Let’s start with the (obvious) bad news: the Buffalo + Plex project officially ended. The new release was dragging for months, there were no updates on the website and I couldn’t even get the time to go through and approve the comments in the past 6 months. Although I promised an update in 2016, now that I put some time aside to finish it (there was only one web refresh bug lingering), I realized that so much time had passed that I’m working on a dead project. Here are the technical and personal reasons why this project had to close.
Lack of time
Everyone noticed the lack of updates. Partly it’s my family, partly my new job and partly that I wanted to get into other projects. If any other projects become mature enough I’ll share them.
Plex does not support ARMv5 any more
There is no binary to download from the site that would work with the Linkstation Pro Duo (this project’s target). The Synology package that I used to use is now only compatible with ARMv7.
I do not own a Linkstation 200 or 400 series NAS…
…and I’m not planning to buy one in the near future. The new series use ARMv7 so if anyone is up to the task, it should be possible to hack it.
Net7 offered to send me one. I am really grateful for the offer but with my limited time, it wouldn’t be fair toward the community. I respectfully have to decline that offer for the near future.
The Archive page on Plex.tv does not exist any more
The archive page (https://plex.tv/downloads/1/archive if I recall correctly) does not work any more because of the page redesign. This page contained details about each release and it was used by the upcoming firmware to check for any new releases. The firmware sent you a notification message on the admin interface if a new version of Plex was released (and also blinked the Linkstation’s lights). You were then able to go the the update page where you could read details about the update and push a button to apply it on the Linkstation. I could not fix a bug that refreshed the page automatically when you pushed the button. If you manually refreshed the page, it showed you the update process and at the end it started the new version.
Although we could’ve lived without the details of the latest Plex release, without the archive page I can’t even download the latest ARMv5 compatible Synology package to create a “final” firmware.
The original BuffaloTech firmware was not updated for over a year
Buffalo must have dropped this device from its support. This year we had more security-related incidents (including an all-out IoT attack on the Internet) that might affect the Buffalo Linkstation devices too. I can’t point out any specific CVEs right now, but I’m pretty sure, a firmware security update is due. (The OpenSSL version is getting old, for example.) I can’t with good conscience tell anyone to use the Linkstation Pro Duo on the Internet any more.
The libraries in the firmware are getting out of sync
This is also a sign of aging: the v1.69 firmware had a consistent library set that was fully compatible with the OpenWRT or Unslung repositories. Adding any features were a piece of cake. When Buffalo introduced the v1.70 and v1.71 updates, things got a bit more complicated. To fix the Bash and OpenSSL bugs they had to upgrade OpenSSL (and Bash) to a newer version. The newer versions required newer libraries and other components could depend on the old libraries. I’m pretty sure they had a few sleepless nights before they figured out how to add new versions of the libraries but keep the majority of the firmware intact.
I ran into the same problem with the newer versions of Plex. As you were able to see the firmware started getting bigger. With Plex included I had to add the Plex-specifc libraries separately into the firmware and separate the Plex binaries from the rest of the system so they can coexist. Transmission stopped working for similar reasons: I couldn’t find the correct versions of all the necessary libraries and package them with Transmission.
Right now the best method would be to completely recompile all libraries and executables within the firmware, so you get a huge update on everything. If you’re already messing it up, why not also port the web interface from a newer (Linkstation CS) device to the Linkstation Pro Duo so you get a nicer interface. I think it’s pretty clear that the firmware is just way too old at this point.
If you own and operate a Linkstation Pro Duo or similar device, you do it at your own risk. It doesn’t matter if you are using one of the Buffalo+Plex firmwares or the BuffaloTech firmware, the device is not on sale any more and Buffalo support is dubious.
If you plan to buy a new device in the near future, try considering your use-cases.
- If you just want to store stuff, you might want to consider cloud storage. I couldn’t fill my 15Gb OneDrive storage, although you get 1Tb with them if you pay for an Exchange account. Hubic.com gives you 25Gb storage for free. If you want to keep your files secure and you don’t trust the cloud, you could still look at crashplan.com, you encrypt your files before you upload them to their site and they provide unlimited disk space. I’m not going to give more ideas, everyone knows a ton of file-hosting services.
- If you have PlexPass, you can also wait for their Cloud offering and buy some storage with a Plex-compatible vendor. (They just announced that they don’t support Amazon S3 for now.)
- If you want to store files in your home, an old PC or laptop could do it too, you don’t necessarily need to buy new hardware for that. My cousin stores his media on an old laptop that’s running 24/7. He even attached a 1Tb USB drive for movies. I don’t even need to say that he runs Plex on it and the Plex client is built into his TV.
- If you want speed or redundancy with your setup, an old PC could still do it. (Old laptops don’t usually have multiple hard-drives and the ones built-in are slow.) If you have Linux, it’s not hard to set up a software RAID solution (the Linkstation does that too). I think Windows is a bit trickier, but their dynamic volumes might be good for RAID0. If you need RAID1, you might need to trick Windows into syncing your files over or buy a cheap RAID controller.
- If you also want small size and less noise, you could look into buying some of the small form-factor PCs: Intel NUC, MacMini, etc. I have a 2010 Mac Mini and I’m contemplating changing the 2x500Gb hard drive into SSDs. (Maybe one 128Gb SSD and one 1Tb hard drive so I have space too.) The Mac is also perfectly fine to run Plex.
- Finally, if you are hell-bent on buying a new NAS, go to the Plex site and check out their compatibility page. Not many NAS will give you transcoding so it’s only worth it if you use Plex on your TVs only. iOS, Android or Roku is out of the question in this case.
No matter what you choose, I’m sure you’ll better be off than with the old Buffalo+Plex firmware. It wasn’t a bad solution while it lasted but it’s time to move on. I’m going to release the comments I’ve received but I’m not going to address Buffalo-related questions. Feel free to talk things over among each other on the Plex forums, I see that some people still help out there. The links to downloads will be removed and the site might be archived sometime in 2017.
Happy holidays to all of you and thank you for the support that I received over the years for the project.
ATE’NT IS PROBLY DEAD”