I’ve been extremely pleased by the latest DroboFS firmware update, and the accompanying Drobo Dashboard update. These are just the major benefits I’ve already run into:
[list]Time Machine is back to being completely usable on Lion
Possibly as a happy coincidence, small file performance is greatly improved
Drobo Dashboard auto discovery is apparently much improved
Drobo Dashboard can now use a fixed IP instead of auto discovery
With a fixed IP, Drobo Dashboard also now works across VPN connections
Tools are more logically laid out and prominent in the Dashboard UI
[*]Manual firmware updates are now visible in the Dashboard UI
With all of these improvements, my feelings towards my DroboFS have improved considerably and I’m quite a bit happier. Hopefully the days of it being a constant source of frustration are behind me.
There are still some improvements that can be made, however. Here are a couple so they don’t get forgotten:
[list]Managing the DroboFS normally still overwrites the passwd file. No matter how many patches and workarounds we manage, it’s still poor behavior and causes problems for DroboApps.
As a network device, the DroboFS should not require the Drobo Dashboard for management. People have asked for a web admin portal and even gone so far as to hack up prototypes. There is no reason that DRI could not provide such a built-in interface as every other NAS and network device has.
[*]Also as a network device, we should be able to get SNMP data from the Drobo - something provided on your high-end business models. Among other things, it would be very useful to monitor throughput via MRTG and other tools.
A myriad of issues remain with the Drobo Dashboard itself:
[list]On Mac OS X, Drobo Dashboard should mount shares in the system standard location. If we can do this via simple AppleScripts, then there should not be a reason to mount them in the custom location they are currently placed - notably different than if the Finder mounted them - causing file paths to change and many programs to break.
When Dashboard updates are made, they need to be released for all supported platforms simultaneously - none of this “2.0.3 for this device, 2.0.5 for this device, 2.1 for this device” etc. Obviously the Dashboard has to be able to manage them all in one package, or else people who own multiple Drobo units will be very upset when they can only manage some of their devices. By that token, offer the improvements to the entire user base, not just some of them.
Drobo Dashboard should be better synchronized to new releases made on the web site - we shouldn’t have a case of new releases being available for days on the web site, but not appearing in the Dashboard.
Drobo Dashboard should highlight the first Drobo device it finds. For the common case of a single device, it avoids the confusing situation of most of the user interface looking like it’s ready to use, but it’s actually disabled and grayed out.
Drobo Dashboard should allow hostnames for manual connections in addition to IP addresses. This allows maintaining centralized control over addressing, whether that is via something as simple as a hosts file, or as complex as internal DNS.
A minor nit with the layout of “Tools”. I’d argue that “Device Reset” should be last in the list, as it is a destructive operation that should be normally avoided. Meanwhile, “Software Updates” is a very common need - I’d move its section up, possibly to the top of the tools.
[*]On Mac OS X, please use standard window decorations (close, minimize, zoom). Nothing says “lack of attention to detail” like seeing Windows “X Dash Square” on the right side of the window.
DRI has some support issues to work out as well:
[list]Stop banning the people who post the most. Whether it’s the megaproxy problem (well-known in load balancing circles, and important for any IP-based policy decisions) rapid editing, too many links - whatever - it needs to be fixed. We need some type of guidelines, or a warning, or a straightforward appeals process, or even someone doing a daily review of banned accounts - something that lets us know that we can keep posting without fear of permanent banning at any given instant. Which leads into…
Support on these forums remains abysmal. There are no forum representatives to speak of, let alone the minimal interaction we used to get. There needs to be a consistent moderator presence with discussion and back-and-forth flow of information, and it needs to be more than “open a ticket” and silence.
Tickets are important for triaging problems and coordinating fixes, but they’re also opaque and don’t facilitate gathering information from large groups of people when there are major issues - especially dataloss events, such as seen with the 1.2 firmware.
Support tickets are closed automatically after a very short period with little recourse but to open duplicate tickets. This is problematic to track long-running issues, or if real life prevents checking the ticket status for a few days. Also, any closed ticket seems to be marked “Solved” whether it was actually resolved or not.
[*]The DroboApp platform and is an embarrassment of neglect and buggy DRI-provided apps, and ricardo has far and away put the most effort into making it useful and “supported”. Give this man support - he is making your platform materially better, and has provided outstanding support - in marked contrast to DRI’s own efforts.
I’m happier (no, really!), but I’m still a long way from recommending Drobo devices to anyone.