(subtitle: Tested Technology tecchies may know stuff but here’s a View from the Real World.)
by Barry Fox
When Microsoft launched Windows 95—it must have been around August of 1995—the company made it a very high profile happening, with posh venue press conferences, full page newspaper adverts and much grand talk from Bill Gates about 95 being “a very rich experience”.
At the time I was doing a weekly TV spot about new tech and Microsoft had sent the station a longwhich extolled the wonders of Windows in general and 95 in particular. Inevitably, I had to talk about the video as it played, but mercifully the anchor man soon shut it down, saying “it’s only blooming plumbing so let’s talk about something more interesting”.
Great. But, after all, it’s still “only blooming plumbing”.
NAS devices are typically sold with empty drive bays. So when the F2-221 arrived I was immediately stuck with the need to purchase a matching pair of 4TB drives to give it a fair shot. Initially there was no TOS 5 to try but in the fullness of time (March 2022) a download install was offered.
This installation was described by Terramaster as a “beta test” and multiple newer—but still beta—versions followed. I was discovering along the way that Terramaster have their own ideas on how beta testing works: guinea pigs like me devote man-days to installing new versions, hitting multiple problems, describing them to Terramaster, getting back multiple suggestions on what to try, and then feeding back information about what did and didn’t work, until a new version is offered and the whole cycle starts again.
What’s clearly missing is a pool of shared information on what issues other testers have already found. It would save everyone a shed-load of time spent duplicating and describing discoveries.
In June 2022, TOS 5 moved from beta to official release. I could write a long boring book about what worked, what didn’t, and what issues were then superseded by fresh problems from a newer version. But I will spare you the shared misery of what I see as an OS plumbing lesson that will very likely be out of date before you read it.
Suffice it to say that I have lost count of the number of times I went back to, re-initialised the NAS (re-start device with the hard drives removed, then plug them in), say Yes to Initialisation, reformat the hard drives and re-install what I assume to be the latest version of TOS 5, usually then finding that there was actually a later, latest version to download manually.
Unhelpfully, the advice offered by Terramaster’s Help and User Forum on downloading and installing TOS5 do not tally with reality. Clicking on the downloaded OS Installation file triggers questions inside Windows about how I want to open the file and offers of links to the Microsoft app store. By trial and error, I found the trick was to unzip the .ins file with 7-Zip. As always, like assembling IKEA’s flatpack furniture, it’s easy when you have found out how.
The last significant milestone in this misery line was finally being able to access the re-initialised NAS from Windows. I did this not with the desktop app that TerraMaster provides (the Windows app is called TNAS PC and it didn’t work for me) but by doing what the clever people at Tested Technology suggested—namely forgetting all about the TerraMaster app, finding the local IP address of the NAS (e.g. 192.168.1.192), pasting that into a browser and taking it from there. In other words, treating the TOS5 TNAS much as you would treat a broadband modem when changing security settings.
So much for RTFM, Read The Friggin’ Manual.
For a happy short while I thought I was winning and would finally be able to use the TOS 5 NAS for its intended purpose—storing my files for remote access.
No such luck.
I copied a big batch of files from a Windows PC hard drive to the NAS and found that not all of the files had made it across. Stupid mistakes of mine? Windows woes? Or a bug in TOS 5?
I had lost the will to try and attach blame and find a fix. By the time I have gone down another maze of rabbit holes, wondering why the just-initialised NAS is still saying it is Uninitialised withDisabled, there will doubtless be a newer new version of TOS 5.
And that’s the rub. If I know I am at fault when something on my system goes awry, I will buckle down and spend however long it takes to learn what has gone wrong. I’ve stuck with Windows 10, partly because my hardware is deemed unworthy of Windows 11, and partly because I don’t want to be an 11 pioneer. So, if it’s Windows to blame, then it’s almost certain that Googling a short keyword description will find someone who has suffered similarly and found a fix.
With Terramaster TOS 5 in the loop as another variable, I can no longer muster the will to find out whether it’s me, Windows, TOS 5, or a bad luck combination of some or all of the parts, or a sum of all the parts.
Since TOS 5 came out of beta and became a final product, there have been multiple progressively more final versions. I am sure TOS 5 will come right in the end but I am now taking a holiday from its pain, putting the F2-221 back into its cupboard and entrusting my files to the ARM TerraNAS which despite (or because of) its tried, tested and still-Flash-dependent OS is a good solid bit of kit.
The plumbing expert enthusiasts at Tested Technology are however made of far sterner stuff than me, and will doubtless go on analysing each new final version of TerraMaster’s TOS 5. Sooner or later, when newer versions of TOS 5 are slower to appear, I will open the cupboard, retrieve the F2-221 and very likely start to live happily ever after with the potentially good value NAS running potentially good TOS 5—and no longer asking for non-existent Flash.
Barry Fox 22-Aug-23