Sunday, February 21, 2010

Look Ma no monitor, no keyboard, no mouse? FREENAS

So what can you do with a computer with no monitor, no mouse, or a keyboard?

Here is the thing, I wanted a centralized location to store my files so that if I want to access a spreadsheet from my laptop I could open it up work on it then save it and have it available to my desktop computer. My son also has his laptop here from time to time it might be nice if he wanted to look at photos I have taken if he could do that. I looked into getting a "Network Attached Storage (NAS)" that I could just plug into the router. Basically this networked attached storage is just a hard drive with a network card so that you can attach it to your DSL/Cable/Fios router as another device that all your computers on your home network can see.

My problem was that I have two different versions of windows. I have XP and Vista. The vista machine can see the Xp machine (The laptop), but the laptop could not see the desktop. If I wanted to work on something on the laptop I had to copy it down to the laptop, work on it, then copy it back. Sometimes after work I am just too tired to want to go through all the hoops. I also didn't want to spend any money at this time so what is the solution.

So I did what I always do I search the internet for a free solution to my problem. I had an old HP computer sitting here collecting dust. It had long since stopped working as a desktop computer and I was about to just throw it out. The nice thing is this computer has 260 gigabytes of hard drive space. Not a lot, but enough to get me started. And as you see by the little box sitting next to the computer you can attach USB drives to the system and make them available. The one I own is a 250 gigabyte western digital drive. I stumbled on this operating system call "FREENAS". IE: Free Network Attached Storage.

Now, it took me jumping through some hoops to get this setup. First you have to create a CD from an ISO file which I had never done. The first one didn't work. Second you have to be able to boot from the CD on the intended install computer. Low and behold the primary CD device on this machine had died and the secondary one the software didn't recognize. I had an addtional computer siting around that was way older than this one, but it still had a good CD drive in it so I replaced the CD rom and finally got the software installed. Once installed you can access the machine like a file server and it can be administered from a webgui. For those of you who are mac users it supports apple file formats and itunes. It also allows me to have my own personal website setup on that computer. It will replace the current personal webserver that I had since it was on a older slower machine. Since I have dynamic ip I have to have a service like I am still learning about FreeNas, but at this time I am highly impressed and over the past week has served the purpose I have for it well. The speed of access from that machine is increadable even over my wireless connection. The operating system its self only takes 64 megabytes to run so it is really small. For now I have plenty of harddrive space and if I need more I will buy a USB drive to add to the system. Today I am taking my laptop with me to Mc Donalds for breakfast and will see how the personal website looks via their free wifi. For more information about FreeNas click here. To download a copy click here.
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