Drobo S for Photographers

Some of you may know that I had my computer and several hard drives stolen. Most of that data was backed up other places, but in a miss mash of backup drives. I had 4 external drives hooked up to my computer. A TimeMachine backup, a main images drive, a drive with video, and a drive of older images. It and the video drive were usually not switched on. They didn’t go to sleep well.

It was a big pain. I decided to upgrade. I would buy one unit that would hold all of my current space needs, and provide some redundancy. I went with a Drobo S. I got it Friday, and went to work getting setup. (It is now Sunday Night and I have it all working. My images are on the Drobo, and my Lightroom and Aperture catalogs are on my desktop and all talking to each other)

The drobo unit is not cheap, but still I was surprised to see that all cable options were included. They have a USB2, a Firewire 800, and an eSATA cable.

I was a little surprised that the drives that I ordered with the unit (Direct from Drobo) didn’t come preinstalled. They are in very generic, straight out of a bulk shipment, from Western Digital. The drives come out of their boxes and insert easily with no cables to attach. Just drop them in. The cover on the Drobo S at least, is magnetic. That’s right, no tools required to put drives in or out. I like that a lot.

I also noticed that it does have the little lock slot on the back, which I intend to use. However, because the drives are so easy to get in, there is no way to lock the drives into the device. I guess I will be hoping that the next idiots that break in, if it happens, just get frustrated when the device is locked, and leave it with the drives still inside.

I hooked the Drobo up using the supplied firewire 800 cable. I will see how that is working out speed wise over the next couple of weeks. I will store my images in the Drobo, so it will be interesting to see how it works out. I have done this in the past with USB2.0 only, but I have another option in mind. OWC has an upgrade option, where you send in your computer and they upgrade it to have an eSATA port. It would be underneath where the vents are. This might be tempting, but then I would have to be without the computer for awhile again.

I had 4 different external hard drives that my data was scattered over, 3 of which had a backup. They are all getting combined into the one Drobo. I have 5 1TB drives in this thing. With their Beyond Raid tech, I have single drive failure protection, and 3.62TB of available space for my data. Lets get going…

The first thing I did was to create two volumes. I wanted to do this to provide 1 volume for TimeMachine. If I just provided a folder, not a volume, TimeMachine would never prune and delete old files, just keep on growing. I didn’t want that. I am a little confused about what happened. You have to choose a maximum size, and you have to pick less than the available drive space in order to create multiple volumes. I picked 2TB, and it created two volumes each 2TB. I should be able to add more space later to use the extra (I have less than 4TB, remember). The part I am not sure, is that I read a post that said the second volume will be allowed to expand past that 2TB when you add larger drives. I don’t know about that. I might need to do a shuffle when that happens. It would be better if you could set separate sizes in the Drobo Dashboard config tool. I could set 2TB for TimeMachine, and 12TB or more for the other volume. If it is possible, it sure isn’t clear in the tool or the help files.

Time to copy some data.

I plugged in one of the external hard drives to my computer and started to copy files. This will take awhile.

I came back to the computer (after a night of copying data) and found everything silent. The computer had gone to sleep (set to 3h, 1 drive copy had finished successfully), the drobo lights were off, the fans were silent. Very cool. That I like to see.

I don’t have enough time with the unit right now to give any more data than this, but it seems to be working just fine. My Drobo and the 5 supplied drives are working well. I do wish I could see the temperature of the drives or get individual SMART data from them, but the DROBO is supposed to alert me if something is going wrong.

I’ll let you know more as I learn it.

The price of forced overtime


The picture is an old office cube of mine taken with an iPhone, and has nothing to do with the post, other than it is about the office. But not “The Office”. I am a part of a large group that has been told that working Saturdays for the next 2 months is mandatory. Many have been working overtime for several months already.

So, why do people ever need to work overtime? Pretty simple really: it is perceived that there is more work to get done before the delivery date than managers think can get done within normal working hours. What I started to wonder, is if this will really get more done. If you do simple math, adding 8 hours to everyone’s day sounds like it gives you more time to get more done. Sounds like it, but you take human emotion out of the equation.

We can all do more for short periods of time, especially if we see the value in it. We see value sometimes when we feel like it is our responsibility to contribute to the company, or when we feel a sense of loyalty to a product, or group that will use the product. Or, we can see value to us in particular when we are given something in trade. This can be extra income, time off, or something else that is seen as a reward, and that our time was valued.

When this sense of value is missing, it becomes a very different equation. It is also why contractors (like myself) are not as annoyed by mandatory work. We get paid by the hour usually. We get paid more for coming in. On the other hand, when a salaried employee is forced to come in, they need to feel a sense of value. When the employee only sees the employment as a job, or starts to feel like they are being asked too much, management no longer get the extra they are looking for.

People want to feel valued, and feel like the effort they are putting in is compensated accordingly. When someone feels like one side of the equation has been altered, they change the other side. Sometimes this is even done subconsciously. People may not rush into work. Take longer lunches. Go for a longer coffee break. When someone would normally work an extra 15-30 min at the end of work to finish something, now they no longer start something new 30 min to an hour before end of work. Maybe they decide to use the sick days when they have a cold that before they would have worked through. That extra day, it isn’t an 8 hour day. In late, out early, going off site for lunch…

Don’t forget the lasting issues. Contractors come and go. Some might go early… Employees can look for other work. It is expensive to lose business knowledge. The feeling of loss of trust and being undervalued are very difficult to get back. You can loose it in a single email. It can take months to get back, if it ever does…

So what do you do as a project manager and your project is behind. You need the employees to feel invested in the extra effort. And you need to ask. You may be surprised at the effort you get when you ask. Trust me, whether it is telling kids or adults they have to do something, or giving them a choice, choice wins out every time. The other issue, is that people have lives outside of work. Saturdays may not work for some people. What if they would work 48 hours a week spread out over the week? What if they could squeeze more into the day than they do right now? What if you and the employee could agree on the extra work that needed to be done, and then let the employee get it done on their own schedule? What if they are offered something out front whether that is some time off, or even movie tickets. What do you think the response will be?

Which takes more work out of management? A mass email, or an individual meeting with each employee to discuss the situation that you are in? Pretty obvious, but the bigger problems will come if you take the easy way out.

I hate pair programming

Hand in Hand 

First, to clarify, I don’t hate the two lovely girls in this picture, but they can be quite the pair. Second, my mother told me never to say hate, so maybe that was not a good title. How about “I detest pair programming.”

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t want to be stuck in a cave for a couple of months and then crawl out bleary eyed and pronounce that I have created the perfect piece of code. I love collaboration. I go to others for help, input, guidance,¬†or to reciprocate for someone else.

What I¬†don’t like, is sitting¬†in a cube with two people where one person types and the¬†other looks over their shoulder all day.¬†Maybe I haven’t had the right person to do this with. Maybe¬†that is why the pair of kids in the picture works. They have their issues, but they get along well, and have similar goals most of the time.

When I am paired with someone, and they have the keyboard, I just feel like one of two things occurs. I am sitting there bored wondering why they just don’t let me type, or they are whipping through some material I have never worked with, and I am lost when I don’t get to “drive”. When I have the keyboard, I just find it annoying to have someone asking if the code could be done differently every 5 minutes. I don’t mind getting feedback, and code reviews are great. I have no problem working on a task, checking for ideas, implementing my approach, then getting feedback, and maybe refactoring. I just don’t like it in real time.

I don’t see the benefit. Luckily it only looks like we are doing this while several of us are new. It won’t last forever. Have you ever had to work for an extended time period in a pair? Did it work?

New Job

I start today out at Thompson Reuters. I have a new java contract for at least the end of the year. We will see how it goes with me and the project whether it lasts longer.

This marks the end of a great summer. I was able to spend a lot of time with the girls, and I am grateful for the opportunity. I have mixed feeling about starting. I would like to be able to pick Kate up from the bus everyday, and get to spend time playing with them and doing things like going to the zoo. On the other hand, I miss the working with a group aspects of my java jobs, and the sitting down and coming up with a solution to a problem. Maybe I will get to do it again sometime…

Many years ago, I was out at what was then called West Publishing working on some of the back end mainframe code for the Westlaw search engine. Now I am back on a team that is doing some of the conversion to newer technologies.

One of the things that I am psyched about is that this is a team that is practicing Agile methodologies, which should be a lot of fun. I haven’t been on a true Agile team before, and I am looking forward to it.

The Traveling Photographers Laptop?

Apple MacBookPro 13 inch

Apple released some new hardware on Monday. I always get psyched when that happens. Well, sometimes it is just a speed bump, and a “what ever”, but Monday has some interesting things introduced.

The 13″ MacBook, the one with the aluminium case got promoted to a MacBookPro. They get to charge more for the laptops with a “Pro” at the end. 😉 You can compare the the different models¬†at Apple here. It did get firewire 800 and a new non removable battery that Apple claims to get up to 7 hours of life. Wow, that would be cool.

Right now I have a 15″ MacBookPro, and it can feel a little big and heavy to carry around. The 13″ is 4.5lbs, and the 15″ is 5.5lbs. I think mine is a little heavier than that. The question though, is does the 13.3″ screen at 1280×800 and only a NVIDIA GeForce 9400M graphics processor cut it for image editing. Granted, this wouldn’t be designed to be the main image processing machine, but still… how big a trade off is it. We will have to wait and see what people think of the 9400M and running Photoshop/Lightroom/Aperture on it.

So I headed over to the Apple store, and I configured a 13″ MacBookPro with the 2.53Ghz processor (faster one), 4gig of ram (default), and 256Gig of solid state hard drive. Total: $2299.¬†Yes, that’s right, a SSD. Living on the edge. You could get the 128Gig version and get the cost under $2000. I think that a SSD for travel would be a great option. No worry about moving parts, and they are generally a touch faster.

Still, $2000 for a laptop is still kind of expensive, but you could go with the regular 250Gig hard drive and the price is on $1499. Sounds much more palatable, but dang…. I want the SSD…

I won’t be rushing out to get one anyway. First of all, my current laptop keeps going and going and going. It is only a little over two years old, but I bought a refurbished model, so I was a bit behind the tech curve when I got. But the dang thing just works. I have installed Leopard, Aperture 2.1, Photoshop CS3, and it runs just fine. After a couple of years on a windows machine, I was¬†already cursing those laptops. This MacBookPro,¬†still works just fine. Sigh… no good compelling reason to upgrade.¬†

The other reason is that I always buy refurbished. I have an iPod, an iMac, and the MacBookPro that I have purchased refurbished. They have all worked out fabulously. I have saved quite a lot by doing that. So, if I was going to get one, I would wait for the next speed bump, and pick one up from the refurbished site. I wonder if any 13″ models with a SSD will show up there…

Setting up Linux Software Raid

This entry is part 3 of 3 in the series Building a NAS

Dual Drives for Raid 1This is part of our series on building a NAS. In this article we will get the box set up with a static IP address, and get your drives set up for RAID 1.

We are assuming that at this point you have Ubuntu installed. We are gong to install software raid in a moment. The first thing I want to do is make sure we have a static ip address. Usually Ubuntu will start up with a dynamic ip address. This can make it more difficult to transfer files to this box, so lets make it static.
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The NAS is still down

I got my Western Digital green 1TB drives the other day. That didn’t work. I got a new power supply, thinking that the new drives just took more power than the old clunker could muster. No luck. Still dead. Not sure what the issue is at the moment. I need more time to troubleshoot. The system takes forever to boot, whether it is the existing system disk, or a CD of Ubuntu. It sits there just after a boot logo for a long time. With the drives in, it never gets further. Without them, it eventually continues. I can’t figure out where it gets stalled. What could be causing this?

2 Terrabytes of Backup Goodness. Maybe.

It doesn’t do much good to have any amount of backup if you can’t use it. Right now, the NAS, where I intended to put them appears dead. Not sure what happened. I powered down, put the new drives in, powered up with the newest Ubuntu server disk, and it dies on the install. Now it won’t start up at all. I get the Ubuntu graphic, then a blinking cursor. I am going to have to pull everything out, and put back pieces until it starts up. Just what I wanted to do.

New Flash and Drives

Not a flash drive. A SB800 flash, and two Western Digital 1TB green drives. These should be arriving today via UPS.

I am excited to get the SB800. I have a SB400 right now, but I am looking forward to trying out the new flash wirelessly. That will be cool. Also, the head turns better, there is a pop up bounce card and it will be much easier to gel than the SB400.

The drives were needed. I discovered the other day that both of the raid 1 drives in my NAS were failing. It would appear that the cron job to run smartmon wasn’t working, and I didn’t get an email that the drives were failing. Yikes. Almost all of the properties were saying “old age”. The drives are only 1.5 years old too. I think part of the problem is that they never spin down. I need to figure out how to get that to happen. I don’t really need instantaneous access from my NAS, and it does sit idle (except for the drives unfortunately) most of the time.

More on the new toys as I get to use them…