Backup Your UW Video Footage On-The-Go

When I'm away for diving and filming there's a lot of raw video footage produced by m GoPro Hero cameras. So far, I had to carry a laptop with me just to pull the material from the SD cards onto a large capacity harddisk for backup. The laptop more or less acted as an oversized HDD cabinet. Not any more: just a tablet and a slightly more mobile HDD...
Update: I've since then upgraded to a dedicated SD memory card backup solution using a Sanho Hyperdrive Colorspace UDMA2. The other standard Wi-Fi mobile hard disk drive units can't offer any decent backup throughput, so I didn't really use my mobile HDD unit in the field.

...and this is how this all looks in its full glory:

Watch and backup raw diving footage while on the go.

The principle is as follows:
  • I use the tablet to access the raw footage that comes from the GoPro HD Hero 1/2/3 cams via (micro) SD cards. This way I can also sneak preview the raw footage directly on my tab.
  • The tab connects to the mobile HDD via wireless LAN. This connection serves two purposes:
    • Reading and writing data from and to the HDD: this allows me to backup the footage to the HDD and to preview it any time.
    • pass-through Internet access, for instance, in a hotel, dive center, Café, et cetera. This way I don't loose my wireless Internet access when connecting to the mobile HDD.
  • The mobile HDD serves these purposes:
    • it provides a windows share to my tab so I can backup or view videos.
    • it offers a web-based interface to control and organize the HDD.
    • it connects to the wireless Internet access, if necessary, and tunnels this to my tab.

What's the Purpose?

With especially the modern Hero 2 and Hero 3 action cam models you can make use of special raw modes in order to be able to better post process the resulting video footage later. You incredible large 16GB card has shrunken a lot since then. And just relying on these cards is dangerous: some water or a firmware bug ... and you loose all your video footage taken during your trip. Not that GoPro would have any serious firmware bugs, no, no, no...

Some years ago there were some mobile HDDs available on the market that had an integrated SD card reader. Plugging in a photo or video SD card, they copied the files over to the HDD. When laptops got cheaper and cheaper those products were made redundant.

Fast forward: now that we have these cute and lightweight tablet it's easy to watch dive video footage in the evening with all your dive buddies and friends. Unfortunately, there is currently not enough affordable storage built into these tablets to backup your raw video footage. So far, you still had to bring in your laptop. Not any real improvement.

But wait: there are mobile HDDs sold again! They have their own rechargeable battery and they now come with wireless LAN. So everything's okay, right...?

Product Management: Welcome to Reality!

It could have been easy and perfect. If it were not for product managers totally detached from reality. Tell Seagate. In the end, they have fine hardware and a good idea, but they kill any usability by forgetting the required functionality. So what?!

Oh well. Seagte designed its mobile Wi-Fi harddisk product in a way that you can only store data on it when hooking it up to a PC at home. You have to connect via USB and you need a wall power supply at this time. When on the go, you can only read from the mobile disk, and only via wireless LAN. Yes, that's right. Completely borked! You simply cannot backup your video files while not at home. Incredible.

Access impossible. :(
Stop! There's the USB interface you say ... but the disk is a high power device, so almost any tablet won't enable it. No writing access, no video backup. You've got a useless and expensive Seagate brick.

So in Seagate's mind you need to take your laptop with you in order to backup your files to the mobile disk. It's not that Seagate weren't told about this glitch: their support forums are plastered all over with customer requests for writing access via wireless LAN. But product managers do know better for sure. Sigh.

Okay, let us ignore these incompetent product managers. Luckily, there's a clever hacker (in the genuine sense of the word) that offers a solution...

What We Need...

  • a tablet with an (micro) SD card reader: the operating system of the tablet doesn't matter as long as you can access so-called Windows shared (also termed SMB or Samba shares). More and more tablets come with an integrated SD card readers or there are adapters (as is the case with my Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1).
    • Android: for instance, the free ES File Explorer is really useful.
    • iOS: since I don't have any Apple device I can't help with this closed system. But from what I've read so far, there are several apps that are able to connect to Windows shares.
    • Windows Phone/Table: ...? I have no clue. I still remember that WinCE desaster of a totally broken embedded system.
  • a Seagate Satellite Wireless mobile HDD: the Satellite Wireless comes with its own rechargeable battery as well as wireless LAN (Wi-Fi). Unfortunately, this product is useless when you unpack it. You need a modification in order to make the Satellite of any use.
  • hacked Satellite firmware: thanks to the great work of a talented programmer, only the so-called Hack Seagate Satellite modification turns the Satellite from a useless brick into something cool for backing up your videos. This is not some cracked firmware but instead a real modification of the existing operating system inside the Satellite.
    • Full write & read access via Windows share (Samba file services).
    • Pass-through wireless LAN for passing through Internet access.
    • Dropbox synchronization (when there is Internet access available).
    • mini DLNA service (albeit I had really mixed experience with DLNA as such so far).
    • iTunes server (if you really long for this).
    • WebDAV server (full file access via HTTP).
    • FTP server (if there's a real need, otherwise switch it off, as FTP is a security nightmare).
    • Eyefi server for those special Eyefi SD cards that come with integrated wireless LAN. This server allows those cards to automatically upload images from the SD card to your mobile disk. Nifty!

The Recipe

In order to be able to backup files on your Seagate mobile Wi-Fi HDD, you need the additional firmware modification hack. You can get the hack for US$35: you pay for the work the developer spent on making the modification and making it easy to install and use. This is not a cracked firmware. It is a modification. In my opinion, it is worth the money.

So why a modification? The Seagate Satellite GoFlex comes not only with a battery but also has a small embedded computer in its case. This computer runs a small Linux system providing wireless access, a web server and several services. After you've paid you get access to a modification file that you need to install on the disk and into the embedded Linux system. There is a good video tutorial about the process available. While this is really easy, you still should have some confidence in using a terminal session.

This modification then removes some of Seagate's crap (especially the totally mis-designed and thus useless web interface) and adds new software and a new web interface. You can now easily browse files, photos and videos either flat or according to your folder structure. You can even watch your videos inside the browser, albeit a decent video client app is usually much better. Using HTML5 and Firefox this still works quite good in the browser.

But the real plus is the Samba file server you get. When enabled, this Samba server allows you to connect to your mobile HDD like with any other Windows share. Using wireless LAN. Now, I can backup my videos while on a dive tour. And I don't need the laptop anymore. Great!

However, there was a small glitch after installation that stopped the Samba service from correctly starting, despite me strictly following the installation and setup procedure.

Whatever, this is how to get it working in case there is this small hickup ... you need to do this only once. Afterwards, it will work just fine:
  • using the web interface of the Seagate Satellite GoFlex, set the Samba user and password.
  • next, ssh into the mobile HDD (yes!) so you get a secure terminal session ... you reach it at
  • from the command shell: # /static/Data/1/opt/bin/smbpasswd_stdin.sh root mypassword
  • for whatever reason: don't use the service restart command, but instead first stop the Samba service manually, then restart it separately.
  • # /static/Data/1/opt/bin/smb_control.sh stop
  • #/static/Data/1/opt/bin/smb_control.sh start
That's it! Now you can mount the Windows share provided by your mobile HDD on your tablet and backup or view video.

Okay, now can enjoy diving and filming ... and backing up your valuable video footage is of no concern any longer.