NAS Storage Blog

NAS storage news, reviews, tips and tricks

Synology Cloud Station vs Dropbox. What to use?

I have been using Dropbox for some time now and Dropbox is a great way to store data in the cloud, and I do use Dropbox on my iPhone, iPad and Mac. In that way many of my files can be accessed on multiple devices. But I do NOT trust Dropbox when it comes protecting and snooping my data. So most of my data is encrypted BEFORE placed on Dropbox servers but files that contains data with no importance I do not encrypt.
For some time I have planned to create my own cloud via Synology Cloud Station. The whole concept by having my own cloud is total control of my data and that is something that is very important to me. The problem with having my own cloud is the maintenance and the setup which could lead to a bit more work but I do think it is time well spent.

Synology Cloud Station setup

Synology has made a very nice tutorial for setting up the Cloud Station on a Synology NAS device. Just follow the tutorial then you should be good to go. If you want to access the Cloud service from outside your local network you should make a port forward to port 6690 on your router. Remember to enable SSL.
Is is also possible to use Synology QuickConnect. With QuickConnect you just create a unique ID for your device, so you can access your data everywhere. With QuickConnect there is no need to portward to your router because you send your internal and external IP address to a server which stores this data for easy lookup. A nice service but I stick to port forwarding because I know it works.

I think I will go for a private cloud very soon but still have the Dropbox account. Creating a hybrid cloud could also be something to test. Synchronize the private cloud with Dropbox. It could very well work but this setup could be dangerous and should be tested, before actual use.

The Synology DS214+ NAS as a replacement NAS

My good, old but very trustworthy Synology DS211+ NAS is till going strong for the fourth year in row. No hard disks failures, no critical system failures except for the system fan that I had to replace. I am currently looking for a replacement NAS and the Synology DS214+ is the one I am looking for. When I look at some of the hardware specifications in DS214+ I am pretty convinced that is the one I am going to buy.

  • Dual Core CPU
  • 1 GB DDR RAM (Double on memory)
  • Supporting 12 TB storage (Currently I have 2 TB which is not going to last forever)
  • Dual LAN support (I do not need that but nice to have)

Two new WD Red hard disks

Western Digital has made some nice hard disks for NAS devices called WD Red which should be the perfect match for any NAS. So far I have only heard positive things about the WD Red disks. They are fast, stabil and do not use that much energy.

If anyone got any experiences with the Synology DS214+ please respond with a comment. I would like to know if I am on the right track buying this device.

Recently moved from Macports to Homebrew on my Mac

For some time I was using Macport as the easiest way to install and manage common libraries and utilities that are not bundled with Mac OS X. Usually I did not have that many problems with Macports and was actually happy with the usage. But then a colleague of mine showed me Homebrew I was pretty excited and I must say I was blown away how easy it was to use and manage. I really liked the idea that you can place the Homebrew installation anywhere you like. I do not think you have that option with Macports.

One major difference between Homebrew and Macports and the reason why I now prefer homebrew is that, it will not overwrite things that should be installed “natively” in Mac OS X. This means that if there is a native package available, homebrew will notify you instead of overwriting it and causing problems further down the line. This is actually quite nice.
Another thing I really like about Homebrew is the git integration. It is all git and Ruby under the hood. I am a big fan of git.

2013 MacBook Air uses PCIe flash for storage

The Apple MacBook Air 2013 uses PCIe (PCI express) flash in order to store data and the read and write of data is fast, very fast. When I added an OWC 480 GB 6G SSD to my Mac Mini earlier this year, I never thought I would see better read and write operations for a while but I was wrong. My new 13 MacBook Air with PCIe flash is faster than my Mac Mini when it comes to I/O operations. The MacBook Air is capable of reading data with a bandwidth that is higher than 700 MB/s.
I had to read a bit about the PCIe standard in order to find out why the PCIe is so fast.

PCI Express or just PCIe is a high speed bus which is capable of delivering a very high data throughput and that is just what we want. When the MacBook Air uses PCIe it avoids the potential SATA bottleneck and thereby use a more native data transfer.
I did a read/write test with the Disk Speed Test tool and I was very impressed by the performance. The MacBook Air is capable of writing with more than 420 MB/s and reading with more than 710 MB/s with these numbers in mind I had to compare them with my OWC Mercury EXTREME Pro 6G SSD. See the numbers in the table below.

Storage device Read Write
OWC Mercury EXTREME Pro 6G SSD 520 MB/s 435 MB/s
MacBook Air PCIe flash 716 MB/s 429 MB/s

The new 2013 Mac Pro also uses PCIe flash for storage so it will be interesting to see some benchmarks from the beast when it will reach the public later this year.

I you are going to get a new MacBook Air I strongly recommend to upgrade RAM. 4 GB RAM is not enough those days so add the extra 4 GB and reach 8 GB RAM total. You can not upgrade from 4 GB RAM to 8 GB RAM yourself, because the modules are molted to the motherboard so unless you are a technical genius and can do the upgrade yourself buy the extra RAM.

Using Apple Time Machine for multiple computers

It is possible for Apple Time Machine to backup more than one
computer and this feature should be used if possible. If you have more
than one Apple computer that needs to have a backup I would strongly
recommend Apple Time Machine. Apple Time Machine handles multiple
computers perfectly.

I just bought a new MacBook Air and even
though the data on the new MacBook Air is not that different than the
data on my Mac Mini I still want to have the data backed up separately.
The backup for each computer is stored in a separate folder on the
associated Time Machine drive.

Currently my Time Machine backup is located on my Synology NAS211+ so my Apple Time Machine is always available on the network. NAS devices are perfect for backup solutions so use them.
You can use Apple Time Machine for multiple backups in the following ways:

  1. Use external hard disk: Backup the first Apple computer with the Time Machine hard disk and then backup the next computer.
  2. Use network backup (NAS): Assign the network Time Machine for each computer on the network and backup. Nice, simple and always available when connected to the network.
  3. Use Apple Time Capsule. Apple TIme Capsule is build for this purpose but it is a bit expensive and not that feature rich as a NAS server. The Synology NAS servers are powerful devices that will outmatch Apple Time Capsules in many ways in my opinion.

So to summarize: If you got more than one Apple computer you can easily use the same Time Machine backup.

Synology releases DS213j

Synology has just released the DS213j NAS server. The unit is a 2-bay NAS with 512MB RAM and designed with a cool white design which will fit nicely in every office or home.

The DS213j is designed with low noise and energy efficiency in mind so it will be perfect as your first NAS server.
With a fast CPU and 512 MB DDR3 RAM you can easily run several processes on the DS213j without the cost of performance.
I am bit disappointed that the DS213j does NOT support SATA III and that the external HD interface is NOT USB 3.0. I know that several other not Synology NAS units are using SATA III which is a lot faster than SATA II. I do know that QNAP has several new NAS units equipped with SATA III.

Synology DS213j hardware specifications

The DS213j is not a high end NAS server from Synology but it will provide good performance and flexibility in the home or in small business where the number of users are limited. It is the perfect solution for your home cloud storage.

  • CPU Frequency: 1.2GHz
  • Hardware Encryption Engine
  • Memory: DDR3 512MB
  • Internal HDD/SSD: 2 x 3.5″ or 2.5″ SATA(II) (I recommend hard disks from Western Digital or Intel if you are going to use SSD)
  • Max Internal Capacity: 8TB (2X 4TB HDD) (Capacity may vary by RAID types)
  • External HDD Interface: USB 2.0 (This is bit disappointing. Why not USB 3.0)
  • Weight : 0.91 Kg
  • LAN : 1 x Gigabit
  • Wake on LAN/WAN (This is a nice feature)

How to count the number of files in a directory in Linux

It is easy to count the number of files and subdirectories in some directory in a Linux OS. With the use of the command ls and wc you can create the command that will do this.

Count number of files and subdirectories:
ls -l | wc -l

Count number of subdirectories only:
ls -l | grep ^d | wc -l

Count number of files only (inverted grep command):
ls -l | grep -v ^d | wc -l

I just love the way that the output from one command can be send as input to another command also known as piping. This is so powerful.

Dump and restore databases easily with PostgreSQL

My favorite open source SQL database is PostgreSQL because it is easy to use, fast and very flexible. It has become the only open source SQL database that I use in some of my software projects. It is very easy to install and update on different operating systems. I use PostgreSQL on Debian (install and update via apt) and Mac OS X (install and update via Macports).
When PostgresSQL is installed it is quite easy to dump and restore databases.

Dump the PostgreSQL database

There are several approaches to dump (backing up) a SQL database in PostgreSQL but they all use the pg_dump utility. My favorite approach is to dump the database to SQL and pipe the result into a zipped file via gzip.
The following command is very useful:

pg_dump -O -U postgres foo | gzip > foo-16032013.sql.gz

  • Dump the database called foo with no owner with user postgres.
  • Gzip the result into file foo-16032013.sql.gz.

This will create file called foo-16032013.sql.gz that you can use for backup.

Restore the PostgreSQL database

Restoring the PostgreSQL database is also very simple. For this task you will have to use psql which is a terminal PostgreSQL client.
The following command is very useful when restoring a PostgreSQL database (assumed you have database called foo that is empty):

gunzip < foo-16032013.sql.gz | psql -U postgres foo

  • Unzip the zipped file foo-16032013.sql.gz.
  • Use the unzipped data for restore in database data.

Voila. You now have a database called foo with data.

Voyager Q Disk Docking Station – Easy disk access

I just bought the Voyager Q Disk Docking Station from Newertech that will replace my old Sandberg Disk Docking Station. I am big fan of disk docking station because of the flexibility with raw disks. Take a raw 2.5 or 3.5 inch hard disk and put in your docking station, connect the docking station to your Mac/PC and you have data access. Very easy and very useful. It use my docking station once a week when I am backing up the data on my Mac Mini. A docking station is an important part of my data backup strategy. I use the docking station to create an identical clone of my data so I can insert the cloned hard drive into my Mac Mini if needed.
My plan is also to use the Voyager Q to clone of my mirrored disks in my Synology DS211+ NAS once a week if possible.
The reason that I bought the Voyager Q was it that has many port/interfaces so there are many connection possibilities and I like that. I am used to use USB 2.0 on my Sandberg docking station but the Voyager Q uses USB 3.0 which is a LOT faster. When I clone or create a disk image based on the data on my Mac Mini disk (120 GB data currently) it will take about 30 minutes, that is more than 50 minutes faster than before.
I gave nearly 85 US dollars for the Voyager Q but I use a docking station very often, so I do not mind buying a quality docking station like the Voyager Q.

Voyager Q features

The Voyager Q has many nice features and I will list some of them here:

  • Support 2.5″ and 3.5″ SATA I/II/III drives and SSD drives.
  • Support drives up to 4 TB.
  • Hot-Swap for multiple SATA drives.
  • Nice compact design.
  • Easy Plug and Play for Mac/PC.
  • Weighted base and rubber feet. (A lot more stable than my old Sandberg docking station)
  • Eject button for easy disk removal.

Voyager Q specifications

Here are some of the most important specifications on the Voyager Q. I do like the high transfer rates.

  • 1 x eSATA port
  • 2 x FireWire 800 (1394b) ports
  • 1 x FireWire 400 (1394a) port
  • 1 x USB 3.0 port (compatible with USB 2.0)
  • eSATA transfer rates – 3.0Gb/s
  • FireWire 800 transfer rates – 800Mbps
  • FireWire 400 transfer rates – 400Mbps
  • USB 3.0 transfer rates – 3.0Gb/s

Voyager Q includes

The Voyager Q is bundled with a cable for each port available on the base station so no need to buy cables. It is all there. The following cables are included:

  • 1 x Double Shielded FireWire 800 connecting cable (9-9 Pin cable).
  • 1 x Double Shielded FireWire 400 connecting cable (6-6 Pin cable).
  • 1 x USB 3.0 (Standard-B to Standard-A) USB 2.0 backwards compatible cable.
  • 1 x Double Shielded eSATA connecting cable.

Conclusion

The Voyager Q is a great tool and if you have lot of data that you want to backup this is the tool for you. You can transfer much data very quickly and time is money.

Just upgrading my new Mac Mini 2012 2.6 i7 with 480 GB SSD and 16 GB RAM

The new Mac Mini 2012 2.6 i7 is a little killer when upgraded with a 6G 480 GB SSD and 16 GB RAM. How do I know this? I just bought a Mac Mini 2012 2.6 Quad Core i7 and replaced the original hard disk (1 TB 5400 RPM) with a OWC Pro 480 GB Solid State Drive and replaced the original 4 GB RAM with 16 GB RAM.
After this upgrade I am the proud owner of a Mac Mini that just flies when it comes to performance. The hardware upgrade took a little bit longer than expected and after this upgrade I had some problems booting the Mac Mini. I will describe the problems later in this post.

Upgrading the Mac Mini

Upgrading the Mac Mini 2012 with a new SSD and more memory is no more different than upgrading the Mac Mini 2011 which I did in the Spring of 2012, so I do have some experience when it comes to upgrading the Mac Mini unibody. The Mac Mini is a small box and the components are placed very tight inside so you will have to be careful in some aspects of the upgrade. But I have found some tutorials on the Internet. Ifixit have some of the best tutorials around when it comes to replacing hardware in a Apple Mac.

The tutorials that I used are listed here:

  • fixit – replacing the hard drive in Mac Mini 2012
  • Matt Saunders on Youtube

Make sure you have a good toolset before you begin otherwise you are stuck before you know it. I do recommend Newertech 11-Piece Portable Toolkit.
The following components in my Mac Mini were replaced:

  • 1 TB 5400 HGST HD was replaced with an OWC Mercury Extreme Pro 6G 480 GB SSD.
  • 2 x 2 GB RAM was replaced with 2 x 8 GB OWC 1600 Mhz RAM.

My problems after the hardware upgrade

I did ran into some problems after the upgrade. First I did not put the hard drive logic board connector. Big mistake. After this fix my Mac Mini would not start as my OWC SSD was corrupted. Then I had to use Apple Internet recovery to clean my OWC SSD, reinstall Mac OS X and finally restore with Apple Time Machine. This was actually the first time I used my Apple Time Machine backup. Works perfect by the way.
These operations took some time. I could not figure out why the SSD would not boot on the Mac Mini. But my Mac Mini is now running well but I have seen some problems with my dual display setup even though the Mac Mini should be able to handle two Cinema Displays.

The Intel HD 4000 graphics should be powerful enough to support two large displays and this setup has been confirmed to work by other users.

Performance testing and improvement

My new Mac Mini 2.6 Ghz Quad Core is fast, very fast. I did some Geekbench tests in order to test the little devil in both 32-bit and in 64-bit and the results were very impressing as you can see from the results below. Some of my installed programs are running very smoothly. I have never seen IntelliJ open so quickly before. Building some of my code projects goes VERY fast. 2 seconds to compile and create a Java war file that is ready for deployment. Perfect!

Geekbench performance test 32 bit

Geekbench performance test 64 bit

Apple MacBook Pro no more

My MacBook Pro early 2011 had a battery replacement but this replacement was fatal. My MacBook Pro will NOT see this new battery. Extremely frustrating and I can see that I am not the only one having this problem when batteries are replaced. A lot of posts on many different Apple related forums show this problem.

I have tried many fixes but nothing seems to solve this issue so I am taking the computer to the nearest Apple repair dude in order to diagnose the problem. I sure hope it is a minor hardware issue and not a logic board replacement. That would be way to expensive. When the MacBook is hopefully fixed I will sell it. I currently do not need a laptop.

Conclusion

Upgrading the Mac Mini 2012 is not that hard as it seems to be and you will love the power that the machine now has. The Mac Mini is fast and silent.