Did You Miss the Lunar Eclipse? Gorgeous Photos from Eric.

I was feeling really bad on Tuesday.

A gorgeous lunar eclipse took place that was visible from most of Asia-Pacific, and even stretched to full visibility over California.  But with peak viewing at just past 3:30am, I just couldn’t make it.  One of the liabilities of having two kids under 3 and a full-time gig at a start-up, I guess.  🙂

Fortunately, Eric did stay up, and since he is an incredible photographer, I’m feeling better about it.  Tell me that these aren’t gorgeous shots:

Eric’s full post on how he took them is here.  His web gallery, where you can buy his more famous prints, is here.  Full data from NASA on the eclipse is here.

6 Terabytes (TB) of Storage in a Mac Pro. Jealous Much?

Not sure what to say here but wow.

My friend Eric has done it again.  You may remember my last post here about his efforts to get a 320GB Raid 0 array into a MacBook Pro.

Well, he recently ran out of storage on his Mac Pro, and upgraded it with six (6) 1 TB drives, for a total of 6 TB storage.  Check out this configuration:

Not only does he have 6 drives, but he has an optimized configuration, layering both RAID 1+0 over different partitions to create the optimum mix for system boot, scratch, and photo storage:

A2: 20GB partition x 6 = 120GB RAID 0 (striped) fast partition for PS3/Final Cut scratch
B2: 65GB partition x 6 = 195GB RAID 1+0 (striped over mirrored) boot partition
C2: 850GB partition x 6 = 2.5TB RAID 1+0 (striped over mirrored) data partition

For the full article, with benchmarks, click here. If you want to buy some prints of his more famous photos, go to his new web gallery.

Adam Nash Gets NAS: The Infrant ReadyNAS NV+

It has been a long while since I reviewed any high tech device on this blog, but I am so delighted with my new Infrant ReadyNAS NV+ that I had to post about it.

The Infrant ReadyNAS NV+ is one of the new generation of simple, easy-to-setup storage servers available for home and home office use.  Although individual hard drives are getting cheaper every day (I regularly see 500GB drives for $99 on NewEgg now), storage of large media files (like video and DVDs) are outstripping even the biggest drives.

The Infrant ReadyNAS NV+ is a really interesting solution.  For about $600 you get an shiny, empty case, about the size of two large Harry Potter hardcover books.  The case has a plug for power, 3 USB ports, and a single Gigabit ethernet port.  The little server has a cute little LCD, hidden behind a mirror, which displays status in plain English.  The case has room for up to four SATA hard drives, although it will function with only one if needed.  However, the magic really starts when you install multiple drives.

You see, the Infrant ReadyNAS NV+ is actually a little genius of a server.  It is built to magically turn multiple hard drives into a single, large volume, with professional-class protection from data loss, and the ability to be accessed from anywhere on the network, by any Mac, PC or Unix machine.  For techies out there, the device seamless handles RAID 0, 1, 5 and “RAID X” configurations. By default, the machine comes configured for RAID X.  More on RAID X in a second.

The Infrant ReadyNAS NV+ offers the amazing feature of data protection.  If any one of the hard drives crash, you won’t lose one byte.  In fact, you can just pop out the drive, insert a new one, and voila, everything is back to normal.  Fantastic for anyone who has dealt with the struggles of trying to back up hundreds of gigabytes of data.

Even better, the “RAID X” virtualization software in the ReadyNAS allows you to start out with as few as two drives, and still have complete data protection.  When you run out of space, you can just add a third drive, and voila, more storage!

This data protection costs you in terms of GB… one drive is utilized completely for protection.  So if you have just two drives, you only get access to a single drive worth of storage.  However, drives are cheap, and losing data isn’t, so these days it is worth.

I have had two major hard drive crashes in the past two years – each one was almost tragic.  The first cost me about 5% of my photo library – that may not sound like much, but it meant whole event albums were lost… (sorry, Rebecca, your prom photos are gone).  The second cost me about 1/3 of my music library, leading to many hours of re-ripping CDs.

Those events led me to the conclusion that it was worth spending the extra dollars on more robust storage.  Now that we have multiple computers in the house, and devices like the AppleTV, it makes more sense than ever to have cheap, reliable, massive network storage.

The Infrant ReadyNAS NV+ has a lot of professional-class features.  The OS is on flash, and is thus protected from any drive failure.  The LED gives great status, and the device has a lot of file-server configuration tools on it’s web based administration.  You can even plug an addition USB drive into the device to automatically backup the ReadyNAS!  The NV+ is quieter, and has improved technology for compatibility and speed with Mac OS-based machines.   It supports full duplex Gigabit ethernet with large frames, making it as fast as possible for network storage.

I configured my device with 2 750GB Seagate 7200.10 drives, each with 16MB cache.  Over my Gigabit network (I’m using a NetGear 8-port 1000/100/10 Switch), I am seeing speeds of about 500MB per minute, but the ReadyNAS hasn’t finished synching yet, so I expect speeds may improve a bit.  At this speed, I can do an incremental 1-4GB backup easily in minutes.

The machine is relatively silent, louder than a Tivo though, quieter than a PC.  It’s small, and I’ve actually installed it not next to my computer like a hard drive, but on a shelf near my ethernet switch.

When I mount the drive, I see the shares on my PowerMac G5 just like any other server, with 666GB of storage available.  (Yes, weird how the 750GB drives come out that way… just an artifact of the fact that hard drive manufacturers continue to label their hard drive sizes incorrectly, pretending that 1 Kilobyte is 1000 bytes instead of 1024.)  I paid a lot more for the 750GB drives – about $200 each vs. $100 for the 500GB versions.  Still, this gives me room for an additional 1.5 TB of storage over time, and I really think I’m going to need the space.  At this point, my backup needs about 300GB, and I have 60GB of photos, 100GB of iTunes music & video, and 400GB of ripped DVDs… and that’s just right now!

Anyway, I love the device, despite the cost.  There are cheaper boxes out there, but this server lets me start with the storage I need, and painlessly expand over time.   I also considered the Drobo, which is about $200 cheaper, and connects via USB 2.0.  The Drobo has an even better trick with storage – it will let you use drives of different sizes!  Use 2 500GB drives today, and add 2 1TB drives in a year when those are available.   Still, in the end, I wasn’t comfortable with a drive that had to depend on a computer to be used by other machines – I like betting on the future of Gigabit ethernet more than on USB 2.0.

You could always buy a cheap PC, get a RAID 5 card, and try to build this yourself… but when I priced it out, it was hard for me to save much money, and the time & quality of the end result was just not compelling.  I was able to install the 2 drives and set up the ReadyNAS in less than 45 minutes.  It would have been faster, but I of course insist on tweaking the security and network settings.

Anyway, I can’t say enough good things about the ReadyNAS NV+.  It took a bit of work and confidence to get the drives to slide in properly, but it really is a great product.

Build an eBay Photo Lightbox… out of a Corona Beer Case

Found this blog post today on WordPress.com on how to build an inexpensive eBay photo lightbox.  An amazing find!

Start:

Finish:

I love the ingredient list:

  • Empty Corona 24-pack box (or any cardboard box)
  • Paper towels (I used Bounty quilted)
  • Printer paper (8.5″ x 11″)
  • Duct tape
  • Scissors and/or razor blade
  • Reading lamp (Mine has a 60W bulb)
  • Camera

If you don’t know what a lightbox is, it’s a way of diffusing light to help take flattering images of standard objects.  This can be extremely helpful when you sell online, because giving your photos professional quality framing and lighting can literally add dollars to your bottom line.

I don’t use a lightbox today for my photos, but as I consider selling coins more regularly on eBay, I’ve wondered if I’d need a lightbox to get high quality results.

Consider this a “fun find” if you sell on eBay.

How to Rebuild Your iPhoto Library (iLife ’06)

This is more of a quick tip, just in case you start having the same problem that I did.

I made a mistake recently where I pulled out my compact flash card before the iPhoto import was complete. Instead of handling this gracefully, I ended up with a bunch of images in iPhoto where the thumbnails don’t display. Instead, I get a bunch of white boxes with grey dashed-line borders.

Searching the web, I found out that other people who had this problem were able to solve it by rebuilding their iPhoto Library. Unfortunately, Apple changed the super-secret command key combination to do this between iPhoto 4 and iPhoto 5, and there is no help documentation on it.

Still, for those who are curious, here is the answer:

iPhoto 4: When launching iPhoto, hold down the Shift and Option keys.

iPhoto 5 & 6: When launching iPhoto, hold down the Option & Command keys.

Interestingly enough, if you hold down Shift & Option keys at launch, you can tell iPhoto 6 to use a different library folder… pretty nifty if you wanted to maintain different libraries for some reason.

Here is the web page where I finally found the answer. Looks like this guy wrote a clever “iPhoto Extractor” application based on his experiences with this problem.

A Reef Reflected in a Bubble (courtesy of Eric Cheng)

Eric has posted just an amazing photo on his daily blog, and I thought I’d share it here.

Reef in a Bubble

I think it’s just an amazing shot. Having taken approximately 30,000 shots myself now, I can safely say that inevitably any photos that Eric takes are noticeably better than mine. Thank goodness for our family that he humors us with trips out to the suburbs once in a while.

Most of my shots these days are not of anything quite so exotic. I’ve been spending my time trying to get the perfect shot of my new son, Joseph Isaac Nash.

Blogs I Read: Eric Cheng & Wetpixel

Eric Cheng is a good friend of mine from college, and an extremely interesting person. Like me, he did the co-terminal program at Stanford Univerisity in Computer Science (which involves getting BS and MS degrees) with an emphasis in Human-Computer Interaction. Eric is also an accomplished cello player. After school, he worked for a few years at a software company called E.Piphany, which was pretty much your typical late 1990s success story.

After leaving E.Piphany, Eric decided to pursue his interests in digital photography, becoming one of the first to really specialize professionally in digital underwater photography. He now has one of his pictures hanging in the Smithsonian, and travels the world constantly on diving expeditions.

You can find a blog of his travels and insights at his blog:
Eric Cheng’s Journal

He also runs the site WetPixel, which is dedicated to digital underwater photography.

I’m lucky to count Eric as one of my close friends. If you are interested in either diving or photography, it’s worth subscribing to his feeds.