Saturday, 27 August 2016

LTO at home update

So it's been a long while since I've mentioned my LTO tape set-up because it's been a long while since I've actually attempted to use it. Long story short, two of the four second-hand tapes I purchased ended up failing, and even with the working tapes I acquired I could never reliably read back data I wrote, which I believe is probably due to a faulty drive.

One caveat with using old second-hand LTO equipment is that there is a decent chance that it'll be faulty in some way, so keep that in mind if you want to mess with LTO. I'll probably attempt to use the tapes again in the future, but for now they sit on my shelf, collecting dust.

Wednesday, 8 June 2016

LTO at home

LTO tapes are a highly reliable archival and backup storage solution with just one problem; equipment for the medium is extremely expensive for an individual without an enterprise budget. If you limit yourself to LTO technologies produced within the last five years, you’ll quickly find that you’ll be spending thousands of dollars for an amount of storage that can quickly be achieved with a few hard-disks. However, if you start turning the clock back further you’ll quickly discover that there is a sharp drop-off in prices for second-hand LTO equipment, whilst still keeping relatively high storage capacities.

I decided to target LTO-3 in my specific instance and was able to collect an external LTO-3 tape drive for $90 and four LTO-3 tapes (which store 400GB each uncompressed) for around $45. Let’s see how that stacks up compared to other storage mediums:

  Cost (AUD) Storage Cents per GB
1TB Western Digital Blue Drive, new $69 1000 GB 7c/GB
50 DVD-Rs from office supply store $15 235 GB (4.7 * 50) 6c/GB
A single second-hand LTO-3 Tape Cartridge $20 400GB 5c/GB
Lot of 4 Second-hand LTO-3 Tape Cartridges $45 (Assuming reduced unit price) 1600GB 3c/GB

Second-hand tape media is extremely cheap in terms of cents per GB as IT departments of various organisations are constantly looking to discard their old unused LTO media. An LTO tape drive can only write to up-to a generation before it, and read up-to two generations before it, and this creates what I presume to be a lot of turn over of tape equipment.

Buying decade-old tape equipment does not come without it’s downsides though. To name a few issues:

  • LTO-3 drives and prior typically use SCSI. Believe it or not, most computers don’t actually come with SCSI anymore. You’ll have to find a SCSI host adapter to suit your PC, and that typically means buying some form of a card. PCI SCSI cards can be found relatively cheap second-hand, but PCIe SCSI cards are stupidly expensive for what they’re worth.
    • SCSI itself is a completely separate issue on it’s own, with different connector types, cable types, voltages, and terminators all being things you have to consider when purchasing your SCSI equipment.
  • LTO-4 and newer drives use SAS instead of SCSI cabling, which is easier to buy for at the trade-off of a more expensive drive.
  • Tape drives are not random access; you cannot use them like you would a flash drive. Instead, you need to compile archives of data to write and read to the tape in one hit.
  • Microsoft removed backup-to-tape support in Windows Vista and Windows Server 2008. You’ll have to use a third-party backup solution like Veeam on Windows. However, tape support still exists in Linux. OS X is off the map.

I’m yet to actually setup and use the drive that I purchased simply due to all the extra cabling and cards I had to purchase as-well. However, I believe that it will come out more cost-effective than say, DVDs, after I store more than a few terabytes.

Monday, 2 May 2016

RSS

I've been trying out various web RSS readers recently, or just RSS in general I guess. Here are my thoughts:
  • Content providers should provide more than a sentence through the feed. I won't click through to your site if you've only given me twenty words, but I probably wouldn't click through if you gave me the full article either. Images are nice too.
  • There are a substantial lack of decent free RSS readers for OS X.
  • I was using feedly for a while (read; one day), but then quickly switched to Inoreader. Inoreader seems to be a little slower than feedly, but in my opinion has better UI all-round. I especially like the three-column view on the desktop.
  • I just wish more people and sites provided RSS feeds.
It seems nowadays that RSS is disappearing due to the rise of social platforms like Twitter and Reddit, but I still want to believe that it's useful. Blogging platforms like Tumblr, WP and Blogger providing RSS feeds by default definitely helps.

Thursday, 21 January 2016

New blog

So I've switched to Blogger. This would be the~ probably third blogging solution I've evaluated so far. Only time will tell how much I'll like it I guess.