The Transporter Sync
#287 Henry, Sunday, 04 October 2015 4:19 PM (Category: Gadgets)
(Tags: drobo transporter)

Earlier this year, my brother Chris bought a Transporter Sync made by They had a two-for-one deal so he bought two. One came here to me, the other went home to Australia. It took me a long time to get around to pulling it out and installing it and setting it up for him here, sorry Chris.

ConnectedData has since been bought by Drobo. The ConnectedData website no longer shows the Transporter Sync as an active product, they appear to be aiming at bigger markets now.

So what you get is a small round device.

Transporter Sync

You attach an external USB drive to this device, add a network cable to get it on your network, and then turn it on.

Transporter Sync Connections

The first time you turn it on, it will sit there and blink lights at you while it formats the hard disk and puts a filesystem on it. If you had anything on that drive before, it's gone now. I believe it puts a Linux ext4 filesystem on the drive. The ring of lights around the Transporter alternate between blue and green while this is happening.

Once the lights go steady blue (or in my case, once you hear the grinding noises from the USB drive, remove that disk and throw it away and put another one on and start again, and then wait for the lights to go steady blue), the Transporter Sync is ready for action.

You aim your browser at their website and you create an account with them. They want an email address. I gave them an email address and they sent me a confirmation email which was rejected. It was one of my addresses handled by my mailserver, but it got rejected every time. The email was constructed so it was addressed to, with my address somewhere in there, it was seen as being a relay email so sendmail rejected it. I couldn't fix this, so I had to swith and use my GMail address to get the confirmation message.

Once the account is set up and confirmed, you get to manage your transporters. At this point, I would guess that the Transporter Sync has already connected back to them, and supplied the serial number and Mac Address and they get the IP address you are conneting from, correlate that with the IP address you are browsing from, and then they show you your transporter. You can claim it. That takes it off the market and you can then start to use it.

As it's a Drobo product, there is no Linux support. It might be Linux inside, but they don't support Linux. You need a Mac or a Windows box.

What you do is set up a directory on your local computer. Then you download the Transporter Desktop and tell it what directory is to be synced to what Transporter. And then it keeps them in sync. If it's in that directory, it's on the Transporter. And they have an iOS app so you can access your files on your iPhone or iPad.

So it's like Dropbox or ownCloud. Except you manage the data yourself on a physical hard disk.

As there's no Linux client for it, it's no use to me. So what we are going to do is leave it there for Chris, and he can sync his data to it. That's called offsite backup. Really offsite, like backing up your data in the USA from Australia. I played with it a little, and it does what it is supposed to do.

The ring of lights around it are so bright, they light up the room at night. If you go to the management website, you can dim those lights (they reduce, but still light up the room all night), or you can turn the lights off (which means the lights at front go off, but the lights at the back still stay on which continues to light up the room as the Transporter has the back facing out so I can access the cables). I have noticed a tendency for gadgets these days to have lights so strong you can use them as lighthouses. That's what duct tape is for - cover the bloody lights on gadgets.

There is one other big problem I have with the Transporter - the Transporter Desktop on the Mac. I installed it and played with it and it all works. No problems there. But when I tried to delete the Desktop, I found I can't. It installed low level drivers that are in use. As they are in use, I can't delete the Desktop. I went to their support website and read about this, and they have a small Uninstall app you can download. I downloaded it, it can't run. Maybe it's for an earlier version of Mac OS X? I'm running Yosemite. I've hunted down lowlevel files per their website and removed them. I've removed autostart settings, I've done everything I can do and I can't get rid of it. Looks like the only way to get rid of the Transporter Desktop is to do a fresh install of Mac OS X. I am pretty pissed about this. Not happy at all. If you install something, it should be able to be cleanly uninstalled. This just shows shoddy work with the software.

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Hard disk worry
#286 Henry, Monday, 28 September 2015 10:18 PM (Category: Hardware)
(Tags: harddisk)

My desktop is near my head, and there are 2 hard disks in it.

In front of me are 6 external hard disks.

My two servers are up to my left, and there are 4 hard disks in there.

Behind me is the mediaserver with 1 internal and 3 external hardisks.

Behind me is also the Drobo with 4 hard disks in it.

I am surrounded by 20 hard disks.

One of these hard disks is making a funny noise it shouldn't. I can't tell which one it is.

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Wunderlist joins Microsoft
#285 Henry, Monday, 21 September 2015 1:46 PM (Category: Apps)
(Tags: wunderlist microsoft skype)

I've been using the iPhone/iPad app Wunderlist off and on for a few years to track my to-do list. I have a long list of things that need to be done, sometime, and as the years go by the list gets longer. I like Wunderlist.

I'm a bit late to the party, but found out today that Wunderlist were bought by Microsoft earlier this year.

I always have mixed feelings when apps I like are bought by bigger companies. On one hand, they might have more stability to keep going. On the other hand, they might get shut down, or changed to the point where they aren't useful to me.

I remember when Microsoft bought Skype. Well, Skype is still running, and it's the same as before, except the app has evolved to the point where I don't know how to use it any more. I hope Wunderlist keeps their design independence.

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Burning drives
#284 Henry, Monday, 21 September 2015 11:57 AM (Category: Hardware)
(Tags: smartd harddisk)

I use smartd to monitor the health of my hard disks. I've been seeing notices like this on a regular basis:

Sep 21 10:57:10 cerebus smartd[857]: Device: /dev/sdb [SAT], SMART Usage Attribute: 194 Temperature_Celsius changed from 115 to 114

where the temperature of the hard disk goes up one degree, then later it goes down one degree. It's happening on three different servers.

But something struck me - it's called Temperature_Celsius and it's running at 114 degrees?

I opened my desktop up while it was running, and touched the drive. My hand did not crisp and burn. There is no way it is at 114 degrees Celsius. I don't understand. Is it called Temperature_Celsius but it's really in Fahrenheit?

I Googled for it and got this page which might explain it.

And I should have looked at /etc/smartd.conf too. The first section that sets DEVICESCAN provides a number of options that handle the temperature:

# Alternative setting to ignore temperature and power-on hours reports
# in syslog.
#DEVICESCAN -I 194 -I 231 -I 9

# Alternative setting to report more useful raw temperature in syslog.
#DEVICESCAN -R 194 -R 231 -I 9

# Alternative setting to report raw temperature changes >= 5 Celsius
# and min/max temperatures.
DEVICESCAN -I 194 -I 231 -I 9 -W 5

I went with the last one, only wanting to know about big jumps in temperature. So now at startup, I get an initial valuation of the raw temperature.

Sep 21 13:21:39 cerebus smartd[7317]: Device: /dev/sdb [SAT], initial Temperature is 36 Celsius (Min/Max ??/36) 

And 36 Celsius is what my fingers tell me is about right, and I'm okay with that.

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A weekend of shuffling
#283 Henry, Monday, 21 September 2015 11:00 AM (Category: Hardware)
(Tags: drobo backblaze backup caffeine harddisk)

I had a very successful weekend, and had no losses. That's always a good thing.

First, I had to update the webserver at home. It had two 80 gig hard drives in it, and as it hosts my books and comics and photos, those two 80 gig drives were at the limit.

I grabbed one of my spare computers and built it up from scratch. I made notes as I set up sendmail, mariadb, php, apache, and the web environment, and then transferred the databases and the data. I switched it in as the webserver and it worked just fine. Then I took the good webserver and did surgery. The two 80 gig drives came out, and a 500 gig boot drive went in, and a 3 terabyte drive went in as the home directory. The home directory has the databases, the websites, everything. Makes it easy to backup. I've always loathed the default locations for databases and Apache data, so I relocate them to suit myself.

I had problems initially with the 3 T drive. I still use fdisk to partition disks. It doesn't work on a 3 T drive. I had to do some research about big drives, and ended up using gdisk. That switched from a DOS/MBR style partition to a GPT style partition. I've never heard of this stuff. I guess I am really behind the times with hardware. But gdisk did the job and I got one big partition and I set up the ext4 filesystem. Another first - I've been using ext3 for such a long time, and only recently noticed that ext4 was available.

Up till about five years ago, every hardware advance meant more speed, more benefits. Then it hit a wall, and it all became good enough and I had no incentive to update hardware. There was no real benefit to me. So I keep using older computers that are good enough, and really only need newer and bigger hard disks.

But anyway, the big disk went in and that was a success. I set the webserver up, using my notes from the spare webserver, and then transferred the latest data to it and kicked it live. Perfect.

I then turned to my desktop. I had a 1 T drive in that, and a 500 gig secondary drive for data. The 1 T drive was about 90% full, and the 500 gig drive was about 50% full. That second drive was also making grunting and grinding noises, so it was not going to last.

I had one final ex-Drobo 3 terabyte drive left. Rather than have it sit idle, I decided to put it into service.

First step was to back everything up. I used the Drobo. I have, through painful trial and error, learnt how to keep the Drobo functioning well. I leave it attached to the Mac Mini all the time. But not mounted. I mount it manually when I need it, I use it, and then I unmount it. That keeps it functioning nicely. But not having it mounted permanently means that I can't use it with Backblaze which needs access to it for a few months to do the initial backup. And when I am using the Drobo, I have to turn on Caffeine which prevents the Mac Mini from going into power saving mode, as that really screws with the Drobo.

I backed up everything I could on my desktop to the Drobo. Shut down the desktop, inserted the 3 T drive. Started the desktop, used gdisk on it (glad I learnt that on the previous project), mounted it on /tmp and copied my home directories to it. Checked it carefully, all good, so erased everything under /home, edited /etc/fstab to mount the 3 T drive as /home, and then rebooted.

Nice. Worked first time. Dropbox required a big restart and log in, but everything else just worked. I still have to transfer some stuff from the Drobo back, but will do that tonight.

All in all, my projects for the weekend were successful. I didn't have to work through the night, and I didn't have any failures. Best upgrades I've done in a long time.

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