A while ago i was reading through an interesting post over at gizmodo about his visit to the fabolous Lego Vaults in Scandinavia. This magical place is a priceless museum of all Lego kits ever created. From the very first up to the very latest, all lego play sets that have ever left the factory, are stored in that magical vault. To my surprise, the author had a certain weakness for a particular line of Lego toys that spanned the late seventies early eighties. The "Lego Space" line encompassed, among others, several "kits" A lunar base ‘The Space Command Center" (box 483)The Alpha Rocket Base (box 483) The Space Cruiser (Box 487) a smaller space cruiser and .. the majestic box 497 "The galaxy explorer". A fairly large and expensive box for the time. Featuring a small ground command station and a space cruiser with a pilot of one and a cargo bay for one little lunar jeep.
immediately i was taken over by a wash of childhood nostalgia. I remember the three spaceship models very well, since I owned the smallest one and had spent many many hours playing with it. I also remember the pang of envy I felt when I watched the kid across the street play with HIS Lego spaceship. THe larger and more powerful version of my little one-man patrol-ship. The "Galaxy Explorer". In comparison this was a massive ship with its own landing facility AND a "massive" hangar bay capable of transporting the little Jeep that came with it. This envy stuck, for I have never had a chance to own that kit, nor did my requests to "borrow" the instruction plans from my neighbor, so i could build my own version of the ship with the parts i had lying around. But the answer was no .. so the Galaxy explorer sailed of into the folds of the past.
30 years after the box was originally launched, that request for the "instruction plans" of the Galactic explorer seems to find an answer after all. A wonderful site called "The Brickfactory" houses every single instruction booklet to every single Lego set ever built. Now since I have obeyed my golden childhood rule " Never give your Lego’s away" I was wondering if I could put two and two together. So I have started my attempt to "rebuild" the Galaxy Explorer for my own, using the parts that I have from all the years i played with Lego.
Now, Since i was a Lego kid from lets say the late seventies tot midway the eighties, the type of blocks required for the set were not out of my reach. (there were no super modern blocks needed) so i started my attempts this afternoon. Rustling between my blocks while reading through the instructions, was like a trip down memory lane. I remembered peering at those instructions as a kid , counting the little knobs on top of the blocks to know the size i required. Spending hours looking for the right part and being frustrated when you didn"t find it. And the greatest joy : Watching your construction take form are you follow along the different steps in the instruction. No wonder we are an Ikea generation ! THe Scandinavians had us following their "instructions" since we where kids.
However I was met by a problem that has set back the "speed" of my construction of the Galaxy Explorer. The thing with using parts from a set from 1979 is not that you don’t OWN the parts , its that you have probably lost some of those parts over the span of the years. Several "classic" bricks ( engine mounts for one) proved to be a little hard to find so my own "Galaxy explorer" isn’t quite ready to come to life just yet.
But some surfing on the web did give me a chance to take a peek at the work some of the Lego enthusiasts have been doing over the years. Since our own imagination is the boundary to what we can do with lego .. you should check out just SOME of the variations that were inspired by the Galaxy Explore. So never mind I didn’t get to build my OWN galaxy explorer. Now I can drool over what others did with it too. I heart the Interwebs !
The BrickFactory : The Original Galaxy Explorer plans (among others of the Space line of 1979)
Assembly of the Galaxy Eplorer (as it should be done 😉 )
Why you don’t need to download music…
" Where do you download your music ? " The question, mostly posed by a newbie, floats in a pregnant silence for just a second. My shoulders slump slightly and I feel like some kid of Movie Celebrity being asked the same dumb question by journalist nr 4004. I turn around and face the Newbie, sighing to have to "explain" everything all over again. Knowing that every bit of information I divulge will only reward me with MORE questions. All of it resulting in an endless crossfire of questions and answers ending in the solemn conclusion that "that’s not what they are looking for". In the nightmare-on-newb-street version of this conversation, "el newbo" will proudly declare he is using mall-ware infested software like Kazaa, Lime-Wire or E-donkey. As I wince and (half-sighing to keep oxygen flowing to my brain) explain that such programs are the computer-equivalent of licking the underside of the toilet seat in the restroom of the local train station, I can see the look of disappointment on their face. Not because of the fact that I have just pointed out that the dangers of peer-to-peer file sharing for your computer equals having a full-blown condomn-less orgy with 15 die-hard crackwhores on a bed of second-hand injection needles. Nono, they take issue with the fact that I have just somehow ‘insulted’ their only means of getting the latest Britney Spears album for free. (Never mind the fact that 23 Trojan Horses piggy-backed along for the ride). " Then what do YOU use ?? " they ask me outraged. Now this is a bit of a trick question. One would think that this question is an invitation to further point out why its not a very good idea to use peer-to-peer filesharing. But it is infact an invitation to ‘reveal’ some kind of superprogram you as a supergeek use, to get your music for free. That way, our newbie presumes, he might ‘learn from the master’ and do even more illegal downloading (and get all the porn flicks he’s been dreaming off).
So the correct answer to this question is " I don’t download music of the internet " Whether or not this is a lie is entirely up to you. Pirating of music is the new "masturbation" everybody does it , nobody admits it .. and its not very polite to ask. So perhaps you DO have ways of getting your content for free, but they are somehow too advanced for mr newbie to comprehend ( Rapidshare, Newsgroups, Bittorent). Its not a good idea to share this information, because quite soon you’re going to have to SUPPORT him in pirating content .. And that is a line I will not cross. If he REALLY wants to he’ll be able to figure it out for himself. Lame as it may be, its not a bad thing to say that you ‘buy all your cd’s in the store " It might get you a funny look .. but hey, at least the issue is of the table.
Its like I say all the time : there are Three levels of gathering content. Newbie extreme : The people who BUY EVERYTHING (BUY Office 2007 Retail to open a word document) Newbie-Standard : Pirate the content. (Download some version of Emule, spend hours finding a crack and ending up with and infected system) and GEEK: Find a free alternative for the contant ( Download OPenoffice for free and get to work). With music its the same deal. If you know where to look there are PLENTY of ways out there to get your content. As a personal example I’ll share the following. Using a free application, I am able to get more then 7 hours of FREE AND LEGAL content downloaded to my harddrive (DRM FREE) from some of my favorite artists and Genres. This is the equivalent of buying 7 cd’s a week (One CD a day) getting my content fresh and free without ever hurting the artist (or his money hungry record label) in the process. Its just that I KNOW where to look.
My secret ? Itunes ! Artists these days are more then happy to do a one hour podcast to promote their stuff. Sure there might be a little ‘promotional tainting’ going on in the episode ( ‘check out my new album etc etc’) but it works for me. One hour episodes of our favorite DJ Tiesto ever week ? no problem, Trance music mix from "above and beyond ? " its out there. Ministry of sound mixes ? Paul Oakenfold ? White Sensation ? Or do I want to mellow out with some Chill tunes on "Spacemusic" Its all out there right in the Itunes music store and it does not cost me a dime. (and I’m not even masturbating .. erm .. pirating ! ) So what are you waiting for … Stop mucking about in the cesspool of peer to peer file sharing and pick the free tree ! If Pirating is the new Masturbation then getting your music legaly and for free must be the next step to that .. So get it on people ! Hit the Itunes podcast directory and start looking for the music you like best.
A few days ago we had a friend over who made quite a astute observation. " Yo Knightwise, where are all your boxes ? " With "Boxes" he of course referred to "where are all your computers". The last time we had this friend over was at our old house in Hasselt, quite a long time ago. As I gave him the "tour" of the house, with the "lab/office" as piece-de-resistance offering up a nice line of monitors, keyboards, cpu-towers and humming servers. When I think back of moving INTO our old house, I remember packing up about 8 screens and 12 computers (laptops included) and dragging the lot into the new casa (and generously donating a slipped disk to the persons who had to haul it all upstairs). Today it is of course a whole different story and that surprises even me. Our entire "visible" computer infrastructure consists of a 24 inch Imac on the kitchen table ( our main interface to the digital highway ). If you are ever so fortunate to get the whole tour of the house you’ll only notice one little desk in our room upstairs (which doubles as a dresser and a study) with a microphone boom, a laptop stand, keyboard and mouse and a large Tft screen. The rest of our infrastructure is .. Invisible. Is it not there ? Has it gone away ? Have I "toned down" ? Not, not by an inch, if ever I have "more" computing power at my fingertips today then I had back in our old house. But it’s just organized a little differently. How ? .. and .. Why ?
A question of estethics.
If I wanted to I could setup a nice office with large screens and multiple machines if I wanted to, but I haven’t. As I explained in the podcast episode "A geeks Palace" there are several approaches to "The geek Palace" . There is the "nuclear" approach, where you office is one mess of cables and screens that look like the collision between a spaceship and a blender. But for reasons of estethics I am not going to to there. On the other hand you can go for the multi-monitor super productive (and quite massive) setup I displayed in one of the KWTV episodes where my 24 inch Imac made the heart of the system, flanked by two 19 inch monitors AND a 15.7 Macbook Pro jammed on one big table. Or I could go for the current setup. A stark table with the ‘facilities’ to house a system but not a "permanent setup" of a system. I choose the latter.. Why ? First of al : Less is more. Going for a quite "stark" setup (keyboard, mouse, display) and all the rest hidden away, makes for a workspace where you can realy focus on what you "came" to do. It offers a low-impact, versitile workspace to facilitate whatever system you land on it. Second : As i said "what you CAME to do". With the 24 Imac on our Kitchen Table there is no longer a real "computer room" in the house. So instead of "going up" to the computer-room and working on the computer .. you "bring" your computer to hook it up to a more "productive enviroment" ( Larger keyboard / mouse / extra pheripherals like printer / mixer etc ). But the key of the matter here is that you "bring" your computer.
The power of the laptop.
With 2 Macbook pro’s in the house each powerful enough to do 99 percent of our "productive work" the "desktop computer" becomes obsolete. Our laptops have become our "portable cpu’s" giving us the computer power we need when and where we need it. Sitting downstairs in the couch, Hanging out of the porch or blogging from the bedroom. Not only is the Wifi network coverage ubiquitous, we also have constant access to all our data on the server and in the cloud. With " hardware Independence" achieved, it no longer matters WHAT machine we work on (we pickup eachothers laptops whenever they are around) for the concept of "local data" does not exist anymore. Only when we need to "enlarge" the interface with a full keyboard or an extra screen do we "hook up" the laptops to the setup in our office. There the little "portable solutions" become the equivalent of a full desktop PC. Only then does the "interface table" turn the room into a "computer room".
The hidden server.
"Discretion is the better part of Valor" So our server remains a discrete although prominent part of our daily digital life. being the central hub for data storage, incoming SSH connection, running scripts and applications, AND doubling as a media center one would think to spot a massive 19 inch server rack in the corner of our living room. However aesthetics is not the main motivation not to do this. First of all the average "home" does not need the same equipment as a corporate environment needs. And although shoving 19 inch switches and NAS drives into your home might seem c
ool at first, the resulting power bill will quite quickly change your mind. The server in our house is a small Intell ATOM desktop. (an Intel motherboard WITH the processor on board, 2 gigs of ram and a terabyte harddrive. Packed in a small form factor casing it looks like a vcr and is mounted underneath our TV (doubling up as a media center). Relatively quiet and online most of the day its the central hub of our indoor and outdoor computing lifestyle.
The ones we don’t pay for.
But the question remains.. Where DID all the boxes go ? Well , to be honest I still have a few, but these are running as virtual machines on remote systems (read : different computers I’ve setup elsewhere). Having the ability to hook up to them using logmein, ssh or the VM-ware web-interface , it does not realy matter if these systems are IN our house or not. It does not even matter if they are Physical machines. As long as we can connect to them, fire them up and shut them down whenever we feel like it .. There is no need .. for all the "boxes" in our house.
KWTV : The Multimonitor Imac Setup.
Knightcast Podcast : A geeks Palace.
Knightcast Podcast : Laptop Luxury.
Let go of the terms “my computer” “my applications” and “my connection” and transcend beyond your digital boundaries to become a true omnipresent citizen of the web. We give you tips tricks and pointers how to slide from location to location, computer to computer, application to application and connection to connection without losing your foothold in your digital lifestyle. Transcend your own 1.0 cyber-citizen status and become Kilroy 2.0
- JC Hutchings Seventh Son Podcast.
- Become Hardware Independent.
- Become Software Independent.
- Become Location Independent.
- Become Connection Independent.
- Becoming Independent of Linear Time.
One of the things I take a lot of pride in, is that I have a fairly digital lifestyle. I’m not talking about the while internet thing and stuff , that too of course. But when I say Digital , i mean Digital as in digiTIZED. Over the last few years I’ve embraced most technologies that allowed me convert whatever I had lying around to a digital medium. Pictures: Since 1997 I’ve owned a digital Camera. I slid that 128 Mb flash card into the slot, clicked the big button and have never ever taken an analogue picture since. All the pictures we have taken in all these years have been safely stored (and backed up) to either our local hard drives (mostly on our servers/nas drives) and over the past few years, in the Cloud (Flickr). I’ve seldom to never had a picture “printed” to hardcopy cause I quite frankly never saw the need for it.
My entire CD collection was digitised a few years ago and has also existed only as a collection of digital bits and bytes. The actual cd’s that i owned (and I had quite a few) are stored in “archive mode” down in our basement. Most video material I had shot using my Video camera have been digitised and burned to cd’s or stored on our local harddrives. Whatever we still had lying around as important documents got converted to PDF’s years ago. And with the coming of our Ebook reader I have effeciently rendered most of my book collection obsolete and have moved from letters to bits when getting new books or material.
The only ‘phisical’ medium that i have left is our DVD collection, that, somehow is in dire need of digitalisation. We haven’t purchased a lot of new dvd’s (save for collectors boxes like Battlestar Galactica and what have you) so the only thing that most of our dvd’s do is collect dust. It would be great to have one central place to store all those media. Sure, our fileserver with its 1 terrabyte of disk storage (and additional one terrabyte of backup storage) does not do a bad job in serving up the files we need. But it has its limitations. One terrabyte is only one terrabyte. And after several years of “collecting digital data” it might not prove enough.
On one hand you need a “compact form” of storage so you can access all of your data in one place, hopefully pretty fast. A built in drive into your fileserver or an external usb drive is fine. It doesn’t pay off to have several drives in several places (constantly having to reconnect and disconnect external storage) and its not very energy efficient to have all of your storage media plugged in at once. My solution has been to divide the data I have into two pieces. On one side I have data that is “fresh” and that i need to access every day. This data (like our music, pictures, projects) is stored on our server (a one terabyte disk) and backed up every day. On the other side there is also data that I don’t need every day, but that I would like to have for archiving purposes. I can either burn them to a cd (but that makes indexing the archives pretty hard) or I put them on another external hard drive that only gets plugged in when i need the data. Sounds like a plan ? Maybe, lets face it : One external drive is only ONE external drive. You can add ANOTHER one but then you would go like .. hmm where did i put this and that .. etc. If only you had ONE BIG PLACE to store everything, that “grows
along” with you as you go along.
So instead of putting my backups and my ‘old data’ on “passed down” drives that I have taken out of my system, i’m going to try something else. Lets face it. Since 1 terrabyte drives have become dirt cheap, I found I had several older drives just “lying around” A 500 gig, a couple of 250’s, A 320 .. a couple of 160’s.. you name it. Putting them all in several enclosures just is not very practical (again : the data is ‘fragmented’ that way) and it would be nicer to ‘accumulate’ all of that storage into one big place.
So there are two solutions you can go for. Freenas is one of them : Take an old beige box you have lying around, chuck ALL of your drives inside. Install Freenas on a usb stick, boot from such usb stick and presto : you have a fileserver. (mind you, its a fileserver that is capable of automated backups, connecting to windows, mac and Linux machines, even SSH access (yes yes, we LOVE our SSH) and more.
Dirtcheap, easy and it gives all of your ‘older drives’ a new lease on life. You can either use it as your “primary” storage solution (mind you : lotsa drives make lotsa heat and eat lotsa power) Or you can use it as your “archive solution”. A system you power up every now and then to write and access some data that you have “stored away” in the bigg-arse drivecluster you setup with freenas.
Freenas DOES support raid solutions, but you have to make shure the drives are the same type/size/brand in order for your software raid to be effective.But since you have a “collection” of heterogenous drives you would like to merge into one storage blob and STILL need raid .. Freenas is not going to be able to help you.
How about a system thatlets you pop in whatever drive you have, add drives along the way, REMOVE drives along the way and STILL be able to keep all of your data. I know .. I can just hear you screaming ‘ DROBO DROBO ‘and yes .. you might be correct. Sure enough, the wonderfull Cali Lewis has pimped the Drobo to us geeks using her sweet southern tongue (she is such a sweetheart) so why don’t we go for the drobo ? 2 reasons : Its proprietary techonoly AND its DAMN EXPENSIVE. (and its limited to some 5 drives).
Enter “UNRAID” : Having the same basic setup as Freenas (Beige box, lotsa drives, usb stick) Unraid offers you the functionality of the Drobo at the price of the Freenas. You can add up to some 36 hard drives (hello !) because this solution is geared toward fast redundant media storage (where Freenas is more of a simple file server/archive solution). With Unraid (just like with the Drobo) you can swap out drives replacing the smallest drives with bigger drives as you go along.
Unraid takes care of the Raid array (making sure you don’t lose any data) and looks the other way when you mix up drives with different sizes, speeds and brands.. its just works. But the catch is that in order to do this, Unraid needs to keep a “master catalogue” of all your drives stored on the biggest harddrive in the collection. So lets say you have a 500, and four 250 gig drives : then you’re gonna have one gig of storage because the largest drive is your ‘insurance drive’ that makes sure that everything is going to be a-ok when one of the drives goes south.
Sure : if you pop in a One Terrabyte drive for this, you can add 750 or 500 gig drives as much as you want. And as long as you keep adding ‘more and more’ drives, your storage is going to increase .. as long as they don’t go any larger in size then your ‘insurance drive’ there is no problem. But thats not always how it works. If I would like to use then UNRAID with the harddrives I lay off along the way .. the drives are going to get BIGGER everytime. Adding up to 36 drives is cool and will give you MASSIVE (and secure) storage. But the resulting machine would need quite a bit of juice to keep it going AND could easily heat up a small greenhouse (global warming anyone ?). Add to that that the FREE version of UNRAID only supports 3 drives and you have to pay (allbeit not that much) for the pro version.. I’ll probably stick to freenas.