Tue, 16 February 2010

Permalink 12:18:07 am

Synology DS110j Review

This is a fairly new bit of kit and there don't seem to be many reviews around yet, so this might be helpful.

Design & Build
Out of the box the unit is very light. The white outer case is made of plastic but it feels pretty sturdy. Powered up there are 4 large green/yellow LCDs and a large blue power LCD, so you're probably not going to want it sitting near your TV; mine sits under my desk anyway. There is a vent underneath so putting it on carpet wouldn't be a good idea as there isn't much clearance.

Installation
Putting it together was very easy - slide the top off, 4 screws (supplied) hold the disk in place, slide the top back on and secure it with 2 screws. There's a Synology Assistant package to install on your PC that guides you through the initial setup. I'm using Windows but there are Mac and Linux versions on the CD too. You're asked if you want to use a fixed IP address of DHCP, and it guides you through installing the firmware and formatting the disk.

Performance
The disk I'm using is a 1.5TB Samsung EcoGreen F2 SATA-2 HD154UI. It runs at 5400 rpm as I was more interested in low power, temperature and noise than lightning fast access times. Copying to and from my PC using a direct connection, i.e. bypassing any switches or routers, and I was getting read and write speeds of around 25MB/s, a lot slower than the 75/38 quoted on their website. My PC and the DS110j are the only two bits of 1Gbps kit I own, so I can't tell whether it's my PC's network card or the NAS that was holding it back.

The web interface is quick to load and very responsive. The only streaming I've done so far is 720p .mkv files, and it copes with that without breaking a sweat.

Interface
I won't go into too much detail as there's a demo on the Synology website, but everything you'd expect is there. The only annoyance I've found so far is that the media server only indexes fixed folders that are auto-generated, and they don't match my directory structure. There is a way to mount them so they are visible to the media server, but for the moment I'm just streaming using network shares.

Temperature & Noise
Completely silent in standby (obviously) and quieter than a laptop when the fan is running. The SMART monitor shows the disk temperature as 27C, plenty cool enough.

I'll be using the DS110j for streaming video and music to my Asus O!Play and for storing photos. For what I'm using it for, I don't think there's anything to justify the extra cost of the QNAP TS-110 over the Synology DS110l. If I was going to be doing hardcore torrenting or running a busy website off it then the QNAP may have been a better choice for the extra RAM, but for a simple storage and streaming device the DS110j is more than adequate.

Mon, 30 March 2009

Permalink 11:43:38 pm

UK Cloud Hosting

When your host decides to give you two days notice that they're moving all their servers from London to a data centre in Manchester, and that there will be 8 hours downtime, it's time to find a different host. While researching hosts for a couple of other sites that I run I'd come across a few companies offering 'cloud' hosting, also called grid or clustered hosting.

They all work in roughly the same way - instead of your site being hosted on a single server they have banks of servers running the sites, so instead of 10 servers each serving 200 sites there might be 3 servers holding the files, 2 servers running the databases and 5 acting as web servers for all 2000. The benefit of this is that the load is spread evenly across all the servers and, in theory, any one server can fail and your site isn't affected.

The main cloud hosts that people recommend are Amazon EC2 and Mosso. The disadvantage of both of these is cost. Both had disadvantages. Firstly cost: a single 'server' with Amazon costs around £80/month minimum while Mosso is $99/month, more than I was planning to spend. Mosso's servers are only US-based and with Amazon you need to fully manage your own server - I was looking for something with UK servers and where I didn't have to worry about patching operating systems.

Finally, and I can't remember how, I came across Tsohost. All their servers are in the UK and they offer their own version of clustered hosting for £9.99/month. I'd never heard of them so I Google'd for reviews; every single one I read was positive. So this site and 9 others I run are all hosted under a single account; yes, for £9.99/month you get

- 100GB disk space
- 1000GB data transfer
- Up to 100 domains
- Windows or Linux hosting (or a combination of both)

Support has been excellent: on the couple of occasions I've had to contact them (config stuff, not problems) they've got back to me within minutes and have been very helpful. I've been with them for a month now, and if you're looking for UK-based clustered hosting for a reasonable price, I can't recommend them highly enough.

Tsohost - UK Clustered Hosting

Sun, 15 February 2009

Permalink 10:45:21 am

Alfa Romeo and Fiat Radio Code (Blaupunkt)

The battery in my Alfa Romeo 156 died a couple of days ago and, after replacing it, I realised I didn't have the code to reactivate the radio. The thieving rob-dogs that are my Alfa main dealer wanted to charge me £25 to look it up (even though it was them that replaced the battery), and even the websites where you do it online wanted £9. Here's what you do instead:

1) Slide the radio out. 4 bits of metal coat hanger in each of the holes and a small screwdriver to prise the radio out do the job perfectly.
2) Look for the sticker printed with the serial number. Mine was on the right hand edge.
3) Write down the serial number - it starts with BP0 and is 14 digits long.
4) Google for the program BP_PgAlfaFiat.exe and download it. If you can't find it then leave a comment and I'll consider hosting it here.
5) Enter the serial number, dropping the BP0 and the 7th character:

e.g. BP037628001736 becomes 3768001736

Then start the car and enter the code. Hey presto, a working radio and £25 saved.

A couple of warnings: this will only work for Blaupunkt radios, not the Clarion or Alpine ones fitted in some Alfas. If it doesn't work first time (mine did) double-check the serial number. If you enter the code incorrectly 3 times it locks for an hour and you will need to keep the engine running for an hour before you can try again (it turns itself off after 20 minutes if the engine isn't running).

This should work with all Alfa and Fiat Blaupunkt radios.

Sat, 20 September 2008

Permalink 03:46:43 pm

Brian Cox Speaking after the LHC Incident

A recording of Professor Brian Cox talking about the Large Hadron Collider after the helium leak which has put it out of action for at least 2 months.

Brian Cox September 2008 (mp3)

Thu, 26 June 2008

Permalink 01:42:47 pm

SmartFTP Is No Longer Free For Home Use

For those who use the free home version of SmartFTP, be aware that when your current version expires and you are forced to upgrade to v3 it is no longer free. There are two ways the developer could have handled this change:

1) Display clearly that it is no longer free, explain the reason why, and thank the people who have helped him by submitting bugs and testing beta releases. Software development takes time, and if he feels he's not being rewarded sufficiently, or people are illegally using the software for business use without paying for a license then fair enough, users would understand.

2) Quietly change the license page on the website and respond tersely when someone posts a question on the forum asking for clarification (or, even worse, just delete the question).

Unfortunately, he has decided to be an arse about it and choose the latter. For this reason I will not be purchasing a license, even though I've been a happy use of his software for the last 4 years and use a licensed copy at work.

If you're in the same boat I would recommend using Filezilla instead. It seems to do most of what SmartFTP does, plus it's released under the GPL so there will always be a free, open source version available.

Tue, 24 June 2008

Permalink 12:22:04 pm

PokerRoom ( pokerroom.com ) Contact Telephone Number

Yet another company that insists on hiding their contact telephone number unless you're logged in. Coupled with a contact form that errors when you submit it and live chat that won't load, log in problems become difficult to resolve...

The 24/7 phone support number for Poker Room ( pokerroom.com ) is 0207 026 4217

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