First, for US visitors, Happy Thanksgiving. A weird holiday, to be sure, but it’s always good to be thankful for life, family, friends, and first world problems.
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I’m posting from Linux again, for the first time in a long while. I’d been trying a variety of solutions for storage here, answers that didn’t involve running a full-size system 24×7. I couldn’t do it. You see, it isn’t good enough to just back stuff up here at home. I’m not going to backup home data on a cloud somewhere on the Internet – our friendly government doesn’t appear to respect the Fourth Amendment when it comes to online resources. So I don’t keep email online. Well, I try not to, but I’ll bet Google has it all anyway. But there are files and work I do here that I’m not willing to trust to another administrator and their devotion to security. So while I backup online stuff here, and I backup the home systems here, I need to get a copy of those backups offsite. Fire, theft, and other quirks of life are risks that need to be managed.
So, a weekly copy of the local backup, written to an encrypted disk, and driven to work … that’s a good answer. But when I stood down Slartibartfast, the old Linux server, and replaced him with a dLink NAS box … well, some things didn’t happen anymore. Automated backups of online properties – not happening. Trivially easy local and encrypted backups: neither trivial nor easy anymore. But I kept after it for a while, so that local systems could spin down, data could flow to the storage when it was available, and … I’d figure something out about the offsite.
That didn’t happen. Finally, I broke down a few months back and installed FreeNAS 8.mumble on one of the towers. Key needs: local AFP, SMB/CIFS, and NFS service. Scheduled tasks to pull backups from out in the world, so that problems there don’t kill our data forever. And encrypted backups to removable storage. Seems easy, right? And a dedicated local storage server STILL seemed like a better idea than toying with using a workstation ALSO as the storage server. Feh!
FreeNAS eventually solved everything but the removable storage problem … and the AFP service. The latter problem first: Apple presents a fast moving target for their file services, and I want a networked Time Machine target. Could not get it working with the latest FreeNAS, so the dLink kept spinning. Formerly, and more importantly, while I could plug in a USB disk, write an encrypted ZFS file system to it, create the walkabout tertiary backup, and take the drive to the office … I could only do that once per boot. That is, to get FreeNAS to recognize a drive reinserted into the USB or the eSATA connections, I had to reboot. Probably a failing of the non-enterprise support for hotplug … but a failing all the same.
This week, a “vacation” week for me, I’d had enough. I installed Scientific Linux 6.3, and got all of the above stuff working properly in less than a day. The ONLY thing I miss from FreeNAS (and this was a big driver for me) is ZFS. I *love* ZFS. Filesystem and volume management done properly, with superb snapshot capabilities – I LOVE ZFS. But I can’t have that, and everything else I want, so I’ve solved my problem.
Serenity boots and runs from a ~160GB SSD, and I have three 1TB drives in a software RAID5 serving as the data partition. It’s all formatted EXT4. I have a SATA slide-in slot on the front of the system, I can slot in a hard disk, give the crypto password, and have my offsite storage accessible for updating using rsync. Everything is working again. I can spin down that dLink, and decide what it’s fate is, one of these days. I also don’t need Dortmunder, the Raspberry Pi, running as my SSH and IRSSI landing “box” anymore. That I will find another use for – I can play with it now. And I’ll cautiously update and maintain this system. Frankly, I happier with it running Scientific Linux – the stability of a RHEL derivative is good.
Now to figure out why I can’t get my external SSH port open again… Thanks, Netgear, for giving me one more problem to solve on my “vacation.”
Oh, and finally: a good disk management GUI for a Linux:
Gnome Disk Utility – I don’t often prefer a GUI, but managing complex storage, which may involve hardware or software RAID, LVM, encryption, and more … well, the visibility of this utility makes me happy. Thanks to Red Hat for writing it.