Some gadgets are just hard to throw out. Perhaps you keep hanging on to them because you have this plan of “using them someday” for “some project”. Perhaps you keep hanging on to them because of nostalgia. Whatever reason you might choose, those geeky gadgets that keep occupying that box in your office aren’t getting any younger. Why not put them to good use ?
Lets take 2 items in MY junk-box as an example. An aging Asus EEE 701 Netbook PC that I have been hanging onto because of sentimental reasons. (I smuggled it in from the US way before these babies were available in Belgium) Its keyboard is broken and its low specs when it comes to storage, memory and cpu power aren’t helping it in finding something useful to do these days. The second item is my first 1tb external hard drive. I haven’t thrown this one out because its on my ‘for-some-project-some-day’ list. Its been on the list for 2 years now … So lets smash them together and turn them into a Remote backup solution using open source software and Bittorrent technology.
Step 1 : Turn the EEEpc into a headless server.
I downloaded the Image for Ubuntu’s ‘minimal installer’ off the net and have had it kicking around on an old USB stick for a while now. Because of its small footprint its ideal to do ‘light’ installations of Ubuntu because you can choose which components you want to install. I chose the ‘minimal Ubuntu server’ and the SSH server component. When the installation was complete I rebooted the laptop and hooked up the external USB drive (that I had formatted in one big FAT32 partition)
Step 2 : Install Webmin and mount the drive.
Because I was going to use my external hard drive to store my remote backups on (the EEEpc doesn’t have enough storage) I needed to be sure it was always mounted correctly if my little laptop should have to reboot. So instead of messing around with stuff like FStab config files I installed Webmin. (a Web-based interface to your Linux server). Using the ‘Disk and network file system’ menu I mounted the external drive into a folder called ‘backup drive’ that I had created in my home directory. This way I was sure that the external drive was always mounted correctly in the same folder.
Links : Howto install Webmin.
Step 3 : Install Bittorrent Sync.
Next up I installed a copy of Bittorrent Sync both on my local server and on the old eeePc. Following THIS tutorial lets you install Bittorrent Sync and configure the Web interface to be accessible from all over your network. (So make sure you choose a very secure administrator password). When installing Bittorrent sync this way, you are also sure the service always starts up when your computer reboots.
Links : Howto install Bittorrent sync.
After the installation was complete I surfed to the Bittorrent web interface of my home server (source system) in one tab, and to that of my EEEpc (remote destination system) on another one.
Step 4 : Share a folder on your Source system.
Now it was pretty smooth sailing. On the Bittorrent web interface of my SOURCE machine I made a bittorrent share of each folder I wanted to backup remotely. I right clicked “properties” once the folder was created and copied the ‘READ ONLY’ secret.
Step 5 : Enter the key for the shared folder on your remote destination system.
Next up I went to the tab of my ‘remote destination system’ and entered the READ ONLY key. I selected a folder on my external drive where the files needed to be synced towards. (in my /home/backupdrive/ directory)
Step 6 : Do the initial copy
After repeating the process above for all the folders I wanted to ‘sync remotely’ I just had to wait for the initial copy to complete. After that it was time to pickup the EEEpc and the External drive and bring them to their new (remote) home. I hooked the EEEpc up to the network, started up the machine and … that was that … headless remote backup solution done.
Because Bittorrent sync doesn’t care about open ports or anything I didn’t have to mess with the router on the remote end of my backup solution. There were no ports to forward and even a static IP was not required for the remote machine. Just connect it , fire it up and .. boom. Using the ‘read only’ secret is an insurance that changes to my files are only synced one way : From the source to the remote system (and never the other way around).
You can expand this setup (and increase the security at the remote end) by syncing over encrypted ZIP files. That way people can’t access the data should your system be compromised.
In the end its a great simple way to use an old system (you can even use an old laptop with a broken screen for this) and give it a new lease on life. The setup is simple, the interfaces are web based and the whole setup is perfect for a remote backup destination at your parents or in laws.
So secure your data and put those old clunkers back in action !
This week we teach you the art of downloading. Wiseguy Daniel Messer tells you all about how to use the Piratbay browser to anonymise your traffic through the TOR network, circumventing censorship, nosy ISP’s and even our lovely friends over at the NSA. After this insightful tutorial on using this ‘portable app’ its my turn to tell you about “Transmission”, A simple client to download torrent files, with a twist. We show you how to set it up, use it AND control it from just about anywhere. Ever been on your smartphone an thought .. Damn, I wish I could download this torrent back home ? We teach you how to use Transmission from anywhere on any device equipped with a browser. (Even from your phone). Stay tuned till the end because we have a special holiday-cheer announcement for a very special member of the Knightwise.com community.
If I have learned one thing over the last couple of weeks is that although all good things in life are free, free doesn’t always last forever. With the sudden demise of Google reader (and the associated apocalypse for all of my fancy social-media-autoposting scripts) I’ve decided that my trust in ‘free cloud services’ is something that no longer comes by default. Lets face it : In any free online product that offers you a service without any visible revenue model, YOU are the product .. not the client. Its like that with Facebook, Google+, Gmail and so forth. You are in some form or another the “product” they brior whatever else they might think of : You make THEM money and THEY have no obligation whatsoever to keep the service (and your dng into the service in order to make money for their “Clients”. (Usually advertisers) If this is in the form of adds, your personal information ata/information/etc) available to you. Add to that that some of these services thread loosely around issues like “Privacy” and you need to start wondering : Would I not be better of doing this on my own.
One of these services that personally springs to mind is : Dropbox. Its free online storage offering us a cross platform solution for herding our files across multiple systems. But meanwhile that data also resides on “some server” “somewhere”. Equally tied into my workflows like “Google Reader” the loss of Dropbox would be a serious problem. Any alternatives ?
Owncloud is a beautiful solution that gives you just that. Run your own owncloud server and have clients on most operating systems. Access your files, contacts and (private) calendars from anywhere. Free and open source it has the downside of being a little tech-intensive when you want to set it up. (You need an Apache server and there is some tinkering involved when it comes to securing your traffic).
BUT : Now there is Bittorrent Sync and the setup is quite simple. You sync folders on your different machines using the power of Bittorrent. Yes the same protocol that rushes Linux ISO’s and illegal copies of pron dvd’s our way now helps us to get our files across.
HOW : Install the client on your different machines (all flavors of Linux, Windows and OSX are supported) and tell it what folder to sync. You will be offered a “secret password” that you will need to use when you ‘add’ a machine to your sync cloud and voila : there are your files.
No Cloud required : The good ? : No cloud required : you sync files between YOUR machines without the need for cloud storage with a third party. I would recommend choosing a “master system” that is always online to make sure a recent copy of “everything” resides at least somewhere. The bad ? : This stuff is pretty new, so I would not recommend using it for personal or financial data until it “matures” a bit.
Free : What are you waiting for : Head on over to http://labs.bittorrent.com/experiments/sync.html and give it a spin and TELL US what you thought of it in the comments section.
Torrents .. Oh sweet rivers of digital data that bring us tons of
HD Porn Open Source ISO’s at speeds approaching those of the speed of light .. Or if you are running fiber .. THE speed of light. A fantastic little protocol that requires and equally fantastic application : A torrent client.
Sure, there are plenty of torrent clients out there like Transmission or Vuze, but wouldn’t it be great to be able to find torrent files and download them using the same simple application you use every single day ? What if we could do it in Chrome ? …. the answer is equal to Obama’s slogan : Yes you can !
Bring on “Bittorrent Surf” and gain the ravishing ability to download your favorite torrents straight from and straight IN your browser. Download and install the extension in google chrome and a little blue ball will appear on the upper left corner of your address bar. I could do a boring writeup how it works .. or you can just watch the video instead.
The extention works on Chrome in both Windows Mac and Linux. You can download ‘SURF’ HERE.
How do YOU get your torrents ? Tell us in the comments section.