Jamesy's Blog

Media Server

by on Nov.02, 2012, under Uncategorized

Like many people living in the digital age I get my music online. I haven’t bought a cd for around 15 years. I’ve amassed around 40 gigs of music and approximately 800 gigs of DVDs. Add that to family photos documents and a software repository (so that I don’t have to keep wallets of discs in a cool dark place). This comes to almost a terabyte of data.

Now I’ve got a Mac Book Pro with a 1TB Hard Drive, but I need space for the OS and it’s partitioned for boot camp, so I can play Star Wars the Old Republic MMORPG.

For a few years I’ve had one of those media server that are just a box with some HDDs and an embedded Linux OS. The first one I owned was a Buffalo Livestation. God it was slow, you had no hope at all trying to play anything over wireless network, just endless buffering. To get around this I ran a cable into the conservatory where I keep my Xbox and PS3, a wired full duplex 100mb LAN connection did the trick but what a pain in the bum to install. I had to drill through 4 walls and 2 window frames to run the cable. But at least no more buffering!!

Anyhow after a while the fan failed, and I had to get a replacement, buffalo don’t stock replacements, or at that least they didn’t at the time. I got an equivalent fan from Maplin, but because the fan drew less current the fan warning light continued to flash and for some odd reason this severely damaged the performance. So, I replaced it Zyxel NSA221.

Wow! what a machine, I could stream anything to anything anywhere with that bad boy! No buffering over wireless, print server, NFS support – well sort of. I’ll come to that in a bit. The Zyxel was brilliant it was fast and powerful and good value for money for £50 with HDDs. I backed up the buffalo to multiple external disks and then whipped the HDDs out in and popped them in to the Zyxel. Set up the raid array and copied the data over. The longest part was the wait for copying and nothing to watch. Before I bought the MacBook, I had a Dell laptop and was able to use SMB data shares without issue. When I moved to mac the SMB was problematic and worked intermittently. I tried using the Zyxel’s built in NFS system, it seems that the Zyxel’s implementation of NFS is also a bit problematic or at least it was for me.

I stayed with the Zyxel for a few years until I felt the need for a change, NFS issues were also a factor in this.

So, a few months ago the urge to upgrade came over me and unable to resist I ordered a HP ProLiant Micro server.

Seriously with this thing you get a lot of bang for your buck! It’s packing a dual core AMD CPU, 2gb ram a 250gb HDD, gigabit LAN, on board raid capable of 0,1,5 and JBOD and shed loads of USB ports. All this for £250!!! The only thing missing is an optical drive. Any full size optical drive will do. I bought one at the same time for £20.

Now if you’re confident you can get a free OS by using Ubuntu, I’ve done this in the past with mixed results. So, I stuck with what I know and bought windows home server 2011 from Novatech for about £90. Now windows server does come with windows media connect and windows media sharing so you don’t need to purchase additional software. From my own experience I’ve found that sometimes, windows media sharing software does sometimes place a heavy load on CPU and RAM, so I turned that option off and bought Tversity pro for £20.

Tversity is a great piece of software. You set it up and it will automatically scan your folders for changes and updates its database as it goes. Once you’ve added your clients and files you can also choose whether you want to convert your media on the fly, I chose to only convert when necessary.

Now I had done some research into windows NFS mounts and to be honest it looked very complicated. So, I bought Hanewin NFS server software. With some minimal configuration of the software and windows firewall I was ready to go, and it hasn’t let me down since.

So, if you like me have lots media and are looking for a decently powerful server I would really recommend the HP Micro Server, also if you’ve got a small business then I reckon it will do you fine for file server / print server duties.

Post a comment with your views/server configs!!



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When free isn’t free

by on Apr.11, 2010, under Uncategorized

Recently whilst browsing the web looking for a theme for Windows 7 i came across a site that offered ‘free’ themes. I thought my luck was in. The site in question displayed the usual advertising banners that most websites of this nature use to make money by directing interested users a particular company’s site. Given enough traffic this surely generates a modest sum allowing for the payment of some or all of the site’s costs. (Hosting etc).

This particular site asks you to complete a survey with a 3rd party company. From experience it’s never worth completing it. The buggers will sell your information to the highest bidder. I’ve been emptying on average 15 junk emails from my mailbox everyday since. And i didnt get my 10% off at Ikea either.

Whilst i understand that you don’t get anything for free. I hate the way that internet users are mislead in to completing fruitless tasks to get anything. Surely there are more user friendly and possibly more moral ways for honest websites to generate revenue. Many folks of the open source community are happy to put a paypal donation button on their sites.

I hate the selling of information without the users prior all because of some very very small print. Through the course of my career and internet browsing i’ve had the privilidge of being sat on both sides of table. I’ve dealt with customers who have no idea how someone got their mobile phone number and i’ve been the customer whom has been cold called and been offered the supposedly best handset on the market.

Take my advice make sure you know whom you give your data to.

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Why open source is the way forward

by on Feb.07, 2010, under Uncategorized

I think I’ve chosen a rather hot topic as my first post. Whilst working in the I.T industry I’ve had my eyes opened to the world of open source by my colleagues. And to be fair I’ve never looked back.

First came Mozilla’s Firefox. What a brilliant browser this is. So much faster, safer and just all round more pleasant that clunky old IE. I’ve never looked back since starting with v2.5. I can understand Microsoft’s unwillingness to offer other browser with Windows. To be honest, if I could choose browsers when installing it would be Firefox every time.

I suppose the ultimate open source achievement must be Linux. The only Linux distro I have any experience of is Ubuntu. Ubuntu is awesome. There is no other word for it. Just pop the cd in, use as an installation disc or as a live cd if you can’t make your mind up! I’ve used Ubuntu on two machines, firstly my Sony Vaio and on my current Dell Inpsiron. Both times the machines have worked perfectly.

The biggest thing about ubuntu is that it brings a new definition to customisation. In windows you can take out some components and change themes fonts etc. Ubuntu allows you to change anything, you don’t like the power module change it. prefer another text editor just change it. A few clicks and its done. You can use the package manager to change pretty much anything, DTP suites, media players, there’s even support for the iPhone. I even managed to get Citrix XenApp on it and it was so stable. No wonder the French police use Ubuntu.

More than anything it’s the open source community, I had some trouble with getting the Citrix XenApp package to work. Just a few minutes googling and I’d had found the answer. And that’s the thing, just post your problem in a forum and you’ll get an answer in an hour or two. Everyone comes together and helps. Apps are written, the source code is shared, if you think you can improve or add to someone’s code, just ask their permission and make your changes. If you’re impressed just donate.

This is what the internet was meant to be. The free exchange of information, knowledge and quality software. The open source community reminds me that the scum who write viruses and worms are the minority.

Leave a comment if you like.


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