N3200PRO backup to external USB harddisk

Monday, May 23th, 2011 by hinrich


As it took me a while to figure it out, here is how I create my data backup using an external USB harddisk.

First of all, like many people I am confronted with a family environment that is dominated by Windows. That triggered the decision to format the harddisk in FAT32 and not in ext3 (I did not dare try NTFS as I am not sure how well the Linux version of the N3200PRO would support it). Advantage: if the NAS would completely fail, I could attach the USB harddisk to any of our Windows machines and immediately have access to the data.

Secondly, I decided to use rsync for making the backups. As a consequence of my chosen harddisk format there is no point using "-a" in rsync. I have also taken the gamble to invoke the parameter "--size-only" as I run the backup only once in a couple of months (that's the time saver of having a RAID 5 while I do not have any highly critical data). The resulting command for a given top level directory (in the example below I use the music directory which is mounted from iTunes on my Windows machine) is:

rsync -rvt --delete --progress --size-only /raid/Music /raid/USBHDD/usb4/1/

Two more comments: I have intentionally chosen to not use cron to run it. Yes, I need to remember to execute the command. But when I do run it, I know that I cannot mess up versions - a typical problem when using cron and no incremental backup. One more thing: I have read that occasionally the external harddisk gets mounted under usb5. I have not had this until now, but it is probably something to check.

Posted in Computer

Improved Twonky Media module for the N3200PRO

Sunday, May 15th, 2011 by hinrich


Waiting for the new module was worth it. Thecus has released an updated version of the Twonky Media server. The new version is based on Twonky Media server 5.1.7 and is dated March 21st. With a Disk Power Management setting of 60 minutes under "Storage" -> "SATA" the hard disks in the NAS will now go into standby.

I have changed the "Rescan in minutes" settings for the Twonky Media server under "Basic Setup" -> "Sharing" to 0 which disables automatic rescans. As I do not update my media so frequently I have no problems to initiate the rescan manually.

With this improvement in place I have setup the N3200PRO the way I want it. My web site server is the incredibly powerful NSLU2 which is doing its job with no problems for four years in a row. Now I am of course curious how long the Thecus NAS N3200PRO will work flawlessly.

Posted in Computer

Emma Bridgewater

Thursday, May 12th, 2011 by hinrich

Emma Bridgewater

During our holidays in the Peak District we visited the factory of Emma Bridgewater in Stoke-on-Trent. It was obvious how much thought was put into creating a positive and authentic image: small tours through the factory, a tour guide having a friendly word for everyone she met, the mix of old & new materials (e.g., the old chairs in the section where you can eat) together with the Emma Bridgewater wares, the quality & choice of food (warm & cold), the possibility to decorate your own mugs & plates, a small garden with chickens, etc.

However, there were a number of things that clashed with this impression. For example, the person who was supposed to help us decorate our own mugs and who was announced to us as having a lot of experience obviously had many other things on her mind. At times a crew of five people were behind a counter close by while we were waiting for someone to help and nobody reacted. When we at last were able to catch her and checked how much it would cost to send the decorated wares to the Netherlands, we learned it was 15 £. Why not have the sending for free? You have to pay, e.g., for an undecorated mug already 15 £. Is it really necessary to make a profit on this activity? It would be more consistent with the overall impression to have this covered by the prices you pay for the tour or the decoration activity.

To be clear: even though such criticism is probably justified, the point I am making is the unfortunate contrast between the high level of detail, the overall friendliness of the people on one side and some details that just do not fit the picture they are trying to paint.

A fun small highlight of the tour that adds to the authentic image they are creating (e.g., family, warm, home, Victorian times, pottery tradition, open, transparent): our tour guide stumbled across a set of new cookware ceramics they might bring onto the market. Decorated with their polka dot pattern on the outside it looked like a smart extension to the product line.

Posted in Misc

LyX 2 is out

Wednesday, May 11th, 2011 by hinrich


The LyX team has just released the second major release version 2.0.0. Even though I have been using LyX for several years now, I did not know that the project exists already for 15 years. Congratulations to the team and my best wishes for the coming decades!

While everyone will have their own favorite new features, I am particularly happy with the following:
• Spell-checking as you type
• Being able to define a default output format (like PDF via pdflatex)
• Better definition of tables (e.g., horizontal alignment, table width, alignment on a decimal point)

Of all of the improvements, one made me most happy: "The R tool Sweave can be used out of the box with any document class using the sweave module."

Grab your copy of LyX here.

Posted in Computer