Tag Archive for: free

Budget Windows Mirroring

03 Oct 2010
October 3, 2010

Last week I put a plea for help up about my quest to find a way to mirror some directories between servers. That isn’t so difficult, but the desire to have it real-time – or almost real-time – made finding a cost-effective solution difficult.

I put a post up on serverfault.com and got some good responses. The answer I selected taught me some features of my old friend robocopy that I had never discovered: the /mon and /mot flags.

/mon: Monitors the source, and runs again when more than N changes are detected.

/mot: Monitors source, and runs again in M minutes if changes are detected.

Those flags are game changers! With them, robocopy runs the sync job as specified. When done, it stays alive and starts watching for changes. As the changes are detected the timer starts a countdown until the next run. Brilliant!

I created a ltitle batch file with the robocopy command and arguments I wanted. I set it as a scheduled task that starts every morning at 6 AM. I specified properties on the task to kill the job after 16 hours. Then the next day it starts up. Seems to be working very well. The only time it gets weird is when folks inadvertently lock files on the mirror’s destination side. That hoses things up a big until they release the lock. That’s mostly been an education issue though.

Here’s the command I’m using. Lots of flags!

robocopy "E:\source" \\server2\dest /mir /mon:1 /mot:1 /R:2 /W:15 /COPY:DT /log:c:\util\mirlog.txt /NJH /NJS /NDL /NP /Z

The logging is a bit funky and might be related to the logging options I’ve specified (/NJH /NFS /NDL /NP). Seems like I get lots of blank gaps in the log when there are locked files and the latest log entry isn’t necessarily at the bottom of the file.. But hey, we know that any changes made will be on the other server within a minute and that’s just what needed to happen.

Pseudo real-time mirroring for free!

[robocopy reference]

WhatsUp Gold Engineer’s Toolkit

30 Jun 2010
June 30, 2010

WhatsUp Gold Engineer's Toolkit The folks at Ipswitch released their WhatsUp Gold Engineer’s Toolkit this week. I was in the beta for the past month and find it a pretty handy ‘kit.

What I hadn’t realized was that they’d be giving it away for free when launched. Nice!

So hey, if you do any network work go get yourself a copy. It won’t replace any single specialized tool (like nmap) but it certainly bundles a lot of functionality in one application.

Here’s what you get:

  • Design & Planning
    • Subnet Calculator
  • Discovery
    • Ping Sweep
    • Port Scanner
    • MAC Address Discovery
  • Diagnostics
    • Ping
    • Trace Route
    • WAN Load Generator
    • Spam Blacklist
    • SNMP Grapher
  • DNS Verification
    • DNS Audit
    • DNS & Whois Resolver
    • DNS Analyzer
  • Remote Control
    • Wake On LAN
    • Remote TCP Session Reset

Each tool opens up in a separate tab so you can have multiple things going at the same time which is handy.

As a network engineer, at least part of your average workday is spent diagnosing and troubleshooting existing problems or investigating issues that could cause new problems. These activities often involve the tedious process of accessing individual network elements to gather information on device or subnet configuration and availability; interpreting that data; and then accessing the same elements again to provision or configure devices and services.

Most of the time you don’t need a powerhouse application to support these activities. In fact, many network engineers use a mix of tools they’ve cobbled together and then rely on brainpower and intuition to make up the difference.  Although this strategy works, there is an easier way to get the job done.

Help the Eyes with f.lux

19 Apr 2010
April 19, 2010

f.luxF.lux is a pretty cool utility and a bit unlike the sort that I normally check out. It won’t cure a virus, nor will it help repair a hard drive crash.  What it may do, however, is perhaps a bit more important: It might help your eyes.

As the day changes and the suns light transitions, f.lux adjusts the computer displays color. It keeps things bright during the day, but at night the colors get “warmer” and easier on the eyes.

f.lux makes your computer screen look like the room you’re in, all the time. When the sun sets, it makes your computer look like your indoor lights. In the morning, it makes things look like sunlight again.

Tell f.lux what kind of lighting you have, and where you live. Then forget about it. F.lux will do the rest, automatically.

This is my first evening using it and I think I’m going to like it. As it transitioned to the warmer colors I briefly wondered if I was going blind… but as I’ve adapted I have to say this is much easier on my eyes. The screen isn’t as bright and that makes it a lot less jarring from looking around the darkened home office at night.

f.lux settings

Supports Windows (XP/Vista/Win7), Mac OS X and there’s even a version for Linux (XFlux for Linux glibc6).

Anyone else tried it? I had never heard of it until today, but saw several mentions on Twitter earlier so installed it this afternoon.

Switching Home Backups to CrashPlan

01 Apr 2010
April 1, 2010

For our home backups I’ve primarily been using the free version of Mozy for three and half years now (first look). It works great for us and the few times I’ve needed to recover files there have been no issues. In fact, the only issue I’ve had is not having enough backup space with the free version. (that’s a link straight to the free version – it is a little bit more hidden than it used to be…)

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not whining about not having enough free stuff. That would be shamefully crass. I’m just mumbling about it a little… *grin* But long story short, we finally outgrew our space, even with my affiliate link bonuses.

CrashPlan Logo Enter CrashPlan. While CrashPlan has Pro/Business option I’m using their Home and Office flavor. There’s a pay option to backup to their servers for under $4 a month (free for the first 30 days) but there are additional destination options that are free. You can backup to local drives, USB drives, your other computers running CrashPlan, or friends’ computers running CrashPlan. Or combinations of the above.

Now, most of the computers I and family members own tend to have way more hard drive space than we need, so now we’re all hosting each other’s backups.

Here’s what I’ve got setup so far:

  • My laptop backs up to my home machine. The backups are fast when both are on at home on the local network. Normally I wouldn’t want backups to be so close to where the machine is at night, but the “key” data on the laptop is also in DropBox so this is acceptable for now (until my little web of backups grows).
  • My Home machine backs up to my mother’s machine – 700 miles away.
  • Mother backs up to my home machine.
  • Father backs up to my home machine.
  • Wife is still on Mozy.

As I work on other family member machines I’ll be adding them to the “mesh” as well and continue to aim for geographically diverse options.

Some things I’ve learned after a couple weeks:

CrashPlan Destinations The first backup can take a really long time over the ‘net. If you have a big USB drive, backup to that first. Transport the drive to where the destination PC is, copy the backup directory to that one and then tell CrashPlan on that PC about the backup. This is how I got my home PC backups to my Mom’s PC the first time. Probably saved a week of data transfer…

For flexibility, you can setup your machine to backup to multiple destinations (other PCs, local drives, USB drives, etc.). However, a key thing to be aware of is that they all get the same backup set. In other words, you can’t backup the MP3 directory to one machine and the docs to another. You’ll have to backup MP3’s and docs to both machines. Not a deal-breaker, but it would’ve been nice to have a bit more flexibility.

I’ve had the setup described above running for a couple weeks so far and have had no issues. The backups are chugging away every evening when the right machines are online. I’m pleased and confident that this is a solid solution.

If you’re looking for a free (or inexpensive cloud) backup option I definitely think CrashPlan is worth a look. Supports Windows, Linux and Mac and even Open Solaris. Good stuff.

Anyone else used it – or other/similar options?