Friday, September 04, 2015

Synology SSD Disk Cache

Subtitle: What a Palava!

I thought I would write up the process of setting up a SSD Disk Cache on a Synology NAS Network Attached Storage.

I am using a relatively old DS1812+ machine. From the last 2 digits you can see it's a 2012 generation model.

Anyway it does have 8 disk bay slots and since I upgraded to 4TB drives, well it has some free bays.  So I thought I would use some of them for a SSD cache.

Synology NAS does not have any special slot for cache, you simply use a disk bay and insert a SSD disk.

In fact you can have a read only cache with 1 SSD disk, or if you have 2 identical SSD disks, a read-write cache.

Identical Disks

First attempts went badly since I had missed the memo on the disks being identical.   WTF?  Why is this a blinking requirement.  I just don't understand.

Try Again

After a ludicrous amount of disk shuffling I managed to liberate 2 identical SSD disks.  (Non trivial as I has to clone OS off an identical second SSD disk, and that was troublesome).


Some notes on the Synology Cache

- You need 2 identical disks, I learnt the hard way

- It's been working fine now for 2 months or so

- Initially I had an issue when one disk just disappeared.  I did the only thing a self respecting systems guy would do.   Update the SSD Disk firmware!

- The cache is now down to 32GB only sitting on 2 x 128 GB disks.  Why? Because it needs RAM memory to help with the caching and my DS1812+ has a relatively small amount of memory, so I can't afford to use the 128GB SSD as a 128GB cache.  Pretty annoying right!

- There is a cache advisor which looks at statistics and makes recommendations.

- Personally I've not noticed any performance improvements, but I just hope that there is small benefit I did not notice, and logically that actual physical disk read and writes are now reduced.

Overall it was just about worth it!  I think a more modern NAS design would allow for much larger memory capacity. Synology continues not to allow this or design for this.  (Compared to the other only sensible NAS manufacturer QNAP, which does support and allow large memory models ie. easily upto 16GB RAM).

Thursday, September 03, 2015

Seagate Archive 8000GB 8TB Hard Disk Drive

Subtitle: Still Working!

Marcus has been testing his first 8000GB ( 8TB) Hard disk now since April 2015

How much Data!

The initial picture above shows this 8TB disk sitting on top of my largest vintage disk.  That is a staggering 160MB.  My normal Vintage hard disks are about 20MB.

So this new disk is 50,000 times larger than it's grandfather. In my lifetime, that is impressive technological progress indeed.

Who needs this Data Volume?

About 5 years ago more technicians would have said everybody!   These days many people are looking to the Cloud for secure bulk storage.

Personally I think the Cloud model is currently flawed.  It's dependent on your (fibre) upload rate you see.  Even for us at > 900Mbps upload  ( > 90 MB/sec, oops did I just disclose that!) it would take over 1 day just to upload 8TByte of data at Wirespeed.  And believe me nobody we have tested including Google, Dropbox, iDrive etcetera gives us that wire speed upload capacity.  And for example Crashplan backup service is only able to manage 0.5MB/second, so 8TB up to Crashplan takes over massive 150 days, without a break.

So yes, I firmly believe that the Cloud model works well for data sets upto 500GB today with a ultrafast fibre connection and Cloud provider providing decent (say > 10MB/sec.) upload speeds.

But if you have <a lot> more data then look to local storage.

Consolidation Strategies

For over 2 years we have implemented and recommended 4TB hard disk storage as a fast day to day medium.  Either Direct attach to your main household 'Server' PC and / or in a Network Attached Storage  (NAS).

Now we are suggesting a transition to 8TB local disks.

With this in mind Marcus has been testing, and testing, and testing his first 8TB disk.  Really testing especially because Storage friends are a bit skeptical of Seagate's hard disk reliability record, and losing 8TB of data, well, now that would be a restore!

Here are the relevent screens from HD Tune Pro 

 Read Speed is at least 100MB/second and usually more

 Write speeds were also suspiciously impressive!

 Read Random

 Write Random

 File Benchmark

 Quick Scan

 Error Scan start

Some 15 hours later it finished.  As you see I am taking no chances here.

Finally some wrapped and then naked drive shots ....

 Sexy right!


Computer components in our household get a hard life.   Our 8TB server drive has been used aggressively now for over 4 months.  No issues to report so far!   In Switzerland the drive is readily available for a tiny 250 CHF from Digitec


Wednesday, September 02, 2015

Warsaw Airport Lounge

On a recent flight from Warsaw back home to Switzerland we arrived at the airport over 1.5 hours early.

This is unusual for us, because normally 45 minutes maximum is sufficient given that we have checked in online and have our digital boarding passes with us.

But we got an email indicating a change of policy leaving us with much longer flightside at Warsaw Chopin airport.

Chopin airport is, like much of Retail in Poland barely recognisable to the airport even 10 but certainly 15 years ago.  Then, Marcus never had lounge access and there was 1 coffee shop where you could buy a rather unappealing coffee and snack.

Instead now Marcus and Agata are firmly in, a beautiful, business lounge courtesy our our Priority Pass card

I found the very choicest fresly prepared desserts

Some beautiful pre packaged desserts
Freshly ground coffee with ultra modern machines.

And the results were

Agata happiness

Marcus happiness.

Some guy conducting a free video conference using the free Lounge WiFi.  Oh boy, things have really changed in the last 10 years.

And so

It is goodbye from Agata

And goodbye from Marcus,

but, we will be back.

Tuesday, September 01, 2015

Waiting on a Friend

Rolling Stones: Waiting on a Friend

Agata had a meeting in town recently and so as a dutyiful friend and husband we drove down into town amidst the rain so she could be on time.

Not only is Agata a friend, she is of course Marcus' best friend, and since her meeting seemed to drag on and on I had plenty of time to ponder how nice it is to meet up with friends in general, ideally face to face.

Marcus's paranoid aside!

I want to start with the downsides.   Well,  Lausanne, one of Switzerland's largest towns, with a population of over 100,000 people now has 3 Starbucks outlets.

About 7 CHF for a Grande coffee, I had to wait somewhere. Everything is ultra expensive in Switzerland, and Starbucks is glad to play its part in this regard here too :-(

About 45 minutes later, car parking expired, still no Agata, I walked back in the rain and sat in the car.   Oh boy, a high turnover carpark with a succession of careless or is it carefree motorists close parking.

Do you know the feel of outrage when a new arrival stops, then throws open their door, not even checking or noticing whether it will hit your car.  It's at times like this that I am thankful we chose the Audi TT over the (wider) Nissan GT-R

Back to the Plot

After a long wait, Agata re-appeared, her meeting over and we could continue the rest of our day.

So,  in conclusion, as we get older, and then a lot older, the importance of keeping, nurturing and sustaining good friends becomes critically important.

In these digitally prolific days, at least talk over Skype, or Google Plus,  keep in touch with each others ups and downs, and try to meet face to face whenever possible.   You will feel better for it, just try.

Rolling Stones: Waiting on a Friend live

Monday, August 31, 2015

A Heated Cup

This is a positive review of the Promu TMF-C17 heated travel mug that we picked up from a Polish supermarket in Warsaw.

As a paranoid Android I have not been stupid enough to plug it into any computer, but we do plug it into a 12V cigarette lighter connection in the motor home or car.

Why is it brilliant!

So, in a motorhome you will typically have a gas burner hob on which you can boil water, say in a kettle to make a hot cup of tea, coffee or some other drink.

The trouble is that unless you have a Microwave, and that means an AC power connection, and that means parked at a campsite, well you cannot reheat the drink once in your cup.

[NB: there are some other solutions ranging from a Generator .. !!, to an inverter driving an electric cup heater .. longwinded, listed for completeness here but not in any way comparable in terms of price or usefulness]


Well it is possible.

First the mug is double skinned, vacuum, like a thermos. This means that hot drinks inside tend to stay warm, even allowing for the metal construction.

But as the drink cools the idea is that you plug the unit into a car cigarette lighter and it really not only keeps the drink warm but gets it piping hot again.

The only slight issue is that the electrical connection point is not waterproofed so be careful whilst washing the mug clean.

Other than that absolutely great, and drum roll ... about 15 Zloty meaning about 3 GBP all in.

Now that is a bargain.   Previously we had used the IKEA Hemlig mug, but this is so much better  (i.e. the USB charging)


Sunday, August 30, 2015

Sunday Sermon: Debt

Beyond Belief: Debt, the Religious Angle

Is Debt necessary?

The answer is YES, but it is somewhat of a slippery slope. At a trivial level debt is merely an enabler.  You want to buy a weeks shopping but you don't want to carry cash.   So via your credit card you effectively take out a short term IOU, loan, i.e. go into debt with them, only to pay it off at month end from your existing cash reserves.

In these trivial cases: you have the money, (right now)  to cover an expenditure but it's not convenient to hand over the money for goods.

Just down the road from this is the case where you really don't have the money right now, but instead of saving until you do have the money, you want or desire to take the goods now, & so using a loan, you incur  a short term debt which is then repaid with interest to the financier.

In the middle ground, perhaps you want to finance a car.  The same pattern but the repayment period is typically years and not months.

And at the end of the spectrum might be the debt incurred for a property.  Since this debt might be (say) for 30 years it would be unreasonable to save up first a) because then you'd only own at the end of your working life/life  b) since house prices rise much faster than wages, waiting would normally leave you in  a position where you'd actually never be able to afford anything.

But it is a slippery slope.  In Switzerland, it was typical for couples to take on a house loan that would actually be passed on to your children, in other words, it was a given that the loan debt would never be paid off in your lifetime.  Only stupidly low interest rates, now present in all parts of the Western world have (temporarily) changed this timeframe, to in most cases a lifetime.

So,  initially debt, borrowing money starts off as an enabler but can lead to something more worrying.

What does it say about Religion
If you are a believer in Religion X (say Christianity), then for consistency and to guard against hypocrisy you should understand your Religion's teachings on it and follow them. So please listen to this podcast

Why Listen to Beyond Belief

As a short plug and aside:

- It is free

- Available on demand
- Thought provoking
- An insight into Religions other than your own
- A forum where you can see Religions talking openly and in a non hostile fashion over one another

Religious Harmony

What initially delighted me to Beyond Belief is to discover a programme where people of different faiths would be interviewed together and have these different faiths be at least civil to each other.

That is somewhat remarkable.  And worth a listen purely on those grounds.   It also gets somewhat entertaining when different faiths pronounce their often totally contradictory teachings on a subject area, because, their peremptory viewpoint derived from an infallible holy book, cannot be wrong.

What did it teach me

I evaluated the Religious teachings on debt with varying degrees of hilarity.

Today there are complex financial systems that were never imagined thousands of years ago.  And even people living the most mundane lifestyles in first and developing countries can see clear reasons how debt can be usefully used.

So I judge all the religious doctrines against the theories that I have learnt throughout secular life and specialist financial learning and teaching.  It's that they might have some truth in them, but they are more or less flawed in today's world which differs so much from the pre industrial, pre scientific and pre technology based world in which the religious texts were written, (or some would claim, dictated from a God or messenger of a God).

Debt Categories

+ A bridge to allow you to enjoy products and services now, that might take too long to save up for.  A house is a good example.   Or to cope with an unexpected circumstance, for example a medical bill.

- An enabler to allow you to live a lifestyle of extras  (above subsistence) that you cannot afford but desire

+ An enabler to allow you lead a Subsistence lifestyle in the short term until those debts become large and unserviceable. You have taken on this debt because of an avoidable catastrophe in your family.  Example, natural disaster leaves you without a home or husband.

- An enabler to allow you to lead a Subsistence lifestyle, until your debts become unserviceable.   But you knowingly took on commitments, perhaps extra children, without any idea how you could support them.

In all but the first instance you will leave this world leaving others, e.g. friends, family, society, paying for bad decisions or circumstances.  In the case where you choose to live beyond your means, your selfishness means that you have net gained, and others will have to pay for your profligacy.


Beyond Belief: Debt download (2015)
BBC: The Debt Business (2015)
BBC: A history of Debt (10 episodes 2015)
BBC: Peston and the house of Debt  (2014)
BBC: The meaning of Debt  (2011) 

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Thanks to Rob and Hilary

This is a small photographic thanks to our dear Friends Rob and Hilary for taking the time out of their busy lives to visit us in Lausanne Switzerland recently.

Ah the beautiful lake and good friends a sound combination.

To everybody that has forgotton, yes Lausanne is a wine producing region of Switzerland.

Sleepy summer towns by the lake

The province of grapes and large CC motorcycles.

It's a French translation thing you know.

Macus and Agata thoroughily enjoyed the catchup and we can't wait to have you visit again, because word on the street is that you may have some time spare soon.