2010 Gift Guide for Storage Geeks

If that someone special in your life has storage on their mind come the holidays, we may be able to help with gift ideas. With ideas ranging from the very affordable (free) to very expensive (skipping a few mortgage payments), we've combed the world of storage procurement so you don't have to.

Christmas – A Time of Computer Sales!

Sung to the tune of “Winter Wonderland”

Storage arrays, they are drumming.
In the data center, drives are humming.
There’s very little spam,
I’m happy as a clam,
Living in a Linux storage land.

This is a great time of the year for us Linux storage folks. Work is slowing down so we have time to read (or write) articles, run tests with some cool new hardware, perhaps perform some needed backups (oops), check backup tapes (leave that for the new guys), or my personal favorite – SHOP FOR SOME COOL STUFF FOR MYSELF! Of course when I do find something I really want, I get the steely eye of justice from the family CEO so I have adopted a new strategy – I pass along my wants to family members accompanied by reminders of how I saved their bacon with Windows refused to boot or the drive in their laptop gave up the ghost. Works like a charm.

But I also know that funds can be limited so when I read articles about Christmas gifts for the IT-oriented family member, I cringe at the lack of flexibility in the price range. So I’m writing this article to give people a range of options for a range of prices.

As a disclaimer, I’m primarily using Newegg for pricing. They have good pricing and have a very good reputation so you don’t have to worry about ordering from them. But at the same time, I recommend looking around for the best price. Also, the prices I list in this article were what I found when I wrote it. Prices change all the time, especially around the holidays, so be sure to double-check them.

The “Free” Category

This is my personal favorite category but many times it doesn’t include hardware. However, you can become an instant hero with your storage minded loved-one by pointing out some software that can make their life better (or, at the very least, more entertaining).

The first “gift” I will mention is called agedu. I’ve talked about this tool before and is a great way to find really old files on your system and it’s really easy to use.

After installing it you run a scan of the your file system. For example, the command might be something like the following:

$ agedu -s /home/laytonjb

This produces a file named agedu.dat in the directory where you ran the scan. Then you run a command that will give you a URL that you can use to display your data.

$ agedu -w
Using Linux /proc/net magic authentication

Below is a screenshot of the web browser.

Figure 1: Aegdu Screenshot Using Access Time (atime)

The graphics show the age of the files in a specific directory, red being the oldest and green being the newest. The web page orders the directories by the total space used in the directory. This is a pretty cool way to find data that is old.

The second free “gifts” are backup tools. If your Linux loved one is not making backups then they need to be. Look them straight in the eye and ask them if they are making backups. If they are shifty or you suspect that they are not making backups, then “give” them these backup tools for Christmas.

One really good backup tool is called bacula. While the name may be a little strange, it is definitely a robust backup tool for Linux. It is an open source, enterprise ready backup tool that provides network based backups. Even better, it supports Linux and Windows clients (systems to be backed up) and a variety of media including tape drives and tape libraries. It has a nice GUI for performing backups as show in Figure 2 from the bacula website.

Figure 2: Bacula Screenshot (from the website)

I’ve had friends tell me that a backup tool for Mac OSX, called Time Machine, is a great way to backup your Mac desktop. The Linux world has developed a couple of similar backup tools. One, called flyback, is Gnome based and uses rsync underneath the covers to create backups. It can do full backups as well as incremental backups and allows for easy restoration of a single file or a directory.

The second tool, called TimeVault, is also Gnome based and creates incremental backups as well. The screen shot below that was taken from the TimeVault website, shows the nice GUI that comes with the tool.

Figure 3: TimeVault Screenshot (from the website)
Notice the bar at the top that shows you how much data you backed up on what days. This bar allows you to slide back and forth in time to find what you need (hence the name “Time Vault”).

These backup tools all need backup “targets”. That is, storage devices that can store the data. You can easily add an external hard drive or you can use a simple tape drive attached to your desktop/server. But one nice backup target to have is one located on the net (i.e. “cloud” backups). This allows you to put your important data on a remote server somewhere so that in case your data disappears or can’t be recovered, you can use a net based service to recover your data.

I’ve talked about a couple of this services in the past but they have always had limited free capacity. You can pay for more space, but there is one service that gives you quite a bit of space (50GB) for free! Adrive is an on-line backup company that offers a free on-line storage service that gives you 50GB of storage. Since it’s free it does have some limitations such as only using ftp to upload files to their service, but that may be a small price to pay for having access to 50GB of storage anywhere on the web for free!

One last free gift I want to mention is called Mondo Rescue. It is what is called a bare metal disaster recovery solution. Let’s say your system has died but you have a backup of all of your personal data. When you get a new system or new hard drive, you have to reinstall Linux which can sometimes be a pain especially if you’ve forgotten all of the packages you added and the tuning you have done. Mondo Rescue allows you to create an “image” of your system that can be put on tape, disk, or CD/DVD, a network based drive, or other storage medium, which is then used to reinstall your system.

For example, you could make an image of your system and put it on a set of DVD’s or CD’s. If your system crashed for some reason you just boot the new system with your CD’s or DVD’s and it will reinstall your system for you! How cool is that?!

Under $10 – Stocking Stuffers

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