Setting up Asustor AS-204TE NAS for Time Machine, XMBC, BT and General Storage

My MacbookPro has warned me for months about its SSD(128Gb) is going to be full. Though I tried my best to keep it as lean as possible, it still reach the point last week that I have to act on acquiring external storage.

But like many things in life, once you begin with an idea A, you will very often end up doing C.  And that’s exactly what happen.  Besides my original thought of putting photos and other non-development files out of the Mac to store on the extra storage, I begin wanting it to work with Mac’s Time Machine.  Since the media files will be put away, I also want to access it whenever I need, from whichever device I’m using, and also from wherever I want to.  And finally, since I used my old desktop for BT but it’s now a pain to wake it up every time, I also want to the new device could BT for me, relieving me from using any of my computers.

So my C plan ends up like this:

  1. A new storage for photos and media files;
  2. A new storage for Mac’s Time Machine, separate from the above;
  3. Ability to BT without a computer, controllable and accessible by mobile and via internet.;
  4. Future extensible, such as adding extra storage, and supporting IPCam with video recording;

So it becomes clear that I need a 4-bays NAS with very rich features.  After doing some research, I find it’s not a fancy dream but a doable thing, and I further decide to go for the Asustor AS-204TE 4-bays NAS as it could meet all the requirements I listed, while costing the least among other alternatives (it is much cheaper than Synology, and have more fans than QNAP in Hong Kong).  As for the storage, I go for WD’s NAS edition storage, and select the 3T capacity red label HDD WD30EFRX, as many people recommend it.

In Hong Kong, to buy a NAS and HDD is quite easy, I guess.  All the major computer centers locates in downtown near MTR stations, and you could access the closest one within 0.5hr.  After you figure out which model you need, simply search it online at the website www.price.com.hk for the model and the companies offering the lowest price one, then call to confirm the company has stock and the price is updated, then you can go out to buy the products by cash (lowest offer usually require cash payment).  The whole process from home to home can be done within 1.5 hour, or less.

The set up of the AS-204TE is surprisingly simply.  The most labor-intensive part is to screw the HDDs on the mounts and slide it back to the NAS.  Then connect the power, network, HDMI and external USB hard drive (optional), the NAS can then be put inside a closet without touching again.

The Asustor’s website provides resourceful materials.  It has basically everything I need to know from basic to advanced, and the support page is pretty clean and well organized.  I follow the instruction to install the Control Center for Mac and configure the NAS via browser, and within minutes the NAS is up and running.

The Asustor website also has knowledge center and supporting forum.  I follow the articles on knowledge center and successfully setup the disks, folders, Time Machine and XMBC.  And I post some questions I have on the forum and got reply from other users pretty quickly.  Though not many users online as I see, but it is still quite active.

What surprise me is the Facebook page of Asustor Inc., which seems they are using it more as a supporting portal.  There’s some problems I posted on the forum but did not receive reply within days, I re-post it on their Facebook wall, and could get very quick reply from the admin in the same day, very responsive support.

Here are some remarks on my setup:

  1. I only used 2 bay of the NAS and left the other 2 for future extension.  It’s because given the 10-times rule for data backup, I only need 3T for the Mac Time Machine and another 3T for everything else.  After using for several weeks it proves me right.
  2. To add a new disk to the NAS, simply go to the Storage Management on the NAS console (access via IP or Cloud ID), and create new volume accordingly.
  3. When choosing RAID level for disk, I’m allowed to choose from Single, JBOD, RAID 0 and 1, but I choose Single.  It allows me to create separate volume for individual disk.  The thinking is, I believe either RAID 0 or 1 offer more trouble than helping to protect files, and JBOD that combining multiple disks into one large volume create more risk to my files if anything goes wrong in any of the disks.  Single, though not offering any protection, actually do the least harm among all options.  If I do need more protection on my files, I can set up another disk and backing up the importing files to it by schedule.
  4. With this setting, I’m able to create shared folders in different disks to store my files separately.  That means even one disk fails I still keep the others unharmed.  The NAS installed all its own application on disk 1, so the usage of it will be higher, so I place photos, medias and other files on disk one, so I can use its application to access them, and put Time Machine storage on disk 2, as well as backups of photo and other important files, so to separate these important files from disk 1.
  5. For BT/emule, I use my old HDD in an external enclosure and connect it to the NAS via USB3.  The NAS allows me to create a share folder for BT on this external drive.  So all the BT workload is now handled by it, even it is damaged my other data and disks will stay unaffected.
  6. I also installed XMBC on the NAS to access photos and media files on disk 1.  I played some 720p movies with it and note the performance is very satisfying.  The XMBC itself is very comprehensive, besides using for local files it also supports installing app and access internet resources.  I’ll need more time to configure it later.  Maybe I’ll create another post for it in the future.
  7. I setup the NAS to be Wake-On-LAN, allows it to be access via my Cloud ID on the myasustor.com.  Now I can turn on/off/sleep/wake the NAS, access files and control BT download via internet and with my mobile.
  8. I also setup schedules for the NAS to power off during night, auto-power on in the morning, and go to sleep during the day time, and also restart once a day.  Whenever I want to access the NAS, I simply use the AiMaster app on my phone to wake it first.

So much for today.  If anyone wants to know further about my setting, feel free to let me know.

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What will happen after Tesla open their patent, and should Apple follows?

tesla-vector-logo

Elon Musk’s decision to open Tesla’s patent to all interested parties is undoubtedly the most extraordinary strategic move since Google open source the Android OS.  This move will enable Tesla and the EV ecosystem’s to gain an exponential growth in the coming years.  With the similarity with the smart phone industry, it is reasonable to imagine the following developments:

  1. More small/middle size automobile companies will catch public eye-balls by providing their shiny new products developed based on Tesla’s open patent.
  2. Some major automobile companies that has zero EV today will start offering their own EV in coming few years.
  3. Those major automobile companies that already has its EV will face a question of whether to adopt Tesla’s technology or to continue their own, and after a few struggle they will eventually join the crowd.
  4. Undoubtedly new EV news, leaks, rumors and product launch will be as popular as the new iOS device.
  5. More countries will start enhancing and upgrading their transportation infrastructure system to embrace the electronic car era.
  6. China will be one of the most noticeable country in this change, in both using and providing the EVs.  We shall not be surprised to see one or two or even more Chinese automobile manufacturers announce their extremely low cost EV in the coming years.  And some may claim it is their own invention instead of Tesla’s.
  7. should we go on?!….

 

apple-classic-rainbow-vector-logoSince it’s about patent open/close, and Tesla is as cool as Apple, many ppl naturally relate their move to Apple, and many suggest Apple should do the same.  As a fan of both Apple and Tesla, I understand strongly disagree.  Here’s a few reasons:

  1. As Elon points out in the blog, the EV industry now has a problem of few followers instead of competition.  Apple, on contrary, has too many followers/competitors in their post-PC arena.
  2. Tesla’s open patent will help them gather followers, form a strong force and eventually complete the EV ecosystem.  If Apple opens their patent, they will lost their current high ground and got beat up by the competitors.
  3. Tesla’s core competitiveness comes in their advanced technology.  While Apple’s core competitiveness lies on their excellent integration of art and technology.  Technology itself is not Apple’s greatest strength.  (Not agree?)
  4. Tesla’s case is more like Google open sourcing the Android OS.  They use this move to fight against the old gasoline car industry.  It’s so much like what Google did back in 2010 to fight again Apple’s iPhone.  Apple, however, has no giant to fight, but now being the giant himself.
  5. Furthermore, Apple’s success lies on its close-ecosystem philosophy that to combine hardware and software so can be crafted to one perfect art work.  Openness does not fit it, and it is a lesson-learned by Apple in the early 90s.

In a word, Open or Close, it is a strategy used based on each company’s own situation, and shall not easily follow.

How much margin could a distributor or integrator get?

In the IT industry, or maybe in any industry, you can build a business as a distributor or integrator if you have no own hardware or software product.  But unlike ten or twenty years ago, the living space for these middle-man is getting smaller, and the margin has a trend to zero.

The company I’m working for is a distributor/integrator in IT industry.  In a recent reselling case, we win it because our upper stream distributor is willing to lower their margin down to 2.8%.  In a recent bid, we lost to another system integrator because they could offer the same products at cost (we have the same cost).  Not long ago in another tender, we act as distributor and win the case because the down stream integrator can bid with the cost we offered.

Firstly I wonder such phenomenon only happens in Hong Kong and Macau, as the economic here is not good comparing to the neighboring area such as the mainland China.  But after I raised the question among friends in mainland, I am surprised to find that nearly all of them face the same situation.  Some of their cases are even more extreme, that they can only win a tender with price lower than cost.

There are some obvious reasons that causing this trend (more or less Porter’s Five Forces):

  1. In many companies, the bonus of a sale representative is tight with revenue, not profit.  So to reach their sales target they are more willing to sacrifice company profit for personal bonus;
  2. Some product owners are selling directly to the end customer, getting rid of the channel partners.  In this case the reseller/integrator can only get the same price as their client do;
  3. Some other product owners are selling through many partners in the same region, causing the competition.  The reseller has no option but to conduct price war;
  4. Some product owners simply ignore the partner agreement and bid the same tender with their channel partners.
  5. No matter how the product owner sets their sales scheme, the local distributor can only cooperate as they usually has no right to set price;
  6. Newer and cheaper products comes to the market each year.
  7. More end clients are willing to contact product owner directly, and can get direct support from product owner.

However, no matter what reasons that causing the dilemma of IT distributor and integrator, one key factor remain true: ‘The value you add equals the margin you get’.  Finding a product for a client is no longer a ‘value’.  Your client can easily dig out more than you could.  To hold the business and the profit margin, you need to provide solid service and really help solving client’s problem.  It could come in many way, like localizing a software’s UI, customizing a software feature for different need, adding extra features, connecting it with other products, bundling and integrate several products into one cohesive solution.

But in my view, the life of a distributor/integrator is just getting harder and tougher.  The only good way out is to have your own product.

 

About setting up website in China

In the past 2 weeks I help a friend to set up his company website in China.  As you know to set up a website you always need to purchase a domain name and rent a virtual server locally near your potential clients, before you install and set up the website.  The post is about the registration of domain and server in China.  And it’s quite an experience for me.

The easy part to register domain and server in China, is like all the outside counterparts, you just need a credit card to purchase any not-yet-registered .com, .com.cn or .cn domain.

www.net.cn

The hard part, or to be specific the 1st hard part, is that you can read Chinese because almost all popular domain selling websites in mainland China, like the most popular one ‘www.net.cn’ (which is a Alibaba subsidiary) only provides Chinese content and instruction.  You’ll find some website based in Hong Kong do provide English.  But since these site’s server locates in Hong Kong instead of mainland China, in terms of performance, response, stability and Chinese search engine-spotting capability, they are usually hard to compete with the mainland’s counterpart.  So if your potential targeting clients are in mainland China, you don’t actually have much choices.  After checking the posts and threads in several mainland Chinese forums and QA websites, I choose the http://www.net.cn for the domain and server renting.

The 2nd hard part comes after you successfully paid for your domain and rent your virtual server.  Because in China, every website to be legally operated has to be registered and be approved by the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology of the People’s Republic of China first, no matter your website is for individual or commercial purpose.  Without the approval, the domain and server provider won’t even allow your website to be accessible.

To register, you’ll need to submit your personal information,  address, contacts, and China ID card photo copies.  If it’s for commercial usage, you also need to submit Chinese company business registration information, company bank account and also photo copies of all required supporting documents.  And finally, you’ll need to go to an appointed photo studio near your living city to take a picture, to prove that you are the one handling the website.  If you cannot make it to any of the photo studio within 2 days (from the date of document submission), you can apply to have the photo backdrop mail to you, then you take the picture at your place following the requirement, using the backdrop, and then submitted the photo to the authority.

Since I rent the domain in http://www.net.cn, one good thing is that they had a separate website helping you with this registration.  So you can submit all the information and attachment to net.cn instead, and they will verify the material and submit it to the ministry for you if everything is ok.  It is one of the main reason I choose them in the first place.

After the submission is completed, you’ll be notified to wait for around 20 days for the ministry approval.  Right now I’m waiting for the approval status.  Hopefully I can get it done by mid-July.

If you have any further question.  Feel free to drop a comment.  Bye now~

 

UPDATE: Friday, 20 June, 2014

Finally I receive confirmation from http://www.net.cn about the approval of the website.  Hooray!

It’s been a while….

That I haven’t got up here to update things I’ve learn on the way.  I know it’s not right and not good for the continuity of my coding study (which hasn’t stop btw), so here I am trying to keep the good habit up.

So here’s a quick shot of what I’m doing, I bet many ppl are doing or did it already…

Image

 

The updates of WWDC 2014 is the best one as I see since 2007.  The new programming language and all new features added to iOS/OSX development are just amazing.  The 2 hours WWDC is so much better than the Godzilla movie I saw last Sat!

BTW, some ppl who’s also learning iOS development as I do might wonder whether they should continue learning Objective-C, given the newer, better and faster Swift is coming in the fall.  If you do have such doubt, I suggest you Google around.  You will notice that you are not alone.  Better yet, check out this blog by JON FRISKICS in Code School, about his (Early) thoughts on Swift, Apple’s new programming language.  JON is the lecturer of iOS in Code School, and I believe you’ll be clear on what you should do now on your journey of iOS/OSX program learning.

Happy Learning and Coding.  Bye now!