Network Attached Storage Roundup - Christmas 2011

Over the years I've used almost every brand of Network Attached Storage (NAS).  I've tried Buffalo, Iomega, Seagate, Western Digital, Apple, LaCie and most recently Synology.  Two major players I've missed out on are Drobo and QNAP.  

Here are some comparison points to help you decide if you are considering NAS.  There are several factors in choosing an NAS.  One is media performance.  Some units brag about DLNA* while others ignore it.  Sone units come with disks which seems more convenient but is actually a LOT worse if you ever experience problems.  The best choice is a unit where you have to put in your own disks.  Why? If the thing breaks, do you trust Seagate or WD with your data?  Do you think they will send you the same one back with your files on the thing?  Even Apple doesn't do that.  So spend a little more time and money and buy your own SATA drives and a NAS unit that accepts customer installed disks.  It's the best way to go to protect your data.  


*DLNA is a media standard to support streaming audio video and photos from a NAS drive to a DLNA aware internet TV, BluRay player, computer or even an iOS or Android device.  I'm considering Apple TV someday but I already own a DLNA ready TV and a DLNA ready bluray player so I decided to focus on DLNA as one of the requirements for my NAS drive.  I don't think I should have to leave one of our Macs running iTunes just to stream stuff around the house since iTunes generally makes my Macbook's fans run.

In the ratings that follow, I've included links to manuals for each unit.  You can tell a lot about a unit by reading the user manual before you buy.  If the manual goes on for pages about how to type a URL into internet explorer, you know the device is aimed at a novice user but you also know the setup should be quick and painless.  If the manual is 200 pages long then you know the unit has a lot of features but you might be in for a long session figuring it out and setting it up just the way you like it.

***** Synology: Good quality, medium to difficult setup, above average cost, fast DLNA performance, fast network performance, no transcoding capability, can be set to power itself back on after a power failure, very low power 6 to 18 watts, extensive setup screens in a browser, apache, php, mysql web server, root shell access.  DSM 3.1 manual (pdf) 5 stars.

**** QNAP: Good quality, purchase drives separately, high cost, no DLNA support, fastest network performance, turbo nas manual. 4 stars. (not tested)

*** Apple: Medium quality (except near 100 pct failure for first gen Time Capsules), drives included, medium to slow network performance, no DLNA support, moderate setup screens in airport utility, OS X and iOS update caching if you use your TC as your router. setup guide (pdf) 3 stars.

* Buffalo: Medium quality, drives included, slow network performance, does not power back on after power failure, 1 star. manual (pdf) (used an older model over 5 years)

** LaCie: Medium to good quality, drives included, medium to slow network performance, powers on after a power failure, firmware update may require factory reset to recover, moderate setup screens in a browser, 2 stars. manual (pdf) (used over 1 year)

* Iomega: poor quality, drives included, loud fan noise, high power consumption, runs hot, poor network performance, poor setup screens in a browser, 1 star. manual (used over 2 years)

* Seagate: medium quality, drives included, slow network performance, full capability requires annual subscription, avoid this brand, no power up after power failure, 1 star. manual (pdf) (brief testing)

** Seagate Blackarmor: medium quality, drives included, medium network performance, 2 stars. manual (pdf) (not tested)

**** Drobo: good quality, high cost, purchase drives separately, 4 stars. manual (not tested)

Another reason I like iPhone: Android Platform Abandonment

I'm well into my second year of iPhone 4 ownership and I get asked from time to time why I didn't pick Android.  At the time, I was considering an HTC Droid Incredible and you couldn't get Froyo on the Incredible. I had lived through what it was like to walk around with Blackberry OS and 4.5 in an OS 5 world where everything from apps to themes wouldn't work on my janked up old phone.  I wasn't going there again. At the time, I had an iPod Touch and an iPad so I already know I was happy with the way iOS worked.

My close brush with the Incredible gave me a vague glimpse of how chaotic things are on the Android side of the aisle, but now someone over at has put together an informative graphic that captures the glaring difference between iOS and Android device support...

Objectively and subjectively I made the right decision choosing iPhone 4.  More info available at the source link. This chart provides part of the objective information and the half a million apps I can choose from provides even more...

More Thoughts on Photostream

Now that 2 family members are walking around with Photostream enabled, I've had a chance to get a better idea how I like it. 


  • Photostream "just works"
  • Only uses wifi - big plus for those on a lower tier data plan
  • Reasonably quick
  • Automatically adds faces and places metadata to photostream pics in iPhoto Library
  • Doesn't upload "old photos" only new ones, however...
  • Doesn't send videos - good for battery life but...


  • No option to manually upload "old photos" - If I can push old events to photostream from iPhoto on my Mac, why can't I push old photos to photostream from Photos my iPhone?
  • Doesn't send videos... requires cable and "image capture" for videos. Just as wifi sync requires the phone to be on a charger, why not automatically upload videos when the phone is on a charger and in range of wifi?
  • No web interface to view photos - What's up with this?
  • No public web gallery available - I can't pick photos to show up on any sort of public photostream. Once they are on Apple's server, why should I have to upload them again to flickr or picasa so other people can see them?
  • Few settings - way too few settings ...
  • I'd like to control how many photos are in my photostream (less than 1,000) and when they expire (60 days)
  • No way to share photos between users via photostream (I should be able to put photos on other family members' photostreams either from the web or right from my phone)
  • Must purchase iPhoto 11 to get photostream working - I thought iCloud was "free for iOS 5 and OS X Lion" users.
  • Store photostream pics in iPhoto library which could lead to a huge library at the rate I take photos, normally when I import photos, I have "copy to iPhoto Library" switched off so my iPhoto library is about 1/20 the original size of the photos it manages.
  • No way to delete individual photos - must reset entire photostream

iCloud First Thoughts (and a few tips)

I tend to wait a bit when there's a new OS X or a new iOS. I like to watch the forums and find out what other users are experiencing before I "take the plunge."  As a long time .Mac and MobileMe subscriber, I felt extra pressure to move up to the newer OS in order to avoid any possible interruption in service.  Yes, I know MobileMe is supposed to be around until June 2012 but left to my own devices I might just have waited that long. In this article I will talk about my preparation for iCloud, upgrading a mobile me family pack to iCloud and I will delve into how photostream has worked for me.


I first tackled Lion.  I bought it in the app store and installed it on my Macbook.  It worked well enough but it broke a few things.  My Network Attached Storage drives were missing and I lost the ability to use VNC from my iPad to control my Mac.  There was a bug in Lion such that third party VNC apps wouldn't know where the cursor is. I could see but I couldn't click on anything.  I later downloaded and installed splash desktop and got around this.  But I'm getting ahead of the story.  I made sure all our Macs had Lion. I created my own usb restore stick from the installESD.dmg that comes with Install OS X  I made a usb stick copy of the app as well.  This meant I never had to sit through another Comcast-throttled Lion download.

iOS 5

When IOS 5 came out, I was kinda busy so I waited a few days.  I went ahead and let iTunes download it but I didn't do the install right away.  Again I did my own iOS device first before moving on to those of other family members.  Mine went pretty well but Comcast got up to its old tricks and I had to reset my cablemodem a few times to get decent download speeds for the 700+ meg iOS downloads for other family members.  This is where I first saw the iCloud setup.  I skipped it.  I wanted to walk around with Lion 10.7.2 on my Mac and iOS 5 on my iThings for a few days before taking the next step.


So here we are in the fourth paragraph and I finally start talking iCloud.  That's because the groundwork required to get ready for iCloud was pretty involved. Several days ago, I created a trial iCloud account and set it up on my Mac.  I would later learn creating a "dummy" iCloud account was a big mistake.  And here comes the first hint.  When you delete an iCloud account from a device or computer, all the data that came with or got associated with that account gets deleted.  You don't get a choice.  So when I decided to go ahead and try to migrate my MobileMe account to iCloud last night, I got an Apple agent in a support chat before I began.  He talked me into removing the test account before upgrading my mobileme account to iCloud and it wouldn't let me sign out without deleting data which in my mind wasn't really associated with that account.  So here is the second hint. As if you didn't already know, back up your data before you begin

Ravel Bolero Symphony Flash Mob - Spring 2011

I've had a pretty rough day today. I got home to one of those "must see" emails and thought to myself maybe this time it really is must see. I'm glad I opened it. Imagine seeing this during your daily commute...


Farewell Steve Jobs

As I sit here typing on my Mac with an iPhone in my pocket and an iPad lying nearby, I can't help but think how much different life might have been without Steve Jobs.  The Xerox Palo Alto research center would have tinkered on without anyone noticing while we toiled away on green text screens.  Perhaps the operating system of choice might be made by Quarterdeck. We might very well still be talking on not so smart cell phones that need a stylus and listening to music on clunky platic disks.  Farewell Steve, you will be missed.



A Right to Life photo from the Left: 21 Week Old Fetus Grabs Doctor's Finger

I received an email from a my friend Ingrid about a photo taken of a 21 week old fetus grabbing a doctor's finger during intrauterine surgery.  Her email mentioned a recent photo so I decided to do some research and came across a photo was taken over 10 years ago.  I wish we could get a picture of the child today.  

I'm one of those pro life liberal leaning people you never hear about on Fox or MSNBC. I wish the issue of right to live wasn't associated with a particular political persuasion.  Life is sacred whether you think we are taxed too much or not enough. Life is sacred whether you look like Barack Obama or you look like Mitch McConnell. When I think about it right to life has more in common with liberal philosophy of feeding the hungry and clothing the naked than it has in common with conservative philosophy of self reliance and the elimination of the nanny state.  At the time the photo was taken, the photographer was pro choice.  He is now pro life.  

Must See! ISS Flyby Movie

Here is a youtube video made from 600 time-lapse photographs taken from the International Space Station. It is awesome and something I'm sure the special effects team will watch before they make another space movie. 

Via Slashdot...

Windows 7 Aero Settings: Are You Kidding?

The other day, I found an article citing Apple's advantage had more to do with manufacturing than design.  Today I had an experience that tends to reinforce the opposite view.  After a laptop upgrade, I had to spend upwards of 40 minutes looking for the setting to prevent windows from maximizing all by themselves.


My computer at work runs Win 7 Enterprise.  It's useful enough and was a welcome upgrade over the slow and buggy XP we were saddled until our IT people finally started letting Win 7 get pushed to us in late 2010.  I needed to use an internal web site that was designed for Internet Explorer.  You could make some progress in another browser but ultimately the site was useless without IE.  Some time in the last month, it stopped working for me.  IE kept saying I didn't have java installed.  I could visit Sun and test my java in any browser but IE and it worked fine. I upgraded to IE 9. I downgraded back to IE 8.  It wasn't going to work.  I gave my Laptop to the IT guys who spent 5 days (including a long weekend) trying to make the thing work.  When I returned to the office after Labor day, the site still did not work. So the obvious answer was a new laptop. Well it wasn't that obvious to me but they had the thing for the better part of a week with no progress so I figured it was less painful to put back a few settings like caps lock and aero maximize and I'd be good to go.  I was right. Mostly...


Update: In Win 8 the settings are in the same obfuscated place! Ouch!

Daring Fireball: New Apple Advantage

This past Friday, an interesting article appeared over on Daring Fireball. One interesting point it makes is that perhaps Tim Cook is more essential to Apple's success than Steve Jobs.  The article compares the experience buying a Macbook Air to buying one of those new small Windows laptops.  I've spent some time explaining to friends how Apple gear works better for me but people are gonna stick with what they know.  The thing is that lately more and more people know Apple gear and that suits me just fine. 

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