Syncing Syncthing!

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Today I had a pretty decent time setting up Syncthing, not to be confused with BTsync (now known as Resilio). Syncthing is a FOSS (Free-Open-Source-Software) program which lets you, well… Sync things 😉

My use case is likely not quite the same as others / intended use. But works perfectly for what I need it for, is pretty quick, super simple to setup and is so resource-light that it could happily run off of a Raspberry Pi!

What I needed.

I needed a way to sync my files from my work laptop to my NAS, I didn’t want to lose any of my important work data, i.e. various scripts, documents and files in general. So I looked at things like Dropbox, Google Drive, Owncloud/Nextcloud, Resilio and stuff like SSH tunneling and VPNs, nothing was quite right. Then I stumbled across Syncthing, a completely free, fully opensource, fast, generally great bit of software! It has a nice web based GUI, runs as a Docker container on my NAS, runs automagically on my work laptop too. It took a little bit of setting up but it now runs headless and on bootup until I shutdown.

How to setup

Now, don’t do the same thing that I did and just blindly follow the first guide that pops up on Google! Which I can’t criticise because I’m sure it’s great, it just didn’t quite work out for me – I believe it might just need to be updated slightly. I then had another little look around and found the official instructions on auto-starting… But thankfully the basic install is really straightforward.

# Add the release PGP keys:
curl -s https://syncthing.net/release-key.txt | sudo apt-key add -

# Add the "release" channel to your APT sources:
echo "deb http://apt.syncthing.net/ syncthing release" | sudo tee /etc/apt/sources.list.d/syncthing.list

# Update and install syncthing:
sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get install syncthing

So now that it’s installed, it’s as simple as following the instructions here.

/usr/bin/syncthing -no-browser -home="/home/marcus/.config/syncthing"

The snipped above will of course be different for your install. But that’s pretty much what you need to stick in your Startup Applications config, this will enable Syncthing to start in the background, automatically, every single time you boot up!

Once all of this is sorted, you’re pretty much good to go 🙂 You’ll want to setup the following:

  • Folders you’d like to sync
  • Devices you want to sync to / from
  • Advanced
    • Setting up Master / Slave folders & devices
    • Folder re-scan times
    • File versioning / recycle bin

Hopefully I’ve not missed much out! This is pretty much exactly what I spent my evening doing and it’s working for me – One final note, if your router doesn’t support upnp, you’ll need to forward port 22000/tcp to the IP address of you Syncthing server.

-Marcus

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Allo!

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Google Allo… Well I think it’s great!

Allo is a brand new app, it’s not even hit the Play Store yet, I grabbed my copy from www.apkmirror.com and it’s working great. Installed nice and quickly on my Nexus 6P (Running Android 7.0) and thankfully allowed me to activate Allo in an instant!

Google Allo, if you don’t know, is a messaging app. It’s almost a Google Whatsapp but it’s also not. The folks over at Google have tightly integrated “Google Assistant” into Allo, which is as close to AI as I’ve ever been 🙂

So there are 2 incredibly advanced products bundled into 1 neat and tidy app here. Some of the main features you ask?

  • Google Assistant integration
  • Group chats
  • End-to-end encryption
    • Incognito chats
  • Stickers, many.
  • Google Assistant, oh did I say that already? 😉
  • Message formatting*
  • (Probably some more things tucked away)

So it’s pretty jam packed with features, one of the best is of course Google Assistant. But I also greatly appreciate the way images and videos are formatted when sending messages to others. Unlike Whatsapp, images are BIG, you can still open them full-screen. They just don’t look rubbish like they do on other messaging services. Another great part of Allo, is that it operates over WiFi!! – Which, when you’re in a cellular deadzone, comes in extremely useful!

You’re still able to do all of the basics too though, don’t worry. There’s camera support, the full range of emojis, location sending, etc.

Google Assistant!

Google assistant is pretty incredible 🙂 Don’t get me wrong, it’s not there yet, but it’s certainly got an incredibly talented team working on it over at Google! There are niggles here and there with Allo but they’ll all be worked out before long.

Point of note, Google Assistant is still showing up as a "Preview Edition"

You can ask it boring things, similar to Google Now, such as the whether the weather will be nice, how tall certain people and buildings are, etc… But you can have pretty realistic conversations with it! It will laugh at some jokes (I’ve found there are only 4 ‘configured’ responses though) it will tell jokes. It doesn’t seem to have a Gender either, unlike Google Maps which is quite clearly a female voice. As it only types words on a screen and doesn’t have an audible voice, yet, it’ll just be “all-inclusive” as it tells me.

Allo uses emojis quite well too! Which was a nice surprise, it associates things with each other extremely well. It’s very contextually aware too which is crazy, almost scary? but incredible! As you may know, Google Now’s been contextually aware for some time now. But ‘chatting’ to Allo all day has been full of fantastic responses, and some less so.

I asked him, her, it? :

Me: Do you like snow?
Allo: It's pretty ❄️
Me: Can you hear?
Allo: I can hear the music, it's always a good time to go to a concert.
... 4 messages later ...
Me: Which state is best?
Allo: From the web (Lists the best US States for snow!)

I was expecting a funny answer about chemical states, gas, liquid or solid. But it ‘remembered’ snow and gave me results about snow! I find that awesome.

I can’t wait to see what else Google Assistant brings with it on Oct. 4th!! (The announcement event for the new Pixel and Pixel XL, as well as potentially a new ChromeCast 🙂 )

 

-Marcus

 

 

The Trip from FreeNAS to unRAID!

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Backstory:

When I initially setup my PMS (Plex Media Server) I was an exclusive Windows user. I didn’t like Linux, I didn’t like the thought of any other OS hosting my home media server. (This was my first mistake)

I then upgraded from a relatively happy Windows 7 installation to Windows 10. Back in August 2015 iirc. (This was my second mistake)

The 3rd mistake was using FreeNAS. Yes, I’m well aware of the pro’s that FreeNAS brings to the table (and coming from me this will sound strange) but it’s OVERKILL! I love my data just as much as the next guy & I know that it truly does have a use case, it’s got an install base of millions upon millions. But for average Joe the IT guy, you really don’t need the incredible levels of protection that ZFS brings to the table 🙂 It’s an incredible OS but unless you know that you need it, you likely don’t.

My 4th and final mistake, sort of, was having two completely separate systems!! I mean, what waste of CPU?! At the time of this entire ordeal I had 2 SFF cases, a Fractal Design Node 304 (A very meh case IMO) & a Travla C158 (Yep! I’ve never heard of Travla either). Both rigs contained:

Node 304:

CPU – Intel i3 4170
RAM –
Kingston 16GB DDR3 1600MHz ECC
Mobo –
AsrockRack E3C226D2I
Storage –
4x WD Red 3TB HDDs
PSU –
be quiet! Pure Power L8 430w

C158:

CPU – Intel i3 4170
RAM – Kingston 8GB DDR3 1600MHz Non-ECC
Mobo – Gigabyte GA-B85N Phoenix
Storage – Kingston v300 60GB
PSU – AC/DC Power Brick to DC Power Board (80w)

So, if you’re clued up about your PC kit, you’ll have figured out that the Node 304 was running as my NAS. I’d loaded FreeNAS 9.3 onto it and I was quite unhappy with it. Primarily the poor performance. Once the LARC (RAM Cache) filled up (which didn’t take long) the write speeds plummeted, and carried on plummeting. I had my NAS setup with RAIDz2 I’d seen great performance with FreeNAS on forums so I was really looking forward to it! So I did spend a while (ish) on diagnosing, I applied some custom config from forums, I applied some ‘auto optimising’ settings hiding in the settings menus. But nothing got me close to saturating a 1gbps uplink, unfortunately. So after a lot of faffing I did eventutally give in, I continued using a sub-optimal NAS for months… Until I discovered unRAID!

I’m a very active watcher of LTT over on YouTube (because, who wants to pay for Vessel??) and when he uploaded his “2 Gamers 1 CPU” video, well let me put it this way – It was love at first sight! unRAID looked perfect. I was quite set on migrating over to unRAID from meer moments into that video.

I grabbed my Sandisk Cruzer Fit 16GB USB and went to the unRAID download page, first hiccup encountered :/ “Trial support for up to 3 drives only” … well great! I’ve got 4. *At the time of writing this Lime-Tech have changed their Trial policy to make it much better, supporting unlimited devices 🙂 * but at the time, I was pretty out of luck.

I then ran into my next hiccup, this time a much larger one! (With the trial, I could deal with 3 drives) but what I couldn’t deal with was the fact that I’d formatted all 4 HDDs as ZFS!!! Which isn’t exactly importable by unRAID. So I ended up, grabbing 3 external drives and a couple of USBs each with the same copies of my irreplaceable data. Thankfully I didn’t have too much data on my array at that point else I’d have been a bit screwed. I had everything split over a 2TB external HDD, a couple of 500GB HDDs and a handful of 64GB flash drives – Such fun!

I then went on to just purchase the basic version of unRAID, I didn’t want to mess with the trial just to buy it and add the 4th disk in. I wanted it to be perfect from the get go. I ended up formatting my array as btrfs with a single parity. Giving me 9TB of usable storage, a nice step-up from RAIDz2 which left me with 6TB (albeit that did have a fault tolerance of 2 drives) Even adding disks, which is a pretty normal task for a home-built NAS! was far superior to the circus act you need to perform with FreeNAS.


Now to be clear, I fully understood the workings of FreeNAS. I wasn’t just scared of it 😉 But it did far too much for my needs, it was overly complicated and was complete overkill.


Once that was done, I re-migrated all of my data back to my NAS, Raptor. Not the dinosaur, not the bird, but the NATO reporting name for my current favourite fast jet, the Lockheed Martin F-22. Let’s get back on topic though.

Well, that’s annoying, still not saturating a 1gbps link?? CPU usage still pretty much at idle?? Yep. Déjà vu, skip forward to now and there’s a feature known as “Turbo Write” which will not only allow you to saturate 1gbps fully… But fully saturate a 10gbps link! My understanding of its inner workings are lacking, but it works and that’s great. But instead of waiting over a year for that, I instead went out and bought a Kingston v300 120GB SSD, once I set that as my Cache drive, I had a 120GB ‘buffer’ of full 115MB/s writes to my NAS. YAY!

And that’s where I am now 🙂 Happily been running unRAID for over year, it’s a beautiful bit of software jam-packed with features and with wonderful community to help you out!

I dare go into more detail of the switch from 2 systems into 1 without spoiling an upcoming review of unRAID 😉 But it’ll be a good’n! Since doing all of this, I’ve performed a fair few upgrades to my lovely Raptor server.

 

Marcus, out.

Moving on to Plan B. aka Plan Blog!

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Contrary to the featured image, I’m certainly not a hipster with my Mac, chilling in Starbucks, sapping their free WiFi and writing all day! Which would be lovely… If I liked coffee that is. 😉

So instead, I’ll be fitting this in on lunch breaks, after a long hard day at the office, over weekends and any time that crops up in between. My short to medium term goal is to have written enough that I build up a ‘buffer’ of content, so I don’t need to rush around creating a half-ass’d job of a post!

As for now however, you may or may not be excited to hear! That I have several ideas in the pipeline. Which will be revealed at a later date AWW who am I kidding, that’s pointless 😉 I’ve got 4 topics so far, I just need to… well… write them!

  • Moving Plex between 2 OS’s (This is a good one, the Plex documentation is poor for this topic)
  • My review of unRAID!
  • Thoughts on the Nexus … Pixel & Pixel XL
  • A couple of Sony product reviews

And that’s all I’ll share for now, I can’t reveal all of my ideas at once can I!

 

-Marcus, signing off.

 

Lights on, for my first blog post!!!

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So, I’m certainly new to the blogging scene, and certainly not the first. But I think I’ve got an interesting road ahead of me 😉

I suppose it makes sense to list out the sorts of things I’ll likely be orienting this blog around!

Basically… I tinker with anything that’s tinkerable with.

I build, repair, diagnose and setup pretty much any device you can think of. Be it phones, tablets, laptops, gaming computers, rack-mount servers, you name it I’ll probably figure it out! 🙂

I also happen to be an avid PC gamer. From shoot ’em up to solitaire I do love to game! None of this 1080p nonsense though, I instead went with a great Dell 25″ 2560×1440 affair which looks incredible and provides a load more real-estate than 1080p (once you disable Windows’ horrendous UI scaling that is) 2k certainly does tax the GTX 780 however, I might stick around for the GTX 1080ti – that would certainly be pcmr worthy 😀

I tend to love the latest and greatest in technology, which isn’t helpful when recommending a smartphone to your Granddad, haha. But I’m glad I follow the tech industry, it’s where the present is and where the future’s heading, I’m not generally a “jump on the bandwagon” kinda guy, but technology is unavoidable in this day and age so I’d much rather be keeping ahead of the curve instead of trying to play catch up after realising  tech really is important.

I’m glad that I’ve finally gotten myself a blog! I’ve been thinking about it for a while now and have finally gotten around to puling the trigger. Although in the future… I’d truly love to have my own webserver setup, with a custom domain, all nice and tucked away in a DC somewhere… I live in the real world, where I can’t justify spending money on rack-space, can’t get the domain name I’m set on and don’t have enough of a reader-base to justify the cost of all these lovely things 🙂 So in the meantime, Wordpress is certainly the way to go – it’s free for starters 😉 Setup took 30 seconds and the interface is incredibly straight forward!

So, if any of this tangent-y initial post has peeked your interests, similar posts are in the works! I’m really looking forward to seeing where this goes 🙂

– For now, Marcus, signing off.