Thursday, October 4, 2012

iPad / iPhone connect with FreeNAS (or any *NIX)

I've been asked how I connect an iOS device (iPad/iPhone) to a FreeNAS box. Well I'll answer that question in this post.

There are many apps in the app store that will allow you to connect to FreeNAS (or any NAS/*Nix) box and I'll share some of the apps I use.

Mounting and Remote Server File Access.

The main app I use to connect to a FreeNAS is Files Connect. I pretty much use it to connect to all my servers because it supports pretty much everything I need - CIF/SAMBA, AFP (Appletalk/Netatalk), and SFTP (SSH). It is a great AFP client for iOS!

It also supports the usual Dropbox, Google Drive, Box, FTP, and WebDAV.
I am able to copy files from and to the iPad/iPhone. I can transfer videos/photos from my camera roll to a network share. I can pull PDF and Photoshop .PSD files and view them remotely. I can pull in spreadsheets and other files and work with them remotely.

The other apps in the app store only support SAMBA so AFP and SFTP is a pretty big deal for me. It also supports SSH keys. The only thing it doesn't support is NFS and Rsync. However, for most people, Files Connect covers most of the bases.

It comes in handy when you want to make a new share mount. Instead of using the Web app ajax's terminal to make a folder, I log in as root and can easily make my share folders like you see below.

A few things that are cool:

You can zip and compress files. So if you want to send an email with a zip attachment, this works great. Collect a bunch of files into a folder. Compress, Send to Email.

You can add movie/video files to your camera roll. I was able to add random h.264 videos from my video share and import them into the camera roll which then allowed me to edit videos directly in iMovie. In fact, the other day, I was able to edit old VHS digitized videos on my iPhone 5 from my FreeNAS in this blog post.

If you have video files on your NAS, you can stream whatever iOS supports. This includes streaming H.264 MP4 files and I've had some luck with some AVI files. If they don't stream, you can copy to the local iPad and open in another app. I will go into streaming some more later in this post. I was able to stream 1080p 6GB files with no problem whatsoever.

Terminal Access.

There are a lot of SSH clients but the only one I use is iSSH. In my opinion, it is the best app out there for any mobile device. It also supports VNC and X11.
For an SSH client, it trumps everything else out there because it knows most mobile keyboards are limited and uses the touch screen multi gestures to make up for it.

(iPad above & iPhone screenshot below)

You can set transparency on the keyboard and there is a touch gesture that pulls up special keyboard control keys. On the iPhone, it is absolutely fantastic. Despite the fact other phones have 4-5" larger screens, the original 3.5" iPhone's SSH experience was by far more pleasant because you had more visible area while typing. I use the tab and arrow up/down quite a bit and the fact it is easily accessible makes it highly intuitive compared to an on Android like Connectbot.

Other apps.

An alternative to Files Connect is File Browser. I used this app quite a bit before Files Connect came out. It is strictly a SAMBA/CIF file explorer. It works for the most part and the GUI is more Windows like whereas Files Connect is more mac-like. In previous versions, you could not stream .AVI files. This newer one supports more streaming video format and has a new trick up it sleeve called QuickStream which will allow 3rd party video players to intercept the stream. Some video players already support this. This app also supports Airplay.

The last app I will cover in this post is O Player HD.

Out of all the apps I've mentioned, this is the only one that requires a separate purchase/download for iPad and iPhone. The others, you buy once and can use on both phone and tablet.

O Player is a 3rd party video player that supports  XVID/DIVX AVI, WMV, RMVB, ASF, H264, MKV, TS, M2TS. It is a so-so video player. It works but there are many others I would recommend over this one.
The only reason I got it was because of the SAMBA streaming functionality for non iOS default video codecs. If all of your video is H.264, you won't need this app.
This app also supports TV-out and Airplay. So in essence, you can stream from your NAS and stream back to your TV via airplay.

The only thing missing from this post is some sort of synchronization app. I haven't found one I liked and I pretty much use PogoPlug to automatically synch/backup my camera photos from my iOS and Android phones.

There you have it. Some good apps on connecting to your FreeNAS (or any *NIX computer) using your iOS device. When your Android friends brag about their external SD card, you can show them your 10TB FreeNAS box full of streamable videos and music on your iOS device.



Files Connect

File Browser

O Player

and last but not least, FreeNAS


  1. Great post! We'll be looking for guest contributors for the new FreeNAS blog soon after we launch a new site design. We'd love to have you guest post, in the future, with a link back to your site.

    In the meantime could you add to your list of links above?

  2. The O Player HD is really one of the best apps that I am using. I love this app as it supports a lot of audio file format and it is very handy and easy to use. Such a great stuff and worth downloading!

    - push alert

  3. Good post. I have been looking to a way to trick the Music app on iPad to look at the iTunes directory on my NAS instead locally hosting the music. On iTunes for desktop you can easily do this in the preference settings. Seems there is no support for something like /sbin/mount_smbfs in iOS. It would be great to just use the native Music app and just have a link to a remote mount point of the NAS. I figured out where I could do this in the iOS but without a way to redirect link to a mounted NAS path I am stuck. Seem like such an easy thing to do...