Paul Geromini

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Friday 28 August 2015

Lets Get NASty

I want to talk a bit today about my storage setup, specifically my NAS or Network Attached Storage. I have been running my system for a little over a year now and have had no issues so it is a good time to give a brief half review, half description of setup. I started considering a longer term storage setup when the available space on my desktop began to dwindle. I am a bit of "digital hoarder" if you will, constantly butting up against my limit. When space is so cheap and ubiquitous why throw anything out? The problem with this is you always need to be increasing your capacity. At the time I was getting my NAS my several year old external drive had failed, another drive in my desktop was faltering, and the rest of the case was already filled up with other drives. I did not want to get rid of my existing drives and I also wanted a better solution than continuing to lock data to my desktop. Enter the ReadyNAS 104.

The first thing you need to know about NASs (NASes?) is that there are a ton of models on the market featuring wildly different prices and sets of features. You will need to determine what you want out of your NAS before you consider purchasing one. For me I had just two requirements:

1. Four drive slots. This allows for a ton of storage and is very flexible when it comes to determining your RAID setup. 2. Minimum computational performance, I do not need my NAS to be a file server or another computer. I need to put files on it and get files off, that is all.

With those requirements you can pretty much be satisfied with things at the low end of the market, hence the ReadyNAS 104. Your real cost on the low end here is going to be in drives. I went with four of these drives for a total capacity of 16 terabytes. Total (including the NAS) this ran me $1045.94. You could cheap out here and go for smaller drives or slower drives. From what I read 5600RPM drives work just as well, albeit slower. I went max size and max speed because I wanted a long term solution. There were at the time some rebates, but I do not remember how much they were for. As far as quality of drives this particular brand came recommended, but other brands are just as well regarded.

For setup I configured the drives in RAID 5 (~10TBs of space). Take a moment to read up on the different RAID options here. In my opinion RAID 5 gives you the best space efficiency (you lose about 1/4 of the capacity compared to 1/2 in some other configurations) and reasonable fault tolerance (you can lose one drive and not lose any data). I do not want to lose data, but then again it is not exactly mission critical. Actually formatting and configuring the drives takes about a full day so sit tight. After that there is not much other configuration to be done. Plug it into your router and it should assign itself a local IP address automatically. It would be wise to configure a static address in your router's control panel so its not always changing on you, but this is not required. You can access your system via its IP and (at least on Windows) it will appear like one giant network drive.

Of course since your NAS is basically a low powered computer you can run any number of programs on it. The ReadyNAS people helpfully have a site with some options. I myself jun run qbittorent for my torrenting needs, but there are some useful apps to be found. If you are handy with the command line you can SSH into your NAS and do whatever you want since it runs Linux.

For daily use a NAS is pretty helpful. Transfer times can be slow since I connect through mine wirelessly, but its not terribly slow. Think a few minutes for a couple GBs. It is certainly quick enough to stream video from itself to your computer which is what I primarily use it for. Although when initially transferring all your files to it I suggest hooking up an external drive. There are a few USB ports on the back so it can mount drives, but I could not figure how to connect it physically to my desktop.

In regards to configuration you can mostly roll with stock settings. I suggest disabling file snap shots, which can be a bit of a pain, but will save you a lot of space. I also recommend enabling SSH access (so you can fiddle with things yourself) and enabling "Disk Spin Down" to both conserve power and the life of your drives.

Overall a NAS is a little pricey, but it is a convenient way to get a lot of storage you can access from anywhere in the house. It also allows you to sleep safe knowing your files are backed up. Granted its not off site, but if your house burns down you probably have bigger things to concern yourself with.

Monday 4 August 2014

Review:Real Love

Real Love is a six episode romantic comedy weighing in at about 2.5 hours, about a bunch of friends living in a Boston apartment a few years out of college. It is not my usual fare, but it was actually kickstarted by some people I know so I had to watch it. As such, I am not sure I can be totally unbiased (honest) with my review, but I will do my best. Some minor spoilers abound so if you want a pure viewing experience skip to the summary.


Real love is a story about trying to find out whats next. In that sense it captures the feel of TV shows like Freak and Geeks and Undeclared. Without spoiling too much of the plot, we spend most of our time watching the interaction between Dylan and Beth. The back and forth play between them and the other characters is funny, but still manages to be poignant at times. There is a real good sense of characters just trying figure things out which especially appeals to me. Some of the plot beats I found a little jarring, such as the early marriage proposal between two characters and the strange closeness already apparent between Dylan and Beth. I did not know the characters well enough to understand why they were acting this way early on. Speaking more to the script there is quite a lot of humor to be found here. A number of jokes keep reoccurring and seemed to only get funnier the more they happened. I was a little concerned things would get a bit cheesy, but the writing smartly avoids these pitfalls and kept things feeling real. The plot moves along briskly, there are no wasted scenes, and the dialogue is believable and not loaded down with exposition.


There are four main characters, and three side characters. Of the main characters my favorite would have to be Dylan. The actor, Patrick Skeyhill, always manages to capture an otherworldly physicality that is really quite humorous. He elevates normal scenes to funny scenes with just his comic actions. Beth, played by Courtland Jones, is the emotional strength of the series. She brings the gravitas and is a good foil to the general silliness of Dylan. The other two main characters (played well by Richard Nickerson as Liam and Jess Corey as Emma) provide a good compliment to each other and push the plot forward. Jess generally plays it pretty straight, but her husband to be, Richard, always has a non-sequitur to mix things up.

The side characters play effective roles in support of the plot. Eddie, played by, Nick Wakely has a deep thundering accent and his strange thought trains always keep the scenes he is in light. Adam, Beth's boyfriend for most of the film, is perhaps a bit too earnest, but that makes his deadpan line delivery all the more funny. Finally Cara, portrayed by Katie O'Connor, is perfect in her role as the crazy ex-girlfriend of Dylan. Her manic delivery and borderline crazy voice provides a real believable edge to her character which she uses to good effect.


You can see the indie roots most clearly in the technical aspects of the film. The film quality is generally good, but scenes with a lot of light suffer. Windows and doors to the outside are often bathed in high intensity light. It looks odd and it was distracting. In addition I think some of the characters lines were overdubbed in post and it did not sound good. It was not super noticeable, but I did notice it.

In general I liked the score, I am not much of a musical fan so it is kind of hard to judge this aspect of it, but I thought it complimented the emotional feel of the scenes nicely. That said sometimes it felt like the music was too overwhelming. Some scenes would have been better if the music was less obvious or quieter. Shot selection was pretty standard, nothing too creative. One of the few times Real Love gets clever is the pan from midday to a night time party scene. It is smartly used and makes the transition slick. I would have liked to see some smoother cuts, as most of time the camera just seemed to bounce from character to character.


If you buy the special edition DVD (which I did), you get all six episodes, the prologue, the soundtrack, and two audio commentary tracks. I have listened to some of both commentary tracks and they provide good insight and more laughs. I wish the DVD had included the deleted scenes and shorts they mention in the commentary, but that might have required another DVD so it is not a big deal. The case insert is good quality and its simple design looks nice on the shelf.


I liked this film, It had important things to say about life after college and it was funny enough to not take itself so serious all the time. You can buy it via their store.

Back of the box quote: "Real good, real funny, worth your money."

Saturday 5 July 2014

Review: Knights of Sidonia (Season 1)

The very first review on the blog! This show just completed its run so here are some thoughts on it in the form of a review. Be prepared for some light spoilage.

Knights of Sidonia is a 12 episode space mecha following the pursuits of Nagate Tanikaze as he and others try and defend their massive colony/seed ship the Sidonia from the inscrutable Gauna. As such this is mostly an action anime in the same vein as Attack on Titan or The Pilot's Love Song. Let us get to the breakdown.


A lively show, the plot starts fast and the pace is pretty steady throughout. This is a show about people struggling to survive in a harsh environment against an implacable enemy and as such very little time is spent on fluff. Viewers of Attack on Titan will find much they are already familiar with. This season does not have an overarching plot, but instead has a few mini arcs throughout. Overall things are hard to predict and the suspense is high enough to keep you looking forward to the next episode.

Setting and Characters

As far as anime goes, the settings is farm fresh. Not many animes are set in space these days and furthermore not many pay service to the realities of operating in a vacuum. Sidonia does and in a big way. Major plot points revolve around the physics of acceleration and the difficulties in regards to resources of running a society in a closed environment. Characters are probably Sidonia's weakest point. Our main antagonist is a bit plain both emotionally and back story wise. The supporting characters (other pilots, officers) are a little better, but some fulfill your standard anime tropes : rival to the main protagonist, bubbly girl classmate, etc.

Animation Quality

The animation quality is high, but viewers may be put off by the heavy use of CGI for characters and the mecha themselves. I do not mind, but if you found Arpeggio of Blue Steel hard to watch because of this, you should probably give this show a pass. If this does not bother you then enjoy the high quality visuals on display here. The Sidonia looks fantastic, clearly this ship has been an evolving home for a desperate people for many hundreds of years. The mechs themselves are well thought out and their cockpits are the most sensible I have ever seen. Battle scenes are lush, dynamic, and well choreographed.


High marks in this category. The OP is a nice mix between orchestral military theme and high energy JPop. The ED is restrained and brooding and always a good finish to an episode. Music throughout the series complements the action or the drama well, but nothing ever stood out for me. Sound effects wise Knights of Sidonia has a knack for capturing just the right mechanical effects. Consequently all the mechs, ships, machines sound great. Voice work is pretty standard, no one seemed off their game. I do award high marks to the voice actor of the captain who just seemed a bit better than everybody else.


This is a well done show. If you like mechs, SciFi, or Attack on Titan give it a watch. If you do not like it by episode four you can probably drop it. I award it 18 lead bricks out of five oddly situated bear characters.