NAS, BlackArmor 220, Lion, and Time Machine

At work, there happened to be a Seagate BlackArmor 220 NAS device floating around uncommitted. I suggested that I might bring it home and test it a bit. That happened.

The primary driver for looking into this kind of appliance is that I’m currently running a mid-tower Linux box all the time … and only personally using it rarely. It does, however, also function as the house DNS server, the home SMB server, and the backup central host.  It fires off scripts to connect to remote systems (like the virtual host for this place) and pull down backups, too.

That system draws the same as a hundred watt bulb, full time. By way of contrast, that BlackArmor device draws between 17 and 20 watts, depending on disk activity. That’s what I measured with my Kill-a-Watt meter.

One of the other things I want from a home storage system is the ability for the Apple gear to use it properly, as an iTunes server as well as a Time Machine backup disk. The tricky bit about that latter is that Apple changed the AFP and discovery protocols a bit, so that gear (networked drives) that worked as Time Machine destinations under Leopard and earlier OS X releases stopped working when Lion tries to connect. I did a bunch of reading, and found that the BlackArmor appliance was a suitable Time Machine target.

Turns out that’s true with fresh firmware for the 220 from just a month or so ago, which I found on the Seagate site. There are similar firmware updates for other BlackArmor models. Once updated, I was able to get Time Machine up and working with Agog, the new Mac Air. I also tested files on and off using CIFS – that worked fine, too. So it would be a suitable target for Marcia’s backups. What doesn’t work for me is that I can’t trivially script activities for the system to pull backups, which is a crucial part of what I want such a system to do.

Most of these appliance-style NAS devices aren’t configurable or controllable to that level, although I’ve found that there’s ways to expose the underlying Linux in the BlackArmor. The upside of an appliance is that it’s already working properly, and it’s relatively inexpensive.

I could buy components, and build a low-power system. I’m thinking that maybe the next release of FreeNAS might do the trick with that. And I can do a lot more with a fully-accessible FreeBSD-based OS than with a hacked Linux image on an underpowered appliance. Figure that the Linux box is costing me on the order of a hundred bucks a year for electricity. If it costs me $400 to build a 20 watt replacement system, the build pays for itself in … 5 years. Which is about the life of the system. That ain’t bad. I wonder if I can build what I want for $400?

*     *     *

[[Warning: Pedantry]] You see that I used the Oxford comma in the title. I still do most of the time, although not always. I’m not even sure if consistency is called for. Ah, well.

“Day off”

Wherein I:

  • Went shopping for food.
  • Paid the bills.
  • Took a nap.
  • Swapped disks around and reloaded OS X Lion onto Darla…

That last item may deserve a bit more explanation. A while back, I picked up a 160 GB SSD to muck around with. Since I was in a bit of a limbo with the Mac at the time, I chose to drop the SSD into the big workstation and load Windows 7 onto it. Because that box is a VM host (VirtualBox) and gaming machine, I put a 1TB drive in as ‘S:’ (for “Storage”) – that’s where all the multi-gig games are installed. It’s a fast-booting windows box, and that’s no bad thing, since it’s one of the few systems that spends more time off than on around here. But … really, it’s overkill for the use I put the box to – I can live with 40 seconds of boot time, and make the old MacBook Pro shine for a bit longer perhaps (probably as a media box attached to the TV downstairs). In that role, fast booting is an advantage.

So I snagged and burnt a copy of Clonezilla, and used it to image the SSD onto a spare 500 GB Seagate 7200.10 drive I had laying about. Then I swapped the Seagate into the system and it booted just fine, thanks. Then I went over to iFixit and pulled up the guide for replacing the HD in my model of MBP. It’s the same guide I used before to upgrade the drive from small 5400 RPM drive to larger 7200 RPM drive a couple of years ago. Oh, yeah, before I did that, I re-downloaded a copy of OS X Lion …

There’s a trick to that. Assuming you’ve purchased and installed Lion via the App Store, it deletes the local copy of the download as part of the install. In order to create a USB key that you can boot from, to install Lion on a new HD, you need to have that downloaded app, again. I’ve read several different methods, but only this one worked for me. Open up the App Store and sign in. Then hold down the Option button (sub-labeled: “Alt”) and do NOT let that Option button loose while you click on “Purchased”, then OS X Lion, then Install. That bypassed the checks that say you’ve already got it installed, or updated – those checks burp out various “error” messages, and won’t let you download. DO NOT then start to install Lion again, just Command-Q to terminate that, and follow all of the directions in this howto (also linked above).

So, I swapped in the SSD, booted from the USB stick, erased the drive, then did a clean install of Lion onto it. Of course, I’ve only got half the RAM that the Air has, and I don’t know about application performance yet, but with the SSD in place, Darlion (formerly Darla) boots nearly as fast as Agog. Wow! Now to get the software updates installed. Ciao!

Another use for the Xoom

Motorola Xoom + MIT OpenCourseware + NordicTrack mashup

Motorola Xoom + MIT OpenCourseware + NordicTrack mashup

It turns out that the Xoom fits right nicely in the book-holder slot on the elliptical machine. But I really can’t read while I’m exercising … and I’ve never gotten the knack of listening to audio books. But hey! There’s a lot of video lectures out of MIT and elsewhere. That’s one of my biggest problems with exercise – I get bored. This has possibilities! No, there’s no woman with improbably blue contacts and a glass of some liquid fiber product lurking just outside of the frame. Multi-tasking has its advantages, though.

Something In The Air Tonight…

No, not the Phil Collins song, although I like that a lot, too. But I as I sit here in the family room with this airy bit of fluff that is nearly the fastest computer I have, I am pretty damned pleased. I liked the MBP when I got that a few years ago, but at that time, the Air was still a year away from introduction. When it came out, it was gorgeous and light … but underpowered in almost every measurable way.

Today’s Air is a powerhouse. Seriously. It’s not got enough moxie to be a decent virtual machine host, but as a standalone box, light and capable, I am pretty impressed.

Thoughts on Lion: I can dig it. There are some interesting UI decisions that Apple made, such as doing away with spaces (as such) and having apps that go to full screen. The most impactful change is the scrolling activity. My brain has been wired to use scroll bars on a computer for approximately ever. But using the inverted scroll worked well for me almost from the first day. It’s a natural small-screen (phone) action, and it turns out to be a natural for multi-touch touchpad use, too.

Now Marcia is home and we’re going to finish watching Holmes Inspection. Ciao!

Agog, Shiny

Shiny is actually an attribute of the new machine, henceforth known as Agog. Agog was my state of being when kindness by others turns out to have been expressed in the form of a 13″ MacBook Air. Core i7, 4G, 256G flash drive. Fast, light, and gorgeous. It’s funny, really, that I should have decided, just last night, that the right choice was to get a new battery for Darla, the MacBook Pro I picked up in January of 2007. Darla runs OS X Lion just fine, if a little bit slow. But slow is relative. I executed a test a short while ago, cold-booting both systems:

  • Darla: 48.9 seconds to the login screen.
  • Agog: 19.7 seconds to the login screen.

And Agog takes about 3 seconds to wake up from sleep – the huge advantage to flash disks.

Getting it to the state of minimal usefulness for a mobile machine: email, remote connections to work and home – that all took about half an hour. Now it’s supper time. Ciao!

Byte? SRSLY?

First off, Byte is back. Yeah, SRSLY, Byte. Talk about your basic reincarnation myth, remixed about 5 times over the last 10 years. And equally fully of #FTW, Jerry’s involved. Huzzah!

*    *    *

Also, Jerry’s got a column out, having finally battle his way past nearly four months of creeping crud. I just finished the editing pass and got the column posted for him within the last hour. There’s still kinks to shake out of CMR at the new hosting site, but we’ll get them licked, one way or another.

*    *    *

Nothing else going on, work and such. Remind me someday – I *still* really want  to build a Solaris 11 box. Can I do everything I do here (on Linux) with that? Do I want to try? The answer is “Probably”, but it sure ain’t this week. Maybe after summer session, and before fall classes start. I can’t just wing it, because I don’t have spare hardware, and no budget for any right now.

Miles Per Gallon

I may like summer least among all the seasons (except for the output of the garden), but my car loves summer. As long as I can keep the windows down and the air conditioning off, I’m doing nearly 53 miles per gallon in the Prius, according to the data from my Sunday fill-up. A week of driving without side trips costs about 10 bucks. That would have run me 25 to 30 dollars in the 4 Runner.

*    *    *

Tonight was the monthly LOPSA meeting – the speaker was a former (he claims to be former, anyway) penetration tester with a decade of fun gigs under his belt. Topics ranged from ease of physical plant penetration to HB Gary, Anonymous, and Lulz. Technical details of the relative security merits of VPN design, MitM attacks against SSL,  and lousy automated registrars and Certification Authorities tied the evening up nicely. I’m going to be crying about what I learned this evening for a long, long time.

[[ This also serves as a reminder-to-self that I want to get a LOPSA link in the right hand margin one of these days Real Soon Now. ]]


In the style of Jepoardy

It is pumped from the ocean bottoms to the top of the spill mountains.

*    *    *

Zidane is dead. Today we (and by we I mean Greg) has finally had the plug pulled on the third (or second) iteration of a box that we (and by we, I mean both of us) hosted assorted sites for us and friends and associates. The take barely paid for the box, but overall it was both a worthy and worthwhile endeavor. I know I became a better system administrator through working on the system, and got a fair taste of the joys of running a Hell Desk.

This place is easy to admin: keep the updates in place and do backups. The email, courtesy of Google, is as spam-free as I’ve had in twenty years. I’ll never complain of that. Someone was asking about the advisability of trusting the Goog. I replied that they probably already had the email, they might as well store it, too. I still keep an IMAP server running here at home, and that has copies of everything I want to preserve.

*    *    *

No, I don’t know what brought the question to mind that prompts the Jeopardy answer. But I had to get it out of my head, and yours is a perfectly good place to store it until I need it again.

*    *    *

Yesterday was house-cleaning. Not the whole bloody thing, just the hardest part – the main floor. I’ll possibly do the second floor tomorrow. Today was shopping and school work. I got a draft version of my first database class project done and sent in for review by late afternoon. Tonight, thunder and lightning and a delicious turkey and zucchini dish delectably concocted by my lovely Marcia. Now the fireworks are starting up in the neighbourhood and surrounding areas. Lexi hates the thunder, but the fireworks appear only to anger her.

*    *    *

Oh, yeah. Last bit of news for now: First tomato! A cherry tomato was ripe enough to pluck from the vine, cleave in two, and share with SWMBO. We were both happy. First tomato is the harbinger of many tomatoes, which makes me very happy indeed. Ciao!

T-Minus Four Days

It seems that Jerry’s moved over to the new host, with Rick Hellewell’s capable assistance. I’ve got one or two more sites to flip over, then I think nearly everything’s off of Zidane. Checking, I see a couple of remaining problem children besides mine. So I’m sending a few emails to remind people that the box goes away on Thursday, 6/30.

Now I should move Marcia’s last site, and set up some posting methods for her. Ciao!