Mozy

Mozy is the 2nd storage/backup site I tried. It offers 2 GB free, or 30GB for $4.95 per month, or 60GB for $9.95 per month. For home use, where you are probably stuck with upload speeds of 380k – 1 Mbps tops, going much past 40 or 50 GB for backup is probably not worth it. It will take days to upload, and days to download during a recovery. Once you have uploaded everything and are just synching, it doesn’t much matter. But the recovery would not be fun if you had too much data! (Then again, your download speed is probably more like 1.5 – 3 Mbps, or even 6 Mbps in some cases, and then maybe it wouldn’t be so bad.)

I set up Mozy on a friends computer that I was working on. (Friends and family often ask me to look at their PC’s due to performance problems. The most common problems are lack of memory, disk fragmentation, spyware/adware, and tons of temporary files… ) Anyway, this PC just had 1.3 GB of data on it so I set up mozy to upload it. Mozy did it in just about 8 hours. My mandwidth use at that time was my max of 520Kbps upload, but I should note I was also running a different service on a different computer at the time, so it’s hard to say if Mozy would always max it out…

One of the nicest features of Mozy is that you can keep your own encryption key. Some services, such as streamload, don’t even encrypt your data. Other services encrypt it, but they keep the private key. Mozy will either keep the key for you, or let you keep your own. This is probably not an issue for lots of folks, and can be very dangerous. If you lose your key, there is nothing anyone can do to recover your encrypted data!

Mozy had a little app that you download, where you can tell it file types, or just give it the files/folders you want to save. Overall, I think Mozy is a nice little service. I plan on using the free service with some docs for now as I try both Carbonite and this out.

If you want to try Mozy, click here to signup so I get a little more free space:

Thanks!
Sean

Streamload

Streamload is one of the 1st online backup and storage sites I tried. With up to 25GB free, it was the site that offered the most free storage that I could find. Granted there were limits on the downloads per month, but since I only wanted it for backup, that was fine.

They offer a few ways to upload content. First you can use your browser and standard buttons/forms. But that is far too tedious for any number of files. Second, you can use a java applet. That is better, but if you are backing up a lot of stuff, that still seems cumbersome. Finally, they offer a downloadable application that lets you tag files/folders, to keep up to date. That would be the best method, but the app kept locking up on me.

I finally gave up and moved on to a couple of other services…

(One other note in case Streamload fixes the app… They do not encrypt your data, so you’d have to do that yourself if you want it secure. Granted they do offer “sharing” of data, so it wouldn’t make sense to encrypt that. But I’m not looking to share, just looking for stroage/backup.)

Storage/Backup Solutions

I’ve been working a lot on storage and backup recently. Maybe I’ve gone a bit overkill, but I thought I’d document some of it here.

First, I had written of the Linksys NSLU2 (aka “”Slug”) before, here. That has been up and running really well. I have all the PC’s and MACs in the house rsync to it nightly, and then the Slug has a 2nd drive that synch’s nightly as well. And then I have a 3rd drive off site that I bring in once a month or so to keep up to date.

One issue with this solution is that my drives are all 160 GB and I’m now 70% full. The slug will handle any size drive(s) so that is not an issue, but it would be a bit of a pain and hard work to set up again. But at some point I will do that. I may just buy a new slug and 3 new drives… I haven’t decided yet!

Another issue is that the Mac’s HD was full. I set up an “archive” section on the slug so that we could off-load files manually to the archive and remove them from the mac. That’s fine, but see the point above about my slug drives being too small. :-/

We also archived a bunch of stuff off to CD’s and DVD’s, and keep two copies, one on-site and one off-site. But with many of the recent reviews saying expect 2 – 3 years out of these, that’s a bit scary. Granted, that is with the lower end products, but even if you buy the higher end, name brand CDs/DVDs, how much longer can you really expect? It may be better to just have two large HD’s, one on-site and one off-site, than keep all the CDs/DVDs…

In addition to all that, I’ve been looking at some of the on-line storage and backup solutions. I would never keep my only copy of valuable data at these places, so it’s only one piece of the puzzle. I’ve played with 3 such services and will write mini-reviews in my next few posts.

SPAM

Recently there was a post to an email list I’m on for Chatham county that I responded to, and I thought I’d include it here too:

> Hey all y’all savvy folk.
> I have been getting hit by unwanted, unsolicited, and
> apparently, untraceable emails from accounts that appear to
> be randomly generated.

Multiple layers of defense are needed. I run my own server so I have an advantage over using an ISP or free mail account in that I can tweak things in many ways, but I’ll run through my list anyway and say what ISPs/free mail folks are likely also doing. If you don’t have your own server, look at the last item to get the most bang for your buck. For those that run your own servers, I’ll include my postfix set up for spam at the bottom.

The latest big trick is sending emails with just 1 image, but altering the size, color, etc, so that it is not easy to detect. See #9 below for one way to handle these and other spam.

1. On the server, set up the mail system to reject mail from bad from/reply to addresses, ill-formed domains, etc. Most mail providers also do this.

2. Subscribe to free “real time blacklist” services. These list IP’s known to be sending spam, and the server rejects mail from those IP’s right way. Most mail providers do something like this.

3. On the server, set up greylisting. These means you reject all incoming mail the 1st time you see the sender. Real mail systems will attempt to re-send within a minute or two, and once that happens, the sender is validated. This catches a huge amount of current spam since much of it comes from compromised hosts (bot nets) that just send mail but never listen for incoming messages (such as rejects). Some mail providers do this.

4. On the server, set up a spam analyzing program that uses baseyan filters, such as spam assassin. Have it put headers in the mail before it puts them in the inbox that identify it as spam. Many mail providers do this, and they take the additional step of putting it in a spam folder. But then take the next step of having your mail client, which you said was thunderbird, “listen to spam headers from your server.” This is under tools -> junk mail controls -> trust mail from spam assassin.

5. As a final trick on the server side, I run postfix, which lets me use addresses like “sean+business@” That way whenever I sign up for something or order something from “business” I use that address. If I ever get spam to that address, I know which business gave out my email, and I can stop doing busines with them.

—- From here on you can do things like this on your mail client, this is specific to thunderbird since that is what I use for personal email, but I have similar items in place for outlook at work. —-

6. Set up thunderbird’s adaptive junk mail detection. Tools -> junk mail controls -> adaptive filter. And then train it! Every time a junk mail shows up in your inbox, tag it as junk.

7. I also like to have thunderbird just delete things when i mark them as junk. tools -> junk mail controls -> handling -> when I manually mark messages as junk -> delete them.

8. For mail that thunderbird tags as junk, I have it place it in the junk mail folder and automatically delete it after 3 days. Tools -> junk mail controls -> handling -> move incoming messages determined to be junk -> other -> junk mail -> delete after 3 days.

9. Configure your mail client to not display html emails, but to let you have it show html once you open the email only if you want to. And then tell it not to load images unless you want to.

—- postfix settings —-

For anyone that runs your own server and postfix, here are my settings. Some of these can just be turned on with no set up, while some do need other apps to be installed and running.

smtpd_recipient_restrictions =
permit_mynetworks,
check_client_access hash:/etc/postfix/db/pop-smtp,
check_recipient_access hash:/etc/postfix/db/access,
reject_unauth_destination
reject_non_fqdn_hostname,
reject_non_fqdn_sender,
reject_non_fqdn_recipient,
reject_unauth_destination,
reject_unauth_pipelining,
reject_invalid_hostname
reject_rbl_client relays.ordb.org,
reject_rbl_client sbl.spamhaus.org,
reject_rbl_client cbl.abuseat.org,
reject_rbl_client dul.dnsbl.sorbs.net,
reject_rbl_client opm.blitzed.org,
reject_rbl_client list.dsbl.org,
reject_rbl_client bl.spamcop.net,
reject_rbl_client sbl-xbl.spamhaus.org
check_policy_service inet:127.0.0.1:xxxxx

MOG and last.fm

I’ve been playing with MOG and last.fm a little bit the last few days. For some reason, I’ve always been drawn to my listening habits as tracked by iTunes, so both of these seem interesting as they offer a way to track and “publish” that information.

Here is my MOG page.

Here is my last.fm page.

Both pages don’t have a whole lot of info yet, since I’ve only been using the services a copule of days. You can also click on last.fm under “pages” in the upper right to see local versions of my charts (more on this below).

Both are similar in that you download an application that then monitors and uploads information about what you are listening to to a web page you publish. MOG’s download is more of an agent, that runs in the background. last.fm is a plugin, at least for iTunes.

I thought they might upload historical data, but so far it only seems like data from the time you install the app going forward is uploaded.

MOG seems to be more of a social networking music site like myspace, where as last.fm is a bit more like pandora in that it helps you find music you may like based on what you listen to, and has a player. (MOG claims other MOG users will help you find music, not a “computer.”)

So far, I like last.fm a bit more. Being able to have charts on my personal home page is kind of cool. I’ve actually put them in my blogs pages section. I’ll keep playing with each for the next few days before I can definitively say which I’ll probably continue to use.

USA Spec Ipod interface

usaspec.jpeg

I recently ordered this device from Crutchfield. I was tired of using an FM modulater — the sound was not that great and I’d have to switch channels every now and then, and sometimes quite often. I was a bit worried about doing the install myself. Taking apart dashes can be tricky, but I decided to give it a shot. I found a web site that actually sells instructions, with photos, for removing car stereos from just about every car for $5.99, and I thought that was deal. (www.carstereohelp.com) The instructions worked like a charm and getting the radio out was not as hard as I thought it might be.

Installing the USA Spec to the car stereo was very easy. I just had to remove the factory wiring harness, and plug that into the usa spec, and then the usa spec into the stereo. Then had to flip a few dip switches on the usa spec to set the play mode, which input on the car stereo it would show up as, etc. All in all very easy.

This device allows me to control the iPod using my factory stereo system. There are two modes, direct and playback. I chose direct mode, which means to access the music, you actually use the iPod’s click wheel. From the stereo and/or steering wheel, I can move tracks forward and backward and adjust the volume. All other control is via the iPod. Also, you don’t see artist info on the radio this way. Supposedly that is possible in playlist mode, but I didn’t like other aspects of playlist mode so I chose this route.

I love this thing – it sounds so much better than the FM modulater. If our other car had a factory stereo that would work with one of these, I’d install it in a minute.

LinkSys NSLU2 (slug)

slug.jpg

I picked this device up for about $90, and quickly flashed the firmware with Unslung, which basically means I have my own cheap little linux box now. You can read more here:

http://www.nslu2-linux.org/

So far I have my Slug doing the following:

  • pc’s and macs in the house rsync to it on a daily basis to back up all important files
  • I have the primary drive mirror to the secondary drive on a nightly basis
  • I run an FTP server on it for some docs, so I can get to them from wherever
  • I run OpenSSH on it, so I can access it from wherever.
  • I run an mt-daapd server on it, which is an “iTunes” server. Basically anyone that runs iTunes in my house on my subnet will see the “Slug Music” server in the list of shared libraries.
  • I run both SMB and NFS on it so the devices can mount it directly, not just via rsync.
  • There’s a lot more that it can do — bascially just about anything a linux box can do. The Unslung version is based on the Linksys firmware and has about 500-600 packages built for it, though I found that most take some tweaking to get to work right. I was tempted to do a debian install, but they don’t have a binary flash pre-built — you have to build your own. And that’s more work than I was interested in taking on right now! At 1st I was tempted to move more to it, such as my web server, or at least portions of it, but I’ve decided to use a real server for that kind of thing, at a real colo. 🙂

Oregon Scientific Wireless Rain Gauge

rain.jpg

This thing is a bit of a pain to set up — 8 screws to get into the outdoor units battery compartment! I guess that’s to reduce the chance of water getting in, but it seems a bit excessive. The other thing is the manual is terrible. I could not figure out how to get the indoor receiver to synch to the outdoor unit, until I went over and read the reviews on Amazon.com. Turns out the key is to hit the reset buttons with a paper clip on both units until they synch!

Now if only it would rain so I could see if it works. :-/ Seriously, I did test it by spraying water in and the counter does go up, so I guess that’s a good sign that it will work.

/Sean

eMusic

I’ve been using the iTunes music store pretty much since it came out, and have never had any real issues with the DRM. It’s simple enough to burn CD’s, put the music on your iPod, etc. I would love for Apple to offer a subscription service, but so far they are reluctant to and until one of the subscription services, such as Yahoo, Napster, etc. become a threat, I don’t think they will.

All that being said, sometimes 99 cents per track, or 9.99 for most albums, can be steep if you just want to try some music out. The 30 seconds snippets they provide really aren’t enough in some cases. Of course, when I want to keep the music forever, 99 cents is fine. (I won’t get into the debate over whether I actually own or am just licensing the music here).

So when I saw some ads for eMusic, and their non-DRM’d MP3’s, and the chance for a no obligation trial of 40 songs, I jumped at it. And I’ve decided to stay a member on their basic plan which is $9.99 per month for 40 songs, or about 25 cents a song. You can add bonus packs too if in any given month that is not enough. The other monthly plans are 14.99 for 65 songs and 19.99 for 90 songs.

Their catalogue is not as extensive as iTMS but I’ve found a lot of music I like, including Johnny Cash, Joan Baez, Richard Shindell, Woody Guthrie, a tribute to the Beatles, etc. In other words, I have no problems getting 40 songs a month.

Home Network

I think things may be getting out of control. I have way too many devices and too many wires for my home network. At least I recently bought a shelf and moved it all out of a small cabinet, where it was getting too hot and way to cramped to work. Any time I needed to add a new cable for a new device, it was a nightmare trying to figure it all out. So I moved it all out and used velcro bands and twisties to keep the cables as short as possible. It’s still somewhat of a mess wire wise, and it would be good to get several 1′ and 2′ etherent cables.

Here’s a quick picture I took with my new logitech quickcam fusioin that I use for web conferencing/video chat:

home_network.jpg

And descriptions for each device:

  • Far Left on the floor: Belkin UPS with AVR
  • Top, hanging on wall: Another UPS, this one APC, with a USB into the PC for graceful shutdown.

Top shelf starting on left:

  • 160 GB USB 2.0 / Firewire external driveShared backup storage for various computers around the house. I built this by buying a cheap case and a simple IDE drive.
  • NetGear Wirless access point Used to get wireless signal to the rest of the house.
  • IOGear KVMP I use this to share one keyboard and mouse between the two main computers, my shuttle (see below) and my work thinkpad (not shown, it’s on the desk). I run the video direct from each computer to two monitors, so I’m not sharing the video. I do sometimes add a 3rd PC for short term work, in which cases I will share video on one of the monitors. This device also lets me share 2 USB peripherals.
  • Shuttle PC I built this a while back, runs mostly windows though does have debian on a partition. Had some problems buidling it, with voltage regulaters being replaced by shuttle once, and then having the motherboard completely replaced to fix some weird problems. Runs great now though the firewire ports seem to have a short. :-/

Bottom shelf starting on left:

  • NetGear 8 port Fast Ethernet switchSo that all my ethernet devices can talk to each other and get to the Net.
  • LinkSys Vonage RouterThis gives me a VoIP phone from Vonage, which works great. I do all my long distance and work calls from this phone now, for a low monthly flat fee. It has a WAN port that goes the DSL router and then an Ethernet port runs to the switch.
  • Sprint (Zyxel) DSL routerTo get to the Internet. It’s a bummer, but when I put this into briding mode instead of routing mode, so that my vonage router got the WAN IP, I lost the ability to run mrtg from my Internet server to my home network to monitor bandwidth usage, as the vonage box doesn’t support that. At some point I would like to solve that problem.

At least there’s a little more space. I’d like to add another shuttle type (small form factor) PC to run linux on, and I recently ordered a LinkSys NSLU2, which I will run linux on instead of the standard linksys firmware. Once you put linux on these, affectionaly known as slugs, the skies the limit. I plan to run an itunes music server, and ftp server, ssh, etc. I won’t move my things that need more stability that DSL here, such as my web server, mail server, etc. And then I’ll need at least one more, if not two, USB 2.0 hard drives to connect to the slug. So at that point I pretty much will be out of space.

What needs to happen is all these home devices need to be standardized to fit in a small home sized rack. 🙂