Category Archives: Portable disks

Netgear Stora upgrade v3: 2-disk-JBOD to 1-disk-JBOD

So, we’re butting heads up against the storage capacity of our Netgear Stora again (93% full). The NAS currently has 2 x 2TB drives and no more free bays to drop drives into, so whatever the next arrangement is it has to involve getting rid of at least one of the current drives. The Stora is currently backed up to an external drive enclosure with a 4TB drive mounted in it. Other things are also backed up on that external drive, so it’s more pressed for space than the Stora.

So here’s the plan:

  • collect underpants
    This was a flippant comment, but it’s upgrade season and we recently acquired a computer second hand, which had an i5-3470S CPU, the most powerful thing in the house by a significant margin. I wanted the dual Display Port outputs, but unfortunately it could only be upgraded to 8GB of RAM, so instead the CPU got swapped into our primary desktop (and a graphics card acquired to run dual digital displays). Dropping in a replacement CPU required replacing the thermal grease, and that meant a rag to wipe off the old grease, thus the underpants.
  • backup the Stora to the 4TB drive
  • acquire a cheap 8TB disk because this is for backing up, not primary storage
  • clone the 4TB drive onto it using Clonezilla
  • expand the cloned 4TB partition to the full 8TB of drive space
    Well, that didn’t work.  Clonezilla didn’t seem to copy the data reliably, but admittedly I was running a stupidly old version.  Several hours of mucking around with SATA connectors and Ubuntu NTFS drivers later, I gave up and copied the disk using Windows.  It took several days, even using USB3 HDD enclosures, which is why I spent so much time mucking around trying to avoid it.
  • backup the Stora to the 8TB drive
  • remove the 2 x 2TB drives from the Stora
  • insert the 4TB drive into the Stora
  • allow the Stora to format the 4TB drive
  • pull the 4TB drive
  • mount the 4TB and 2 x 2TB drives in a not-otherwise-busy machine
  • copy the data from the 2 x 2TB drives onto the 4TB drive
  • reinsert the 4TB drive into the Stora
  • profit!

And, by profit, I mean cascade the 2TB drives into desktop machines that have 90% full 1TB drives… further rounds of disk duplication ensue. 1TB drives then cascade to other desktop machines, further rounds of disk duplication ensue.

At the end of this process, the entire fleet will have been upgraded. But the original problem of butting heads against the Stora will not have been addressed; this will hopefully a simple matter of dropping another drive in.

The last time we did this, we paid $49.50/TB for storage.  This time around, it was $44.35; a 10% drop in storage prices isn’t anything to write home about in a four-and-a-half year window.

Layer changes

I just got the complete Young Ones new DVD release. Great to see these episodes again (and unlike previous DVDs, uncut).

But unbelievably, they put the disc 1 layer change in the stupidest spot ever. Rather than put it between episodes, or even at a quiet spot within an episode, they put it in the middle of a song (Dexys Midnight Runners singing “Jackie Wilson Said”).


Haven't checked yet where the disc 2 layer change is. The disc 2 layer change is at the start of a song in Time.

Previous rant about DVD layer changes.

Risking your irreplaceable images

Oh no, George is at it again:

Q. I want to archive family photos and slides from our hard drive onto a DVD. However, I have read that home-burnt DVDs and CDs can have a short shelf life of about five years. What is the best technology to store 1-5 GB of irreplaceable images?
B. McGregor

A Manufacturers claim life spans of 30 to 100 years for DVD-R and DVD+R discs and up to 30 years for DVD-RW, DVD+RW. Your advice about a five-year life may apply to a CD that has not been burnt, as in that state the storage life is much shorter. For archiving you should use a premium-quality product, which in my opinion is Verbatim as they come out on top in almost all independent reviews that I have read.

No no no no no. You don’t tell someone who wants to store irreplaceable images that it’s fine to chuck it on a DVD, and blindly believe the manufacturer’s claim of the 30 years plus lifespan. The technology is not yet nearly that old, so while theoretical lab tests might claim that, in my book it’s not conclusively proven, and plenty of people have had problems.

If the files involved are genuinely irreplaceable, the message here is to make sure you don’t rely on one copy, or even on one medium. You make multiple copies, in a format that is futureproof (JPEG probably being the best for photos), distribute them widely (for instance with different family members) and check and copy them regularly onto new media.

You sure as hell don’t burn a single copy and chuck the DVD in the cupboard and hope nothing renders it unreadable.

Home Improvements – Here endeth the lesson

For the story so far see Part 1 and Part 2. If you’re totally bored, then please don’t read on… this is the longest post yet!

So I got my Linksys NSLU2 home. I thought I’d fire it up and make sure it worked. There’d be nothing more frustrating than flashing it with the Linux OS, find it doesn’t work and then wonder whether the issue is with the new Firmware or the actual hardware.

Plugged it in, fired it up, plugged in and formatted a blank external drive I dug out of the cupboard. All good so far! I can’t plug in a disk with anything on it because the LinkSys requires disks to be formatted with EXT3.

Hmmm… what’s this… a firmware upgrade to the NSLU2 that allows it to read NTFS! That’d make the device usable until I get my head around the Linux options!

Loaded up the upgrade, all went smoothly. Plugged in my external hard drive to see if it works. Get “Drive not formatted” message in the NSLU2 admin screen, so it must not support NTFS after all. Oh well. Plugged the external drive back into my desktop PC.

“This disk is not formatted. Do you want to format it now? Yes/No”




An entire disk’s worth of data… gone. Video from when the kids were little, lots of photos… gone. I know what you’re all thinking… why wasn’t this data backed up? I have two responses to this. 1) It’s not that easy to back up a 14GB video file. 2) Part of the reason I was setting up this solution is to make automated backups more accessible!

Some have said that I shouldn’t have trusted the device with my data, but in my defence, it’s a shrink wrapped consumer device that’s designed to have drives plugged in to it. If I can’t trust this device with my data, I don’t have much use for it!

I kicked off a File Recovery scan and went to bed very sad.

In the morning, the file recovery had found a bunch of deleted files, but none of the files that were not deleted at the time of the corruption! I tried loading the drive up in a couple of EXT3 file viewers, but they couldn’t read the drive either.

I’d pretty much given up hope of getting my data back.

Then my neighbour nonchalantly suggests I try a partition table repair tool. I load one up and run it. It tells me “The partition table on the disk is incorrect. Would you like to fix it?” I click “Yes”. Bang. All my data is back!!!

Yay! Waves of relief! Not to mention proof that the Linksys had screwed up the disk. The partition table was written for an EXT3 disk, even though it was still formatted in NTFS.

Yesterday I took the Linksys back to Harris Technology and threw it at them as hard as I could. Actually I didn’t and they were incredibly helpful, giving me a full refund without any hassle.

So back to the drawing board. Now that I realise how precious that data is to me, I’m going to have to get a proper, RAID based network drive solution. More money 🙁 I’ll probably go for a Thecus N2100.

Lesson the First
Imagine losing all your data that is not backed up. How do you feel about that?

Lesson the Second
No, really. Losing it. Right now. Seriously, how do you feel about that?

Weigh your reaction to the above questions against the cost of getting dedicated backup.

Here endeth the lesson.

Update: I was talking to Josh last night and he said it wasn’t clear that I hadn’t installed the funky open source firmware on the LinkSys box yet. It was running the latest official firmware release. I probably also didn’t emphasize enough that I wouldn’t recommend anyone buying one of these pieces of junk

Home Improvements – Part 2

I’ve purchased my Linksys NSLU2 🙂

Now I want to make some modifications. The issue is that there are a number of different firmware options to choose from.

My requirements:
– Serve files for media (Basic functionality for all firmware)
– Read from FAT32 formatted external drives (isn’t provided by the base firmware!! The device requires all disks to be formatted!)
Bittorent client
Subversion server

Based on this comparison of different firmware options I’m going to have to look at a full linux based OS. Unfortunately I’ve never used Linux, so trying to get it to work on a small memory/slow processor device is going to be a steep learning curve.

Stay tuned for the next exciting episode.

Home Improvements

I’ve annexed a room at my house to be my ‘den’. First order of business is getting some entertainment in there.


  • Watch DVDs
  • Watch other media from my computer
  • Reasonably inexpensive

My current solutions contains the following components:

  • Xbox running XBMC as a games/media streaming console (just purchased from Global Consoles)
  • Some sort of network storage so I don’t need to have my PC running constantly.

The network storage decision is narrowing down. I considered solutions such as the Thecus N1200. I dismissed this as being overpriced and probably overkill for my needs.

My current front runner is a Linksys NSLU2. It doesn’t have any internal disks, but has two USB ports to plug in external drives. The real beauty of the device (affectionately known as the ‘slug’ by fanboyz) is that there is an open source Linux based operating system that can be installed to it. This adds lots of extra functionality like all sorts of servers (print, bittorrent, iTunes, media/photos). I was even thinking I could install svn on it and it can be my source control repository.

I’ll let you know how my plans proceed. Any advice/comments would be very welcome!

What is on your USB memory stick?

Some people responded to the question, What is on your USB memory stick?

Best response: IF_FOUND_RETURN_TO.txt or REWARD_IF_FOUND.txt
Interesting: heavily encrypted financial data / keys
Interesting: run anywhere Firefox

My memory stick is also my MP3 player, so it’s mainly songs. Plus an old version of a website I was putting together, plus some miscellaneous crap like resume/CV. I think I’ll put the reward thingy on it.

So, what have you got on your memory stick?

DVD layer changes

What is it with DVD authoring that the production houses can’t put the layer changes somewhere sensible, like preferably between scenes where there’s no sound? Looking through’s reviews, they note a variety of stupidly placed layer changes:

  • The Princess Bride — The layer change is at 49:58 – it is not a good layer change, because it interrupts the score, but it only lasts a moment. The R1 Special Edition has a far better layer change – it’s inside a silent black frame after Westley is knocked unconscious.
  • O Brother, Where Art Thou? — The pause is a little jarring and noticeable
  • Virus — This is during a natural fade to black, but it is still quite noticeable due to the interruption to the music.

With TV series on DVD, most authors do the sensible thing and put the layer change between the episodes. But sometimes, evidently from pure laziness, they just let it fall elsewhere.

  • The Office — For some reason, the layer change does not occur between Episodes 3 and 4 (as I would have expected) but about 3:57 into Episode 4 (Title 4, Chapter 1).
  • Some Mothers Do ‘Ave ‘Em volume 2 — This is an RSDL disc, and once again the DVD authors have inexplicably put the layer change within one of the episodes instead of between them.
  • Empires-Peter & Paul and the Christian Revolution — This disc is RSDL-formatted, with the layer change occurring at 2:30 in Episode II – a crazy and infuriating place to put it when it could have more easily and logically been placed in between the two episodes.

Given it’s a well-known drawback of dual layer DVDs, surely it’s not that hard to put the change somewhere where it won’t be noticed. Crap layer changes really destroy the atmosphere of a movie or TV show, and show up a big flaw in what otherwise is a very satisfying and popular domestic playback medium.

Stupid fat USB drive

What is it with USB keys and ports? I’m pretty sure there’s a standard about the physical dimensions, yet there are plenty of computers my Stupidly Fat 256Mb Lexar JumpDrive won’t plug into (I’m looking at you, Compaq/HP) due to lack of clearance. I have to tote a cable around with me to ensure it plugs in.

In other news, some guy’s made a Lego USB JumpDrive 256 MB… although why you’d do that is beyond me.

Portable applications

Here’s a handy thing: portable applications (that is, those that can live happily on a removable disk, without having to be installed to run properly), and is has them categorised and available for download. They include dev tools like NVU and FileZilla, all the way up to portable versions of OpenOffice.

Floppy disks

In case you’d forgotten what 5¼ inch diskettes look like, here’s a reminder.

5.25 inch diskettes

My kids noted: “So they really were floppy!”

I wonder what ever happened to the Xidex company? There seems to be little information on them on the web, but a few ebay sellers are selling unused disks. Verbatim are still around.

Why were the disks out? Today I set up my old BBC micro to see if it still worked, and to ponder putting it on ebay. It did work, but some of the disks reported errors. On closer inspection, some appeared to have mould or some other kind of growth on the magnetic part.

Possibly if I really had to retrieve the data, I could find someone to recover it, but there’s nothing important on them. It does serve as a reminder that every so often you should refresh your vital data from whatever media it’s stored on, onto something new.