Here’s a new experience for me:  web programming for pay!

Well, my day job involves a good amount of web programming, but all my other web projects have been selfless gifts to mankind.  Rva.org, the RVA e-directory, mknet.org, Scrabble-Master (in English and Polish), Equate-Master, hekman.net, Share It Around (which never got shared around)…  Yesterday I set up my home office, today I started developing the next best thing since sliced bread.  But for confidentiality reasons I suppose I can’t actually say what it is.

Of course the first thing a man’s got to do when he has a new project is buy new tools.  And when the new tools are things he’s been wanting anyway, and will have a use after this project is done, but can be bought with before-tax money, he can tend to go a bit crazy!  Computer geek though I may be, I have not had a proper backup solution in place at home, so the first thing I did was drive on down to Memory Express and pick myself up a D-Link DNS-323 2-Bay Network Storage Enclosure and a 320 GB Seagate SATA hard drive.

My new fileserver

This sexy unit can take two drives and write the data to them in such a way that if one drive fails, the data can still be recovered (that’s called RAID 1), but since I’m only using it for backups, not for my real original data, I stuck with a single drive.  It sits anywhere on the network so mine is in my basement rather than cluttering up my desk.  It was a breeze to install and configure. 

The DNS-323 also comes with a Memeo license.  I’d never heard of Memeo before, and I hate to gush about a product when I’ve only used it a day, but I really do like it!  Memeo is a backup solution that is the simplest I’ve seen.  I told it what directories to back up, where to back them up to, and how many versions of each file to keep, and I was done.  Now it watches my hard drive and any time one of those files changes it’s immediately backed up to that new drive in the basement.  It’s a fantastic solution for a desktop, and I think it would be good for a laptop too:  if you’re on the road, it will just remember which files you change, and next time you plug in to your home network (or your backup USB drive) it will back them up.  It even has the option of backing up to a server on the Internet (for a monthly fee), so any time you have a network connection you can backup or restore.  Ah, I said it:  restore.  That’s the true test of a backup solution, isn’t it?  You don’t know if it’s working until you need to restore something.  I’d better give that a try and report back…

So I’ve got my backup solution.  Then I moved our computer up from the kitchen where we normally keep it, up into our office on the second floor so I can work without being disturbed.  And it’s not ’til I start plugging cables back in that it hits me:  we have no network connection upstairs. 

Big oops.  I’ve got ethernet wired into the kitchen and living room, but previously we used wireless with our laptop upstairs.  The laptop is dead and our desktop doesn’t have wireless.  I started knocking on walls thinking of pulling cable, and pricing out wireless network cards, and then remembered that a buddy at work recently bought some SlingLinks, which use your AC power outlets to transmit network signals around the house.  I called him up to ask what he thought of them after a few months of real-life use, and he had nothing but good things to say.  Another visit to Memory Express and I came home with two D-Link DHP-301 PowerLine Ethernet units. 

Two powerline units - they talk to each other through your electrical wiring.

In concept they couldn’t be simpler.  I plugged one into a power outlet near my computer, and my computer’s network cable into it.  Then I went down to the basement and plugged the other one in near the router/firewall and plugged the router’s network cable into it.  Within seconds an LED turns green indicating that the one unit found the other and they’re talking.  They talk to each other by adding waves on top of the 60 Hz cycle the power line has, but these data waves are small enough that normal household appliances don’t notice them.

Unfortunately the powerline units were not as easy to get going as I’d hoped (I still don’t understand why sometimes I’d have no network, even though the units could see each other–I think it had to do with which order I plugged them in), but it wasn’t too long before I had my network purring again and Memeo was working in the background copying 50 GB of photos through my electrical outlets to the drive in the basement.  Beautiful!

Those were the “hard” tools.  After that I turned my mind to the “soft” tools, the software to turn my home computer into the same efficient programming machine I’m spoiled with at the office.  That wasn’t as easy as I’d hoped either!  But it’s after 10 pm so I’ll save that story for tomorrow.

Good night.  I’ll be dreaming of ones and zeros.

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