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#859: Power User Data Storage, iOS vs. OS X, No Jar Jar, either!


Hello all,

Spitting snow and sleet have been the norm for the last couple of days. We are just getting the edges of the storms that are pounding the middle of the country, though, and while people here wish we would get more snow, I think it’s definitely a case of ‘be careful what you wish for.’ Being snowed in without power for a couple of days gets old and cold really quickly.

I do love being outdoors in the winter and grew up skiing and sledding. Thankfully my kids love it, too, because I am TOTALLY FINE staying inside in the warmth for the most part. I poke my head out into the sun often enough to process some vitamin D and maybe see my shadow. It should therefore come as no surprise to you all that I am in search of a good calorie-counting app for my iPad!

I cannot think of a single tech-related thing to say, so I am just going to let you get to this week’s offerings.

Thanks for reading,


  Power User Data Storage  

I have a growing media library and a GoPro camera that I use to record my sailboat racing, so my storage needs keep growing, and will eventually exceed the capacity of the drives I have right now. I need a system that will aggregate multiple drives for lots of storage and some redundancy. If I were a business, I might buy one of our Promise Pegasus RAID units, but as a consumer, I don’t want to spend quite that much and I don’t want to have to buy all the drives at the same time (or replace them all with identical units if I want to expand). This narrows my choices down to systems that are not pure hardware RAID, but special variants that allow for drives of different sizes.

One option is to go for fast local storage using the new Drobo 5D. It is a relatively new product from Drobo, and it supports up to five hard drives, as well as an SSD expansion slot to speed up data access. Using Drobo’s Beyond RAID technology, you can put in up to five drives, of up to 4TB of space, and choose one or two drive redundancy support. You can replace failing drives with new ones while it is running, and you can swap smaller drives for bigger drives to grow your storage. It has two Thunderbolt ports and one USB 3.0 port. The Drobo 5D retails for $849.99 and you can find it here on our website.

The other product I am considering is a network-attached storage device (NAS), the Synology 1512+. Synology has a variety of models, but this is their top notch 5-bay unit. Rather than accessing data locally, it would act as a network file server. Its Synology Hybrid RAID system also supports using drives of different sizes and from different manufacturers, and you can run it with one or two drive redundancy, and upgrade on the fly. It also offers further expansion via up to two 5-bay expansion units, so you could have up to 15 drives in one system! Check it out on our website here.

The Synology uses a network connection instead of Thunderbolt, so it is not as fast as the Drobo with Thunderbolt, but it does have some extra features that are not on the Drobo. As a NAS system, it is really a server computer with a bunch of drive bays, so it can perform any server functions that they include in their DiskStation Manager software, as well as support other packages that you can install.

DSM support file sharing, web sharing, photo sharing, media sharing for a digital video collection, music sharing, backup, and a whole bunch of other stuff you can see on Synology’s own website.

I’m not sure which one I might get in the future, but they are both very cool choices! For drives, I would use the new RAID and NAS-optimized Western Digital RED drives that support time-limited error recovery (TLER), something which might be the topic for another article… View our selection of Western Digital Red hard drives on our website.

Now, as a consultant, I have to give the caveat that drive redundancy does not equal backup. Just because a system can survive the failure of one, or optionally two, drives, it does not mean that you are protected. You should always have any important data backed up on another system. If I plan on storing any unique data on either of these systems (and not just backups of my computer drives), I need to either buy two of them or budget for another storage system to keep a copy of all that data.

  iOS vs. OS X  

If you asked most people what the difference between iOS and OS X is, most people would provide answers to the effect of “What’s iOS?” or “One uses a touch screen and the other, a keyboard and mouse.” A third, less obvious answer to this question is important to helping a user gain proficiency with either in the pluralistic Post-PC world we currently live in.

The first response reveals an interesting effect of the interaction design that Apple has made their priority for the past few decades. The integration of hardware and software that Apple is known for is expressed in the way that a user approaches and uses a device like the iPhone or iPad. The hardware fades away as the user focuses on and immerses themselves in the gesture-based touch interface. While this transition de-emphasizes the importance of the hardware, the direct manipulation of elements on the screen provides a more physical component to the pixels on the screen. The effect is a feedback loop of hardware and software interaction that combines the two so intrinsically that the user might not consider them as separate entities.

The second response points to an obvious difference in the input devices built into the hardware of the devices that run each OS (operating system). So far, Apple has avoided adding touch-screens to their Macs, and you’ll notice that your iPhone lacks a pointer (replaced by your forefinger).

I believe that one of the most important distinctions to be made between iOS and OS X is the management of files. First, some background. The reason why your device X has the same data on it today as it did yesterday is because it has memory (in this case, long-term). This is a physical component, usually in the form of a spinning hard drive or a solid state drive, measured in GB (gigabytes). This memory stores everything from the operating system to applications (apps) to documents, photos, music, etc. All of these categories of data are essentially just files and folders (directories), stored in a hierarchical fashion that allows the device to keep track of everything, creating a file system.

The difference between iOS and OS X is that in iOS, this structure is invisible and in OS X, it is visible through the Finder application. Of course, iOS still stores data just like OS X does, but it’s organized differently. Your iPhone’s apps individually store their own data, so if you want to get access to some bit of important data, tap an app’s icon. In OS X, if you open an app, you’ll likely want to choose File > Open and browse through a Finder window to locate the file you wish to open.

In a possible future where we live in a completely post-PC world, you could imagine a Mac that relies on the app-based storage model for your documents and data like an iPhone or iPad, using iCloud as a conduit. However, I can report that we have yet to enter this post-PC world entirely. And thankfully, this should not stop you from trying to access your documents and data on all of your devices, Mac and iPad alike.

My recommendation is Dropbox, a service that allows you to bridge the gap that I went on about at length in the previous paragraph. It uses a folder on your Mac and an app on your iOS device. And it automagically syncs them using Amazon’s servers. In some ways, it creates a file system for your iOS device, allowing you to open files from Dropbox and save files from other apps in your Dropbox, allowing them to be accessed on your Mac.

You can learn more about Dropbox on their site Sign up, download, and give it a whirl!

  No Jar Jar, either!  

To all those Star Wars fans out there that has just a little geek in you, you will find this interesting. When you have some time and some popcorn, type this into a terminal window.


An ASCii movie just for you — those who know how to find it. It’s the full original Star Wars movie in text animation. Typing this command into Terminal takes you to the website where this movie is hosted using a protocol called Telnet, which gives you a text-based connection to a remote host. Then it loads the movie into Terminal and it starts playing. I could have just given you the link to the website where it’s hosted, but where’s the fun in that?

OK I will give it to you anyway:

There isn’t any word on whether or not there will be other episodes; this is just Episode IV in its entirety.

I challenge anyone to find out how to do this and create the next episode of Star Wars, or even to create something else entirely.

I stumbled across this while researching other Terminal commands to help with the everyday business that is Small Dog Service.


(Ed. note- Episode IV and no Jar Jar Binks…hard to go wrong)

  SPECIAL | Double Your Storage, Double Your Fun  

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  SPECIAL | TV On Your Mac; Believe It  

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  SPECIAL | Protect Your Mini Bundle Of Joy  

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