Hello Linux Mint 14

Screenshot from 2012-11-28 22:12:40

Everyone’s favorite Ubuntu variation Linux Mint has reached version 14.  Currently Linux Mint comes in two GUI variations MATE, that is based off GNOME 2, and Cinnamon, which is based off GNOME 3 project.  The KDE GUI will inevitably follow in the near future.  Update:  KDE and xfce have been given an RC release.

Overall Linux Mint 14 seems to be as stable as ever with some useful GUI tweaks.  I have been using Linux Mint 14 with the Cinnamon GUI for several hours to complete some work while watching Hulu on my second monitor.  The HD Hulu stream ran with any hiccups while writing this blog entry, browsing the web and work on other websites.  Considering that I am running Linux Mint 14 on a USB pen drive it has been quite stable and snappy.

Linux Mint has always been my preferred Desktop Linux distro, and Linux Mint 14 continues the trend of stability and ease of use on the first boot.  I threw MKV, MP3, WMV and several other media formats at Linux Mint as usual Linux Mint didn’t hesitate to play the files.  For those of you that want to use Linux on your desktop machine, but don’t want to get use to Ubuntus’ Unity GUI give Linux Mint a try.

New features:

  • MATE 1.4 (Fork of GNOME 2)
  • Cinnamon 1.6 (Fork of GNOME 3)
  • MDM
  • Software Manager Updates
  • System Improvements
  • Artwork Improvements
  • Upstream Components

For a complete overview and to see screenshots of the new features, visit: “What’s new in Linux Mint 14“.

This Article was written while running Linux Mint 14.

Review: ReadyNAS NV+ v2

ReadyNAS NV+ v2

ReadyNAS NV+ v2We received our ReadyNAS NV+ v2 just over 3 months ago now, so we felt that we had received enough real world usage to write a good review.  This will be our second ReadyNAS device we have used in our office, while the outgoing model was the ReadyNAS Duo v1 with the Sparc CPU.

In addition to the two units we have used in our office, I myself have managed several ReadyNAS Pro 6-Bay powered powered by Intel Atom x86 CPUs for several clients.  Having using all three variations of the ReadyNAS for more then there intended uses I’ll let you know how the latest ARM powered ReadyNAS Duo v2 and NV+ v2 stack up against their predecessor and big brothers, the x86.

All ReadyNAS devices are based on a customized version of Debian Linux.  This allows users with linux experience to customize their NAS beyond the constraints of the web based interface.  Do you want your NAS to host a VPN server, a Zoneminder surveillance system or any other Linux program?  This is possible thanks to Netgear allowing users access to the shell via SSH, and not stripping out the apt package management system.

 Hardware Specs

Duo v1

Duo v2

NV+ v2

Pro 6

OS

RAIDiator 4.1.10

RAIDiator 5.3.7

RAIDiator 5.3.7

RAIDiator 4.2.22

CPU

280MHz Sparc

1.6GHz ARM

1.6GHz ARM

1.8GHZ Intel Atom

RAM

256MB DDR2

256MB DDR3

256MB DDR3

1GB DDR2

#of Bays

2

2

4

6

Maximum Capacity

4TB

6TB

12TB

18TB

# of Ethernet Ports

1 -10/100/1000

1 -10/100/1000

1 -10/100/1000

2 -10/100/1000

# of USB Ports

3 USB 2.0

1 USB 2.0

2 USB 3.0

1 USB 2.0

2 USB 3.0

3 USB 2.0

Active Directory

No

Yes

Yes

Yes

CPU

Above we have included the specs for the Duo v1, Duo v2, NV+ v2 and the Pro 6 to give you a general overview of the ReadyNAS line.  The Duo v1 and NV+ v1 have received a significant upgrade going from a 280MHz Sparc processor to a 1.6GHz ARM processor.  The CPU improvement alone will allow for more performance, increased hack-ability and brings the Duo and NV+ to a mainstream processor architecture.

The ARM processor allows for a much quicker web interface browsing experience.  In addition, the ReadyNAS is no longer coughing up blood when streaming 1080p content to a DLNA certified device.  In fact we were able to stream two different 1080p movies to two independent DLNA enabled TV’s without a hiccup.

One note with the ARM cpu is that the Plex Media Server is not able to trans-code content to client devices, while the x86 family does with ease.  This may be added in the future, but it’s unlikely due to the fact that it would push the ARM cpu to its limits, as well as, require a major rewrite of the server for the Plex team.  This only affects the Plex Media Server, as DLNA server just push the content to the client without processing the audio/video stream.

Overall the ARM cpu smokes the outgoing Sparc processor in every aspect, but the much more power x86 line wins without contest.  The x86 processor may allow you the freedom to use any existing Linux Debian package on your NAS without going through the trouble of compiling the source.

RAM

One unfortunate change is that while the RAM remains unchanged, it can no longer be upgrade in the v2 models.  This was most likely to curb the stability issues many users experience after an upgrade.  This will definitely impact power users in a negative way.

While we didn’t run into any major memory issues, we are huge advocates of the fact that you can’t have too much RAM.  The x86 line still allows for memory upgrades.

Storage

A significant change for the Duo/NV+(aka Prosumer NAS) is the support for 3TB drives and the ability to upgrade when larger hard drives are available. This gives Duo users an additional 1TB of space in RAID mode and 2TB more in JBOD mode.  The NV+ gets even more space with RAID getting an additional 3TB, and JOBD receiving 4TB in storage capacity.

Other Changes

Additional changes include 2 USB 3.0 port on the back of the ReadyNAS.  This will come in useful for external Hard Drives.  Another feature that has been added is support for Active Directory or LDAP user profiles.  This allows you to manage users centrally with both Windows Server or Samba 4.  This feature has always been available in the Pro series, but is a welcome addition to the Prosumer line of NAS devices.

Interface

The latest 5.x iteration of RAIDiator has introduced an all-new user interface.  This has been long overdue as the interface has changed little since its introduction.  While the interface seems more visually appealing and user friendly, it lacks some features and information provided by the old-school interface.  This will most likely be added in the future.  Once these features are added we would like to see the x86 Pro line receive the latest generation of the RAIDiator OS.

Conclusion

The ReadyNAS Duo/NV+ v2 both offer a huge bang for your buck, while the more expensive and flexible Pro line are for the hardcore user/businesses with massive data and processing demands.

Purchase on Amazon.com

Samba 4 RC5 has been released

SAMBA Logo

SAMBA Logo

The free alternative to Windows Server Active Directory/Domain Controller, Samba4, has been in the making for years and continues to inch closer to a stable release.  The feature set is now frozen and the development team is busy squashing major bugs before labeling Samba4 stable for production use.

Our experience with Samba4 as a small office domain controller has been a stable, bug free experience.  The installation on our Ubuntu server was fairly painless when following the HOW-TO located on the official Samba website.  The DC has yet to crash or cause any problems with the PC’s on our diverse network.

Samba4 packs everything you expect from a Windows Domain Controller into a free open source package.  Samba4 is in a unique position to shake up the Domain Controller market by making a free option to pricey Microsoft options.  I am excited to see Samba4 reach the stable release, so that I can begin implementation outside of our networks.

Samba4 Features

  • Samba 4.0 supports the server-side of the Active Directory logon environment used by Windows 2000 and later, so we can do full domain join and domain logon operations with these clients.
  • Our Domain Controller (DC) implementation includes our own built-in LDAP server and Kerberos Key Distribution Center (KDC) as well as the Samba3-like logon services provided over CIFS. We correctly generate the infamous Kerberos PAC, and include it with the Kerberos tickets we issue.
  • Samba 4.0.0rc5 ships with two distinct file servers. We now use the file server from the Samba 3.x series ‘smbd’ for all file serving by default.
  • Samba 4.0 also ships with the ‘NTVFS’ file server. This file server is what was used in all previous releases of Samba 4.0, and is tuned to match the requirements of an AD domain controller. We continue to support this, not only to provide continuity to installations that have deployed it as part of an AD DC, but also as a running example of the NT-FSA architecture we expect to move smbd to in the longer term.
  • For pure file server work, the binaries users would expect from that series (nmbd, winbindd, smbpasswd) continue to be available. When running an AD DC, you only need to run ‘samba’ (not nmbd/smbd/winbind), as the required services are co-coordinated by this master binary.
  • As DNS is an integral part of Active Directory, we also provide two DNS solutions, a simple internal DNS server for ‘out of the box’ configurations and a more elaborate BIND plugin using the BIND DLZ mechanism in versions 9.8 and 9.9. During the provision, you can select which backend to use. With the internal backend, your DNS server is good to go. If you chose the BIND_DLZ backend, a configuration file will be generated for bind to make it use this plugin, as well as a file explaining how to set up bind.
  • To provide accurate timestamps to Windows clients, we integrate with the NTP project to provide secured NTP replies. To use you need to start ntpd and configure it with the ‘restrict … ms-sntp’ and ntpsigndsocket options.
  • Finally, a new scripting interface has been added to Samba 4, allowing Python programs to interface to Samba’s internals, and many tools and internal workings of the DC code is now implemented in python.

Source: https://wiki.samba.org/index.php/Samba4/Releases/4.0.0rc5

Free Game: Battlezone 1 (1998)

Battlezone 1 1998 Cover Art

Battlezone 1 1998 Cover Art

Release Date: February 28, 1998
Publisher: Activision
Platform: Windows

Battlezone got a refresh in 1998 as a FPS/RTS hybrid(aka Action-Strategy).  The genre combination sounds odd but worked out extremely well.  You play as a commander in the first person view, while building a base in a similar manner to other RTS on the market.  The game was released in 1998, but after shutting down the multiplayer servers Activision released the game under GNU license.  The game is available for free at: http://www.Battlezone1.com

Story

The story in based in an alternate cold war era universe in which the moon missions are a cover up for a much larger campaign.   The US and the Soviet Union have moved an entire military to space in the pursuit of a extraterrestrial material called “Bio Medal”, which had landed on earth via meteors.  This “Bio Medal” was created by an ancient alien civilization called the Cthonians.

Single Player

The single player is divided into two campaigns; one following the United States(NSDF), the other follows the Soviets(CCA) forces.  Throughout each mission you will build up your RTS style base, offensive and defensive units in attempt to defeat the opposing forces.

Multi Player

The multi player system includes two modes: Strategy and Deathmatch.  Strategy plays like the single player campaign and allows two or more players to collect resources, build units and the winner is determined by the last man standing.  Deathmatch gives two or more players a map with power-up to kill each other.  The winner is determined by the highest score.

Expansion pack

An expansion pack know as “The Red Odyssey” was released that featured the US, Soviets and Chinese.  This expansion contains an entirely new Single Player story arc pitting the Chinese Red Army forces against both their allies, the CCA, and their enemies the “Black Dogs”.  This expansion was also released under the open source GNU license, but has not yet received the compatibility updates for the latest versions of Windows that the original campaign has been given.

Whats new in the open source v1.5

  • Bug fixes
  • Windows compatibility updates
  • Multiplayer exploits closed
  • Xbox 360 controller support
  • Support for HD and widescreen resolutions

Conculsion

This classic games from the 90’s has held up very well over time, and to this day still has active players on the multiplayer servers.  The compatibility fixes for the latest versions of Windows made avaliable thanks to the fact that Activision released the source code under the GNU license.  The game play has also received small tweaks to improve game play.  Multi player exploits have been closed to make sure that Battlezone’s multiplayer afterlife is just as fun as the original.

Download

Both the original and Red Odyssey campaigns can be legally downloaded for free at: http://Battlezone1.com/downloads.index.htm

Screenshots

 

Grace Digital Eco Terra Waterproof Boombox Review

Eco_Terra_Front

It’s that time of year again. Schools just about over and everyone heads to the nearest body of water to find relief from the summer sun.  Unfortunately this typically means that you have to leave your digital music behind.  That is no longer the case with the Grace Digital Eco Terra waterproof/rugged boombox.  The Eco Terra allows you to literally take your iPod swimming with you.

Overview

The Eco Terra Boombox is essentially a ruggedized waterproof iPod/MP3 device dock. With that being said it does not include an AM/FM tuner, CD or an 8-Track player. Any device with a standard 3.5mm headphone jack that will fit in the waterproof compartment can make the waterproof 3-inch stereo speakers pump out your favorite Black Eye Peas track.  This device currently comes in one color, traffic cone orange.

Portable power for the Eco Terra is produced by 4 C size batteries, and it also includes an AC adaptor for those of you that would like to tether your device to a wall.  It’s worth noting that the AC adaptor cannot charge the set of rechargeable C cell batteries that can be used to power your device.  Also included in the box is a shoulder strap, 2 carabiners, an AC adapter and your standard user manual.

Overall Build Quality

Upon unboxing it is obvious that the body of the Eco Terra is built with a high quality plastic that looks good and feels durable, which will immediately ease the anxiety you have of drowning your $200 smart phone in the swimming pool.   The edges of the Eco Terra are also coated with black rubber to act as a shock buffer.

The transparent watertight compartment for your digital device is secured with 2 tabs that should take quite a shock to accidentally open.  This transparent door provides you with a view of the screen on your device and just like the the rest of the device it feels very sturdy.  An unfortunate side effect of the transparent door is a greenhouse effect is created causing the compartment to get extremely hot in the Arizona 100+°F heat.  We were able to mitigate the greenhouse effect by placing white cardboard on the inside of the door, but you loose the benefit of the seeing the display of your device.

Audio Quality

The Eco Terra seams to be especially picky with the quality of the digital audio input it receives.  If your MP3 are downloaded from a P2P service and have poor encoding you are likely to have a very poor experience with the Eco Terra.  On the other hand the Eco Terra preforms quite well with quality digital music downloaded from a reputable source such as iTunes or AmazonMP3.com or streamed from a service like Pandora.

The 3-inch waterproof speakers in the Eco Terra can push out a resonable amount of sound before the sound starts to distort.  Bass on the Eco Terra is a little on the weak end, but the Eco Terra produces the best sound of any waterproof devices we have used.

Controls

Your iPod, iPhone or Android device can be controlled with the control pad located on the top of the Eco Terra.  The functions included in the control pad are Power, Play/Pause, Forward, Reverse and Volume +/-.

Conclusion

Overall the Grace Digital Eco Terra Boombox preformed well in our review tests, although there is room for improvement with the bass output and the greenhouse effect in the waterproof compartment . This device can take quite a bit of abuse and it’s claim of being 100% waterproof has proved to be true.  Overall we highly recommend this product if you require a rugged/waterproof digital boombox.

Pros:

  • This device is 100% waterproof and adds the same ablility to your digital music player
  • It floats
  • This device is rugged as claimed
  • The sound quality is very good for a waterproof device

Cons:

  • The waterproof compartment for your digital devices is a green house and gets very hot
  • Bass is weak

This product is available at TubingEtc.com for $139.79:
http://TubingEtc.com/Grace-Digital-GDI-AQ2SI60-ECOXGEAR-Waterproof

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