I Like It, But I Want Better Amazon Key Kit

I like the Amazon key idea, but the kit is kind of expensive for me at the moment.  Why?  Just only for one front door and it’s $249.99.  Although I understand why it’s cost so much because the installation is going to be free and you get a camera with the package.  The camera would allow the recording sessions to be automated whenever a delivery is made by Amazon’s delivery guys.  I’m not sure if the camera recording session would also activate whenever someone opens the door when you’re not home because this would also be cool.  I think Amazon needs to up the ante by allowing the Amazon key kit to cover both back and front doors before I think it’s a good deal.  Also, I hope that Amazon key kit could be connected to home alarm system if you already got one.  That would be really convenient because you can then deactivate your alarm system from afar (i.e., remotely done).

Oh, by the way, the Amazon Key cameras should also allow you to shut them down for good unless you need them to be turned on.  This way you won’t have to worry about Amazon is monitoring you at home.  I think many people are paranoid when it comes to being monitored by a corporation, business, government, and whatnot through a remote camera.  So, Amazon, you need to provide a way for people to control the cameras from monitoring them.  Furthermore, what will happen if a hacker is able to take over Amazon key cameras?  The answer should be obviously bad!

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“Dragging A Bloody Heart In The Wrong Direction” Is Now Available For Download

My new song, “Dragging The Bloody Heart In The Wrong Direction,” is now up for grab at CDBaby, and soon it will also be on other places (e.g., Spotify, Amazon) as well.  As always, it’s $0.99 a download.

Dragging A Bloody Heart In The Wrong Direction Cover Art By Vinh Nguyen

Is It Truly Necessary To Actually Own Digital Books?

English: A Picture of a eBook Español: Foto de...

English: A Picture of a eBook Español: Foto de eBook Беларуская: Фотаздымак электроннай кнігі Русский: Фотография электронной книги (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

When a piece of software is being updated often enough so newer features can enhance a user experience, people tend to care little about the terms of the agreement which came with the software .  Perhaps, the terms of the agreement for different software are varied in terms, and some might allow the buyers of the software to actually own the software.  Other software might come under the terms of licensing only, and by these terms the buyers of the software might not even know that the software they had purchased are not truly theirs.  This is understandable, because most people would gloss over the terms of agreement when there is a big ooO button which says click here to agree with the terms before you can install the software.  Have you ever purchased a software that would present you the terms of agreement first before you pay up?  To the best of my knowledge, I don’t remember any software purchase I had made over the Internet (i.e., digital download) would ever present me the terms of agreement before I already had paid up with a credit card.  Has common sense told us that we should have only agreed to something first before we purchase anything?

The digital age is rather convenient but senseless as hell.  Why is that?  Not only software front is unclear about who own what when a transaction has made, other digital types of purchase are being challenged in the same sense.  NBC News came out with a piece with the title “You don’t own your Kindle books, Amazon reminds customer,” and as I read this an anger simmers inside.  I’m not angry at a particular entity or a person, but I’m angry at how we, the consumers, have allowing the murky water to darken otherwise a pretty clean understanding of what a purchase really means.  When people are forking over money for any good, whether it would be digital or not, people should have a guaranty of some sort that their purchase would not end up be meaningless when the meaningless is not of their own fault.  This means, as long a buyer of something isn’t breaking something on purpose after he or she had purchased the product (digital or not), this very person should not bear the brunt of a complicit understanding that the access to a purchase isn’t in the control of the eventual owner (i.e., a buyer of a product ).

I love books, and sometimes I have to admit I purchase books for the thinking that I will read them later on.  Sometimes I do read some of the books that I’ve purchased on a moment of temptation, and sometimes I forget about them completely.  Then there is that time that I pat myself for purchasing a book early on, because such a time inspires me to go on and read and not have to go on and ponder on the prospect of owning such a book.  As a book lover and a reader with a small brain that can hardly contain much after a reading, I think highly of a book purchase.  I want to know that whatever book that I want to purchase will be able to allow me to have access to it for its entire lifespan.  With a physical book, physical damages can definitely shorten a lifespan of a book.  With a digital book, a file corruption can just be as lethal.

Since digital books have become so prevalent today, it’s in our interest to ponder on the meaning of purchasing a digital book.  Is it truly necessary to actually own digital books?  The prevalence of digital books have upended the possibility of actually owning a book as the case in which NBC News had reported, and knowing this is truly saddening me.  It’s saddening me not because I might not be able to revisit the same book decades later, but it’s more of a case of knowing a digital book outlet can turn off one’s account to prevent one from having any access to a digital library that supposedly being owned by…  Perhaps, owning a digital library is not actually owning?  When one cannot truly own a copy of a digital book, is it worse than a book burning?  Of course not, because a book burning equates to eradicate all copies of a book from the existence, thus some important knowledge might as well be lost.  With having said blocking one from his or her digital book library isn’t as bad as book burning, this is still pretty serious.  This begs us to ask, isn’t digital-information age is all about spreading more knowledge and not about having barriers between a woman and her books or a man and his books?

It’s understandable that some degree of greed is tolerable.  A good example of this would be a software which gets update often with newer features… and the buyers don’t have to actually outright owned this software as they’re more of renting it even though they are actually buying it.  I think it’s intolerable for digital books to be treated just the same as software.  Even a technical, digital book that gets update often with newer knowledge, the buyers still have to purchase the updated version of the book with the same or even at a higher price.  There is no guaranty that any software that is being updated will have a cheaper upgrade price, but it’s mostly the case that we see newer versions of many software get cheaper upgrade prices.  The same thing cannot be said for most books, digital or not.  With this understanding, I think vastly different digital products should be purchased and owned in different manners.  Personally, I think the acts of buying and owning digital books should equate to  the acts of buying and actually owning digital books.  How come I didn’t compare the acts of buying and owning of digital books to the acts of buying and owning of physical books?  It’s because I think the acts of purchasing and owning digital books should speak for themselves.  For an example, nobody should have to ever again fear that one cannot have access to her or his digital book library just because he or she might anger a digital book outlet overlord for whatever reasons.  Sure, a person can just go to another digital book outlet to purchase the same books to build a digital library again, but this means this person has to spend more money for the same things.  One has to wonder though, what if several specific books would only be carried by the digital book outlet which had banned a person’s access to his or her digital book library?

In conclusion, it might be wrong of me to think that it’s almost OK for one to complicit in renting a software even though one actually is purchasing a software.  It also might be wrong of me to almost compare the case of being banned from a (paid for and owned by) digital content library as to a case of book burning.  Nonetheless, I think we have to admit that having a common sense on owning digital contents is really really important.  Furthermore, to narrow down our focus, I think it’s super important for us to have a common sense on owning digital books.  After all, digital books have become so prevalent!  Digital books are so prevalent in a sense that people tend to reach out for them more than otherwise.  Whether people want to acquire knowledge conveniently or not through the mean of digital books, digital books are so ready to be purchased on a moment of temptation.  Perhaps, digital books will become one of the few preferable ways for people to acquire knowledge fast and cheaply.  As digital books may become even more prevalent than how they already are, it’s in our interest to know and question our digital book consuming behaviors (i.e., buying and owning digital contents).  Thus, I wonder is it truly necessary to actually own digital books?

Source:  http://www.nbcnews.com/technology/technolog/you-dont-own-your-kindle-books-amazon-reminds-customer-1C6626211

Just A Thought About A Cloud Internet

Cloud computing comes to NERSC

Cloud computing comes to NERSC (Photo credit: Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory)

On Monday, I flipped through Flipboard and couldn’t understand why halfway through Flipboard threw a tantrum.  The tantrum went on a long time, and so I had to refrain from using Flipboard until late in the night, adhering to eastern standard time.  Today, the New York Times’ “Amazon Cloud Service Goes Down and Takes Popular Sites With It” piece confirmed Flipboard’s Monday tantrum.  Of course, not only Flipboard but other huge, gigantic kind of services that use Amazon for cloud services had also experienced the Monday case.  Monday, Amazon acknowledged that cloud servers experienced degraded performance and problems with the Northern Virginia data center(according to the New York Times).

I’m making a big deal of this incident is to point out that cloud services (as in singular) isn’t invulnerable to outage.  In fact, I believe (but not knowing for sure) that cloud services might have a tendency to breakdown even more since the complication of keeping everything tidying within a cloud is not that simple.  Of course, when a cloud is doing everything right, it can be way more resilient than non-cloud services.

Amazon is one of the biggest cloud players in the market.  Whenever Amazon has cloud problems, it shows that cloud services can be just as vulnerable as non-cloud services.  I think cloud services (as in singular) is more resilient in many ways (e.g., data redundancy, scalable computing, etc…), but whenever it sneezes million of services will catch a cold too.  This prompts me to ask a question, how much bigger a cloud needs to be so that a common cold won’t be powerful enough to infect a cloud?

I imagine, a company Y which provides cloud services to have a backchannel which connects to a cloud infrastructure of company X, and when company Y experiences a cloud cold, company X’s cloud infrastructure would kick in to cure the cold for the cloud of company Y.  The billing will reflect the rescue operation, therefore there is an incentive to setup this sort of backup cloud infrastructure between these gigantic cloud companies.  Imagine this scenario would be interconnected as large as if there is a separate Internet, but this Internet is responsible for cloud services only.

Of course, just like the Internet, if a company isn’t too careful in applying security protections and so forth, a cloud Internet can be just as infectious as the regular Internet.  A cold in a cloud Internet has the ability to infect way many more services than a regular cloud.  If this is the case, why would I think a cloud Internet is better?  Resiliency is the answer if a service does care about not ever going down for a cloud outage.  I think the cloud Internet would definitely be large enough to absorb most cloud outages and allow time for the cloud outages to be fixed and reenergized.  Then again, I might not know what I’m talking about since I’ve never actually operated and engineered a cloud.  (Almost forget to bring this up, perhaps encryption would be the panacea for data security since cloud backchannels might get rather even more murkier in term of who is in charge of whose data.)

Source:  http://bits.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/10/22/amazon-cloud-service-goes-down-and-takes-some-popular-web-sites-with-it/?partner=rss&emc=rss

How To Create, Attach/Associate, And Mount EBS Onto Amazon EC2 (Using Ubuntu 12.04 Linux OS)

English: Cloud Computing

English: Cloud Computing (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I was playing around with Amazon Web Services, and then I thought it would be a good idea to make a how-to video which shows people (who are new to Amazon Web Services) how to add, attach/associate, and mount EBS (Elastic Block Storage) to Amazon EC2 (Elastic Cloud Computing) instance (using Ubuntu 12.04 Linux OS for the EC2 instance).  For your information, Amazon Web Services is like a cloud web hosting and network infrastructure (plus a whole lot more).  Nonetheless, if you have no idea what I just spewed and still think Amazon Web Services is interesting, you definitely can find out more about Amazon Web Services at Amazon (the website and not the jungle).  Anyhow, the thought is awesome in my opinion, and so the end result is the video right after the break.  Enjoy!!!

First Time Experience With QNAP TS-419P II

QNAP TS-419P II Admin Console

QNAP TS-419P II Admin Console

A week ago, my FreeNAS box went crazy after a thunderstorm.  I knew there was a problem with my FreeNAS box’s motherboard from very early on, but I didn’t care until the thunderstorm somehow disabled not only two ethernet ports on my router but also two network interface cards (NIC) on my FreeNAS box also.  Without a working NIC card, I can’t really have a FreeNAS box going.  Of course, the easiest solution would go out and buy another NIC.  NIC is super cheap nowadays, and so this won’t be a problem obviously.  Nonetheless, I noticed my FreeNAS box wasn’t up to the task not for FreeNAS issues but for the hardware I had in the box all along.  Especially the motherboard was so uncooperative in a sense that sometimes it refused to probably start up the system, right after a reboot.  Yes, I had flashed the newest firmware for the motherboard too, but the motherboard issues weren’t going away.  I didn’t want to have to mess around with hardware problems much any longer, and I noticed the computer I ran FreeNAS on was not green (i.e., power hungry).  Obviously, I need a better home network attached storage solution than this.

I was thinking about building a new FreeNAS box, but building a computer wasn’t my specialty since my suspicion was that I might end up building just another power hungry NAS box (i.e., network attached storage).  Furthermore, building a brand new FreeNAS box (i.e., not using the old computer parts or spare computer machine) might cost as much as purchasing a brand new machine that designed to be a NAS box anyway, therefore it would be wise for me to just save some time and purchase a brand new NAS machine and reuse the hard drives from the old and now unusable FreeNAS box.  I started to look online for the right NAS hardware solution, and I found couple hardware NAS solutions.

It seemed that people’s reviews and recommendations on Amazon were varied depending on the luck they had with a specific NAS hardware (included custom NAS software) solution.  There were just as many good reviews and bad reviews elsewhere on these NAS hardware (included custom NAS software) solutions too.  Some people recommended specific Synology hardware; others recommended specific Drobo hardware; I went for QNAP TS-419P II (diskless — you have to provide your own hard drives as the bays do not come with hard drives).  The reasons I went for QNAP TS-419P II were,

  • the price wasn’t too outrageous (I bought at $499.99 with free shipping on Amazon),
  • it got 4 bays for hot-swappable drives,
  • it supported 3TB drives that I already had,
  • nowadays it shipped this specific model with USB 3.0 ports (but it also got USB 2.0 and eSATA ports),
  • it got dual NICs for better network performance when using with switch or not
  • it got Marvell 2.0 GHz processor (enough power to do more than just NAS such as streaming media)
  • relatively low power consumption — sleep mode consumes 13W and in operation mode consumes 26 W under the assumption of having 4 hard drive bays fully occupied,
  • people said this one got great data transfer performance (and I confirmed this too when using it)  — I used CrashPlan to backup to QNAP TS-419P II iSCSI LUN and saw data transfer traversed somewhere between the range of 121 Mbps to 700 Mbps.

I wasn’t going for Synology since I had not find the right combination of features and price for their various hardware NAS models.  For Drobo, I had read so many comments elsewhere online and few ones on Amazon that had complained about slow data transfer performance.  Drobo got advantages such as combining and expanding any size drives into a RAID, but these weren’t enough to win me over.  Plus, when I was looking at Drobo prices, those were more expensive than QNAP NAS models.

After Amazon delivered QNAP TS-419P II to me, I got it up and running with ease.  The initial process was not too long, but it wasn’t like an immediate gratification either.  I don’t think there is any NAS setup (i.e., hardware and software installations) that can be said having an immediate gratification experience.

Anyhow, the hardware setup part for QNAP TS-419P II was super easy.  I installed three 3TB hard drives into 3 bays of the QNAP TS-419P II box by pulling each bay out, matched the hard drive screw holes to the ones on each drive holder, tighten the screws not too tight (screws came with the purchased of the QNAP TS-419P II box), pushed the drives all the way in and snapped the drive locks down appropriately.  I connected the external power adapter 96W to the box on one end and the other end to the electrical outlet of a UPS (Uninterrupted Power Supply).  Finally, I pressed the power button on the QNAP TS-419P II box to hear the first beep which it made to alert you that it got powered on.  The manual instructed that I should wait for at least two to three minutes to hear the second beep before I could assume that the box was started successfully.  The second beep was beeped.

The software part was somewhat confusing to get started.  The CD which came with QNAP TS-419P II supported Mac and Windows.  I inserted the CD into Mac and installed QFinder.  QFinder failed to find the QNAP TS-419P II on my network.  Go figured!  I connected directly to the QNAP TS-419P II through a browser by typing in the local IP address which the box itself had leased with the router’s DHCP server.  Immediately, the browser found the box, and the software worked with the browser to allow me to initialize the hard drives.  It was confusing, because I remembered it asked me to initialize the hard drives but now I also remembered it also allowed me to upgrade the firmware.  I did upgrade the firmware to the latest firmware I found on QNAP official website, because the one on the CD was outdated.  I remembered it asked me to initialize the drives again after the firmware upgrade, but I’m not sure now.  Anyhow, I was able to log into the administration console of QNAP TS-419P II through a browser after the firmware upgrade and drive initialization.

It was a straightforward matter for me to configure QNAP TS-419P II up for TimeMachine, NFS, iSCSI, and Windows Share (QNAP labels this as Microsoft Networking) services.  It did took me some time to get familiar with QNAP administration console, but it didn’t take long.  QNAP administration console got question mark icon which linked to helpful explanation scattered throughout.  If you had experienced with FreeNAS or any NAS before, QNAP software might not be a problem for you at all!!!

QNAP software got so many features!  To name the few things I could do with it and the box itself.

  • Allowing the creation of  RAID 0, 1, 5, 6, and 10
  • Allowing monitoring of disk health and temperature of each hard drive
  • Allowing admin to do SMART Test rapid test or complete test on each hard drive to confirm the health of each hard drive
  • Allowing the creation of iSCSI targets and LUNs in a very simple manner
  • Allowing admin to add virtual disks elsewhere (i.e., from another NAS box) to expand the size of QNAP TS-419P II box itself (up to 8 virtual disks I think)
  • Easy to add and manage users and groups
  • Allowing admin to set quota storage size for users
  • Allowing the creation of TimeMachine service to backup Mac OS X Lion (or other Mac OS X iterations)
  • Allowing admin to set up Microsoft Networking so Windows machines can communicate with QNAP TS-419P II’s various NFS share folders
  • Allowing admin to configure and add NFS share folders so Linux machines can communicate and share with
  • Allowing admin to set up FTP service
  • Allowing only administrator to SSH into the box if SSH was set up correctly (Telnet too, but who would use Telnet eh?)
  • Allowing admin to configure SNMP
  • Allowing admin to set up web server for simple web hosting or virtual hosting from QNAP TS-419P II box
  • Allowing admin to enable UPnP service and configure BONJOUR
  • Users can enable Web File Manager to manage files and data through a web browser
  • Users can enable Multimedia Station to stream media
  • Admin can enable Photo Station to share photos which displays in photo blog like manner (got to upload photos to Multimedia folder and the scanning process will eventually figure out what photos are present — allowing the organization of photos in Photo Station later)
  • Admin can enable Music Station and users can create playlists of available songs
  • Admin can enable Download Station so users can use Bittorrent, FTP, and Rapid Share in download manner
  • Enabling Surveillance Station to allow admin monitors and records live video of 2-4 IP cameras (but I had not used this so I don’t know how well will this work out)
  • Allowing admin to enable iTunes Server so playlists and songs on QNAP TS-419P II can be shared with iTunes accounts on local network and vice versa
  • Allowing the enabling of UPnP Media Server (but I have no idea how to use this one yet)
  • Allowing the enabling of MySQL server
  • Admin can use QPKG Center to install popular software scripts such as WordPress
  • Admin can enable Syslog Server
  • Admin can enable RADIUS Server (I don’t know much about RADIUS yet so I haven’t used this feature)
  • Admin can enable and configure Backup Server to backup data on QNAP TS-419P II to another NAS machine
  • Admin can enable Antivirus solution so he or she can scan QNAP TS-419P II for viruses (it seems to be that it’s using ClamAV)
  • Admin can enable TFTP Server
  • Admin can enable VPN Service
  • Admin can enable LDAP Service
  • Admin can attach external storage devices and configure it within the software
  • Admin can work with USB printer
  • Admin can attach UPS and configure UPS settings
  • Admin can enable MyCloudNAS Service to allow mobile devices to share data (I don’t know about this one yet but it seems you might have to download QNAP mobile app — not sure though)
  • Admin can use System Status to monitor System Information, System Service, and Resource Monitor
  • Admin can address network features from configuring NICs to blacklist or whitelist IP addresses (wildcard uses available)
  • Firmware update is simple and easy
  • Admin can always reset everything back to factory default settings

Obviously, I might have not mentioned some of the features that QNAP TS-419P II got, but I had mentioned quite a fews.  In practice, I just configure the QNAP TS-419P II once and two days later everything is still working like a well-oiled machine.  I can’t attest to long term performance and durability of QNAP TS-419P II yet since I haven’t used it long enough.  Nonetheless, I’m crossing my fingers and hoping that everything will run smoothly for a long time to come, because QNAP TS-419P II has all the NAS features and more that I’ve ever wanted to work and play with in a NAS box.  Do you have any good or bad experience with QNAP TS-419P II and like to share with everyone?  If you do, please write a comment or two below this blog post.