uselessbackThis is going to be the beginning of a semi-regular series where I’ll post some of the (what I find) interesting things that I’ve been playing with/working on. I expect that the its will tend to be somehow related to my work in IT, my work as a graduate student, and my persistent work in developing a redundant large storage system at home.

Bookmark Sync and Sort

I work on a lot of computers on a regular basis. I have a series of them at work, my laptop (which travels pretty well everywhere with me), and a few at home. You know, in addition to all the other computers I pass by on a regular basis. To date, the best bookmark synchroniser that I found was Foxmarks, but I wasn’t a terribly large fan of putting my data on another person’s server. In addition to that, when you send your data it isn’t encrypted (while https data will be encrypted using standard Firefox encryption, it still means that what you have bookmarked will be sent along whatever networks you happen to be operating on). Ultimately, those two matters meant that I wasn’t particularly comfortable with the Foxmarks solution.

While Foxmarks would work, I wasn’t happy with it, so I did some searching and ultimately discovered Bookmark Sync and Sort. From the description:

Bookmark Sync and Sort is a Mozilla Firefox extension that lets you connect to an FTP/WebDAV server and synchronize your bookmarks that are stored in an XML file. Setup is easy; just write in your FTP/WebDAV server address, username, password and…

So long as you have FTP set up properly, and you’re maintaining your own FTP server, you can synchronise your bookmarks across platforms and know that you’re as secure as you want to be. It also happens to work really well. Setup will take about 5 seconds (assuming you know your FTP settings).

Flash Books

Imagine you want to have a really cool Web 2.0 website. Imagine (further) that you really like Flash and want to integrate all of your writings into your webpage. In the past you’d have to go and learn Flash, and then import your content, et cetera. With issuu that isn’t the case.

It gives the the chance to integrate your publications into your website and simulate turning pages. In addition, I’m fairly certain that you can set the publication to be indexable by Google and other major search engines, increasing the chances of your work being found and referenced.

http://issuu.com/viewer?mode=embed&documentId=080207170644-88ff7c76d40a4a52b8143d52493f60ad&layout=grey

Redundant Storage

At the moment I’m investigating a series of different solutions to storage, remote access, and image hosting, and a few other issues I’m running into. Presently I’m looking at adopting either Windows Home Server or the QNAP TS-209. I’ve put together the following that outlines some of their respective strength/weaknesses and similarities.

Storage Bays

Windows Home Server: 4 vs. QNAP TS-209: 2

Maximum Storage Capacity

Windows Home Server: 4TB vs. QNAP TS-209: 2TB

Redundancy

Windows Home Server uses a multidisk redundancy system. It’s not RAID, but it’s something like it. When you insert a second drive you select the folders that you want to share, and only those folders are redundantly backed up (i.e. spread across multiple disks). This has the advantage of not locking you into one of the redundancy formats of RAID 0, 0+1, or 5, but it also means that you’re not looking at a hardware level redundancy system. This isn’t an issue for me, but it might be for those who are more comfortable with Enterprise-level data redundancy. On the plus side, drives are hot-swappable by default, and it’s easy to do with HP’s MediaSmart Servers, which can hold up to four hard drives.

The TS-209 solution supports RAID 0+1 and hotswapping. It also supports remote replication – you can backup your TS-209’s data using encryption to an off-site location, should your data be that mission critical (I’m kind of interested to know if that would mean I could back up to hidden and password protected space on the webserver I have access to. I have a feeling that it’s not possible.).

Photo Sharing

With Windows Home Server you can publish photos to the web, though through a Microsoft portal. The TS-209 has a preferred solution: it autogenerates an online-accessible web-based photo album that provides the same degree of discrete configuration as the MS solution. (I want to set things up so that I and my partner can post pictures online – it’s give her a way of showing her family in Brasil what’s going on in Guelph, and let me do the same when I leave Guelph for work or academics, but not necessarily using .)

Backup

Windows Home Server is based on Windows Server 2003 (not Windows Vista), and can be easily set up on any Windows computer. The backup solution also works well with OS X. I’m not certain as to how well it works with Linux, though that isn’t presently a concern in the environment that I’m working in.

While the TS-209 has strong instructions for integrating it into a Windows-based environment, I’ve read enough about the system that it should integrate with all environments.

Print Server

Both solutions can act as a print server, though the TS-209 is more dependent on a large community to develop and implement the drivers. While the same can be said for the MS solution, it already has a massive community that is producing add-ons, and most drivers that work on Server 2003 are operational in Windows Home Server.

Add-Ins

While in theory it’s possible for a series of add-ins to be developed and implemented for the linux system the TS-209 is running on, there is no guarantee that it will happen. That said, the Windows Home Server has a massive number of add-ins. In fact, there is a massive number of them already available for the Home Server and they’re really, really, really, really, really cool. Plus, Microsoft has pledged to add ‘power packs’ – extra features that build upon the already impressive basic functionality of the server.

Cost

Yeah, it had to be part of what’s coming. You can get an HP EX470 (Sempron, 512MB RAM, 1TB 7200RPM SATA HDD) with a free three bays for $599.00 The QNAP TS-209 is $347.99, a 1TB Seagate 7200RPM SATA HDD another $293.99 for a total of $641.98, with less expansion room, and a less subtle redundancy system. I think that if I could get WHS to integrate with Gallery I’d be totally sold.