NetHui 2011 – Day 1: Innovation & Emerging Issues – Privacy Issues

Privacy Issues for business in the new digital age

Marie Shroff (Privacy Commissioner)

This session started with a fizz and a whimper, I think based more on the usual audience for the Privacy Commission than the subject matter itself. I did enjoy the comics though 🙂

  • Customers are starting to take an ACTUAL interest in their privacy (~80-90% are concerned or ‘very concerned’)
  • Media starting to pick up on these stories as the articles drive interest
  • Bigger companies are starting to see the moral and ethical necessity to adopt privacy
  • Expectation of future tweaking suggestions for privacy act
  • “Value your CIO as your would your CFO”
  • Despite the cloud context, people are expecting the same flexibility and control over their data as when it was locally domicilled

The discussion that followed was interesting

Continue reading “NetHui 2011 – Day 1: Innovation & Emerging Issues – Privacy Issues”

Driving DropBox – Linking External Directories in Windows

To get Dropbox to sync folders OUTSIDE of your [Drive:\ProgramPath]\My Dropbox\ directory, we need to use a symbolic link, something easily done in Linux*, but requiring a little more effort in Windows (though it is still a supported function).

dropboxI’ve been using Dropbox in it’s intended form for a while now - but recently, with the threat of a software rebuild of my company supplied laptop looming, I decided it was about time I had some of my other data synced via “The Cloud” (IT bloggers apparently get points every time they use the phrase “The Cloud” – ooh, 2 points in this article so far! 😉 )

After a little bit of searching, I discovered that no one has written a windows based guide for this process (okay, not one that was easy to find) so – here’s mine… (Google Juice – do your stuff!)

The Guide:

To get Dropbox to sync folders OUTSIDE of your [Drive:\ProgramPath]\My Dropbox\ directory, we need to use a symbolic link, something easily done in Linux*, but requiring a little more effort in Windows (though it is still a supported function).

  1. First up, lets grab the Windows Junction creator from here**
  2. Unzip the Junction.exe file and dropped it somewhere useful
  3. Open up a command window from Windows (Start, Run, CMD)
  4. Enter in the Junction command followed by the pointer link (your ‘fake’ directory path) then the  path to the directory you want linked into DropBox.

For me, the command looks a little like this:

D:\Robs Docs\My Dropbox>"D:\Program Files\junction.exe" -s "D:\Robs Docs\My Dropbox\Work-Firefox" "D:\Robs Docs\Rob-Firefox-Profile"

If the stars align and you’re wearing your lucky pants, you’ll see an output that looks like this:

Junction v1.05 - Windows junction creator and reparse point viewer
Copyright (C) 2000-2007 Mark Russinovich
Systems Internals - http://www.sysinternals.com
Created: D:\Robs Docs\My Dropbox\Work-Firefox
Targetted at: D:\Robs Docs\Rob-Firefox-Profile

That’s it – you’re done!


If you want to know how to move YOUR Firefox profile to a different location on your local machine like I have, check this link.


* In Linux, the command is:

ln -s /home/[MyUsername]/[OriginalDirectory] [Target]

Apparently, this command needs to be run FROM your DropBox directory, so be sure to cd /home/yourusername/Dropbox first!. Check this great article for more from a Linux HOWTO perspective. 


** You can also use the mklink command which has a slightly different syntax. If you’re using Windows XP (like most Corporates, still) you’ll need Junction as per my example.


Home Networking – the Why (not the How or What)

The first of what may become a series of presentations covering the home networking space. This presentation covers WHY you may want a home network, and what considerations need to be top of mind during planning.

I’ve just finished a presentation on Home Networking, The first of what may become a series of presentations covering the home networking space.

This presentation covers WHY you may want a home network, and what considerations need to be top of mind during planning.

Home Networking 01 Why Not How

View SlideShare presentation or Upload your own. (tags: home network)

Obviously things in this space change fast, so please feel free to comment and correct me if things get out of date, or if you plain don’t agree!

Disaster Recovery

I came across this link a few days ago which covers off some strategies for making technology work for you in terms of organising yourself in case of an emergency.

It kind of resonates with my recent posting on backups, but then takes it a step further into the analogue world and makes some suggestions as to what information you need to make avalible to those close to you should you be incapacitated.
While I don’t agree with some of the recommented digital storage mechinisms (especially since usernames and passwords are involved – I think that analogue is more secure, as long as the copy is physically secured too – much identity theft is perpetrated by family members after all). I would have to add the Domain certificates and authentications to this list, along with my many many identities on the forums around the web to which I belong.

Perhaps I should update my will with a brief note to be copied and pasted into the forums of all these sites, excusing me from any future interactions due to my death, kind of a posthumous adios 🙂

Spending time with my digital memories

I spent the last 3 days at home looking after our youngest son William who had the chicken pox and during that time I did a little bit of a tidy up of our digital photos and, during that time I reminded myself, yet again that we have HEAPS of photos, but finding any particular one, on any particular subject is pretty hard.

This then lodged itself in the back of my head and, as a result – two technologies have jumped out at me since then.

The first concerns the accessibilty and display of this data, and the vapourware representation of Microsoft Surface certainly struck a chord in our house.
“I’ve found our next coffee table” I announced to Amanda, then played her ‘The Power’ section of the demo from the above link.
“Wow, that’s cool – when could we get that?” was the response (and from a non-geek, that was certainly high praise indeed!)

Leveraging the display device of surface (and I’d be interested in open source alternatives I could cobble together earlier than waiting for the official product release), is the technology discussed in the clip below from the recent TED talks (I love the TED inititive)

Check out the presentation below… and imagine what it could mean for your collection of digital memories.

[Edit: Here’s a link via my collegue Justin – nice find, interesting if you want to learn the workings]

Can the end-user be trusted?

One of the undeniable truths of backups is you never really respect their worth, until you lose data that you value(d).

Interestingly enough, as more homes become more digital centric, more forensic data recovery services are cropping up to save people from themselves and that accidential, click happy spree that we’ve all enjoyed (until the sickening reliasation hits that we have deleted the ORIGINAL digital photo / video / document that we’ll never be able to recover  (by ourselves)).

Don’t get me wrong, I love that fact that I have 300+GB of digital memories avalible from a central location in my home, and displayable on a number of screens throughout – but I’m ever mindful of the possibility of hardware failure taking them all away in a heartbeat and so I do have a fairly stringent backup procedure in place. One of these measures is via scheduled backups of my machines to my shared network storage, but that only fires when the machine is left on. Another measure is a Windows Home Server, which I am on the Beta programme for (so I don’t really know how much I can discuss without breaching the NDA). If you are interested, the developers are keeping a blog of their progress prior to launch which makes for interesting reading. My point is this – my memories are no longer kept in an analogue format which I can pickup off the bookshelf as I run, screaming like a little girl, while the house burns down around me. My memories are increasingly being helf on fragile pieces of magnitised material, spinning at ridiculous speeds, and – if it wasn’t for the magic of external hard drives and USB connectors, the only copy of these memories would be held in my home. (Note to self, refresh my offsite backup – and say hi to my folks while I’m picking up/returning the external HDD from their place)

So – what’s the solution to this ‘eggs in one basket’ approach?

  • An offsite backup regime like I run (via a USB HDD and infrequent trips to my parents) is fine, but only as long as I remember to do it – and it would really suck if my house burnt down on the night where I was pulling my digital memories backup onto my external HDD, or if that unit also suffered a failure when I needed to restore.
  • Perhaps then a transfer via the network to my parents place? Well – that would work if they had an always on connection, but the initial sync would destroy both of our data caps, and the smarts around historical copies would be hard to implement as well
  • So – what about an online community such as Flicker and/or YouTube where I can upload my stuff? Well – resolution issues aside, if I wanted to share only with a select group – they would need to join that community (who honestly needs yet another identity to remember?) – and, what’s worse – these communities could have the plug pulled at a moments notice (it’s happened before)- and THEN where is your data sitting?

Which brings me back to my original question I posed at the top of this blog (see, I got there eventually) – “Can the end-user be trusted?” My feeling is no, they can’t, or at least I as a sample size of one, who does appreciate the need for backups, form speaking to some of my friends and collegues I can extend this statement to say we (royally, as in ‘most of us’) are bad at doing backups – if we have to think about doing them, then they don’t get done.

So, when the Web 2.0 bust comes along and whole communities of user generated content are lost (as predicted by Laurel in this blog post) there will be crying and gnashing of teeth. And out of the ashes, the phoneix of Web 3.0 will rise blah blah… My question is this – can we as an online community afford to lose this content?, is it an intergral part of the history of how content has grown in the online space?, will any Web 2.0 companies stand up, place their hands on their collective hearts and say “Yes – we believe your content is important, and this is how we plan to protect it should our business model/service fail”

Any takers?? – I’m off to backup my blog database…

Home Storage

Today (17/07/2006) we received a couple of Buffalo TeraStation Network Attached Storage (NAS) devices. These devices came kitted out with 1Tb of disk (each) and will be used within ETS to centrally store our media (MP3 music, WMV VoD files, DVR-MS MCE Recordings).

This entry will cover the unpacking and installation of one of the units as something of a HOWTO / review of the device.

The packing was fairly hardy 20060616-buffaloterastation-packing.jpg (albiet with a wee crush mark in one corner) and, once removed, the interior packing has all the marketing type loveliness that you’d expect describing all the ways you can use the product.20060616-buffaloterastation-box.jpg

I found the language used on the shelf packaging very comprehensive and, for the most part would be understandable for anyone who was in the market for a NAS device (though some proof reading was lacking). It wouldn’t pass the “your mother” test but I would say we need to educate the market somewhat before Joe consumer starts understanding (and thus desiring/requiring) what large volumes of network storage can offer them in their home environment. So, comments about the boxes out of the way, let’s crack it open and see what’s inside…

20060616-buffaloterastation-contents.jpgThe box contents included the obligitory End User Licence Agreements (ELUA) that nobody ever actually reads, a quick setup guide (that no one who believes (s)he knows what they are doing ever reads), A CD-ROM containing a setup wizard and softcopy user manuals, a power cord (I’m assuming if we’d purchased the unit in NZ we’d have received a plug which we could use), some nice flat CAT5 cable to connect the device to our network and of course, the TeraStation itself.

20060616-buffaloterastation-front.jpg 20060616-buffaloterastation-back.jpg The TeraStation is not a bad looking device, would certainly pass the WAF (Wife Approval Factor) test and is skinny enough to scream “buy me some friends to keep me company” whilst still fitting on a standard rack shelf (everyone has a 19″ server rack at home right?).

The status lights on the front of the unit are easy to understand (and they cycle clockwise in a groovy fashion while the unit powers up which is a nice bonus). The Link/Act LED is an annoying but fashionable blue, so – this would be a store in a vented cupboard device, unless you are one of those flash harry types with a window and cold cathode tubes inside your PC and enjoy flashing lights like that kind of thing. Guys take note, the blue LED can be used as an annoyance device to assist in getting the spousal approval to buy your 19″ server rack should you not yet have one.

Right – now on to the software setup…

20060717-buffaloterastation-sw-startup.jpg20060717-buffaloterastation-sw-client-main.jpg20060717-buffaloterastation-sw-utilinstcomp.jpg

Frustratingly, the autorun didn’t fire on the CD, but once the setup was running, clicking the ‘Install Client’ Button resulted in an ‘Installing Client Utility – Please wait’ screen flashing a couple of times and – that was it!!

Buffalo TeraStation - Client [Main]The client software then runs up, finds the device and presents the info on the device within the application, from which we now were required to go configure to suit our network.
Buffalo TeraStation - Client [Browser Config]The configuration, like most nice CPE devices, is done via a browser, and the first thing we’re instructed to do (after authenticating of course) is to change the NAS device name to something more ‘friendly’. On the same page are the date and time options as well as that useful Network Time Protocol (NTP) server setup, used to ensure your device is always synced with a known good time source (very important). We changed the timezone (which only offered + / – 11 hours either side of GMT (so you’re not allowed to live in NZ and have daylight savings?) and enabled the NTP server, pointing it at pool.ntp.org (personal favorite). I considered disabling AppleTalk, but decided against it since we’ve got a iMac running and it might possibly be useful in some small way to have the Mac talking TCP/IP/SteveJobs across the network.

After hitting apply, we were (rudely) informed that it expected an IP address for the NTP server, so – after a quick Google – I ended up using the IP of a (gasp) iHUG NTP public server.

That’s it – all the quick install guide suggests you need to do. From here on out, you simply setup your shares and access the NAS via the UNC path \\[NAS-Device-Name]\[Share].

The reality in an easily managed network environment is, that a static IP address is easier to find after power failures or from devices where the IP address wasn’t pre-provided by the client utility from the CD. Jumping into Network and setting a static IP, then workgroup (for that Windows browsing ease) to set the Workgroup name will make future use (and discovery) a lot easier for all your other CPE devices.

There are a few other options which will be explored later, but for now, that’s the out of box experience for a Buffalo TeraStation, I’m clogging the netowork transferring all sorts of data across to the device now so it’s time for the final thoughts.

Final Thoughts:

Network Attached Storage is still in its infancy in the CPE space, it’s been commercalised for a few years, but – as it started off in the ‘external, portable storage’ space – the pricing is still too high to attract much attention from the average punter and it is only recently that the big names have had the right price point on the devices to make devices with a useful amount of permanant (as opposed to transient / backup) storage. In all seriousness, once a music collection is format shifted, your copied your multi-megapixel digital photos of your family and also transfered some of your kids DVDs onto a disk based distribution system (to protect against the sticky, scratchy finger syndrome), even 1Tb of storage is getting a bit light.

Ideally, all your removable media (CDs & DVDs) would be format shifted to a central server so you had access to the content from any appropriate device throughout the house. Unfortunatly, aside from the questionalble legality of doing this, the disk required is huge and managment of large amounts of disk for the average punter must be managed by a simple CPE device such as the TeraStation. You then have the question of backups, you want to store all your documents/personal settings on something aside from your PC as well, and then – when all your digital memories are sotred on one managed, central device in your home – what happens if that fails? Offsite backups are the obvious solution, but the upstream and edge/core traffic requirements are again horrendous. Do you then need a secondary NAS to mirror your primary once a month (or more regularly?) and then take that NAS down to your friends/parents/bank security box?

With the amount of information we are storing in a digital format now, the future social implications are equally frightening, the analogue inscriptions of the dead sea scrolls survived centuries in pottery containers in the desert giving archelologiests and historians valuable insights into our past, how would our future historians learn about our how our society ran should a holocaust event occur which included a massive Electromagnetic Pulse (EMP) – which would wipe out these digital data stores. Who holds the responsibility for providing true (not just local) network, reduntant storage which is safe from EMPs, flood, fire, administrative access stupidity (drop database *) – or should we just write all this stuff out to physical media and invest in a few clay jars?