rashbre central

Sunday, 11 July 2021

getting wired

It started with Cat 5 and then Cat 5e . The cables that everyone uses to connect their wired ethernets together. Nowadays many people don't even bother with wires, preferring everything to be beamed over wifi. 

They are the ones who will eventually lose their photos because they forgot to back everything up. 

I've got cabling as well as wi-fi and some of it is built into the house.


The electricians who wired it used Cat 5e cabling, which can run at up to 1Gb. I've noticed though, that on the long run between upstairs and downstairs, I sometimes get a negotiated 100Mb (ie 1/10 of the speed). 

That is where the length of the cabling starts to have an effect and is why more recent specifications up to category 8 are increasingly include better shielded cable twisted into pairs. It is quite different from the ancient Category 1 bell-wire.

Now I can't really justify having the house cabling ripped out, so I'm looking at other solutions. Roll-up IEEE802.11bz. It incorporates a clever way to squirt faster speeds down a lower speed-rated cable. Get the Category 8 effect from a Cat 5e cable.

The downside is that no-one supports it yet, or at least doesn't publicly feature it in their advertising. I looked around and found that 'Multi-Gigabit' seems to be an alternative name for a similar technology. And thus I found a little box which can slam 2.5Gb down a 1G cable. 

I hope it works!

Saturday, 3 July 2021

Synology NAS with Final Cut Pro - Using Sparsebundles to make everything work.

Another post about the LAN changes I'm making at rashbre central. 

I still do quite bit of video editing but wondered about running the video edits across the LAN. The Synology server is quite fast, with up to four times 1 Gigabit ethernet links and about a half Gigabyte of cache memory. 

I have run a directly attached Drobo 5 with Thunderbolt, but I sense that the physical device is now becoming a little erratic, so the Synology solution should be more reliable.

Except that Final Cut Pro gives an error message when Network Attached Storage is used as the source for editing.

Luckily, I remembered what is, in effect, a hack.  I can create a sparse disk image on the NAS and then mount it to the iMac I'm using as if it is a local drive. Then I can add libraries from FCP directly to the sparse image. With 'proxy' switched on in FCP, it will use a 'proxy image' (ie smaller version) of the files I am editing and then only reassemble the full sized edit when it is time to 'Share' it.

I should add here that there are other solutions to this which involve changing the SMB settings on the iMac and typing a bunch of commands into the Synology server, during which at least one red screen pops up.

I'll regard this as a solution 'for the rest of us', which is intuitively easier to understand and for which the various files created are always restorable.

So here's what I've been doing:

1: Create a new sparse image using Disk Utility, on the LAN Server: I can make it a sparsebundle which takes up little space but specify a much bigger size (like 2 TB) so it has somewhere to expand.  This is my creation of the 'My example disk image' into a folder called VV_Video on the Synology NAS.

2: Now I can use the freshly created sparsebundle (ie disk image), which will have mounted itself automatically, as the target for an FCP editing session. And because it mounts to the iMac, it looks like a local file. It won't be 2TB either, but much smaller (20Mb?) and will grow as more files are added to it.

3: In FCP, I can create a New Project on the newly mounted "Disk" - ie the sparsebundle.

4: Then I can ingest video with the Proxy setting 'On' and away we go with happy editing. I can observe that the speed and 'scrubbing' through the video is as as fast as anyone would need it. It's not discernibly different from the Thunderbolt attached Drobo.

5: A spin off advantage is that I can now name my various video projects in separate disk images in VV_Video and keep all of the other files together. There is a real danger of becoming organised.

6: Happy days, although be aware that this is a hack and ideally will be replaced one day when  Synology and Apple talk to one another about video.

Thursday, 1 July 2021

Boxed in?

Still on my reconfiguration of servers, I realised a silly thing. I was keeping a spare drive in a cardboard box, on a bookshelf, in case one drive failed. I took a look at the server.   Surely I could configure it with a hot spare instead? 



I received this notification today. We now have new and immensely useful bureaucracy associated with being outside of Europe. Our new domestic goods regulation regime is in place. 

Instead of using the CE marking to sell certain products in Great Britain, industry must take action before 1 January 2022. to get everything retested for conformity to UKCA.

At the beginning of the year, the UKCA (i.e. not GBCA) marking was introduced for selling goods in Great Britain (England, Scotland and Wales). There are now only six months to go until the UKCA marking becomes mandatory for most goods being sold in Great Britain that currently use the CE marking. 

For Great Britain products to continue being sold in Great Britain from 1 January 2022, it is essential to ensure product compiance with the UKCA marking as soon as possible. 

Do I hear the sounds of cut and paste?

Wednesday, 23 June 2021

Knock-on effect

[Technical alert - bypass this post if not interested in computer topics ] 

I use my computers for a variety of tasks like music, video, photography, authoring, plus the regular tasks that people get up to like email and browsing. No wonder I've accumulated some data over the years.

So I knew that the replacement of a large amount of my disk storage required a more detailed rethink of the rashbre LAN. Old mainframe systems used to have so-called batch runs which could take hours or sometimes days to run. I'm hoping to stay away from this for rashbre central.

The existing Drobo disk storage units have a one Gigabit ethernet connection, but the new Synology has 4 Gigabits. which can be bound together. That's an obvious thing to do, except I need (a) fast Category 8 LAN cabling (b) enough slots on my switch to be able to plug them all in. Yep, done - and with fancy coloured cabling too so I know which are the really fast links.

Then I have to think about the size of disks to be used. The Drobo units are set up with 5 times 6 Terabyte disks. I used to use a certain financial sum as the sweet spot for disks, but I now realise that 6 Tb is about the maximum I want to be copying around, at least until the rest of the infrastructure catches up.

It also means I can dip into my spare disk drives to start the population of the Synology unit.

Then I'll be interested in adding in a couple of RAID1 M.2 cache, which could speed the whole disk access to the device. They are like 2 mini-disks dedicated to caching the access to the device and using two means they are read-write RAID1 compliant 'fail-safe'.

Then, for the main disk units, I'm using the Synology SHR hybrid variety of RAID which allows a Drobo-like mix-and-match of drive sizes with less waste than a vanilla RAID configuration.

I've also got to think about 3-2-1 backup. That's the approach which says have 3 copies of data (the working data and 2 backup copies) on two different media (disk and tape) with one copy off-site for disaster recovery. Except tape is a bit old-fashioned and I'll have two variants on different disk formats.

That's where a Drobo can still be useful: to run the second backup, suitably off-site.

...And I realise that this is the type of post for which 'blogs' were originally invented!

Tuesday, 22 June 2021

Another one bites the dust

It's finally time to replace the second of my Drobo 'Data Robotics' units. They are disk drive enclosures that support NAS functions. There's been various ways that they seem to go wrong.

  1. Power supply dies. It still switches on but doesn't deliver enough current to restart the whole set of drives. I've replaced power supplies and kept spares, but the connector type is different on different units, which adds to the pain.
  2. Drive dies. Inevitable that a drive would die from time to time. I have the Drobos set up with data redundancy so that one drive can fail but the system can continue to work, until I perform a hot swap.
  3. In a long-serving unit, the physical act of replacing the drive seems to disrupt the motherboard and then will signal perhaps a different error, which forces a more complex automated rebuild.

The first, say, five years seem to be okay, but after that period I wonder if the heat affects the motherboard in some way, reducing its reliability? My prior failed Drobo wouldn't restart at all , even after a new power supply unit was added and I took the number of drives down to one WD Red unit

So now I'm trying Synology instead. Some say that Synology are more complicated to get running, but I've found it pretty straightforward so far.

Saturday, 12 June 2021

Ice creams on the beach

A fun thing about living in the West Country is seeing the local news coverage of the G7 talks. It's all about the Queen getting off the train at Saint Austell and Joe Biden eating an Ice Cream.

We've had odd looking planes buzzing overhead, even as far away as Topsham. A couple of very strange looking ones flew over in convoy as well as a few helicopters.


There's so many extra helper-people in Cornwall that they ran out of accommodation in St Ives, and had to hire a cruise ship to provide the extra beds. Now, some might know that there's a flotilla of empty (ghost) cruise ships all around Torbay at the moment. Admittedly it's around the coast from St Ives, but not a long journey. 


Cornwall Live reports that Governmental procurement swung into action and instead has hired extra beds from the Estonian firm Tallink who run cruises in the Baltic. MS Silja Europa has been procured to sleep 1,000 of the 6,500 security people present.


I think the old Beano word is 'spliffication'.

Monday, 31 May 2021

Take a moment to behold

A fun trip is the one from Ballater to Tomintoul, over the little pointy bridge, pausing at the interesting shop that sells soup,  past Corgarff castle and then ascending the Lecht ski-slopes, before heading down the far side and into Tomintoul. Its around a 30- mile journey.

Part way along it, after Corgarff, is an installation known as The Watchers, which look out across the River Don and towards the distant Cairngorms. 

I'm not sure if these 'Watchers' have links to the ones in the Marvel Universe? Maybe they are an Independent Wonder? 

The Watchers were said to be one of the oldest species in the universe committed to observing and compiling knowledge on all aspects of the universe. 

 In Marvel, their policy of total non-interference came into existence due to a former, well-meant attempt by the Watchers to bestow advanced knowledge on the Prosilicans, who used the nuclear technology gained to create weapons and destroy themselves. 

 When the Watchers returned to Prosilicus, the survivors blamed them for causing the catastrophe by giving the Prosilicans nuclear technology before they were ready for it. The Watchers then took a vow never to interfere with other civilizations. 

 Or, simply sit in one of the cocoons sheltered from the wind and enjoy the view.

Sunday, 30 May 2021

The L.N.E.R. don't stop here any more

We finally made it to Scotland, as part of our UK travel itinierary. The less populated areas had footpaths which seemed to be used more by the sheep. 

But that's okay. We'd have to make do with the decommissioned railway lines, past the Railway Station tastefully converted to a restaurant and along train lines which were now cycle tracks.

Thursday, 27 May 2021

Gallows in Ripon

We decided to make the journey to Scotland more like one of our road trip holidays. 

Instead of taking the most direct route, we'd let ourselves wander, and here we are in Ripon, about which I knew very little. 

Ripon was once famous for making spurs but in the 1500s saw the most macabre side of the Reformation. George Bowes was ordered ‘to invade, resist, subdue, slay, kill and put to execution of death by all ways and means.’
Here's the order from the Earl of Sussex to round up 300 or so men from Ripon and to execute them on Gallows Hill, in 1570.

It wasn't only this city where these deeds occurred. There was a list of towns and the accounted-for number of victims like some grotesque spreadsheet exercise.

Tuesday, 25 May 2021


This time we've been in Derby, which is one of the homes of the industrial revolution andwas once famous for locomotove buildding. My picture is of a humble Fowler Tank engine, a 0-6-0T 'Jinty' class 3F. 

These were a favourite small engine included with many Triang and Hornby railway sets, back in the day. 

I followed the fortunes of the GWR more closely than the LMS, but aways had a sneaking admiration for this small hard-working locomotive. 

And that's not to say that Derby with it's Rolls Royce and Bombardier manufacturing is entirely industrial; take a look at the pretty view from our hotel.

Sunday, 23 May 2021

Wild times

 Here we are, back in Topsham, with the rewilding of the field opposite in full swing. There's poppies, cow parsley, buttercups and emerging daisies as well as the pond flitted over by dragonflies.