Thursday, September 25, 2008

Back to Linkstations

I've played for some time with various machines such as the Zonbu (the low cost Linux box), Linkstation (a Linux NAS), Shuttle KPC (a full PC) and with a HTPC (homebuilt based on AMD's 780G chipset). All the while I have been looking for a low cost, low running cost machine to act as a download box and a central server. The Linkstation came close but not quite the whole way there.

Latest purchase is a 2nd Linkstation. I'm going to store Music, Documents and Pictures on a 250gb Linkstation and Video and Download role to be homed on the 1tb Linkstation I already have. The total consumption of two Linkstations being on 24/7 is 26W, still well below almost all PCs (even those new Atom systems) and with two 3.5" SATA hard disks.

Now here are the clever bits.

When "She Who Must Be Obeyed" is using a PC and working on editting photos as she does, she has almost exclusive use of that LS. The other LS might be downloading away and even unarchiving but that won't slow her down. Good thing too!

Overnight, the two Linkstations talk to each other and backup the key files. All the Music, Docs and Pics are echoed to the 1tb LS and the important files (not the huge chunk of video) are backed up in the other direction. So I have data security too. That is something that doesn't need to involve the PCs I normally use for the job and will be all automatic.

One final green twist? I needed a new Gigabit switch as I hadn't enough ports on the router. I bought a DLink one (same dimension as my router which is also DLink) but this one is the new "green" one that powers down the bits not being used. I can leave my two Linkstations plugged into the router (as they will be on and active all the time) and my less active devices can be on the switch which will save a few microwatts of power as they are not on 24/7.

Friday, September 19, 2008


My Wind dual boots now into Mac OSX and into Windows XP.

The easy way to do this is to download from your friendly Torrent site a file called WindOSX86.iso and burn it to a DVD. My experience of this wasn't very smooth - I burned the disk 3 times, first at 16x, then 4x and finally to a re-writable disk at 1x (so if it barfed I hadn't wasted another disk). Boot the Wind from an external USB DVD drive and install. The only thing to note was the need to uncheck "Kernel" from one of the install options but otherwise all very easy. Wireless doesn't work as the card that the Wind has as standard isn't compatible but a cheap Dell 1490 card can be bought from eBay and installed at the same time as upgrading the memory. I have the memory sitting waiting for my wireless card now.

Given the difficulty in getting a reliable burn on the install DVD I found a procedure whereby you can transfer your install DVD to a USB stick so since I had a spare 8gb stick I now have my installer on that, plus images of additional Mac software I can install. I have my hard disk split into 15gb for Windows, 15gb for OSX and 45gb for shared data, accessible by both operating systems.

My recommended Mac software for starters

MS Office 2008 (or Open Office which is free!)
Paragon NTFS (which enables read and write to NTFS drives like Windows uses - OSX only reads but won't write without this extra software)
XSlimmer (this removes all non-Intel code from Mac installs - OSX runs on both PPC and Intel processors and there is no point in storing PPC code that will never be run)
Firefox (I love Firefox because it is so configurable - AdBlock, FlashBlock and Foxmarks - via Addons)

If you have a Wind then why not try a bit of hacking yourself. The forums at are a good source of info, not just about this hack but all sorts of interesting info

Friday, September 12, 2008

I've got Wind!

No, not more farting problems!

My eldest sprog just produced some superb GCSE results (10 grade A* and 2 grade A) and my parents rewarded her (like her cousin) with a laptop. I knew what she wanted to use it for (MSN, Facebook, some basic internet browsing and typing documents) and where (school or home) so I suggested to her a netbook would be ideal as it was portable unlike most laptops and not a device that gives away its presence by the carrying of a large laptop bag or a hunched shoulder.

She was having none of it having seen my older Eee and deciding it was too small. She wanted a 15" Dell. I kept silent. Anyway, I took her to see some laptops in the shops and it soon became apparent I was right. Comments like "feel the weight of that" and "isn't it thick" were mentioned regularly! When I showed her the 10" netbook I had in mind she was sold. So we got one on behalf of grandparents.

Apart from a mysterious fault that seemed to indicate a cracked screen (cause unknown) she's been very happy, so much that she hasn't managed to abide by the rules over usage or abusage!! I had to return the faulty one and when getting the replacement my beloved offered me one as an early Xmas present, so I got one too. The make/model is the Advent 4211 (a re-badged version of MSI's Wind netbook). The keyboard and screen sizes are ideal. Small but usable. Only criticism is the persistence with a 3 cell battery which means 2 hours of use when a 6 cell would give a more useful 4 hours. Still, it can be changed later if needed.

First off, remove the PC World "Tech Guys" partition for backup uses and remove their Windows XP Home edition. Replace with a customised nLited (that means no bloaty Windows here) XP SP3 installation. Runs much smoother now. As I built an unattended install DVD I could come back to complete, customised, fully installed machines with Firefox and all my favourite applications pre-installed.

Next is trying Mac OSX. The netbook is ideal for this but I need two small upgrades first - more memory and a new wireless card. More on that later!