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Synology Phase 03 – The Apps

ScreenShot253 The key component of the Synology is the Software.  You can buy cheaper NAs devices if you just want a network storage device.  Honestly, the price justification is almost entirely in the software, though the Hardware RAID (as opposed to Software RAID) is a partial factor as well.  The box itself isn’t all that sophisticated or exciting honestly.

I don’t plan to cover every available app by any means this is just sort of a run down of some of the apps I find useful, and probably the ones that are most commonly used.

Photo Station

The main reason I even bothered with investing in a NAS at all was because of my Photo collection.  Everything else is a bonus.  I’ve got 250GB of family photos I’ve taken over the years, plus a whole mess of other photos from Blog Posts etc.  I’ve gone through a drive crash on them and the drives I’ve been using are aging rapidly.  The wife doesn’t care to lose photos either.

Photostation is of course, made for Photos, and it’s pretty great.  The interface is very similar to OneDrive, which is is probably my favorite interface of all the photo services I’ve used.  Everything flows together to make a wall of photos, real great for easy navigation.  There are also tagging functions which I plan to use later once everything is loaded.

Audio Station

I’ve tried several solutions for streaming my audio collection to my phone.  I had sort of mostly settled on Google Play Music since it’s the only service that would let me upload my entire collection of some 20,000 songs at once.  I don’t really NEED all these songs at once but I do like having the option.  I buy most music these days via Amazon and so streaming via Amazon is always an alternative as well. 

Unfortunately, my recent conversion to Windows Phone from Android means neither service is an option.  I’ve been back to putting music on my device like a caveman.  Fortunately, there is a DSMusic app available for Windows Phone, and I don’t have to worry about any limitations of any service, it’s just all there.  Now I just need to build some good playlists.

A secondary benefit here, Google Play Music was one of the few Google Services I still sometimes used.  I’ve worked pretty hard to divorce myself from all things Google for a variety of reasons, primarily privacy concerns and secondary they are starting to push their own semi proprietary services on the web over long standing more open ones.  Basically, they are using their considerable size to bully everyone to their methods.  "Don’t Be Evil" doesn’t seem to be a thing anymore, but anyway, Google isn’t the topic here.  Having a good Google Music alternative that works on WP is.

Download Station

I don’t use Torrents too often, mostly for my Humble Bundle downloads, but the Synology has a really nice built in Torrent client.  I don’t have to worry about keeping a program running elsewhere or drive space on my PC in use, it just downloads them right to the NAS.  There is even some auto extraction settings, though I have not looked into those yet.

Web Station

A nice little bonus here I wasn’t quite aware existed before buying this NAS, it can function as a web server.  I’ve long given up hosting my own web sites from my house but I do keep some wordpress and other files on an internal web server for archival purposes.  The web server has allowed me to archive these files off my Ubuntu Server to the NAS, which also means I get the backup functionality of the NAS itself.

Note Station

Another unexpected surprise, though I have not explored it completely yet, the Synology includes an app called Note Station, which can sync (or at least download) from Evernote.  I’ve been racking my brain for a while on a good way to backup my Evernote notes, with ideas ranging from Print to PDF using some script to just pulling it weekly to a PC client.  Problem solved.

Cloud Sync

Another nice backup feature, The Synology can hook into and sync with both Dropbox and One Drive.  I use One Drive for some backups and Dropbox for some phone syncing so pulling both to an internal local storage is a plus.  I may even look into using One Drive as a secondary backup like I had originally planned.  Office 365 now includes unlimited storage on One drive, in addition to client licenses for 5 copies of Office (there are conveniently 5 people in my family all with PCs).  It’s a really tempting offer, and with it I could set up the Synology to start pushing all (or select) data to the cloud for an offsite backup.

Surveillance Station

Last, and the ONLY feature I have been disappointed with so far is the Surveillance Station.  I mentioned recently setting up cameras for monitoring and security.  I currently have three cameras and may install a few more.  The Synology only allows the use of 2 cameras before needing to purchase additional licenses.  I’m not super irritated about the additional cost, I get the whole "It supports dev costs"" thing.  My problem is that licenses are $60+, EACH.  If I wanted to add another 3 cameras like I am considering, I’d need 4 more licenses, or $240.  I’d be alright with maybe $10-$15 per seat, or even $60 for "unlimited" (within the capacity of the device) but $60 each is a little ridiculous.

I suspect there is some lame ass license fees Synology has to pay to someone involved but that is also kind of giving them the benefit of the doubt.

I’m still super satisfied with the box, but having better/cheaper access to Surveillance station seats would be eliminating my Ubuntu server completely.

Josh Miller

Josh Miller has been a hobbyist blogger and writer online since 1998 on a variety of topics mostly centered on Video Games, Toys, and Technology. Josh has also worked in the technical end of the television industry for many years.

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FitBit

A new phone wasn’t my only unexpected purchase on Black Friday, I also picked up a FitBit.  I’ve been interested in the FitBit for a while now, I just never could bring myself to drop the money on one.  It’s not even that it’s too expensive, I have just had better things to blow my cash on.  I got roped into going to Walmart on Thanksgiving by my family, semi against my will.  While wandering around waiting for some arbitrary time of day when people could start grabbing and buying the stacks of goods sitting around the store, I noticed they had FitBits for $70, which is $30 less than normal.  I also had extra money in my personal budget so I decided I’d pick one up.  Thankfully, my Walmart is tiny and, while busy, it’s nowhere near the mob the larger stores get.

Semi Ironicly, over the summer there was a bundle for $150 that included a Lumia 635 and a FitBit.  I ALMOST ordered it.  At this point, I’ve saved $40 not ordering it.  I never would have expected a better deal but hey, patience works out.

Using the FitBit has spurred me to pick up my previous two Fitness tracking apps, Endomondo and MyFitnessPal.  Endomondo tracks workouts pretty well and MyFitnessPal is good for tracking food intake.  What’s best is they all three sync together sublimely.  Fitbit pulls the activity just by wearing it and pumps it into Endomondo automatically anytime it thinks you’ve done a workout".  MyFitnessPro pushes food data to and from Fitbit while also pulling Calories burned from Endomondo.

None of it is a perfect exact measurement, calories burned are subjective to effort and whatnot and I’m sure there are some false steps in the Fitbit.  The food measurements and logging aren’t exact with MyFitnessPal either, I often forget to log drinks for example.  I’ve compensated for this a bit by lowering my "goal" for MyFitnessPal.  I want to stick to around 2000 calories but I have it set for closer to 1600.

It’s not meant to be exact though.  Just tracking things helps give an awareness of just how much is eaten, which helps more than anything.  Knowing I’m "500 calories from my desired max" after lunch, even with the buffer and exercise, reminds me I don’t need that afternoon snack or that soda while I’m out at lunch.

The Fitbit itself is just a glorified Pedometer.  It’s the peripheral apps and syncing that make it worthwhile.  The automatic workout tracking and syncing makes my whole process simpler for example.  It has a sleep tracking mechanism, which is neat as well, though I haven’t slept enough nights to have any good insights.  It also "gamifies" the workout experience with achievements and badges and cool graphs and charts and numbers.

The real purpose of all of this is more motivation to continue than anything.  It’s working pretty well so far, hell I have already looked into the matching scale, which is surprisingly cheap.  I figure I need to make sure I stick with this a bit first since most of the time I get motivated to better my fitness I end up stopping after a month or so.

Josh Miller

Josh Miller has been a hobbyist blogger and writer online since 1998 on a variety of topics mostly centered on Video Games, Toys, and Technology. Josh has also worked in the technical end of the television industry for many years.

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Goodbye Lumia 520, Hello Lumia 635

nokia_lumia_635_blanco_libreI’ve been in Phone Hell the last week or so.  It all started with Blizzcon.  At kind of the last minute, I decided to get the virtual ticket for Blizzcon.  Unfortunately, there is no support fro the live streams on Windows phone, so I swapped my SIM card into my old Galaxy S3, problem solved (solved-ish, Blizz still had capacity issues).  Later I swapped my SIM card back since my S3 has audio issues on phone calls.  This was when my problems started…

For no explainable reason, my Lumia 520 stopped keeping powered.  It could be fully charged or even on the charger, laying on my desk and it would just randomly power off.  It happened constantly making the phone unreliable and unusable.  When this happened it also wouldn’t easily turn back on, I often had to open the phone and remove the battery.  Other times, simply pressing power would fix it.  i ordered a fresh battery which solved nothing.  I did a factory reset which fixed nothing.  Eventually I did a check and the phone is still under warranty, so off to Microsoft it went.

This left me stranded on my GS3, which isn’t a bad phone and I do like Android, except it’s damaged and the audio doesn’t work for calls.  This means I have to try to get my wife (whom 99% of my calls are to/from) to call my work phone, which is “ok” to do but possibly frowned upon if done too much.  Also getting her to remember this and juggle two phone numbers for me (for texting vs calling) is kind of a nightmare.

On Black Friday, I found that the Lumia 635, which is the spiritual successor tot he 520 was on sale for $40.  I went ahead and bit the bullet and just ordered one.  I don’t know if they will even actually fix my 520 yet an this GS3 is simply not usable.

Honestly just needing a new phone wasn’t my only reason for ordering the 635, it really wasn’t even a huge factor.  The 635 has a slightly better processor, possibly a mildly better camera (the 520 has an AWFUL camera), and it has the new “sensor core” technology which gives more functionality to some apps.  It was kind of a no brainer upgrade really.  Migrating to it was also an extremely painless experience.

Initial Set Up

After receiving the phone, I have been pretty impressed with moving to it from my old phone.  The initial couple of screens are some “Welcome to Windows Phone” screens, but after putting in  my Microsoft account, the phone automatically downloaded all my data and settings including setting up and downloading all my apps.  It even synced my old Alarm settings, which seems trivial but it’s still pretty impressive.

The biggest hassle, aside from waiting for the downloads, was rearranging the home screen.  I spent a lot of time fiddling with my 520 home screen getting it just right, and now it seems I may have to do it again.

This was hindered a bit by needing some system updates.  Oddly, out of the box, the phone was “up to date”.  I knew this wasn’t the case because the newer versions of Windows Phone 8.1 add support for folders on the home screen, which wasn’t active on this phone.  I had to re-enable the “Preview for Developers” app which tells Microsoft you are a WP dev and want/need the latest updates.  In reality, it’s just a secret backdoor end around designed by Microsoft to get around the slow carrier updates.  Technically I’ve made a simple app with the Touch Developer App, so I’m kind of sort of not really a “WP Developer”.  Several system updates later, my folder functionality was restored and the home screen was in an acceptable state.

The Phone Itself

The Phone itself is pretty decent.  It’s a bit larger and has a different feel from the 520, but it still feels pretty solid.  I imagine part of this is that it’s definitely heavier than the 520.  The back feels possibly a bit cheaper, it’s definitely more plastickey than the 520.  Not necessarily cheap, just not quite as nice.  The back also fits on a lot more solidly than the 520, which seems like a good thing, but my (probably mistaken) belief has been that the looser back on the 520 actually protects the phone from drop damage since the back flies off if dropped dissipating the falling energy.

WP_20141202_07_55_33_ProA few quick tests shots with the camera siggest it’s definitely better than the 520 camera.  If/when I get my 520 back I may do some side by sides, for now I just have one sample from the 635.  Still no flash, still no front facing camera.  I don’t really need either since I find the flash tends to wash everything out and make too many hard shadows, especially with a phone camera, and I don’t really do selfies or video calls so no need for a front camera.  Oddly, there is an app pre loaded called Limia Selfie, not so useful without a front facing camera.

There also isn’t a hardware camera button, which I know is a big complaint but it seems to be policy going forward on Windows Phones.  I honestly never really used the hardware button on my 520, so I don’t really care that it’s gone.  I can see where it was convenient though.

Wrap Up

I don’t have much else to say about the phone just yet.  I have not used it too much, though it seems to be about the same as the 520 experience.  I am having some configuration issues with getting my email working but I also haven’t really looked into that much yet.  I also can’t find the Pinterest App at all, which I know I had on my 520, but seems non existent in the store and my app history.

Josh Miller

Josh Miller has been a hobbyist blogger and writer online since 1998 on a variety of topics mostly centered on Video Games, Toys, and Technology. Josh has also worked in the technical end of the television industry for many years.

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Data Gathering

cdrs So here I am, all proud of myself for keeping up my Tuesday/Thursday Schedule for so long and I managed to finally drop the ball.  I’ve been a bit busy, nothing super major, which is kind of funny because in the last month or so I had a lot of major stuff going on but I still managed.  I suppose I could blame the lead time and blame the super busy period.

Instead I’ve been mostly playing a lot of World of Warcraft, what with the new expansion.  I’ve also been in super hardcore reorg mode now that I have my Synology in full swing.  I’ve consolidated all of my data off of the three PCs that were storing it onto the one box, I’ve started part two of the data consolidation by sorting all of the DVDs and CDs I have burned off over the years for archival.  This has been a long time coming.  Contrary to popular belief, CDs and DVDs do not hold data forever.  I have nothing mission critical on these archival discs for this reason, but consolidating it down is still worth doing.

Some of it’s garbage.  I don’t mean bad data, I just mean useless or outdated.  I have old crappy quality cam rips of movies from when I was in college, for example.  Do I really need some crummy hand made digital recording of FLCL when I have the Blu ray?  Not really.  Do I need the install files for an outdated version of Filezilla or that old CD ripping software I used to use?

Probably the most useful files I’m finding are old documents I personally collected or created and old image files I’ve saved.  I’m pretty keen on collecting old photos and images, and I was already sorting my mess of "To Sort Downloads" image directories before I even ordered the NAS.

I am not anywhere near the level of some of the people I’ve seen in the Data Hoarder Subreddit, but I have a lot of data.  I have already used up half of my 4TB, and that isn’t including ripping my DVDs to video files.

I’ve also been doing a bit or reorganizing of my blogs, again…  The biggest change is that this site, is no longer hosted under /blog, and is just located in the root domain.  This is probably shitty for SEO due to old links but frankly, I wasn’t getting any views anyway.  And I mean none, zero, nada.  This move can only help.  I’ve also been setting up some feeds and scripts to pull my social media streams in.  I’ve got Instagram Working, which is visible, I’ve also got Tweets coming in, which are not visible.  Mostly because I can’t find a working solution to do daily tweet logs.  I found a plug in called Twitter Digest which works if I do a manual pull but not automatically like it’s supposed to.  I’m working on it.  Honestly there isn’t much else to pull in.  Tumblr maybe but that’s mostly reposts and crap from Instagram, so it’s redundant.  The ultimate goal is to pipe this all into the Vault I now have hosted on the Synology.  The Vault is my private archive of everything I post online sorted by blog etc.  Think of it as a backup.

Josh Miller

Josh Miller has been a hobbyist blogger and writer online since 1998 on a variety of topics mostly centered on Video Games, Toys, and Technology. Josh has also worked in the technical end of the television industry for many years.

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Added a new shelf…

Added a new shelf...

Added a new shelf…

Josh Miller

Josh Miller has been a hobbyist blogger and writer online since 1998 on a variety of topics mostly centered on Video Games, Toys, and Technology. Josh has also worked in the technical end of the television industry for many years.

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Donate Dogecoins: DTurApopBzC2ui5Dzv2XVDkH81pUWjSnfR Whats This?