A year with EX2

Some general thoughts of my first year using the EX2. I got it right on March 17th last year and have since been using it on a near daily basis.

Except for some bugs with the ftp configuration in the early version of the firmware, which have long been fixed by WD, I havent had any major complaints.

My primary usage has been to use it as an SFTP server with some friends who regularly swap large files with me every couple days. I also use my EX2 to stream media to my various DLNA client devices like a bluray player and a tablet. And lastly I use it as a network file share, of which I find the ISO mounting feature very useful, which I use to mount a disc ISO of my most-used app installers. Should I need to install any of those apps anytime (which I do need from time to time when tinkering with my virtual machines), the installers are just a couple clicks away, rather than digging up the actual disc from a mountain of discs.

I haven’t done any of the following things since I started using it:

  • Install the desktop app

  • Install or use the mobile app

  • Activated cloud access for the device (this was not a priority for me - but I did try it a few times and for some reason kept getting error and just gave up…unlike most folks who need “cloud access” I was already getting this functionality through my opening up of the sftp, ftp and http ports on my router and was able to do pretty much most of what I needed).

Been mostly satisfied with the EX2 in my primary use as an SFTP server. The one area that is still a sore spot for me is the anemic 3rd party app availability - which is terrible when compared to other leading NAS vendors’ offerings. I understand that WD’s My Cloud offerings are aimed at more the value market than the premium NAS market, but just improvement in this area alone would make a HUGE positive difference in changing customer perception. And even whatever apps are offered, their installation and integration has been less than satisfactory in many cases. The other issue I would say in this area is that all the bundled apps are ancient versions. I really dabbled with only one app, Joomla (EX2’s bundled Joomla version 2.5 has now been designated by Joomla team as having reached End Of Life status), and I very quickly realized that like with the rest of the EX2, it can be made to do a lot more than what is offered BUT ONLY IF I did it myself. So I was able to install the latest version of Joomla via SSH, bypassing the whole dashboard app install.

Same thing goes for the firmware - my own custom changes provided a lot of added functionality that I craved but knew was not going to come from WD. And now with the next gen of this product launched (the EX2100), I know very little serious improvements will be given to this product, as most of the efforts will now focus on the more capable EX2100 (which understandably has beefier hardware specs to justify the $100 higher price). But at the same time, because a lot of the changes that will be made to 2100 will also be applicable to EX2, I guess we will still see some improvements…but they’ll be geared more towards the 2100’s featureset than to targertedly improving the EX2’s featureset.

The other area that WD could perhaps improve on is including more recent versions of basic software. I am running a firmware that is couple versions behind the latest firmware - but both in my firmware which uses the lighttpd http server and in the current firmware that uses Apache, they are bundling very old versions of the http servers. Not to mention the old versions of related software like PHP, etc. A version or two behind is acceptable but as I have posted on here in the past (I posted about this last year in the 4th paragraph of this post -> http://community.wd.com/t5/WD-My-Cloud-EX2/Enabling-logging-for-lighttpd-web-server/m-p/788667 ) , they include ancient versions in the firmware and as time goes on they start becoming fossilized. Of course, I suffer the most because I can’t just apply the latest firmware - in order to retain my custom changes in the firmware, I have to comb over any newly released firmware code and make the many changes in the code myself and test them fully making sure they all work as they should…and because of that, I sometimes skip a version or two of  firmware when the changes/benefits of upgrading are insignificant for me. That bit I accept is my own fault - but even for most customers who do not run a custom firmware, they should be getting more recent versions of the basic software like http server, PHP, etc. With each new version newer security loopholes are discovered and patched - so older versions leave those vulnerabilities open.

The ONE thing I laud WD for is that they have been providing the firmware source code and unlike many other vendors (I own a high end QNAP NAS as well) WD always includes everything. Of course, it would be nice if the firmware provided the source code to certain WD binaries but those are proprietary to WD and so those are the blind spots that I had to navigate in my modding adventures. Still better than other vendors’ limited firmware code transparency.

Anyway, I hope WD will continue making improvements to EX2 despite now being relegated to previous gen. I look forward to using my EX2 and fine-tuning it further (been a great learning experience for me).

2 Likes

I agree with you in every single word of your post.

C’mon WD, do your job and update EX2 firmware and APPS. You can do better !!!

Nice write-up and good to see what someone’s experience with the device has been in the long-term.  I had high hopes originally for this NAS but now I’ll be happy if I can get btsync to work, webDAV to mount through Windows both locally and remotely without any errors, and USB backups to copy without failure.  So far only got the first to work and the second via third-party software.  My general opinon so far of the device is that the cost justifies the hardware but its relative cheapness compared to other NAS devices is definitely seen in the software and general implementation side.  My advice to folk looking for apps found on other NAS devices is to pick up a Raspberry Pi 2, mount your NAS shares, and let it run all the software you need.  It’s definitely let me get a lot more functionality out of the NAS.  

dont deal with web-dav, but other two work perfectly fine… can you please expand on the use of Raspberry Pi 2? maybe in the separate topic though. I’d like to know more:)

On mobile at moment but very briefly - I have deluge (bittorrent client that I prefer over transmission), headphones, sickrage, couchpotato, bittorrent sync, museek (Linux software for soulseek p2p network), mysql, apache, WordPress, Learning with Texts (great language learning software), and few other things I can’t remember at the moment all running from the raspberry pi and it runs then all fine with CPU load incredibly low. Obviously would never expect a regular NAS to run all these things but been incredibly surprised at how much you can through at the raspberry pi at once - the only real drops in speed is when you are forced to switch from console to desktop.  Mounted a share from the NAS for downloads etc, run a script that backs up mysql databases to a share on the NAS at regular intervals, couchpotato etc put completed downloads in correct music or video folder, and btsync I use to backup my main folders on the pi so can easily restore my setup if anything goes wrong.  Then I use btsync on the NAS (which apart from the included WD software is only thing additional I now have installed) to sync the completed videos and music with my media centre and millicaneous downloads with my home office PC.