The OS Quest Trail Log #67: End of 2011 Edition

Another year draws to a close but it’s just another month on The OS Quest. There was the usual mix of frustrations and a couple new pieces of hardware. And yea, a few words looking back on the past year. Happy New year!

Happy New Year 2012Despite the cliche, it is hard to believe 2011 is drawing to a close, probably only a memory by the time you read this. On the other hand, it’s still just one more month gone by so I’ll try to resist the urge for any year end wrap-up. But as usual I’ll recap since the last Trail Log among other things.

When I first wrote about replacing my cable modem I mentioned there didn’t seem to be too much difference in performance. Since then things have changed a bit. Typically CrashPlan would max out it’s upload performance at 2 Mbps. I added another 40 GB to the upload and it uploaded at 4 Mbps. Both speeds where as reported by CrashPlan. So there does seem to have been an improvement.

When I wrote about Cloudberry’s new Continuous Data Protection (CDP) I had decided to use it only for my critical data which had previously been backed up as an hourly basis. Since then there was one failure in that backup plan which caused it to stop and required a manual restart. I also found that email notifications worked in one case for CDP. As it stands now, I don’t have complete confidence in Cloudberry’s CDP, at least in their Windows Home Server 2011 Add-in, so I’ve gone back to an hourly backups for that critical data. I’m no longer using CDP.

I still like my Kindle Fire. I mainly use it for watching video – my own,  Amazon Prime and Amazon purchased. While there isn’t much memory available for local storage I’ve found that the Amazon videos are relatively small (at least the standard def ones). I find the standard def fine for viewing, even on my TV and the smaller size doesn’t needlessly use my capped bandwidth. If the movie deserves high-def I’ll go for a disk. I was able to copy a dozen videos (about 10 hours) locally without a problem and had them during my holiday travels. My own ripped videos are larger so it’s fewer of these. I also do occasional reading but find any LCD screen tiring so it’s usually for less than an hour.

A pet peeve of mine is comparisons between the Kindle and iPad as if it was a buying guide. Here’s my buying guide:  If you’re trying to decide between a Kindle Fire and an iPad then go for a iPad. If you want to watch Amazon video on a tablet, get a Fire. If you meet both criteria then resign yourself to getting both but start with the Fire since it’s cheaper and it might give you what you want in a tablet.

Even though my yearly backup review showed I was in pretty good shape it always gets me thinking about changes but I’m resisting the urge to make a change unless it plugs a gap. There’s a lot of options out there and I’ll probably check out a few. Unless I lose interest first.

Frustrations

My iPhone 4S is giving me problems. The external speaker died on Friday. The headphones work fine. Initially it would come back for short periods but would die soon after I started playing a podcast or song. Luckily it’s now completely dead. I say luckily because it’s much easy to deal with Apple (or any vendor) when they can see the problem themselves. With my luck it probably would have worked when I bring it in for my noon appointment on Saturday. Hopefully it will be quickly resolved.

I’ve been backing up my website to my Mac every night for over 4 years using iCal to schedule a Transmit automator task. Shortly after upgrading to Lion (but not immediately) the schedule task starting crashing, The problem became worse and recently became a daily event. I did the usual stuff like making sure all the software was updated. I also recreated the automator task. The frustrating thing is that if I run the task manually there’s never a problem. But it now consistently fails if it’s triggered by iCal. At this point it’s become part of my nightly routine to trigger the backup. I figure my effort is now better spent getting a backup setup on the web server itself and have it go directly to Amazon S3. So that’s on my project list for the new year although it probably won’t bubble to the top until I get really tired of having to double-click a file each night.

Google Chrome took away side tabs so now they’re back on top. It was never an official feature so I can’t complain too much. Despite that it’s really frustrating to have all those tiny tabs along the tap, differentiated only by their favicon if present. There is a tree tabs add-in i may give a try. I have a similar add-in for Firefox. I’ve considered going back to Firefox but that frustrates me too. The upgrade frequency and the way they do it is annoying. It seems add-ins are always breaking or flagged as not compatible. Add to that the annoying pop-up when there’s an upgrade and it’s drove me away. Google seems to do upgrades right. If I need to restart my browser there’s a little notification in the wrench icon. And after I restart all my tabs are restored, something Firefox doesn’t seem to get right. I really want to like Firefox since Mozilla only cares about a good browser (in theory) and Google and Microsoft consider us the product they sell to advertisers.But Google Chrome has been hard to drop, but the loss of side tabs may help in that area.

Servers and Storage

I’ve had the good fortune of having an Acer Aspire Easystore H342 Home Server pass through my hands. NewEgg has had them at clearance prices and a buddy on mine bought one as a low cost NAS and backup server. It’s Windows Home Server V1 so no doubt Acer is looking to clear them out (hopefully they’ll add a WHS 2011 box to the US market once the V1 is sold out). The price fluctuates but the current $260 is the lowest I’ve seen so far. It’s WHS V1 and not even the latest version of that, so the setup wasn’t straight-forward which is how I got my hands on it. I should have a write-up on it pretty soon. My overall impression is favorable (considering the price). Setting up a version 1 box was both nostalgic and frustrating. The software does feel and look old compared to WHS 2011 but the flashback was fun.

A second server will be staying, at least for awhile. I picked up a Western Digital DX4000 Sentinel Storage Server that runs Windows Storage Server 2008 R2 Essentials which has the same heritage as Windows Home Server 2011. I’m still getting to know it but I have to say that Western Digital got the ease of use right. Even when that Acer H342 was the latest software it’s setup wasn’t as easy as the DX4000. The DX4000 is less flexible in some areas (like supported hard drive and configurations) but that’s the price for ease of use.

I’ve also gotten motivated to start going through old hardware and hard drives to see what I have available and can put together. I’ve got 18 hard drives sitting in a cabinet as file storage. These are older smaller drives that were retired as they were replaced with bigger drives. So my current project is to clean up those drives and safely archive the files that are still needed. Then I should have a few good drives to use for various configuration in my MicroServers.

Another Year Ends

I think the most OS related fun I had this year was the short-lived Ubuntu Home Server project that actually began at the end of 2010. I enjoyed setting up the server and then learning about Linux software RAID. But that project ended in March when I returned to Windows Home Server 2011.  I left Ubuntu as things were getting a bit scary with all that data on it. Not that Ubuntu was scary but my maintaining that RAID array was. But that big WHS 2011 box was still more complicated than I wanted and I became obsessed with the HP MicroServers and my WHS 2011 server has been one of those ever since.

I’ll probably do a build or two this year, although mostly taken from parts I already have, But I’m hoping to spend more time diving into different OS’s and doing some web development.

And it will all be starting with a nice three day holiday weekend.

Happy New Year everyone!