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.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Redbox DVD Rentals

Say good bye to your video rental store and say goodbye to the online video rentals and say hello to Redbox. Redbox allows one to rent current release DVD videos for a total of $1 plus tax for a 24 hour rental. New releases come out on Tuesday of each week. I had co-worker who was raving about his one day and suggested I try it. I thought I will give this a try at somepoint. Well, last Thursday was that day.

I went on line to and signed up online. I then went around the corner Walgreens and proceeded up to the box. I selected a movie to rent, entered the information to verify my identity, and swiped my credit card. The movie was then vended out of the slot in the side of the machine.

When I got home I checked my email and there was an email indicating that my total was $1.07 if I return the movie by 9pm the next night. I had rented this around 12pm on Thursday. I watched my movie and took it back around the corner to return it. I selected that I wanted to return a movie was prompted to put the DVD in with instruction on the dvd how to do it. I placed the DVD in the machine and the screen indicated that it was returned. When I got home checked my email and a confirmation was there indicating that it had been returned. I did get an email for signing up and giving them an email for a free rental which I will use this week. I have also read because I gave them permission to send me text messages via my phone I will get one free rental a week. I will wait and see what happens this week.

All in all this is a very slick idea. Very convenient as I have one less than a mile from my house and worked really well. I will be trying this again this week with my free rental code in hand.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Taking the HD (High Definition) Plunge

A month or two back my sister suggested that I take my family room and set it up as a family room. Looks like that has worked out to be a great suggestion. When I started work on this room there was a model railroad layout in the one corner with stuff piled around it. I have been working to get rid of , sell off, or throw away stuff to clean out the area. I also moved some of the stuff to a storage area in my utility room. It has been a pain staking process.

The one thing I added to the idea was a 42" plasma TV that I mounted in the one corner of the room. I finnally on Friday managed to get the TVmounted and all the cables run for the antenna connection. This is my first High Definition TV and I am amazed at the picture clarity on the channels that are broadcasting in HD. Sunday my son and I went shopping for the TV stand were the DVD recorder is sitting and the kids Playstation two is located. The old Playstation stand is now a home for my laptop. I purchased an additional recliner from the kids mom so there are three seats in the room. I am using the old convert box as a tuner for the DVD burner which will allow me to record one show and watch a show. The kids seem really pleased with the idea. My son was more than willing to give me input on how to set it up.

This afternoon I got off work early and finished the work. The work I did today involved moving the stuff in the shevles to the opposite side of where they were. The video's behind the TV and the pictures to the other side. I hope the kids are supprised when they get here on Friday.