Using External Device As A Share Drive Or Backup Drive For Your QNAP Server

In the video right after the break, I talk about how to use an external device as a share drive or a backup drive for your QNAP server.  On a side note, I think this is a great way to enable USB 3.0 capability for a computer that doesn’t have the motherboard that can support the USB 3.0 adapter.  Keep in mind, if you have a QNAP server that supports USB 3.0 ports, it’s like you have USB 3.0 capability on your local computer.  Basically, you can always tap into the QNAP server’s share drive and tell it to behave as if it’s just another external hard drive on your computer.  Obviously this share drive which is connecting to your QNAP server is using USB 3.0 port, and hence this is why you can enable USB 3.0 capability for your local computer.  This is a stupid reason for you to just go out and buy QNAP server and external hard drive that support USB 3.0 ports, because you can just buy another computer which supports USB 3.0 ports.  Nonetheless, you can definitely take advantage of this beneficial side effect of having a QNAP server as a network attached storage server.  Same story with eSATA capability if your QNAP server supports eSATA ports.  Enjoy the video!!!

Nice Try Google, But You Can Do Better Right? Chromebook Pixel Is Nice, But It Should Be Nicer!!!

chromebook pixel

chromebook pixel (Photo credit: Frances Berriman)

Is Chromebook Pixel real or just a concept?  It seems that arstechnica reported that Chromebook Pixel is indeed a real product.  According to arstechnica’s “Google’s new touchscreen Chromebook Pixel: a $1,299 laptop for cloud dwellers” article, Google had just announced the existence of Chromebook Pixel.  If Chromebook Pixel is real, so?  The buzz about Chromebook Pixel is that it’s an exotic animal.  By this I mean it’s basically a machine which mainly focuses on staying connect to the Internet only, but it’s a very gorgeous only online machine (if we discount that it does have some offline features).  I’m sure it got some offline features, but it is designed to be working with the cloud.  It’s no surprised really since Chromebook Pixel is a more expensive version of other Google’s Chromebook products.  So, Chromebook Pixel is more of a beast among Chromebook products, but its core functionality is still all about cloud functionalities.  Simply really, Chromebook Pixel is just a lot more gorgeous in terms of screen resolution and other whistles and bells.

arstechnica reported that Chromebook Pixel has screen resolution of 2560×1700 with 239 pixel per inch, 1.8GHz Intel Core i5 processor, 4GB RAM, 32GB flash storage for Wi-Fi model and 64GB flash storage for LTE model.  By purchasing Chromebook Pixel, a customer will get 1TB of Google Drive cloud storage for free for 3 years.  Cloud storage?  If you never heard of cloud but know of Dropbox, then Google Drive is somewhat similar to Dropbox.  1TB of Dropbox would be nice eh?  So, if you like Dropbox that much, then I guess 1TB of Google Drive is definitely one of those temptations that is hard to refuse.

It seems that the screen resolution for Chromebook Pixel is the main focus, because 2560×1700 is a lot.  It’s a beast!  I’m not a fan of i5 processor, therefore in term of processor Chromebook Pixel is a let down for me.  4 GB of RAM only?  In my opinion, 4GB of RAM for any machine from today onward isn’t enough (but you might think otherwise and I don’t mind).  Since Chromebook Pixel is an always online machine, 32 or 64 GB of flash storage does make sense until it doesn’t.  How come?  In my opinion, the 2560×1700 screen is a waste on Chromebook Pixel.  I’m reasoning that whoever wants to work with such beautiful/exotic screen resolution might need to store humongous sizes of visual data (e.g., videos, photos, etc…), but what Chromebook Pixel doesn’t carry — Chromebook doesn’t support USB 3.0 and 802.11ac Wi-Fi speed — will hamper the productivity of whoever wants to use Chromebook Pixel in a more hardcore manner.

Now, if Chromebook Pixel supports USB 3.0 and 802.11ac Wi-Fi standard, even though Chromebook Pixel doesn’t have huge local drive storage space, I will definitely want a Chromebook Pixel for myself, even with the current might be Chromebook Pixel’s price range $1200 – $1400.  How come?  Let pretend that I’m a real photographer (because I’m only an aspiring one), I definitely have tons of photos and videos to store, to make backups of, and the likes.  With USB 3.0 support, I can use USB 3.0 capability to speedily transfer my videos and photos back and forth between the external hard drives and Chromebook Pixel, because making data backups is so important to people like the photographers.  Let say I’m a paranoid data integrity and data redundancy freak, and so if Chromebook Pixel supports 802.11ac standard, I can definitely speed up my backup of data to the cloud.

You see, I think Chromebook Pixel lacks some really important features even though it is obviously designed to be an online only machine.  I think Chromebook Pixel should not emphasize an online only machine to the point that alienates the good features that it supposes to carry for offline needs.  Instead of carrying USB 3.0, Chromebook Pixel carries USB 2.0.  We know USB 3.0 is the way forward, but people are also comparing USB 3.0 against Thunderbolt too.  This is why it’s so weird for me to see Chromebook Pixel carries only USB 2.0.  Perhaps, not carrying any USB support at all might make more sense than not carrying USB 3.0?  Also, faster Wi-Fi is always a must have feature.  We know that we have the faster Wi-Fi capability through 802.11ac standard/capability, but Chromebook Pixel decides to not support 802.11ac?

Besides the lack of various important features I mentioned, Chromebook Pixel does look like a very nice toy.  From what I’ve seen of it, it looks nice!  The screen, the body, and the shape of Chromebook Pixel speaks to me in a very positive manner.  Simply put, I love the overall look of Chromebook Pixel.  Unfortunately, it reminds me of Macbook products.  Fortunately, I think it might look even better than Macbook Pro, but I’m not sure unless I can see and touch it (only see a video of it).  Oh yeah, if you think I’m a Mac fanatic, then you don’t know me at all.  Obviously, that should be the case since you don’t know me at all in real life.  Nonetheless, let me reveal to you something about me, I’m also a Windows 8 and Linux fanatical sort of person.  If I know another good sort of OS-brand-hardware type out there, I might as well be a fanatic for such too…

Before I end this post, let me say that you can also reach out and touch that beautiful Chromebook Pixel’s screen.  How come?  It’s a touchscreen yo!  Check out the Chromebook Pixel in the video right after the break.  Enjoy!!!

Sources:

Lightroom 4 Photo Fun – iPhone 5 Unboxing

Just got iPhone 5!  Unboxing it with Sony DSC-TX10 still images.  Using Lightroom 4 to retouch these still images.  The results are 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.

Using USB Key To Lock And Unlock Windows 7?

English: A Sandisk-brand USB thumb drive, SanD...

Image via Wikipedia

People who are computing security paranoid, like me — even though they have nothing super-duper in value on their Windows 7 machines to protect — might want to take a look at TheCustomizeWindows’ Create an USB key to lock and unlock Windows 7 to enhance security tutorial so they can somewhat physically secure their Windows machine a little better by having this additional layer of security.  Onto the next big idea, but of course someone might already think of this.  Nonetheless, I still have not seen something like this yet in practice.  The idea is having iPhone or Android app which somehow stores the USB key so users can unlock Windows 7 this way.  Of course, it might not be doable since nobody has done such a thing, but if they have done so then I probably have never heard of it.  The whole idea is to get rid of the idea of carrying more devices on you just for about anything.  In our case (i.e., people with smartphones), using smartphones to unlock Windows 7 through USB key method helps us get rid of the idea of carrying just one more device (i.e., USB flash drive).  If you know this idea is even remotely possible, please let me know in the comment.

Update:  I’m not sure if storing USB key for Windows on a jailbroken iPhone would work or not, but I think users can jailbreak their iPhone and turn their iPhone into USB drive capable, consequently allowing iPhone users to go ahead and try to store USB key for Windows onto their iPhone.  Of course, I’ve no idea if this idea will fly or not, because I have not tried it out myself.  I’m just throwing this idea out so some brave geeks might want to take a swing at this.  For how to turn iPhone into USB drive capable, I think you might want to Google this.  Of course, don’t try this without knowing that you might mess up your Windows system or iPhone in the big way, therefore you need to do necessary backups for your iPhone and Windows system, OK?  You have been warned, and so don’t blame me for giving you such idea!  (By the way, at the time I’m writing this piece, jailbreaking your iPhone is legal in the United States!)

Sooner Than You Think, Intel Will Release Light Peak! Light Peak Inside Apple MacBook Pros?

It’s time to look forward, but not backward!  About what?  It’s about time to stop drooling of USB 3.0, and you need to get ready to drool about Light Peak since Intel is going to release it very soon.  According to CNet, Intel will host some sort of public announcement on Thursday in San Francisco to introduce Light Peak — we may know the launch date too, but we have to see about that!  So why should we stop looking backward at USB 3.0 and looking forward at Intel’s Light Peak?  Oh, my apology for repeating the same question in various forms, because the answer is so simple that I just want to play with words!  The answer to our Jeopardy question is that you will be able to double the data transfer speed of USB 3.0 by using Light Peak technology.

USB 3.0 in theory is capable of 4.8Gbps of data transferring, but in reality you won’t get the full 4.8Gbps with USB 3.0.  On the other hand, Light Peak allows you to transfer data at 10Gbps.  With Light Peak, I’m imagining that I can use an external hard drive that is supporting this technology as if it’s an internal hard drive.  I’m thinking about installing an operating system on external hard drive that supports Light Peak!  Hell, I can do a lot more than that, but you already know what you want to do and probably don’t care what I’m going to do with Light Peak’s compatible devices!  Obviously, I’ve not a clue about the affordability of this technology, but we’ll see!

Oh, one last thing, everyone knows Apple has been anticipating for Light Peak for a long time, and so it’s not a surprise to see Light Peak technology inside the soon to be released new MacBook Pros.  So, new MacBook Pros — the 2011 versions — will make the 2010 MacBook Pros look so outdated!  Not because of Light Peak technology solely, but the new line of MacBook Pros will also have Intel’s Sandy Bridge chips, probably dual internal hard drives with a solid state drive as one of the dual hard drives, better battery life, and to complete the package with Light Peak — everything is going to be very sweet, except for the price tags.  If none of this is true, then it will be truly a sad day for Apple users who have been anticipated for what next.

Source:  http://news.cnet.com/8301-13924_3-20034900-64.html