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Old 03-10-2006, 04:49 AM   #1
iamback
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Default External storage - my solution

OK - so I have a film scanner (Nikon LS-50), an image browser (XnView), and a cataloguing program (IMatch). Next on the program: storage.

Since I'm postponing buying a new computer until I have a load of other stuff sorted out, and do need a lot of storage to put scans and derived images on (at least a load of them before I start burning them to DVDs) I decided to get external storage - and enough so I don't immediately need to burn to optical media. Requirements: a lot, and secure; and preferably easily extensible; and I don't really want to "spend" a lot of drive letters on a computer since I tend to highly partition local drives.

So I did a lot of googling...

The first thing that caught my eye was external drives with both a USB port and two firewire ports, so you can connect them to the computer via one USB port and connect them together with the firewire connection. Nice, but I thought that would still need separate drive letters. And they were relatively pricey.

Then there are network drives, or drives with both USB and Ethernet. Now while Ethernet is not as fast as USB 2.0, I had already been working with a networked drive with IMatch and PSP, and found the speed at least acceptable. And, no drive letters needed. Drives with an Ethernet port tend to be a little more expensive than plain USB external drives though.

As for security, there's RAID, of course - with automatic mirroring you are pretty sure to have at least one drive with your data if the other breaks (and drives do break). You can even get them with a SATA interface - but I don't have a new computer yet, so that's out anyway. They also come with Ethernet and/or USB interfaces. One problem: RAID boxes (with two drives) tend to be at least twice as expensive as two separate drives. But you can do "mirroring" with software, too - just a bit slower, and because of the time lag, slightly less secure - with a bit of discipline and properly scheduled synchronisation jobs that should not be a problem.

Then I found a place that sells this box (currently even discuonted) - I didn't know such things existed until I stumbled over it here! It's a little Samba server and it turns any connected USB storage medium into a network drive; with two USB ports you can connect two drives - but using USB 2.0 hubs (with power supply) you can attach up to eight drives! What a find!

So, I ended up buying (two local stores and one Internet store):
  • The OvisLink Samba server
  • Two Western Digital external USB drives, 400GB each
  • Two USB hubs with power supply
All together for less than EUR 650.
Of course, all that Googling and shopping took quite a bit of time, but this gives me a very flexible and extensible setup.

Then yesterday, when I got the last two pieces of my puzzle, I started installing - which also took nearly the whole day. The drives were no problem - I connected one first directly via USB to test it, and install the software it comes with (Retrospect Express, a pretty nifty backup package); and test the software a bit to see if it could do my mirroring. (In principle, it can, but I found it's not as flexible as SyncBack which I'll probably use.) The drives come formatted as one big FAT32 partition, compatible at least with all Windows versions and Linux; possibly also Mac? Since the Samba server requires FAT32 I just left that - I'll use subdirectories to organize the space.

Next was the little server. That took lot of time, mostly because I'm not all that experienced with networking - I can do some simple things, but I had to learn a few new tricks in a hurry. The rather Chenglish manual didn't help my understanding either, and it took quite a while before I figured out that you have to connect the server directly to a "client" PC first to configure it; it comes with software that will find the machine (provided you've set the IP addresses on that "client" machine first so it's in the same range as the server's default) and where you can do basic set up for IP addresses (good, so I could go back to the original address on Grace!); and then allow you to go to a web page which allows further configuration of the server; that's pretty user-friendly (alas, I found alter this works only in IE). Once I had figured out that I needed to connect it to the "Internet" network card in Grace, not the "LAN" network card - the web page setup button remained disabled - it wasn't really hard to set up. I've only done the basics, enough for now. It's now in the same workgroup as my other computers, and while I was at it I also gave Christiaan a fixed IP address (I kept losing the connection between Christiaan and Grace, so hopefully this helps). The internal software is GPL'ed Open Source; the documentation clearly gives a URL where the software can be downloaded.

All three computers can now see the Samba server which - true to my scheme of naming machines after mathematicians/physicists/computer people - has been christened Blaise.

One disadvantage - but no biggie - is that with this setup the drives aren't shown by their actual volume name: the Samba server just gives them a generic name, depending on which drive is detected first. Since I do want to know which is which I just put a little empty file in the root of each drive to show which one it is.

Attached to images showing Blaise (the blue box on the right) flanked by the two 400G drives and the two USB hubs on top; enough space left to put my desk lamp, a little speaker and little Ganesh statues back more or less where they were.

I've already copied my multimedia storage from one of Christiaan's external drives to one of Blaise's. No mirroring done yet.
Next: figure out a proper directory structure that allows easy management of all types of images I need to keep track of with IMatch. That will provide a whole new set of DAM problems to sort out - but that's OK. Hardware is sorted, for now. Phew!

I hate hardware!
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Old 03-10-2006, 10:51 AM   #2
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Quote:
Originally Posted by iamback
The first thing that caught my eye was external drives with both a USB port and two firewire ports, so you can connect them to the computer via one USB port and connect them together with the firewire connection.
Caution advised - my WD USB/1394 drives all mention that you can only use ONE of the connection types; use of 1394 will disable use of USB.

That said, I have a WD 160G NetConnect. In addition to the Ethernet connection it has two USB connections to which I can connect additional drives (like my older WD80, my recent Maxtor 250, my new WD250 with neon lights or the Adaptec housing into which I placed my old 250G Maxtor Win2K drive).

If you daisy-chain (1394) or hub-connect (USB) the externals they will each appear as a unique drive.

If you are running Win2K or WinXP and suffering drive-letter overdose you can instead mount drives (partitions, actually) on a subdirectory (i.e., C:\drive_1\) rather than allocate a drive letter -- a little used UNIX-like feature of those OS.
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Old 03-10-2006, 11:38 AM   #3
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Originally Posted by gary
Caution advised - my WD USB/1394 drives all mention that you can only use ONE of the connection types; use of 1394 will disable use of USB.
Thanks for pointing that out - I didn't know that! (Good thing I didn't get the USB/firewire drives!)

Quote:
Originally Posted by gary
That said, I have a WD 160G NetConnect. In addition to the Ethernet connection it has two USB connections to which I can connect additional drives (like my older WD80, my recent Maxtor 250, my new WD250 with neon lights or the Adaptec housing into which I placed my old 250G Maxtor Win2K drive).
Oh, so it functions as a fileserver or hub as well? Interesting - that's a combination I hadn't come across.

Still, I'm quite happy with my little Blaise. And he seems quite happy in the company of Alan, Grace and Christiaan.

Quote:
Originally Posted by gary
If you are running Win2K or WinXP and suffering drive-letter overdose you can instead mount drives (partitions, actually) on a subdirectory (i.e., C:\drive_1\) rather than allocate a drive letter -- a little used UNIX-like feature of those OS.
Gosh - I thought I was pretty knowledgeable about Windows (Win2K here) but that's news to me as well! Where is this hidden? Command line? Disk Management? Off looking...

... OK, found it! Duh - Disk Management (of course) - Change Drive Letter and Paths: First Remove drive letter (if any), then Add... and choose "Mount in this NTFS folder" instead of "Assign a drive letter". Obviously only for NTFS-formatted drives (partitions) but you can create a new folder through that dialog as well. How nifty. Thanks so much for that hint!

(My motto, "learn something new every day" has been amply fullfilled the last few days - including today! Though struggling with the networking yesterday was quite instructive as well. )

   
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Old 03-10-2006, 10:10 PM   #4
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Interesting device. I have a Buffalo Linkstation. 250 gb for roughly US$220. Network attached. Must be running Linux inside. Two USB ports, either or external drives or one can be for a USB printer. Only some printers work, but that includes PostScript lasers. One feature that MAY not be common is that it explicitly understands Mac folders.
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Old 03-11-2006, 04:23 PM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by iamback
One disadvantage - but no biggie - is that with this setup the drives aren't shown by their actual volume name: the Samba server just gives them a generic name, depending on which drive is detected first. Since I do want to know which is which I just put a little empty file in the root of each drive to show which one it is.
I suspect if you attach the drives individually to your computer and use drive properties to give them different "labels" that, back on the server, those labels will be reflected in the share (subdirectory) "name".

Recent Linux auto-mounters tend to mount removable media on /media/DEVICELABEL and I suspect that OvisLink may merely be sharing the /media/ directory.

While I've got your attention - and since you are not the only one I know who seems to prefer lots of small partitions - can you help me understand the rationale behind opting to do so?

FWIW, I generally format precisely two partitions labelled System<C:> and Data<D:> - or highly mnemonic Code & Data when I'm feeling particulary nerdly.
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Old 03-12-2006, 12:01 AM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by gary
I suspect if you attach the drives individually to your computer and use drive properties to give them different "labels" that, back on the server, those labels will be reflected in the share (subdirectory) "name".
That's what I did before attaching them to the Samba server - but those volumne names just don't show up. "External_a1" is the first one detected, "External_b1" the second one detected, regardless of whether they are on one or the other USB port as well. That's why I added a little file named after the volume name so I can always see which is which.

Quote:
Originally Posted by gary
While I've got your attention - and since you are not the only one I know who seems to prefer lots of small partitions - can you help me understand the rationale behind opting to do so?
A number of factors play a role:
  • Multiboot: Grace was set up as a multi-boot system, with WinME and Win2000. The multi-boot system itself has its own (root) partition: C:, called SYSDOS622, and formatted as "Multi-FAT". You need a bootable DOS to install it, and it's clearly a system drive, hence the name. (Of course WinME is rarely used any more, but at the time I needed it for software testing.)
  • Because WinME is essentially 16-bit and Win2000 is 32-bit, and 16-bit Windows cannot read NTFS while NTFS is more secure and efficient (and preferrred for Win2000), that dictates a separation in 16-bit programs and data, and 32-bit programs and data. I also put the Operating System itself (and closely related things like hardware drivers) on their own system drives.That gives us a minimum of 6 (additional) partitions already: System, programs and data for each OS.
  • I have two physical drives so I take advantage of that by locating virtual memory on the second drive, and making it a fixed size - more efficiency. That's two more partitions. In general, the first HD is for programs, the second for data. (Also, software can be re-installed, the data not - so different backup strategies.) When I get a new computer, it will again have two drives (at least)!
  • In general, I separate programs and data (sometimes to the point of hacking the Registry) mainly for maintenance reasons: programs tend to change very little, and need little maintenance in the way of defragmentation; data is the oppposite and need frequent defragmentation. By separating them on separate partitions I can set different maintenance schedules for each.
  • I further separate out some types of software, for instance I have a lot of internet-related software (browsers, FTP, RSS...) and many of them cannot be configured to store their data on a separate drive but put it in their own subdirectory. So all Internet software goes on its own partition (intermediate defrag frequency)
  • Some software is very stable (and not going to be updated), and rarely used at all - in my case on this machine that's MS Office which I needed for a job but apart from Excel hardly ever use now; it has its own partition with just a tiny bit of room to spare; essentially it never needs defragmentation. It also comes with a huge amount of its own data (such as sounds and clipart) - which I just leave sitting there.
  • I have tons of email and essentially never throw any away - but it's high maintenance, so mail gets its own data partition (together with data from newsgroups).
  • A separate (normally empty) partition to use as cache when burning a CD - just large enough for that, causing no extra churn on other data drives.
  • I download a lot of stuff, programs mainly to test and tons of little tools; so I tend to have a separate download (data) partition. (I have now mostly moved that off to an external (networked) drive, but even there it sits on its own partition.) Still, if I do need to download something locally, it goes there (and then either gets discarded or moved to the external drive). That partition is a lot smaller now that the bulk sits on a networked drive (for which I'd like to set up a mirror as well - I'm not happy with all my software installs sitting on a single drive).
  • I'm sure you get the idea....

   
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Old 03-12-2006, 05:06 AM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by gary
While I've got your attention - and since you are not the only one I know who seems to prefer lots of small partitions - can you help me understand the rationale behind opting to do so?
Interesting question. When I installed Tiger and added a new drive last year, I let the anti-partition people persuade me to give them up on one drive (I had always used them in the past — it used to be necessary, but I was also used to them).

Before I redid the 120GB, I discovered it was a great mistake. Instead of tidy partitions for web site development, archives of my writing, pictures, downloads I had all these things in one huge drive called Files. Yuck. Path names were ridiculous, and no matter what I wanted to do I had to poke through long lists of items. And I really like to isolate downloads.

I also like to have two bootable volumes — one full up, for every day; the other for emergencies or testing. The testing one can be pretty small, as I do not install a lot of apps there, and don’t use it much.

So now I am going back to partitions. I have cleared out the 80GB and will give it two or three partitions (not sure yet). The 120GB is still partitioned, so I can tidy those up.

The drawback is that you might make a partition too small. I haven’t had that problem since drives became so huge. But if they do, well, like basements and attics, most drives can use a clearing out from time to time.

   
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Old 03-13-2006, 12:14 PM   #8
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gary: and since you are not the only one I know who seems to prefer lots of small partitions - can you help me understand the rationale behind opting to do so?
I have lots of partitions...

I have 4 harddrives--3 40gb drives and 1 120gb drive which is fairly new...divided as follows--listed in physical drive order:

D1 Main C:\ with my OS (w2k) 8gb
D1 PageFile1 F:\ 5gb
D1 Data G:\ 27gb

D2 PS Scratch D:\ 5gb
D2 Software H:\ 9gb
D2 extra K:\ (this used to belong to H:\ but was split off for reasons to complicated to go into here)

D3 PageFile2 E:\ 5gb
D3 Images I:\ 35.2 gb -- originally this was to be for image storage but eventually has come to hold my master download directory with lots and lots of subdirs, my Eudora email files and other odds and ends. I would love to be able to change the partition drive name now that I have my new 120gb drive but I can't because the drive is used by software that "knows" it by the name "Images".

D4 Images2 J:\ 120gb -- this is my new drive and is for my imaging files


When I had this system custom built, I wanted multiple physical drives because of Photoshop and its scratch file. At the time I had the build done, 40gb drives priced right.

Before getting my new 120gb drive, I kept my image files/projects on my Data partition (D1--G:\) along with my other data--letters, faxes, odds and ends of stuff I created but I began to run out of room and wanted a drive dedicated to my imaging work.

Software has its own partition (D2--H:\) because I *loathe* the idea of organizing my software the way Microsoft thinks I should and having it on the OS partition is a nightmare as far as I'm concerned. I hate the fact that most software now forces an installtion of "user" files in the Application Data area on my OS Partition.

I like separate partitions because it's easier to back up and keep organized.

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Old 03-13-2006, 12:57 PM   #9
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I have lots of partitions...
Interesting to see a lot of very similar considerations to my own!

   
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Old 03-13-2006, 06:32 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ktinkel
Before I redid the 120GB, I discovered it was a great mistake. Instead of tidy partitions for web site development, archives of my writing, pictures, downloads I had all these things in one huge drive called Files. Yuck. Path names were ridiculous, and no matter what I wanted to do I had to poke through long lists of items. And I really like to isolate downloads.
On the desktop or off the start menu I generally create directory shortcuts for the directories I wish to access quickly.

Quote:
Originally Posted by ktinkel
I also like to have two bootable volumes — one full up, for every day; the other for emergencies or testing. The testing one can be pretty small, as I do not install a lot of apps there, and don’t use it much.
On some sytems I simply installed the OS in a separate directory -- although in general I install a second (maintenance) copy of the OS on the 2nd (Data) partition

Quote:
Originally Posted by ktinkel
The drawback is that you might make a partition too small. I haven’t had that problem since drives became so huge. But if they do, well, like basements and attics, most drives can use a clearing out from time to time.
Under Win2K and WinXP if the drive is migrated to 'Online' (rather than 'Basic') then you can extend an existing partition by adding another volume.
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