in the package.
- Toshiba Magnia SG20 Appliance Server
- Setup CD (goes in a computer connected to the Magnia)
- Power Cable (DC power supply is inside the Magnia)
- Ethernet cable
- Modem telephone cable
- Quick Start Instruction Card
- License, Warranty card and Registration
- MANUAL is on the CD in PDF format
All of the limited configuration of the Magnia SG20 is done by using a web browser to access the System and Network Configuration pages. It's like many of the popular routers in use today. The system has no output for a monitor, no input for a keyboard and no connections for USB and the other devices.
The Magnia SG20 is powered by the Red Hat Linux Operating System (version 7.x) It isn't a Windows computer. Translation: Don't alter any files on the SG20 unless you know what you're doing. Use the included Web interface. I know I'm repeating myself, but this is essential.
The Administrator gives users their logins and passwords. There are 3 levels of access.
Let's start with a rundown of features.
Connect your DSL or Cable Modem to the WAN port on the back of the Magnia SG20 and you enable a connection to the Internet. Default IP: 192.168.1.1
You can also run a straight-thru patch cable from one of the ports on your existing router to the WAN port on the Magnia. Same result as above.
This is a software router. It will work fine but not as fast as the hardware/firmware routers on the market for less.
7 ports are neatly arranged on the back of the SG20 where you can plug in computers etc. There's an 8th expansion port with a turnaround connection for another switch etc.
The Magnia can automatically assign an IP address for each computer connected. If you disable the router, each computer can have a static address within the range you specify.
There is no provision in the supplied web interface to forward ports in the router. This can be done...by altering files that control the server's behavior.
There is a firewall with settings to enable Telnet, FTP, HTTP and other services, including Internet e-mail to pass through.
Because I already had a router on my home network, forwarding ports really isn't a problem. I haven't bothered to research the Linux files and alter them. In my setup, the Magnia SG20 has the router AND the firewall disabled. I use my existing Linksys router to forward ports I need to the Magnia. I recently travelled and was able to listen to my music collection...from New Delhi, India (it was a broadband connection.)
Warning. It takes an additional Orinoco Gold PCMCIA wireless access point. The Magnia is "Wireless Ready" but you will have to supply the PCMCIA card. These are selling at various sites for anywhere from $35 to more than $100. Only a few of the Orinoco products work with this device. The one dubbed the "Ruby" edition is one of those that works.
You could also connect a Wireless Access Point to the back of this. What do I mean? Buy a Linksys Wireless Access Point and plug the WAN port of the Linky into one of the seven output ports of the Magnia. Set up the Linky at a default address of 192.168.1.2 Done. Wireless for everyone.
Yes. 56k built-in. Use it to connect to the Internet if you don't have a broadband connection at hand. Or, you can allow a remote computer to dial IN to the Magnia SG20 to get a connection to your LAN, your Intranet and the Internet.
Share a network printer (parallel) with computers connected to the SG20. As noted above, it was as simple as adding a network printer in Windows XP and pointing it to (the default): \\Myserver\printer. Windows reports it can't connect to the printer, but this is apparently because you're just spooling your files on the Magnia and it's exporting the job when those files are complete. I haven't tried this. It was a heck of a lot easier than setting up an HP 500X printserver!
Hint: If you're using the Magnia as a printsever on your network, you designate "Local Printer" in the Magnia's Web Configuration pages.
One Travelstar Hitachi 20GB drive designed for a laptop is included. Access to this hard drive is through a cleverly designed panel with two thumbscrews on top of the case. Alongside that cage is a second hard drive enclosure. The manual says you must use an identical hard drive. That's not altogether accurate.
I installed a Fujitsu 60GB disk for extra storage and have another Travelstar 20GB disk as a system backup. Both have the 'cable select' jumper setting needed.
Some users report successfully installing an 80GB Travelstar.
The second hard drive can be utilized as a backup copy of the first disk, or as extra space. But not both at the same time. There are backup and restore features included in Toshiba's "Admin" web interface.
Note: You simply put the blank, unformatted drive into the second disk slot. Then, with the "Admin" web module, you can choose whether to format the drive as backup or extra space. Obviously, backup just makes a mirror. When you designate it as extra disk space it automatically comes up in your system as /home/2ndDisk and automatically gives you a Multimedia directory with /audio /movies /photos subdirectories. Very Easy to set up!
Many Flavors of Intranet
The Magnia SG20 is preconfigured with an Apache web server and pages for an intranet site. You can change the look and feel and the details of several alternative sites. But this is hardly the strong point of this device.
The Magnia is designed to be an Intranet, visible to users in your local area network (LAN.) Yes, it can be made to serve files to the Internet, but that requires using Telnet (or WebMin) to go inside the system and alter settings on the Apache web server. Doing that will void your warranty.
This is one of the most tantalizing areas of the Magnia SG20's pre-configured scripting intranet.
You can create directories containing photo files. The name you give each directory will appear as the name of a featured gallery. Inside each gallery, you get a vertical thumbnail index along the right edge of the screen and clicking on a thumbnail brings up that photo. You can also enable a slideshow and configure the length of time to display each photo.
Similarly, you can load digital music files. The pre-installed software, interesting as it is, didn't work for me. I could play files but not playlists of files. Others report it works fine for them.
According to the manual, it is also designed to work with Audiotron hardware to play files on the server through your home entertainment system.
On the other hand, using SliMP3 server, I've been able to stream audio from playlists and files on this server to Winamp3 playing on the client computers. As noted, iTunes also works. In fact, I've got both iTunes and SliMP3 using the same files on the server.Again, it's tantalizing!
There's a video file option, too. There a home automation module and a security camera module (Axis2100 network cameras.) More hardware would be required to take advantage of these.
There is an FTP server built-in to the Magnia SG20.
Internet Explorer and other browsers have no trouble accessing the FTP site by entering ftp://192.168.1.1 (or whatever address you assign the Magnia SG20) in the address bar. You upload by copying a file on your computer and pasting it in the incoming folder window. Anonymous login only...no usernames/passwords to protect it, so this is designed, again only for your Intranet.
Choose what you want to do with the built-in mail servers. Create your own Intranet mail domain or link to the Internet. Or, skip this feature altogether.
BACK TO PHILOSOPHY
The Toshiba Magnis SG20 was designed to be taken on the road and placed at a trade show, fair, scout jamboree, or other event.
The user could come with their own intranet containing sales forms, brochures, images, manuals and other data on the hard drive.
Here's how Toshiba describes the SG20:
The Magnia SG20 belongs to a class of products that are designed to provide a pre-determined suite of functions. They are non-programmable, pre-configured, closed-box systems that run a variety of optimised key applications. This product is engineered for easy deployment...
A visit to Toshiba's website shows that the Magnia series has been discontinued. But Toshiba is still supporting the Magnia series. We can't be sure how long that will continue. But the reality is that this is a simple, Linux server that should give years of service.
As much as anything else, Toshiba has tried to build a foolproof system that will enable individuals with few or no computer skills to wire up a network with an internet gateway.
While I understand their disdain for bit twiddlers, it doesn't seem quite right to furnish so little information. On the other hand, as I've noted, there's no way they could support every possible configuration users will implement on the Magnia SG20.
Telephone support (you get a free year of it!) is pretty good. Just ask to be put through to the "server" specialists who only work Monday to Friday. Everyone else knows less than you do.
There's a program called 'WebMin' that will easily install on the Magnia SG20 and give users unfamiliar with Linux better control of the server. Users who take some time and research the Red Hat Operating Sytem, specifically as relates to RPM's and how the file system works, will be rewarded with a better understanding of how the server can be customized.
Visit the Yahoo Group forums and search on "Magnia." There are FAQ files, technical dossier from Toshiba as well as user advice. There a link in the appendix at the end of this review.
Not all that advice is necessarily good advice. Do NOT download the new kernel some guy is building unless you also joined the NRA to play Russian Roulette on Saturday nights.
If you bit twiddle in the box, Toshiba will void your warranty. If you can't access your Magnia because you changed something you didn't fully understand, they will charge you a bundle to "re-image" your server. You have been warned.
FINAL PHILOSOPHICAL NOTES!
The real value of the Magnia SG20 is in the concept.
It is a concept you, the user, must put to work. Its value to you will depend on how well you can make it fit your needs.
Yes, it's a Linux fileserver with a full set of features. But it's more than just a collection of features. It's that concept!
APPENDIX: USEFUL LINKS
Lots of helpful, experienced information on hard drive upgrades and other matters...be sure to check out the 'Files' sections in these boards for useful information.
Specific Advice about Linux
They may be 'true believers,' but they're unbelievably helpful to anyone who comes along with a question.
Software to configure the Linux Server
WebMin Administration Tool
This is a very useful piece of software for the Toshiba Magnia...especially for Windows users unfamiliar with Linux. Still, take care before you change anything.
Secure Shell for Worskstations
Telnet client with added features
Dynamic DNS Updater
After trying several other programs, this one appears to be the easiest to get up and running to update your dynamic ip address every few minutes (if it has changed) to point to a specific address like 'http://mymagnia.no-ip.com' Directions are a little outdated in that the software has been improved. One of the directories it creates is different from the 'Guides and Tips' text. But it is the same as the new filename, so you should be able to figure it out!
Use WebMin to set the program to start every time the server is booted and quit each time you shut it down. From main menu, choose 'System' and then the first choice: Bootup and Shutdown
SliMP3 Linux Digital Music Server
Slim Devices is nice enough to publish the music server free of charge. Even if you don't buy their hardware, you can use WinAmp or a similar player to stream your music selections. Different computers on your network can play different playlists at the same time. This is a nice piece of software. If I ever go the hardware route, I'll probably go SliMP3 because Slim Devices has such a good attitude! This server works well for Mac's too. iTunes plays the music with no problems whatsoever.
This goes on the server...not on the client computers. Be sure to get the 'RPM' version of the file.
While the directions would seem to indicate you have to dump all the MP3 files in one big directory, you don't. Just put each album or artist in their own subdirectory. SliMP3 will see all the music files and those subdirectories will be invisible to users browsing the files.
Your WinAmp player MUST be started first, before you try to call up the SliMP3 server to view music files via your web browser. You can create a shortcut to WinAmp that will automatically have it listen on port 9000 for streaming audio when it loads.
In your "Program Properties," set the "Target" to...
Adjust the above to reflect your own location of the WinAmp executable and your own Magnia SG20 address.
Basically everything you need is available for either Mac or Windows at:
As noted above, iTunes will access the same files you are using for SliMP3 without any changes. The biggest difference is that SliMP3 installs on the Magnia SG20 server itself, while iTunes installs on a client computer on your network, not the server.
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