Synology DS918+ NAS Chronicles

Updated: Sep 16, 2020

So about Christmas time 2019 my QNAP TS-563 NAS Fred thingamabob started doing some weird power based sh1t.

I had to strip it down to the bare frame and expose the raw power switch as it would not power on.

It did eventually start from the exposed switch so I left it open and backed it up ASAP as I feared the worst was about to happen.

Three weeks ago we had a record hot day for Winter that broke records and the darn thing finally expired leaving red and blue lights solidly illuminated on the motherboard.

I first tested the PSU and it was reporting a √5 state (quantum math joke term for it's hosed)...

After a few days it started pumping out the right voltages so this told me all the capacitors in it had arrived at the √5 state, so I bought new ones.

Sadly, the motherboard which turned out to be a TS-863 Pro version 2.0 motherboard was what was at the √5 state, as connecting it up to the now fine PSU did not change zip.

I mined Reddit and Craigslist for spares and parts and was generally appalled to find zero parts, zero bits and no pieces from QNAP, the general population or anywhere in the known Universe.

My chess mind started to analyze the TS-563 faults and short comings and I swiftly made a list of stuff to cost out to fix said maladies.

Then I started to compare replacement unit prices and dig into said flaws of potential candidates I had identified for its possible replacement.

Ideally I wanted to not lose the data on the darn thing but I swiftly realized this was not going to happen at the numbers I was willing to spend on this project.

I did have several hundred folks attempt to hack into the QNAP while I owned it as well which had irked me greatly by the way.

This it seems is a common risk with some Taiwanese equipment manufacturers.

Anyways as we were working from home I swiftly came to realize we needed the thing for various reasons as this virus thing spun us ever deeper into the outer reaches of the twilight zone.

What if the interwebs died and they cut the power I kept asking myself?

I have my own solar and wind turbines with battery packs so power for me in this event would not be the complete end of the world.

Not being able to watch movies and TV series and the like would be nigh close though, as well as various bits and bobs of computer data I used for work and basic survival information etc.

I did eventually select another AMD powered QNAP, The TS-473 which said it was arriving on the 11th of March.

Said day came and went without it turning up and I had not received any delayed shipment email notices from Amazon so I leapt onto the interwebs and dialed in my Amazon account to see what the hell the story was...

There it was with a new shipping date indicated as at the end of April. Which year I casually asked myself a mite sarcastically ....

Meanwhile, I was hearing lockdowns and the like were coming with likely shipment of such stuff Kaiboshed in favor of essential goods only so I swiftly cancelled the entire TS-473 order and leapt back onto Amazon to see what was local in the USA that could be delivered super molto pronto.

I had actually initially narrowed my selection down to two systems, the QNAP TS-473 and the Synology DS918+ so no need for more eternal dithering on the subject.

I immediately started to look at what was local and what was shipping from China and found a few DS918+ systems with good seller reviews in the 95% plus category in the USA and pressed the buy it now option with Prime molto rapido fearing I would be cutting it fine.

Delivery was set for Paddys day but it arrived a whole day early.

I stripped the QNAP of its drives, and dug out my spare M2 SSD collection for the cache piece and dug the RAM out of the TS motherboard to find later that the 16GB of RAM all worked very happily in said DS918+ device.

I started to strip it of screws thinking it was like the QNAP stuff but rapidly decided to RTFM on encountering built never to come apart issues.

Its actually very clever and much better built than what any QNAP device is.

The many videos I viewed revealed I merely had to strip out the drives and the two RAM slots were inside on the right and were easy to slot the RAM modules into.

The drives which I had already taken out of the QNAP were a super simple affair to install in the Synology.

The trays had clips on the left and right that clipped out, you then whacked the drive in the tray and instead of screws you pushed the clip back into the slot and these also held the drives in place.

Not one screw required.

Then I got puzzled where the two M2 SSD slots were hiding out. I turned it every which way but upside down and all was not revealed.

When I did turn it upside down the two plastic cover things caught my eye.

So I whipped them both out and in went my spare 256GB M2 SSD drives.

These act as cache for the 3TB Seagate drives I once had in the QNAP.

One for READ and One for Write.......also very sensible indeed!!

Then the best surprise was it had a Lenovo like brick for a power supply laptop style.

A much better idea for a NAS than those poxy and crude Delta ITX PSU devices that the QNAP stuff was cursed with.

It had 2 fans side by side in the space an Internal PSU would have taken up.

Very sensible..

I was starting to like this.......

10/10 for design and pragmatism....

It also had two 1 GbE ports and several USB 3.0 ports.

It also came with the power cord and two Ethernet CAT 5 cables.

So I got to the point it was armed with RAM, SSD and the HDD were all in place and the power was hooked up and Ethernet was wired up to my Force 10 switches and just needed a power button pushing action.

The guide said to download the Android app which I did and away I went.

It did the Synology Auto RAID thang on the drives and proceeded to wipe out the data on the device and format it again in the new Synology RAID goodness, whatever that is.

Based on the space it took it looks like some sort of RAID 5 schema.....

So then I let it do its thing while I hopped on a few Nutanix SE calls.

The first thing I noticed in between calls was that the software and applications available appeared lighter than what QNAP offered but they seemed to be the same basic apps.

Then I discovered the community apps and boy there were a ton of apps there. This QNAP did not have!!

While I was perusing and considering the basic apps I selected a few and started the PLEX thing again and swiftly found that app needed some serious manual upgrading, which I did.

When I got PLEX running though I started to have the same video jerking crap that had irked me the whole 5 years I had owned the QNAP.

Out of curiosity I wondered what the native Synology video app was and installed it and started to test playback on my TV, laptops and home theater goodies as well as phones and iPads.

The Synology app is called DS Video and it had a mere 2 star rating everywhere I looked.

After running it and testing it my advice to anybody wanting to play videos on this thing is forget PLEX and just stick with the DS Video app it is fan-bloody-tastic!!

All my Apple devices automatically downloaded it somehow and it works fantastic with zero jerky video experiences at all...

I initially followed the advice of a few folks to download Docker, mono and NZB something for the media hosting.

The advice was that Docker was the way to go for this media content.

However, I found on my device that Docker made it very slow again and brought the jerky video with it so I kaiboshed that idea and stuck with download station and the DS Video app.

I do not care if it's old school, it works very well!!

I ran 12 videos concurrently in my testing using DS Video on my computers and a ton of my Apple iTunes music devices and smart TV's etc and it did not hiccup once.

I could not get that same experience with PLEX and VLC so I deleted PLEX and Docker and stuck with the home grown Synology stuff.

There is something going on with the hardware encoding that the DS software handles much better than almost anything else.

The Arrival movie though will not play on the DS Video app but it does hand over to an app that it detects and thinks can though.

Very Slick! That I have not seen before!!

PLEX I rate at 1 star on my Synology and VLC working with PLEX I give a fat zero stars.

This version of download station on the Synology is the bomb and is much improved over the QNAP version by the way.

I also noticed that on the QNAP within minutes of downloading anything the hacking started via the internet.

So far this is not happening on the Synology yet.

This DS918+ Rocks, I highly recommend Synology based on my experience so far. It's in a different dimension to QNAP on so many different levels.

Just note you will do a lot more Linux admin stuff with Synology to unpack and get software packages working than with QNAP, but so far the Synology QA and performance experience is way better.

So I have been using this for a good 7 months now and it has been mostly smooth sailing.

It does have some peculiar habits though that force you to do a power yank as you can't access the bastard GUI once it hangs.

There are no warning or error messages either and once you hard reset it, it cheerfully informs you it experienced an unprompted shutdown.

So something is losing the plot entirely.

Bulletin boards are full of this irksome behavior sans remedy.

It is the Linux kernel just hanging though.

The no error warning state is disturbing but given it's an every 6 week thang I don't care figs....

Synology tech support is just as good as QNAP by the way so don't bother with that shit...... The stress ain't worth the pain.

I will update this as I go!!

If anyone cares!!