Network Attached Sweetness, BitTorrent Sync and more

I finally invested in a NAS at home for storing all my crap. I have four computers, a tablet and a phone, so my lovely collection of files is fragmented to say the least. Behold!

IMG_20130817_000848

It doesn’t look like much, but the Synology DS413j holds 4 drives; plenty for my purposes. It runs Synology DSM, a Linux-based OS. It has got a web interface for administration, and of course SSH access for those cool enough to use it. The web interface is very impressive, and reminds me more of a native window manager in a relatively modern OS rather than something actually written in HTML and Javascript.

Having a central place to store files is all well and good; but some folders is very useful to have locally as well, with a sync to the NAS. There’s literally several kilograms (measured in floppy disks) of syncing software out there, some are good, and some are not as good. I ended up using BitTorrent Sync. It’s got end-to-end encryption, it’s free, it has a linux build for various architectures so it runs on Synology DSM, and it’s by BitTorrent, the creator of the leading bit-pusher protocol in the world. And it works on Android (and apparently soon iOS for those who bend that way).

All you do to sync a folder, is to add it in the web interface for BT Sync, generate a secret key, and then just enter the same secret key on whatever client you want to sync it with. You can even create one-time keys if you only want to grant someone temporary access to your synced stuff. Pretty neat.

btsync

 

One awesome use case for BT Sync is syncing mobile photos. Whenever I have taken any photos on my phone, I have to go through the hassle of connecting the phone to get to the pictures. Now, I’m simply letting BT Sync sync the camera folder to my NAS and laptop. Much easier. I don’t have to lift a goddamn finger, and that’s the way it should be.

The big problem with having a continuous sync, or in fact, having any kind of data transfer going on at any time anywhere, is that shit breaks. Files get corrupt, files are accidentally deleted, or accidentally modified, and the RAID software happily replicates your screw-ups to all your drives. So I’ve been looking into backup solutions as well, since I’m already in a storage solution exploring spree. I got a recommendation for CrashPlan, a cloud backup service with client-side encryption and unlimited storage for $4/month. Quite nice.

Someone who calls himself “patters” created a CrashPlan package for Synology. There’s an how-to for how to install it here: http://pcloadletter.co.uk/2012/01/30/crashplan-syno-package/
After the package is installed, the service can be controlled through a client on the laptop to choose backup folders, frequencies, retention duration and so on. As default, it backs up changes every 15 minutes, and keeps each of these snapshots for a week; daily backups are stored for 90 days, weekly backups for a year, and monthlies forever.

… but it’s not very fast (maybe on purpose?) A full backup is thankfully only needed once; after that, only diffs are stored.

crashplan

 

Well, that’s it for now!

Bye, bye Google Reader

Tomorrow is the end of Google Reader. It’s being shut down, upsetting hundreds of thousands of active users, me included. I really do love Google Reader; its web user interface is great, the mobile apps are great, it’s quick, responsive, and gives a good overview of all my feeds. Now it’s time to find an alternative.

Google’s competitors got quite a boost after the shutdown was announced. Feedly, one of the major ones in this regard, reported 500 000 new users over 48 hours (!) after the announcement [1]. NewsBlur reported over 50000 new users being added to the existing 1500, basically crashing the site [2]. A third candidate, The Old Reader, is also in the running but lacks a good mobile interface. So what to choose? Well, here’s the quick and dirty overview.

Feedly is the most popular of the three. The mobile app looks really smooth, and since a few weeks back, it’s also got a web interface. Importing the data from Google Reader was very straight forward, and can be done from either the app itself, or the website. One thing I noticed is that when you click on the link to navigate to the article on the website in the mobile app, it’ll actually open the site in the app itself. This convenience did not exist in Google Reader, so for me it’s an upgrade.

NewsBlur is not purely a free service like Feedly; you can use the free version if you don’t have too many feeds (less than 60), otherwise you’ll have to pay for the premium subscription of $24 a year. NewsBlur also supports importing your data from Google Reader with minimal effort, but the import did not seem to keep the “read/unread” flags from Google Reader. So if you’ve stacked up a lot of unread articles that you’d like to go through sometime, be aware of this. The website looks a bit more old fashioned than Feedly, and so does the mobile app. Functionally though, it seems to work smoothly.

The Old Reader is aiming to be more like the good, old Google Reader. However, a big killer for this service is that it does not have a mobile app! It’s possible however to write a third-party app for it, as it exposes an API for doing so. Also, importing the Google Reader data is more inconvenient than the other two services above. You actually need to export the data manually first, it’s not a one-click operation. Of course, it’s a one-time operation, so it can be forgiven. Like NewsBlur, The Old Reader does not keep your read/unread state of your feeds when importing. The web interface is functional, and does have a lot of similarities with Google Reader. I feel the Feedly website is a bit fresher and modern.

Well, that’s it for now. Hopefully this will make it a bit easier for you to choose a replacement for Google Reader!

[1] http://blog.feedly.com/2013/03/15/priorities-keeping-the-site-up-and-adding-new-features/
[2] http://blog.newsblur.com/post/45632737156/three-months-to-scale-newsblur

Sad April

This is a bit hard for me to write, and I’ve been putting it off, but I guess it’s time to do it. I guess I can’t always write cheery stuff, however much I’d like to.

Shauna is moving back to the US. It’s been in the works for a while now. The main reason is, well, she misses home. I can understand that, it’s not easy to just move across the world all of a sudden. But anyway, that’s how it is…

We started out as good friends. Although it’s very sad that she is leaving, we part as good friends. We’ve had so many good times in the last 3 years I’ve known her, and we’ve decided that we won’t throw that away. Actually she found a quote that I think is very fitting:

    “Don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened” – Dr. Seuss (author)

 

This friday she will be flying home to California. I will also go for one week on vacation. We’ll spend a couple of days in San Fransisco, then drive through California via the Sequoia national park, and finally to San Diego to spend the last few days. I’ll be flying home from San Diego after a week. It might not be a very long vacation, but I think it’s worth it.

Of course I’ll miss her so much when she’s gone… but there’s no regrets.

Gravistroids

I just made my first game in Javascript! :)

Find it at http://hallgeir.org/Gravistroids/index.html .
I’ve tested it in Chrome and Firefox; it performs better in Chrome, though.

This is Asteroids, but with gravity. :)

Controls:
Up: Accellerate
Down: Accelerate backwards
Left; Turn left
Right: Turn right
CTRL (Control): Shoot!

A few notes:
- There’s gravity; try not to fall off the screen.
- If you fall off the screen, you die.
- If you crash, you die.
- If you die, start over by refreshing the page.
- It’s not optimized AT ALL. Expect some choppyness on low-end systems.
- There’s no sound. Maybe it’ll come later :)

King of absentedness

So it’s been about 2 years since my last post. So here’s a quick update in approximately chronological order:

  • I came back from the US after a year as planned
  • I got together with my girlfriend, Shauna, who comes from the US (Love you! <3)
  • Worked at CERN for a summer
  • Finished my master’s degree at NTNU
  • Started working as a software engineer at Software Innovation in Oslo
  • Bought an apartment in Drammen

Only good things, in other words. :) So yes, I’m still alive (just to ease the minds of those I’ve met up with after my last post; no, I was not a ghost). I can’t promise being very active on posting here, but we’ll see!

Oh, I’ve open-sourced the plugin I developed for use in my “Programming” page for showing off my software projects. It’s basically just a shortcode that spits out a formatted project entry given some attributes and a description. I figured it might come in handy for someone. You can find it here: https://github.com/hallgeirl/Project-shortcodes-for-Wordpress and in my programming page.

HAL online!

So I finally got my internet connection where I live. AT&T was quite slow to deliver, but I got it in the end. :P

Anyway, I just want to say that I’m good here in San Diego. Nice city, nice weather (most of the time), nice people. I haven’t done much useful the last weeks since my school doesn’t start before September 16th, so basically I’ve been on vacation and getting settled in. I’ve actually bought a car as well (for $1600 or ~10000 NOK) because the public transportation here is…  not that great and it’s so fun to drive here. :)

This weekend I actually went on a little road trip to Mountain View (close to San Fransisco) to visit a friend (Torbjørn, a norwegian classmate) who works at Facebook for the summer. I got to see the insides of their headquarters as well and it was awsome. We also had a trip to San Fransisco, which was a really nice city.

The rest of the days I’ve been here I’ve tried to learn to surf (which is quite fun) and snorkeling (which is awsome because of all the life in the sea around here). I’ve been swimming with leopard sharks, stingrays and a lot of other sea creatures.

Anyway, pictures will come soonish I hope. When I can get arsed to resize and post them ;)

Oh, by the way… you won’t reach me on my old phone number. But I can be reached on (+1) 619-397-8175. Or online from now on.

See ya all.