New OS available for beta testing from mid-July
You’ll have to forgive if this post is even less grammatically correct than normal, I’ve been on a 300 mile round trip today to hear first hand about the new features that will be available in Synology’s next NAS update; DSM 4.3.
There’s a fair few things to talk about, although there were no publications handed out at the end so we’re relying on my memory and frantically scribbled notes. Onwards!
Mike Chen, Synology’s head guy in the UK, started off by thanking everyone for attending and giving us a bit of a background on Synology as a company. Interesting stuff that shows a definite trend towards growth over the last couple of years. Synology now employ about 300 people worldwide, with around 70% of those staff being engineers.
After that we had a pretty decent presentation which highlighted some of the newer features, starting with some enterprise stuff and then moving on to things that home users might find more interesting.
If I’m honest, a lot of the enterprise stuff went over my head. There was a lot of talk about fail-over between certain Synology devices. Essentially what was demonstrated was that if you have two identical (and compatible) Synology drives, and one of them fails for some reason, then the other will seamlessly pick up the slack without the end users really noticing any issues.
In demo’s it worked really well, when one NAS was turned off unexpectedly, there system recognised that one of the nodes was missing and then picked up the slack with about a 15-20 second delay.
Synology were happy to announce that the existing VPN server for DSM will be expanded to include L2TP/IPsec connections in DSM 4.3. For those not aware, this is a more secure VPN protocol than the existing PPTP protocol currently used, and will work with most PCs and portable devices without any additional software required. As a VPN user myself I was really happy to see this as I’ve often had concerns about just how private my VPN was.
A lot of time was spent demonstrating CloudStation, but in truth there aren’t that many new features in DSM 4.3 that weren’t there already. CloudStation is Synology’s data synchronisation app, along the same lines as iCloud or Dropbox. Essentially it turns your NAS into a central point for all of your data.
New features in 4.3 include being able to specify which folders are synced on each device, and certified apps for both Ubuntu and Fedora, so that Linux users can seamlessly keep their files in sync.
Not much has changed with AudioStation itself, but the mobile apps have gotten a bit of a refresh with DSM 4.3. The iOS app now features swipe gestures and a revised interface, which allows for quicker and easier navigation of your music. In demo’s it looked pretty impressive, the interface was fluid and responsive, and made a better use of album artworks than previous version had.
Android users are stuck with the same interface that they had previously, but now they get the option to store music locally on their devices so that it can be listened to even without a connection to your NAS. This is a feature that’s been available on iOS for some time, so I was really happy to see that Synology have finally updated the Android version as well.
Not much has changed with VideoStation. I was hoping for the announcement of Windows and Mac apps so that users don’t have to navigate their libraries via the web interface, sadly this didn’t happen.
What was shown was a new permissions setting which will restrict what is shown in the DS Video apps depending on what each user is permitted to see. In effect, this can be summarised as “parental control” to stop the kids seeing movies and TV shows that aren’t suitable. This is an excellent feature for families with centralised media storage, and I’m happy to see it included in VideoStation, even if I don’t have kids myself.
By far the most impressive update has been PhotoStation 6. The new version does away with the old “explorer” type layout in favor of a tiled layout which makes the most of the photos on file. It also has Google Maps integration for geotagged files, and features smart albums which allows you to group your photos based upon a whole bunch of different criteria.
It really does have to be seen to be believed, as it’s a big jump from the old version.
You also get a bunch of cool filters to quickly edit your photos from within PhotoStation itself, and share buttons so that you can quickly publish to a number of different online repositories (including Facebook).
Most importantly, the new PhotoStation appeared to be a lot more responsive than the old one. My DS413 is no slouch, but it take an absolute age to actually navigate my photos, with thumbnails in particular not showing up promptly. Thankfully the new version is a lot quicker, and I may actually consider using PhotoStation properly from now on.
The mobile apps have also gotten a bit of an overhaul, with clean cut new looks and improvements under the hood to increase performance.
I must admit it’s been a while since I looked at SuirvellanceStation, but the new version certainly looked a lot better than I remembered. The interface looks to have been redesigned to put more emphasis on live feeds from cameras, and a bunch of new options seem to have been added as well.
We were treated to a demonstration of some of the different “triggers” that would start recording or provide a notification. Using the software it’s relatively easy to set up a recording schedule based upon the presence or lack of an object, or movement within a defined area. You can also exclude an area from triggering a recording so that trees and bushes don’t send the system into a panic.
The coolest feature shown was the ability to count the number of people entering and leaving a location. Draw a bar over an area of the screen and the software will keep track of when people walk past the bar in either direction. This has a great implication for businesses who need to keep track of how many people are on site at any one time.
The mobile app wasn’t shown during the presentation, so I’m assuming that there haven’t been any major changes to that.
All in all, a good event. It would have been nice to see some more Windows and Mac based apps to take advantage of some of DSM’s media features, but I suppose that there are already so many 3rd party apps available that Synology don’t see the need.
Now we just have to wait until “mid-July” in order to see these new features for ourselves.