30-August-2013

Technology

After staying the night at the Princeton Marriott Residence Inn, I went home and found the power had been restored. Checked the refrigerator, and everything seemed to be OK. Did take some time to reboot the computers and storage disk arrays. While waiting, I dropped off my car for regular service before a trip out west. I also wanted them to check out why my radio and GPS were only working intermittently. When I got home the computers were all running – but did need to run several hours of checking to make sure that the last backups were good. Later in the afternoon I got a call from the Land Rover service department. The problem with the radio and GPS center console was the Bluetooth transmitter (needed for hands free phone). It will only cost $1K to replace. A Bluetooth transmitter that costs $1K??? And if I don’t get it fixed the center console (radio, CD, GPS) don’t work. ARRG!!!

So back to the networking issue with my W700ds computer. I waited until one of the backups was repeated (took overnight). I loaded the PC recovery CD that came with the HP MediaServer (MS Home Server) into the computer, and rebooted. During the reboot, needed to hit the ThinkVantage (blue) button so I could configure the BIOS to boot from the CD/DVD drive. The computer then booted to the CD recovery disk. Unfortunately, it did not recognize the network to the HP MediaServer, and asked for a driver for the network to be loaded via a USB port. I went online with another computer and downloaded the network driver for the computer (both the 64 bit and 32 bit versions) from the Lenovo site and put them onto a USB drive. Moved the USB drive to the computer, but it still didn’t work. If all else fails, read the help. It told me that when the HP MediaServer makes a computer backup that it also copies the drivers that will be needed to restore the computer. All I needed to do was copy that folder onto a USB drive. Since the only computer that I currently have configured to work with the HP MediaServer is the one in question – I needed to reboot and remotely connect to the HP MediaServer. This time when I rebooted, my wireless network started working again. I still want to go through the recover/restore process just to confirm to myself that it does work (and that I have everything I need including the drivers on a USB drive).

The Land Rover folks called back and said that there were still problems with the new Bluetooth transmitter. Possibly a loose connection or shorted wire that they need to track down. So I keep the loaner vehicle over the Labor Day weekend. Too bad that I am not a bit further north as there may be some good aurora displays this weekend.

28-August-2013

Power Out

It was raining this morning. Before I could run the recovery/restore from the HomeServer the power went off. The UPS systems all started beeping, and my Garmin which includes a National Weather Service radio woke up and announced a sever thunderstorm warning. Before the computers shut down I sent a note to PSE&G that the power was down. It wasn’t just my house that lost power since I heard the neighbors generavertor go on. The e-mail response back from PSE&G was that the power would be restored by 10 PM on 22-August (six days ago????). I shut down all of the computers, and decided to spend the night at a local Marriott Residence Inn. I had credit for one free night at a Marriott facility that coincidently would have expired today. It gave me a chance to do some laundry at the Residence Inn while I wait for my new washer dryer to be installed.

Electricity to my house has been off for more than 24 days during the last 3 years — due to hurricanes, Nor’easters, and snow storms. For all the years that I lived in Florida, I don’t remember the power being off for more than a day. I’ve thought about solar cells and a storage battery system, a generator (natural gas), or just moving somewhere else.

27-August-2013

Sometimes Technology Keeps Me From Doing What I Really Want To Do.

I know that I said that I would try to be posting something daily again, but ran into some technology issues. This weekend, I got an e-mail/text message from ATT that I had exceeded 26 GB of wireless data, and that that each 1 GB above my 5 GB/month would be charged at $10/GB. This was really surprising in that it indicated that I had used over 19 GB in one day. I only uploaded a few images (jpg’s not raw) and hadn’t downloaded any big programs or movies. My 4G connection to the Internet via ATT through my phone is good, but not good enough to upload/download 19 GB in one day. I had been moving some of my backup hard drive data from a Synology disk array to an old Drobo Disk Array, but via a hard-wired Ethernet connection. I did some checking to make sure that my internal data transfer wasn’t being broadcast either WiFi or onto the ATT network. During the process I made some changes to the networking configuration on my main image processing computer. The downside – I could no longer connect to the internet with this computer,. ARRG!! This is the computer that I do all of my image uploading to PhotoShelter, Google+, and my Blog. Well, I tried a number of fixes to the networking, but still couldn’t get my main computer to connect to my phone and bridge to the internet.

OK – what to do? As I mentioned the other day, I just set up a HP MediaServer (Windows HomeServer). One of the things that the HomeServer does is backs up each computer connected to it every night (first time full backup, and then incremental backup of any changes thereafter). This will be a good test to see if I can reset my main image processing computer back to where it was before I made any changes. Because I am paranoid about these type of major changes, before I did anything I ordered a new Crucial M500 SSD (solid state drive). I this regard Amazon is great in that I could order the drive, and have it delivered in less than 24 hours. (I was even more surprised when the new SSD drive arrived and found it to be 960 GB, rather than 500 GB). I used the Apricorn EZ-GIG-IV hardware and software to make an exact copy of the boot drive before I try to use the HomeServer software to recover/restore the original SSD drive to a state before I made any of the networking changes. I’m posting this from a different computer and will let you know if it works.

The next day I got an e-mail/text message from ATT that I really only used 1 GB of excess wireless data. I still plan to do the recovery/restore to confirm that the process works. This post is from my backup computer, and I really need to get my main image processing computer back on to the Internet so I can post some new images.

24-August-2013

Technology: Home Network/Home Server

Since retiring, one of the things I miss is not having the server and networking resources for my computers being supplied and supported by someone else. Thus, I need to become an IT person again. I never was an IT person, but at times had to be an underground IT person when I needed more than the company provided. So, my current needs now that I am retired is a home network, system to back-up (restore) my computers and replicate my image files/database. I am tired of the sneaker-net method to replicate my image files/database. I currently have two computers for image processing (Lenoveo/ThinkPad W700ds and Lenovo/Thinkpad W510) and one for travel (Microsoft Surface Pro). A while back, I looked at the Window Home Server. The original version of Windows Home Server (WHS) was based on Windows Server 2003 R2. HP provided a hardware/OS/software package version called HP MediaServer. Microsoft released a new version Windows Home Server 2011, but indicated that it would be the last release. HP did not provide an upgrade to the 2011 version, and decided to end their MediaServer product line.

The interesting thing is that you can still purchase new 2009 versions of the HP MediaServer. I decided to try one out with the understanding that it may be a dead-end. The HP MediaServer (EX 490) arrived. It is a headless computer (no monitor, no keyboard, no mouse). Everything is controlled remotely. It came with a 1 TB hard-drive (3 empty hard-drive slots). I plugged it in, connected it to my one computer network, and loaded the client software on my computer. Within a short time it was up and running, and configured to do daily backups of the computer it was connected. The three hard-drive slots only support hard-drives up to 2 TB. I tried adding a 3 and 4 TB hard-drive and the computer only recognized half of the space on the drives. Right now the system will support and backup my two Windows 7 systems, but not my Windows 8 Surface tablet.

Although, HP does not support upgrading the system there is a vibrant internet community of Windows Home Server users. I found methods to upgrade to Window Home Server 2011, and Window Server 2013 Essential. There is also someone that is building a monitor/keyboard/mouse cable to facilitate upgrading the headless computer. I like the idea of having a WS 2013E server. I may go this DIY route, because I really do want a real server managing my home server/networking needs. I miss not having a full SQL server, not having SharePoint. Downside, I do need to get back into the IT support business.

Next item of business is setting up the home network (hardwired vs WiFi), connection to the Internet, bridging the internet connection to all of the devices, Firewalls, etc). Microsoft is discontinuing the TechNet subscription program. I had it before when I was doing my underground IT work, and just signed up for its final year. A lot I need to relearn/refresh on as I set up and optimize my home server and network.

23-August-2013

Technology – Never Enough Storage Space.

Although the capacity of hard drives has increased, and the cost/(MB, GB, TB) has gone down, technology lets us collect more and more data. Each image I take with the 36 MP Nikon D800 and save in RAW format takes up ~40 MB of storage space. I’m the type of person that saves every image (other than the ones that are totally white or black, totally out of focus). I like to go back and review the images to learn from my mistakes, and also get ideas of things that I want to do better when returning to a site I have photographed before. As the image processing software has improved, I find that I can reprocess images to get something good/interesting out of a previously rejected/not-interesting image. (Just ask the photographer that had images of Monica with Bill).

Well, this year with all of my travel I hit the wall again with my data storage. I started off a few years ago with one (Lenovo ThinkPad W700ds) then a 2nd (Lenovo ThinkPad W510) computer at home that I use to process images, each with a collection of disks with images. I also keep a 3rd set of the original images offsite. I first used a collection of Western Digital MyBook 2-disk arrays – but ran out of USB, Firewire, and eSata ports on my computers. I then upgraded to a Drobo 800i (8 x 2 TB disk array) that was connected to my primary computer via gigabyte Ethernet. I finally had all of my images in one place. Life was good until I needed to expand the storage space. To upgrade to a (8 x 3 TB disk array), I had to replace the disks in the Drobo one at a time and then wait 2-3 days for until I could replace the next drive. The same thing happened when the Drobo indicated that a disk had failed – and unfortunately the log files on the Drobo are encrypted so you can’t tell what caused the problem. One of the “failed” disks that I replaced, I ran a full analysis using the Seagate SeaTools – and found no errors/problems with the disk (I ultimately repurposed the hard drive and have been using it for a year with no problems). I had also been reading other reports on the net about Drobo’s that became bricks, and issues with lack of support after the warranty ended. I decided to investigate other large capacity storage systems, and ultimately decided to try out a Synology DS1812+ system initially with the 8 x 2 TB drives that I just removed from the Drobo 800i.

The Synology disk arrays runs on Linux using a program they call DSM. Much more flexible than the Drobo, and a lot more real-time diagnostic information about the health of the system. The other neat thing about the Synology DS1812+ is that it has two eSata ports that you can add Synology DX513 (five disk arrays). As soon as the Seagate 4TB drives became available at a reasonable cost I added a Synology DX513 with 5 x 4TB Seagate hard drives. You plug it in, and all of a sudden you have another 14.3 TB (one disk fault tolerance) of storage space. This was working well through the beginning of this year – my primary image processing computer (Lenovo W700-ds) using the older Drobo 800i and the secondary image processing computer (Lenovo W510) using the Synology DS1812+ and DX513. I would keep the two disk arrays synchronized using sneaker-net and FolderMatch. (Future project – home server and networking).

After the Semester at Sea Spring 2013 Enrichment Voyage, and my recent trip to Iceland I was getting close to running out of space on my primary system. Then I got a warning light on the Drobo that another drive failed. I ordered a new Seagate 4TB drive and when it arrived (Amazon overnight is great) it took 6 days before I had all green lights on the Drobo again. The other problem that I had was that the Drobo array was not recognized after rebooting the computer. I thought I had a Drobo brick. If I was really patient, the computer would finally see the Drobo array after 30-60 minutes. I can see where others with this problem were not patient enough, gave up on Drobo – and published there rants on the internet. I was beyond the warranty and didn’t want to sit on the phone and pay for support. Enough was enough and I decided it was time to give up on the Drobo, and ordered the newer Synology DS1813+ which I populated with 8 x 4TB Seagate NAS drives and a DX513 with 4 x 4TB Seagate NAS drives. Each array is set up with one disk fault tolerance, and gives me a total of 25.3 + 14.3 = 39.6 TB of capacity for my primary image processing computer. This should get me through another year (or two or three) unless the Nikon D4x comes out at 54 MP 🙂 The Drobo 800i will probably become part of my offsite data storage.