I have been using a Linksys NSLU-2 with a couple of USB drives attached to it as my home backup/file server, but…

  1. both of the drives are getting old — one 3 and one 4 years — something not good for a system where you are backing up important data (like this website 🙂 )
  2. The NSLU-2 (commonly known as a “slug”) has been very slow to access from XP with the latest service pack — Dennis and Deb were both hit by this.
  3. I wanted more storage space. No, I didn’t actually need it yet, but I was down to my last 150Gig or so.

Given all this, it seemed like it was probably time to look for a new network attached storage (“NAS”) box. After a certain amount of wandering around on the web, I narrowed the choices down to three boxes, each of which provides two internal drive bays:

Linksys NAS-200
Somewhere around $150 locally in Ottawa; comes with 2 USB ports that would allow me to plug in my existing drives; but by all accounts the slowest of any of the available devices
D-Link DNS-323
Approximately the same prices as the NAS-200, but significantly faster; only 1 USB port which can be used to control a printer or UPS, but not a drive
Synology Disk Station DS207+
Faster and more powerful than either of the others; around $400 in Ottawa.

Now, you know that I would normally go for the most powerful box, even though it was more expensive, but my normal dealer, PC Cyber [“Hey, man, you got da stuff?”], did not have any in stock, so I ended up getting the DNS-323 and one 1 terabyte drive. (I actually picked up the DNS-323 at Best Buy, because I had been given a gift certificate there for my birthday.)

Installing the drive was trivial — no screwdrivers or wiring required. Just lift up on the front cover and pop it off, slide the drive into the bay, close the lid. Booting, formatting the drive, and configuring it with separate storage areas for Deb, Dennis and I all went without a hitch.

I then started copying everything from the drives on the slug to the DNS-323, whereupon I learned two interesting lessons:

  1. Copying files between two fileservers by transferring them back-and-forth across a network with a wireless-N bridge in the middle of it, is somewhere between 4 and 5 times slower than doing it on the other side of the bridge. I learned this when I mounted both servers on my G5, dragged a massive backup directory from one to the other and had it say “estimated time to completion: 29 hours“!
  2. The slug is really slow. I didn’t do a lot of testing, but by my count, copying from an internal drive on a Mac to the DNS-323 was >10x faster than copying the same file off the slug.

Everything is now copied across to its new home. Deb is happy because I removed three devices, each with a power brick, plus a power bar from her study, and replaced it all with one; I’m happy because we now have more than double the storage we had and can access it much more quickly; and Dennis is happy… Well, actually Dennis isn’t happy because next week is exam week, but that’s another story.

What I did this summer [warning: long post]

As most everyone knows, I’m not a fan of traveling, so I like to find some other way to commemorate my vacation — usually by doing something significant around the house. This year, we chose to move Dennis’ bedroom to the basement. He’s almost 16 now, and it seemed like he needed more privacy than being in a room that shared a wall (and a cold air return vent) with his parents’ bedroom.

Now another thing most everyone knows is that our house tends to be filled with stuff. This means that as a precursor to any significant work on the house, we need to purge the stuff to make room. We started by giving away the last of Dennis’ Star Wars toys and Lego to friends with younger boys. Then we got rid of our excess pocket books… Hm… that comment doesn’t really do the situation justice. Here’s a picture to give you a better idea:

More boxes than you can possibly imagine

What you’re looking at are 36 “2 cubes”, almost all of which are full of books that we are going to donate to charity, along with a couple of bicycles and a several bags of clothing and material.

With a bit more room to think, we settled on the following plan:

  • Deb would take over Dennis’ old bedroom as both a study and sewing room.
  • I would move the stuff from my room in the basement to Deb’s old study (i.e. the front bedroom).
  • Dennis would move down to my old computer room in the basement. [Added feature: the futon couch that was in Deb’s old study would move to Dennis’ game room.]

In a frenzy of simultaneous shifting of stuff, we attempted to converge on this plan, but ran into a couple of snags:

  1. I had one of those plastic sheets on the floor in my computer room — you know the ones that make it easier to roll around on a wheely chair. Unfortunately, sandwiching a carpet between a layer of plastic and a cement floor turns out to be a bad idea; when we lifted the plastic sheet, we discovered that the carpet underneath had gone moldy. This threw a major monkey wrench into the planning, since we couldn’t move any of Dennis’ stuff into the room until we could get the carpet replaced, which of course meant that Dennis ended up with his bedroom strewn all over the house while we worked.
  2. When we originally put the desk in Deb’s study we actually built the desk in the room. So, when it came time to move it, we discovered (of course) that we couldn’t get it out of the room without dismantling it into several pieces. At that point we made the snap decision to just leave Deb in her old study, but use the space we got by removing the couch (and some other re-organization) to give her a sewing area as well.

Those were the unexpected big issues. There were also a couple of other painful (but expected) things that we had to deal with:

Dennis wanted space more than storage.
This meant that we had to remove all of the shelving units and cupboards that were in my room, which was a big job since they were all wall mounted and there were quite a number of them. Also, there wasn’t room for most of them in the room upstairs, so they too ended up in the garage, to be given away. (You can see them in the background in the picture above.)
The network router and file server needed to move.
Even if there had been space for them in Dennis’ room (and there wasn’t), I end up fiddling with them too often to want them to be two floors away from me. I also wanted to make use of the wired connection in Deb’s study as the main conduit for running the network through the house, which means that, now that she isn’t switching rooms, she has inherited our dsl modem, router and (the imaginatively named) FILES the file server. They’re sitting on top of her bookshelves. [Insert obligatory short person joke.] My machines (including the server that provided this page) are sitting on the other end of a matched (WDS) pair of Airport Extremes. So far, I’ve been happy with the result. In any case, with the help of another wire pulled through the basement ceiling to reconnect Dennis’ setup in the basement, we’re all up and running again.

Things are starting to converge, finally. Here are some pictures to give you an idea of the new layout. First my room:


Note the new M-Audio Axiom 49. There wasn’t room for my old Alesys QS 8.1 between the bookshelves and the treadmill (just out of sight in these pictures).

And here’s Deb working in her new space:

I’d show you a picture of Dennis’ room in the basement, but I keep forgetting to snap one, and it’s time to get this posted…