My Cloud Dashboard Improvements

Here are some suggestions for improving the primary dashboard page of the My Cloud firmware, also called OS 3. An example is shown below, followed by commentary outlining each suggested change.

Change the dashboard size so it completely fills screens with a 16:9 aspect ratio. The width is currently 960px and changing it to 1024px should work, while maintaining compatibility for lower screen resolutions. This would facilitate better viewing on wide screen televisions, tablets, and mobile devices. Note: Not everyone wants “an app for that”, when a browser works just fine.

Reduce the CSS width attribute of the primary navigation icons so that scrolling is not necessary to reach the apps and settings icons. There is absolutely no reason why a user should be forced to scroll to access primary navigation items simply so the dashboard can have more whitespace to make it pretty. Also, reduce the whitespace between the primary navigation icons section and the rest of the dashboard page, making it equal to the whitespace between other sections. Why waste precious screen real estate?

Add the ability to monitor disk space for individual disks and/or volumes, a CRITICAL aspect of NAS management, especially when a JBOD configuration is used. The use of a vertical bar chart would allow the display of one or more drives, with only minor adjustments to the width of each bar being required for 1, 2, 3 or 4 drives. Also, the “Capacity” section should be displayed for ALL users, and not just those who use RAID and/or “The Cloud”.

Remove the sections of the dashboard that show the number of “Cloud Devices”, “Users” and “Apps”, or at least relocate them to a less prominent position within the pages of the dashboard. The space can then be occupied by CPU and RAM utilization, which are much more important system metrics to monitor. In addition, the fan speed and system temperatures should be shown.

The arrow URL on the “Diagnostics” section of the primary dashboard should link to the “System Diagnostics” section/page of the dashboard, which is much more intuitive and less cumbersom (clicky) than having a diagnostics popup and a diagnostics page.

Change the color of the “Movies” icon from red to purple (or some other color). The color red should ONLY be used to indicate that there is a problem. This way it’s more likely to immediately call a users attention to any areas which need to be addressed.

If possible, keep a running log of the network, CPU and RAM activity for the last 15-20 minutes. This way the user can immediately see a brief history of activities, rather than having to wait for them to appear on the screen. The display can keep refreshing as it does now, showing current activity progress starting at the end of the existing logs, or the beginning of each display graph.

Give the user a choice of 2 or more color schemes to use, which is easily accomplished using CSS. For example: Some people (myself included) like dark color schemes because they are easy on the eyes, especially in a dimly lit room. By contrast, other people like light color schemes.

In addition to making the changes above, I strongly suggest updating all software and packages within the firmware to the newest versions possible. This will not only enhance security, but it may also solve many problems before they occur.

Afterwards, you could call it My Cloud OS 4.

Further reading:
https://www.geckoboard.com/blog/4-essential-steps-to-designing-a-dashboard-that-inspires-action/
https://www.geckoboard.com/blog/designing-and-building-dashboards-data-visualisations/

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Idea status: Acknowledge

Approved for voting.

Lately, I’ve begun to take a serious interest in examining the inner workings of the GPL firmware source code for my WD PR4100 NAS, largely because I really like the hardware, so from this point forward I will post my findings here, rather than scattering them across various forums. In the mean time, here are some additional observations and suggestions.

As I continue to examine the firmware, I’m beginning to realize that it needs a lot of work. That being said, I suggest taking a serious look at the My Cloud OS and attempt to bring it into the 21st century. The hardware seems to have vast untapped potential, but the software all but cripples it.

Look at what users keep asking for, time and time again. Give them some flexibility and the power to make these devices perform the way they want or need them to. Give advanced users the ability to make persistent changes and/or run their own custom scheduling for things like cron jobs, with the ability to disable existing cron jobs, processes, etc… as required.

Stop dumbing everything down to the point that it becomes almost useless. If you want to continue catering to basic users, as you should do, then simply include an advanced mode that can be turned on/off to enable/disable advanced and more powerful functionality.

Take a serious look at your primary competetors and see what they are doing, which I’m sure you may have already done. More importantly, look at the user response to competetor offerings, particularly that which involves their software. Your competetors are not without their own self-induced problems, but for the most part it looks like they are eating your lunch. At least in the software department.

Lastly, whatever you do, NEVER do stuff like running indexing or thumbnail generation services on devices which are sometimes underpowered to begin with. If you need certain services for cloud-based functionality, then do it server-side, not on the client device. Also, NEVER, NEVER, NEVER do things like enabling secret hardware encryption that often results in the complete loss of all data if the drive enclosure fails. All this serves to do is erode what little trust users still have in you. And once that trust is gone, it’s all but impossible to get it back.

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It goes without saying that software should be kept up to date to minimize problems and enhance security, but telling people to keep their firmware up to date while the underlying packages are likely riddled with bugs and security holes seems ludicrous. Granted, there are many valid reasons why one might choose not to use the latest versions, largely due to compatibility issues and the complexity of rolling out changes across an entire product line. However, there is a point in time where this becomes an invalid argument.

Shown below is the firmware which I’ve been examining, followed by some of the more important software it contains. Note that variations of this same firmware are used on other My Cloud models (EX, DL, etc), although I don’t know what the exact differences may be.

WD My Cloud PR4100 NAS Firmware:
Firmware Version: WD MyCloud PR4100 GPL v2.21.126 (11/10/2016)
Source: http://downloads.wdc.com/gpl/WDMyCloud_PR4100_GPL_v2.21.126_20161110.zip

Linux Kernel:
Running: Linux Kernel Version 4.1.13 (11/9/2015)
Current: Linux Kernel Version 4.10.2 (03/12/2017)
Source: https://www.kernel.org/

Busybox:
Running: Busybox 1.20.2 (07/02/2012)
Current: BusyBox 1.26.2 (01/10/2017)
Source: https://busybox.net/

MySQL:
Running: MySQL 5.1.56 (02/12/2011)
Current: MySQL 5.7.16 (09/29/2016)
Source: https://www.mysql.com/

SQLite:
Running: SQLite 3.6.14.1 (05/19/2009)
Current: SQLite 3.17.0 (02/13/2017)
Source: https://www.sqlite.org/

Python:
Running: Python 2.7.0 (07/03/2010)
Current: Python 3.5.3 (01/17/2017)
Source: https://www.python.org/

Perl:
Running: Perl 5.10.0 (12/18/2007)
Current: Perl 5.25.10 (02/20/2017)
Source: https://www.perl.org/

PHP:
Running: PHP 5.4.16 (05/09/2013)
Current: PHP 7.1.2 (02/17/2017)
Source: https://secure.php.net/

Samba:
Running: Samba 4.0.9 (08/20/2013)
Current: Samba 4.6.0 (03/07/2017)
Source: https://www.samba.org/

The storage section of the dashboard seems to go out of its way to mention RAID. However, it’s very confusing for some users.

Case in point, here’s a recent thread where I helped a new WD PR4100 user who was seeking to setup a JBOD configuration. The “Change RAID Mode” button had misled them into thinking it was only for setting up RAID volumes. The same had happened to me, and I’m a very experienced computer user. With this in mind, something I stated in the thread bears repeating here… Who’s going to click a button that says “Change RAID Mode” when they’re looking for JBOD?

The “RAID” section actually contains volumes, where RAID or JBOD are attributes of volumes. Therefore, I suggest changing it to simply say “Volumes”.

Cloud Access is disabled on my WD PR4100 NAS.

Is there any point in showing the Cloud Access icon when access is disabled? It’s also potentially confusing because a user may have previously disabled Cloud Access, then later decides to enable it. With the icon present, a user is very likely to expect that’s the place to enable it.

An alternative solution, one that’s far more intuitive, is to simply move all cloud-related settings to the Cloud Access section.

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I do a lot of video transcoding, and my favorite tool to use is Handbrake.

Currently, video transcoding requires me to read the source video from the NAS, transcode it, then write the resulting transcoded video to the desktop computer’s local hard drive, then copy it to the NAS. Alternatively, I could write the transcoded video directly to a target folder on the NAS, but read/write video transcoding operations tend to create excessive network traffic.

Normally, all my video transcoding is done on a desktop computer equipped with an Intel Core i7 quad core CPU with hyper-threading technology. The WD PR4100 NAS is equipped with a 1.6 GHz Intel Pentium N3710 quad-core processor (burst speed of up to 2.56 GHz), 4 GB of DDR3L of RAM (expandable to 16GB), and built-in hardware transcoding. With these specifications, the NAS would be ideal for video transcoding, albeit a bit slower than my desktop computer, but there isn’t “an app for that”.

That being said, I’d like to suggest that a Handbrake app be made available. Handbrake is open source and a command line version is available for Linux, so it should be possible, at least in theory.

Handbrake website: https://handbrake.fr/

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File management is part of the most basic functionality that most NAS users will require, yet the Web File Viewer is buried under the Apps section, almost as if it were tacked on as an afterthought.

In addition, the Web File Viewer is extremely cumbersome to use for anything but managing a few files and/or folders. It’s also not very intuitive, especially when compared with more traditional file managers. Web-based, or otherwise.

Also, the Web File Viewer appears to generate a background process or job when files are moved or copied. However, the only indication that anything is happening is an “Updating…” overlay on the dashboard. If the dashboard page is refreshed or the browser is closed, no futher indication is given that a background job is in progress.

I suggest moving the Web File Viewer out of the Apps section, and giving it a top-level menu icon. This would also afford the space required to provide a more traditional (and intuitive) file manager with two primary panes. Top-level folders on the left, and subfolders/files on the right. A jobs or progress indicator should also be added to the top navigation bar, so that users will know the status of file management operations which are running.

Lastly, the name “Web File Viewer” is somewhat of a misnomer because one can do much more than merely view files. Perhaps the name “File Manager” might be a more apt title to use.

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The drive sleep functionality doesn’t seem to work properly, and the default setting is far too short, which only serves to needlessly increase the Load_Cycle_Count for all installed hard drives and shorten their overall life expectancy.

Many users have requested more options to configure the drive sleep timeout setting, yet nothing has been done about it. And I don’t understand why because it would only require the addition of a dropdown list box to the dashboard and a few minor code tweaks here and there.

Therefore, I suggest adding a number of drive sleep timeout options: 10 minutes, 30 minutes, 1 hour, 2 hours, and 3 hours.

Before:

After:

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To guard against crypto ransomware and other threats, I recently created a new user account and granted it “Read Only” access to the shares/files stored on my NAS. However, I was horrified to discover that this user account has network (Samba) “Read/Write” access to the recycle bins for ALL shares.

In this case, I believe that the logged in user account should have the same permissions that are granted to the share which the Recycle Bin is associated with.

For Example:

SHARE_1 (Read Only)
SHARE_1_RECYCLED (Read Only)

SHARE_2 (Deny Access)
SHARE_2_RECYCLED (Deny Access)

SHARE_3 (Read / Write)
SHARE_3_RECYCLED (Read / Write)

This is a HUGE security vulnerability, so I suggest fixing it ASAP.

As an added security measure, one of the first things I do is change the default user name from “admin” to something else. However, the login page pre-fills the user name field for the admin user account. Note: This behavior is persistent, even after clearing the browser cache and cookies.

To a would-be attacker, knowing the username is half the battle, so I suggest leaving the user name field blank. If a user forgets the user name, a 5 second reset is easy enough to perform, which also requires physical access to the device.

Cloud access has been disabled on my PR4100 NAS since day one. However, I logged into the dashboard to change a setting and noticed that it had mysteriously turned itself back on. It failed to connect to the internet because I have it blocked with a hardware firewall.

I tried to turn it back off, but despite my best efforts, it remains on. Rebooting the NAS seems to briefly fix it, but the behavior returns within a short period of time.

This behavior is highly suspicious. While it may very well be a bug, it causes me a great deal of concern. I want NOTHING to do with the cloud, so I suggest fixing this ASAP.

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After rebooting the WD My Cloud PR4100 NAS, the login page displayed the following message: “Power was lost from the system. Performing file system consistency check. Please wait.”. There was also excessive hard drive activity, likely due to the unnecessary “file system consistency check” that was being performed. I could not log in until the process had completed.

The external LED display also showed the message: “Power loss detected on port 1”.

Fortunately, rebooting the NAS for a second time seems to have returned things to normal, but the growing list of problems I’ve discovered has caused me to second guess purchasing this over-priced ($500 USD) piece of hardware with the worst software I’ve ever seen.

While trying to resolve the previously mentioned “Cloud Access” enabled issue, I decided to see what would happen if I rebooted the NAS and deliberately enabled “Cloud Access”, if only for a brief period of time.

Almost immediately, my normally semi-quiet NAS began thrashing all hard drives with more disk activity than I had ever seen. The CPU utilization rate also spiked to approximately 70% of maximum. I was curious to see what processes were involved, so I fired up an SSH connection so I could run atop to see what was going on behind the scenes.

As it turns out, the dreaded wdmcserver process had suddenly appeared, along with some sort of a convert process. Further investigation revealed that hidden .wdmc folders had been created for each share, and the sudden spike in activity has yet to cease. The capacity doughnut is back too, except this was expected after I was able to confirm that it’s intentionally disabled for non-cloud users. Oh really?

It seems that the wdmcserver and convert processes are creating wdmc.db SQLite databases, in addition to “transcoding” every “media” file on my NAS, whether I want them to or not. In other words, thousands upon thousands of hidden thumbnail images, etc, etc, etc are being generated. Seriously? I thought I had rid myself of this problem when I returned the Synology and QNAP NAS boxes, but now I find that WD is doing it too.

The proper thing to do would be to give people a choice of whether or not to do any “transcoding” and/or thumbnail generation. The need to generate a database of file types is understandable because the capacity display requires them, but the remaining “hidden” files are a waste of space for non-cloud users. People have been complaining about the wdmcserver process for years, so I will not waste my time making any suggestions about it. Rather, I will simply say this…

Mark my words… when I am done, there will be no trace of this garbage or the programs that generate it on my NAS, and I will have an excellent multi-volume capacity display to boot.

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The dashboard is not accessible to people who are blind or visually impaired.

To correct this problem, all the developers would need to do is add a tabindex attribute to each of the javascript links (mostly div tags with id’s), then trigger a click event when the enter key is pressed.

Respect for this thread. Very good ideas in here and good description.
I absolutely vote for the drive sleep feature. In order to watch a movie without stuttering using my EX2 Ultra und WD TV Live, I always have to DISABLE DRIVE SLEEP before starting the movie, or otherwise I encounter multiple stuttering while watching.

Kind regards

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