Review: LaCie Ethernet Disk mini

USB Drive Mode

For my next test, I tried the device out as a USB external drive with my Macintosh iBook. Following the instructions, I powered the unit down by holding the front panel power button, removed the network cable, and connected a USB cable, which automatically powered the mini on. A short time later, a disk folder appeared on my desktop with a name of Edmini Login. When I opened up the folder, I was greeted with a driver-installation dialog which walked me through the process of installing a driver for the device.

Figure 5: First time USB usage

This driver installation indicated to me that the mini wasn't just acting as a standard external drive, which wouldn't have needed any special drivers. When I finished the driver installation and re-opened the folder, there was a single program inside - "Edmini LogOn". Executing this program brought up a dialog reminiscent of a standard network share login.

Using an account I had created earlier when using the mini as a NAS, I entered my info and hit "Submit". I was then greeted with a "progress" dialog that indicated it may take up to 5 minutes to mount the folder (Figure 6).

Figure 6: USB Login

At this point, it almost appeared as if the mini were re-booting in order to change into this USB mode. But after only 30 seconds or so, I was greeted with the single mini shared folder visible in NAS mode. Now that the mini was mounted as an external drive, it could be used like any other drive on my system. Since the login dialog sort of made the mini act as a network drive, even when plugged into the USB port, I wondered if it were running TCP/IP over the USB connection. But I could find no evidence of this. In addition, the USB share login was not the standard Macintosh authentication dialog.

To further confuse the issue, the USB login dialog has an "advanced " menu that lets you configure the IP address to DHCP or static. After a bit of experimenting, this appeared to be just an alternate way to specify the IP configuration for when the drive was used in NAS mode. It had no effect on USB mode.

I also checked out the USB mode of the drive with my XP laptop and found it functioned similar to as it did with the Macintosh. A "Login" folder appears when the drive is plugged in, and inside that folder a "LogIn" application is present for logging into the mini and mounting the share. Once the share is mounted, it behaves like any other external drive.

Overall, this USB mode of the mini is a very nice feature. The login dialog provides some level of protection for data that is not normally found in an external drive. And while it certainly won't deter someone really determined to get at your data, it might at least keep casual snoopers at bay.