Turn any Android 2.2+ smartphone into a wireless micro server

samba-3You have to love how technology endlessly progresses. You might not like the latest gear but it always – always – makes previous generation stuff cheaper. And nowhere is this more true than with smartphones. At time of writing, there were dozens of cheap Android smartphones running version 2.1 or newer selling for under $100, phones that have been long superseded by faster models with newer operating systems and bigger screens. But we’ve also reached that point where many people are onto their second or third contract smartphone and while family members will typically snatch up hand-me-downs, we’ll soon get to the point where we have smartphones gathering dust propping up shelves.

Wireless file server

But if you think about it, a smartphone is just an ultra compact computer with a wireless connection and internal storage. This will sound like a crazy idea but why not use it as a wireless server? Sure, the MicroSD card won’t give you a truckload of storage but it has almost everything you need to turn it into what I’d call a “wireless micro server”. The only thing missing is two freeware apps from the Google Play – ES File Explorer and Samba Filesharing. ES File Explorer is a great file manager with built-in network client search and access, while Samba Filesharing does the job of making available your phone’s storage to clients on the network.

Using the phone’s Wi-Fi connection, you’ll be able to see the phone’s entire flash card storage on any client system on your home network. Samba supports a username and password system so you get protection, along with the fact that your phone will support WPA data protection as well.

With electricity prices soaring, I’ve been looking for ways to cut power consumption and while it might seem a stupid idea, smartphones make sense on a number of fronts:

  • Enough speed to serve DVD-resolution video files over a wireless network
  • built-in two-hour-minimum battery backup in event of a blackout
  • power consumption of as little as 2.5-watts

The lack of USB port obviously reduces storage options to whatever capacity the phone can support in MicroSD cards so it’s clearly not a solution for everyone. But if you’re starting to gather a small collection of Android smartphones, here’s one seriously geeky way you can make them do something pretty useful.

STEP-BY-STEP: Turn your smartphone into a wireless server

STEP 1: Head to Google Play and install Samba Filesharing. It’s available free.

STEP 2: Turn your phone’s Wi-Fi connection on and launch the app. Press the Menu button, click on Password and type in the password clients will need to access your “server” storage. Do the same with Username. Write them down – you’ll need them shortly. You shouldn’t need to change the Workgroup name (check that it’s “WORKGROUP”) but change the NetBIOS Name entry to whatever you want people to see when they look in Network under Windows Explorer (“AndroidServer” is as good as anything else).

STEP 3: Go to your Windows PC, start up Windows Explorer, click on Network and you should see your smartphone appear on the Computer list. Double-click on it and you’ll be asked to type in a username and password. These are the ones you created in Step 1. Press the OK button and you should see your phone’s SD card appear as a shared folder. Double-click on it and you’ll be able to peruse it. If you have media files on the card, double-click on it. If it begins playing in your Windows PC, congrats – you’ve just built yourself a microserver out of your smartphone.

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