Sunday 22 September 2013

my multimedia server based on Synology

In this blog I explain you how I created the (for me) ideal environment for keeping my important documents save and backed up and at the same time benefit from some extra features the Synology server offers.

first a bit of history: 
My geeky side always wants to try out professional stuff and use it at home. So for years (2002-2009) all my files, consisting of a few gigabyte of business & personal documents and hundreds of gigabytes of music, videos and photographs where hosted on a Windows Small Business Server (SBS) in our basement. But when I realized what the power-consumption of my 24x7 standby Quad-XEON server was I decided to downsize and move everything to a WD MyBook WorldEdition, a small 1 disk NAS. With a 2TB hard-disc in it, the important documents also safely in the cloud with DropBox and/or GoogleDrive, this offered enough space. My unstable Exchange-Outlook environment was migrated to Google Apps with GMail and this turned out much better then I ever hoped. My XBMC-devices around the house could access the media files on the MyBook via LAN or WiFi. 

Until one day the disc in the MyBook started making strange noises, rebooting, taking hours to re-index all media-files and in the end I even lost some pictures I'd rather not had lost. It was finally time for Synology. I already heard a lot of it from friends (via social media) and I quickly opted for the DS213+ model, a pretty fast 2-disc NAS, so possible to mirror the data. I started building it with one 3TB WD RED (specially developed for NAS-purpose) and when everything worked I added a second 3TB WD RED disc so my data would be constantly mirrored (Raid1). Maybe a 4-disc NAS with a Raid5/10 scheme would've been better and more efficient but that also comes with a different price-tag. 

So now I have my Synology DS213+ up and running. It keeps copies of my personal and business documents which I now primarily store in the GoogleDrive and Dropbox clouds so I can access them from wherever I am and from whatever device I am using (PC at home, laptop at work, tablet or smartphone on the road). The Synology Operating System or DiskStation Manager (DSM) as they call it is a very powerful Linux based OS which allows even non-Linux users to benefit from a real server. It is amazing if you see what you can get out of this little box. All my printers are shared and we can directly print from the computers, iPads, iPhones, Android tablets and smartphones. Video and music are streaming to DLNA devices like our smart TV, tablets and phones. We're browsing through all our digital pictures/albums on the TV or tablet. And I even connected an outside IP Security Camera which I can see from wherever I am on my smartphone. You can manage users and groups in case you do not want everyone to have access at everything.

Backup options
Even though my data is stored on 2 different harddrives it is still not safe, what if our cellar floods or the house burns down? My video and music collection is not so important, my documents are stored in various clouds, but the tens of GBs of pictures we shot over the last years is not something I would like to loose. The Synology offers some interesting back-up solutions in different price ranges. For my pictures I choose Amazon Glacier backup. It is a very economic solution, I pay less then 1US$ per month to store around 20GB of pictures on Amazon's servers in Ireland. It is not as easy accessible as other cloud solutions but I will only need it in case of emergency. From my PC I also make a copy to where I got a lot of storage for free by inviting friends (follow this link and start with 15+5GB for free)

Bonus for the MultiMedia freaks
For those who like to download movies and TV shows there's a whole bunch of Apps in a community available for the Synology. After some attempts with various tools/apps I came up with this set-up:

  • SABnzbd for downloading content from Usenet* (a paid usenet provider will be necessary);
  • SickBeard an app that automatically monitors if there are new episodes of my favourite TV Shows (like Dexter, Breaking Bad, the Big Bang Theory) available and if he pushes them to SABnzbd;
  • CouchPotato is to movies what SickBeard is to TV Shows.

read this blog to find out more about how to install and configure them on your Synology. I used this manual too and it fitted me right, especially since also I prefer to watch via XBMC.

*) to be able to use Usenet you will need a paid subscription to one of the Usenet providers. I use NewsDemon which offers a good and fast service (I can download at the maximum bandwidth my provider offers). Warning: downloading copyright protected content from Usenet is not legal everywhere so I strongly recommend you inform yourself before doing anything illegal. Oh, and do not blame me of course ;-)

And finally there is COPS, a Calibre-based App for easily accessing all your eBooks and ePubs from your tablet/e-reader on the server.

...and what does this all cost?
The hardware can be yours around 600€ for a Synology DS213+ w/ 2 mirrored harddrives of 3TB, but I also build a solution around the cheaper 1-disc DS112j (250€ incl. one 2TB disc) which works just fine as long as you do not download and stream at the same time.
In case you need help setting it up, just leave me a comment or contact me via the known social media (see right column)

Wednesday 14 August 2013

meeting with the wanderer

Michael and his lasagna
Yesterday Maddy, the girls and I met with Michael Lee Johnson. Michael is travelling to Beijing  with the help of contacts/friends/followers on Google+. Although he already bought a ticket to Beijing he decided (overnight) to change the flight into a challenge: travel from London to Beijing with only the help of Google+. So his trip is now sponsored by people and companies who follow his journey on that platform. Michael is staying in sponsored hotels or with people at their homes (like with his host in Milan Mara who you see on the photo with us), breakfasts, lunches, dinners, drinks are all sponsored or paid for (or not and than he doesn't have anything to eat or drink). He is not allowed to accept donations by the way. We bought him dinner last night (he choose lasagna) and tomorrow he will travel to Vienna by train. That train-ticket across the border is sponsored by my company Salesupply Italy, after all we at Salesupply help people (read: webshops) going cross-border!

Michael, I, Mara (in white) and Maddy
in front of the Duomo in Milano
Once he arrives in Beijing another, far more interesting, part of his journey starts: he is returning to London ON FOOT! He thinks he needs 3-4 years to walk it, meanwhile we can follow him via Social Media and SKY TV (UK). He walks, meets people, talk with people, stays with people, walks on, etc... He will need to cross desserts (Gobi), walk in wintertime through the north of China (-40 degrees), encounter (wild) animals, etc... and yet this trip is just an exercise for him. To proof to himself a bigger plan: walk from the utmost south of South-America all the way to Alaska, via the frozen Bering street into Siberia and back to London, no km by train, no car, not even a bicycle. That trip should take 12-15 years... is he mad? did he loose his mind? No, I don't think so. He says he always wanted to walk, to hike, to travel. He is inspired by some others that did this (sorry I forgot the names he mentioned), he wants to meet people and really get to know them (although he is a bit timid in the beginning)... and what better way to get to know people by walking through their habitat.

Although I would never (want to) do this myself I admire him for his determination!

Good Luck Michael, we'll follow you!

Wednesday 29 May 2013

Pasta al Ragù (bolognese)

Ik kreeg al vaker de vraag om het recept van mijn ragù te delen. voor de non-Italianen volgt hier het recept van de ragù (ook bekend als Bolognese saus)

Opmerking vooraf: ragù is een vleessaus en GEEN tomatensaus, het vlees moer overheersen en niet drijven in een pan tomatensaus

Ingrediënten voor 4p als hoofdmaaltijd:
  • 4ons gedroogde pasta of 3ons verse pasta/pasta met ei (zoals de door mij gebruikte Barilla Pappardelle all'uovo
  • 1 pond gehakt (ik geef voorkeur aan rundergehakt, maar halfom kan ook) 
  • 1 klein blikje geconcentreerde tomatenpuree
  • 1 blik tomatensaus van ca. 400gr. (ik gebruik een stevigere saus/pulp ipv die dunne Grand'Italia saus) 
  • 1 worteltje, ½ stengel bleekselderij, 1 sjalotje alles fijngesneden (brunoise). evt 1 teen knoflook 
  • 1 glas witte wijn 
  • ½l kippenbouillon

  1. Doe een flinke scheut olijfolie in een grote pan of ketel en fruit hierin de soffritto (wortel, sjalotje en bleekselderij), evt de knoflook. 
  2. Voeg dan het gehakt toe en bak dit rul (lastig met NL watergehakt maar doe je best) 
  3. Als het gehakt echt rul is (het mag best een beetje aanbakken) voeg dan de witte wijn toe en laat deze inkoken/verdampen
  4. Zodra de wijn verdampt is voeg dan de tomatenpuree toe en roer deze goed onder het gehakt
  5. Voeg beetje bij beetje wat vd bouillon toe en laat telkens inkoken (je hoeft niet alle bouillon te gebruiken)  
  6. En ten slotte de tomatenpulp toevoegen
  7. Laat de saus nu rustig onder een deksel pruttelen. Minimaal een uur maar liever een paar uur
  8. Kook de pasta in wat bouillon, voeg een beetje kookvocht toe aan de saus en meng dan de pasta door de ragù.

Serveren met wat vers geraspte parmezaanse kaas en BUON APPETITO!

tip: gebruik ipv gehakt ook eens wildzwijn, ree of ezel!

Friday 3 May 2013

iOS is not build for sharing content

Normally I take out my iPad late at night and start reading business related news, updates and blogs. On Google Currents or FlipBoard. The most interesting content I share to BufferApp,  Twitter, Facebook, tumblr, LinkedIn, Google+, etc whatever I think suits best.

Today I was activated FlipBoard on my HTC One while waiting for my daughter and I suddenly realized (pretty late I admit ) that I should quit using my iPad for sharing., iOS is not build for sharing content. You can only share to the standard channels which apple allows: twitter, Facebook and email. No direct link to tumblr, BufferApp or any other app that imho suits best for sharing the content. In Android I can share to any App via the share functionality in the menu. And mostly you share rich content, so not just a link to an article but also a thumbnail an intro text etc...

It's time I order an Android tablet.