Large file support with an Unslung NSLU2

I have written previously on how cool the little NSLU2 is as a customisable NAS device. I have set mine up as a little backup device, it silently backs up my server files (using rsync), creates tar files from all the files and then presents these archives to Retrospect on my Mac for backing up to external media and taking off-site. Unfortunately the default 'ls' and 'tar' programs that come with the Unslung distribution do not support large file sizes or long filenames to fix this problem download the far more up-to-date versions using ipkg:

Linsys NSLU2, one cool little NAS

Weighing in at a couple of hundred dollars the Linksys NSLU2 is a very tidy little NAS device. It's a small (three CD cases stacked) unit that holds a 266mhz PPC processor (underclocked to 133mhz), 40meg of RAM, two USB ports and one network interface. Linksys have fashioned together a Linux-based OS running Samba to provide a very tidy, home/home-office level NAS device that can be easily administered via a clean web-based interface.

The Linksys NAS connected to a 2.5" 80gig drive (click to enlarge)

Where the little box gets really interesting is its ability to be hacked in almost any direction. There is a large community of Linux hackers producing custom Flash images that allow everything from the addition of extra software packages to the installation of a full-blown Debian system on the tiny box. The hackers have cleverly got around the flash memory limits of the onboard hardware through a method known as 'unslinging', or more precisely the ability to boot and run the device off a connected hard drive. Coupled with this there is a raft of hardware hacks that range from the relatively simple (removing the underclocking on the CPU) through to the really difficult (boosting RAM to 256meg by soldering together RAM chips).

Software as a Service - myths destroyed

Recently I have been giving a lot of thought to the Software as a Service concept. The basic idea behind this catch phrase is that rather than paying a lot of money up front for a piece of software and/or server combination you subscribe to the software online and have it hosted remotely. There's obviously a couple of concerns over such a model, firstly you have got to trust that these companies do not go out of business plus you have to be confident that your Internet connection (and theirs) will be working whenever you need the service. A lot of these myths have been put to rest as this Business Week article illustrates, but for hard-core (old school) network administrators the idea of out-sourcing essential software sends cold shivers down their spines.

S3 provides unlimited cheap online storage

It has been a while since I last posted, mainly because I have been very busy working on Reasonate, going to Japan and doing end of year taxes...

Anyway one thing that really blew my mind the other day was Amazon's new S3 service. On the surface it seems really simple, a basic web service that provides cheap online storage (US$0.15 per Gigabyte for storage per month). What is exciting is the ramifications, if somebody (like you or I) want to store a lot of information for ourselves or others online there is no need to invest in big servers and fat Internet connections to serve that data. It also means that by design your web applications will scale effortlessly at least in the sense of the data storage mechanism assuming Amazon's server farm is up to the task. I have signed up for an account and read through the documentation and some of the features are pretty nice (access control lists, time sensitive url's and a lot more). There has been very good things said about it on TechCrunch and other places, plus some criticisim for not supporting the very simple XML-RPC protocol (which would have been very nice to have in simple applications).