Sunday, November 30, 2014

Using Raspberry Pi as a Time Capsule to backup a Mac


Time Machine is the built-in backup feature of OS X. It keeps a copy of all your files, and remembers how your system looked on any given day so you can revisit your Mac as it appeared in the past. Apple sells a device called a Time Capsule, but rather than buy one of these I opted for a diy approach using my Raspberry Pi and so far it seems to be working well.

My setup consists of:
  • Raspberry Pi Model B running Raspbian connected via network cable to a router
  • MacBook Pro running OS X Yosemite v10.10.1 connected via Wifi to a router
  • External 2TB drive (with separate power) attached via USB to the Raspberry Pi
It was relatively easy to setup following the instructions at http://www.raspberrypi.org/forums/viewtopic.php?f=36&t=47029 . I am reiterating the instructions here just in case the page disappears (with a couple of additions I needed):
1. Start with a clean installation of Raspbian, configured for your network

2. Power down your Pi, connect your storage drive, and boot your Pi back up.

3. Since my Pi only has 2 USB ports, I wasn't able to have a Keyboard, Mouse and USB drive connected without using a USB hub. Since I didn't want to use a USB hub I installed a VNC server on the Pi and a VNC client application on the Mac using instructions from http://www.raspberrypi.org/documentation/remote-access/vnc/ which can be summarised as follows.
$ sudo apt-get install tightvncserver
$ tightvncserver
$ vncserver :0 -geometry 1920x1080 -depth 24

4. Install netatalk and gparted
$ sudo apt-get update
$ sudo apt-get upgrade
$ sudo apt-get install netatalk gparted

5. Start up the graphical desktop on your Pi using startx, and run gparted (it's under "preferences" in your start menu). Select your storage drive (not your SD card), delete any existing partitions, and create a new single partition of type ext4. Then exit gparted.

6. Set your Pi to connect to your storage drive when you boot, and create a place in your Pi's filesystem for it to go
a) create the directory with appropriate permissions
$ sudo mkdir /mnt/TimeMachine
$ sudo chmod 777 /mnt/TimeMachine
b) setup auto boot
$ sudo echo "/dev/sda1 /mnt/TimeMachine ext4 defaults 0 2" >> /etc/fstab
This command came up with a Permission denied error so I instead manually updated the /etc/fstab file using nano with the entry in quotes (/dev/sda1 /mnt/TimeMachine ext4 defaults 0 2) added at the end.
$ sudo nano /etc/fstab
c) mount the drive
$ sudo mount /dev/sda1

7. Configure netatalk to share the directory
a) setup netatalk
$ sudo echo "/mnt/TimeMachine \"Time Machine\" options:tm" >> /etc/netatalk/AppleVolumes.default
This command came up with a Permission denied error so I instead manually updated the /etc/netatalk/AppleVolumes.default file using nano with /mnt/TimeMachine "Time Machine" options:tm added at the end (Note: the \'s have been removed from the echo command).
$ sudo nano /etc/netatalk/AppleVolumes.default
b) restart netatalk
$ sudo service netatalk restart

8. On your Mac open your Time Machine preferences, click Select Disk, and choose Time Machine on raspberrypi. I found initially that I couldn't find the Time Machine share so I went to Finder and connected to the Raspberry Pi at afp://pi_ip_address

9. The backup should commence after a couple of minutes.

Raspberry Pi is a trademark of the Raspberry Pi Foundation
Apple, Mac, MacBook, MacBook Pro, OS X, Time Capsule and Time Machine are trademarks of Apple Inc.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Book Review: The 4-Hour Work Week: Escape the 9-5, Live Anywhere and Join the New Rich

"The 4-Hour Work Week: Escape the 9-5, Live Anywhere and Join the New Rich" by Tim Ferriss is one of those books I had heard about but not got around to reading until now.

My key takeaways:
  • Think about what parts of your work or personal life you could outsource to free up time to do other things (some good references are provided in the book such as elance, Your Man In India and Brickwork). 
  • There are some good reminders about time management, handling interruptions, testing (even down to product name testing via Google AdWords) and keeping it simple for the customer by reducing the number of decisions they need to make.
  • Some good advice was provided about having a minimum advertised pricing clause in order to prevent wholesaling wars (not only by organisations, but also by discounters on eBay)
  • There are some useful links to tools and sites to get a website up and running quickly, some good advice about projecting that your company is bigger than it is (e.g. by having multiple email addresses for multiple departments) and using this as an enabler to scale later.
I skimmed over many of the other parts of the book since it was a bit too verbose.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Book Review: Nikola Tesla: Imagination and the Man That Invented the 20th Century

I found Nikola Tesla: Imagination and the Man That Invented the 20th Century to be a very quick read and a well written synopsis of Nikola Tesla and imagination. I had heard of Tesla but didn't know much more and this book was a great introduction to an amazing person and a great inspirational read about genius being a path anybody can take, never giving up, thinking being the enemy of creativity and varied knowledge and experiences being more likely lead to fresh ideas. It is not a book for getting an in depth understanding of Tesla or in depth information about self improvement or imagination, but it is a good short inspirational read.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Fitbit One: turn your everyday life into a fun path to fitness

simple.b-dis-png.h47e3210a910010717f0d5ec74009f261I have had a Fitbit One Wireless Activity + Sleep Tracker for just over a week and absolutely love it. This a device that measures your activity, adds a competitive nature (with yourself and others), and is part of the craze of gadgets about the Quantified Self.

The general idea behind the Quantified Self is about gaining self knowledge through numbers, with the intent of self improvement.

The Fitbit One logs the number of steps taken, floors climbed, distance walked, calories burned, activity level and sleep patterns. This information is collected on a day by day basis and wirelessly transmitted by Bluetooth 4 via a PC/Mac or compatible device (such as the iPhone) to the Fitbit website where you can compete against others or just yourself. There are also virtual badges you can earn by achieving milestones, such as 10,000 steps in a day, climbing 25 floors in day etc.

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Functionality is also available via the website or mobile apps to log food consumed, water consumed, activities done, sleep and weight. Appropriate calories are calculated and used to inform you how well you are tracking towards your goals.

Key Advantages

  • One of the key advantages the Fitbit One has, in my view, is that it can be easily concealed in a pocket or attached in a non-conspicuous way. This was a consideration I had when comparing this device against the Jawbone UP and Nike+ FuelBand.
  • It is also a very simple device to use, tracks a reasonable amount of info and has only one button.
  • Syncing of information to the Fitbit website happens transparently “over the air” once you have done a very simple PC/Mac installation. A USB dongle is supplied for enabling a PC/Mac to communicate with the Fitbit One via Bluetooth 4.
  • The gamification features, with virtual badges, competing with others and yourself provide a good additional drive to exercise.
  • An API is available for integration with. There is also an ecosystem of applications emerging, inc. integration with sites such as Runkeeper and Endomondo.
  • There is a silent alarm that will vibrate to wake you up.

key Shortcomings

  • Whilst there are apps for iPhones and Android, the Android devices don’t currently support synching. The main reason from reading the forums appears to be that the vast majority of Android devices do not have Bluetooth 4 support and anything lower than 4 would have too big a drain on the battery of the Fitbit device. Support is however apparently coming soon for some devices.
  • When tracking sleep, you need to explicitly hold down the button for two seconds to start the sleep event and hold it down again to turn it off. Whilst it does work it’s not great.
  • Whilst data is available to be extracted, doing this easily via the Fitbit site requires paying a Premium fee.
  • Setting the silent alarm to wake up cannot be done on the device itself and needs to be via the website or iPhone app.
  • To charge the device required using a special connector (which is provided). Charging is required every 5-7 days so you don’t want to misplace this. It also feels a bit strange to not be attached to the device while it’s charging.
  • Logging of food is a bit tedious, then again I’ve found this with all similar sites.
  • Since a USB dongle is typically required to support synchronisation of information, care must be taken not to lose this small dongle.
  • Whilst the Fitbit device can apparently take a bit of rain, it is not waterproof so you can’t wear it all the time.

Overall Synopsis

Whilst there are some shortcomings, compared to its competitors I think it is currently the best of the bunch and enjoy using it.

Disclosure: This article contains affiliate links for the Fitbit One product. By clicking through you are supporting Simon G’s Blog and I thank you. The article is completely non-biased.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Book Review: “Mark Zuckerberg: Ten Lessons in Leadership”

zuckI was sceptical that “Mark Zuckerberg: Ten Lessons in Leadership” by Michael Essany would be worth reading, but decided to give it a go anyway. It isn’t a large book, but the documentary style works well and I found it in fact contained good practical advice including inspiration to get out there and make a difference, leveraging mentors, getting started, focusing on the idea first and details later and many other great pearls of wisdom.
The key points I noted were:

  • When popularity supplants passion at the forefront of the entrepreneur’s mind, the likelihood of success rapidly diminishes.
  • Live your regular life and just try to build stuff that matters.
  • The most successful entrepreneurs of tomorrow will be those who take to the next level that which we have today. If you want to be the next Steve Jobs, you're not required to invent anything in order to do that. You simply have to listen, observe, and innovate.
  • Young entrepreneurs are notorious for idolizing the wrong people. You cannot and should not have a 'mentor' who is unreachable, outside of your industry, and doesn't wholly represent that which you seek to become.
  • Most people think of great entrepreneurs as lone wolves who accomplished their dreams by themselves. This could not be more false. From Bill Gates and Steve Jobs to Warren Buffet and Donald Trump, each had a mentor or two along the way. Each have well documented experiences with these mentors and speak openly about the help they got along the way.
  • "Hit 'em where they ain’t" and never let your immediate location be an immediate deterrent for immediate action.
  • Starting the entrepreneurial process is one thing; sticking to the process is another
  • Control must not be yielded under any circumstances.
  • The most successful inventors and entrepreneurs of our time have given the world technologies that can be personalized and effortlessly controlled by the user. When people take ownership in a highly personal way of their smartphones, computers, social networks, etc. they are highly inclined to keep returning to those devices and platforms.
  • Rivalries are healthy for business, essential for innovation, and just a whole lot of fun.
  • The most successful entrepreneurs of the 21st Century will be those who limit their adherence to 'traditional distractions.'
  • When inspired, wait for absolutely nothing.
  • In a world that changing really quickly, the only strategy that is guaranteed to fail is not taking risks.
  • If you do the things that are easier first, then you can actually make a lot of progress
  • The things we can do without a lot of thought or effort are often of greater value because they allow us to get started and getting started is the most important part.
  • The companies that work are the ones that people really care about and have a vision for the world so do something you like.
  • When you're passionate about a simple idea that brings together diverse and wonderful ideas, resources, and technologies into a cultivated platform that does collectively that which each part could not do individually, success is not only possible, it is virtually inevitable.
  • It's all about the idea - the core, compelling, central focus of the product or service. Details don't matter at first. Details come once you've assembled your team, consulted bright, diverse minds, and patiently charted a course toward prototype or product completion.
  • Details matter more than anything else - but not at first. It's the core idea that must lead the way

Monday, March 26, 2012

Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway

"Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway" by Susan Jeffers contains lots of good practical advice, such as the power of eliminating negativity and pessimism from your vocabulary, taking responsibility for your reactions, how to have a balanced life, and many other great pearls of wisdom.

Here are some of my key take aways:
  1. All you have to do to diminish your fear is to develop more trust in your ability to handle whatever comes your way
  2. The only way to get rid of the fear of doing something is to go out and do it
  3. Not only am I going to experience fear whenever I'm on unfamiliar territory, but so is everyone else
  4. Pushing through fear is less frightening than living with the underlying fear that comes with a feeling of helplessness. 
  5. Before you take any action in life, ask yourself: "Is this action moving me to a more powerful place?" If it isn't you will think twice about doing it.
  6. Begin eliminating the terribles, can'ts, problems, struggles and so on from your vocabulary. Certain words are destructive; others are empowering. e.g. "I can't" --> "I won't", "I hope" --> "I know", "What will I do?" --> "I know I can handle it"
  7. The more you expand your comfort zone, the more powerful you become. Each day stretch yourself and do something that intimidates you
  8. You are the cause of the feelings that take away the joy in your life. Are you a 'victim' or are you taking responsibility for your life? Whenever you are not taking responsibility you put yourself in a position of pain, and hence decrease your ability to handle the fear in your life
  9. Taking responsibility means never blaming anyone else for anything you are being, doing, having or feeling
  10. Taking responsibility means not blaming yourself
  11. Taking responsibility means being aware of where and when you are not taking responsibility so that you can eventually change
  12. Outtalk your negativity
  13. It is empowering to have the support of a strong, motivated and inspirational group of people. You have to go out and create the type of support system you want.
  14. The knowledge that you can handle anything that comes your way is the key to allowing yourself to take risks
  15. You're not a failure if you don't make it; you're a success because you try. The trick in life is not to worry about making a wrong decision.
  16. If I am not making mistakes, I can be sure I am not learning and growing
  17. Act as if you really count
  18. Create a whole of life grid of what is important to you for a balanced life and allocate 100% commitment of time to each; Contribution, Hobby, Leisure, Family, Alone Time, Personal Growth, Work, Relationship, Friends. Each day, create daily goals that reflect all the boxes in your grid.
  19. With a positive attitude, value can be created from anything that happens in your life
  20. Genuine giving is not only altruistic; it also makes us feel better.
  21. You must become what you want to attract. Be the kind of person you would want to surround yourself with.

I thoroughly recommended this book.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Book Review: How To Have Confidence And Power In Dealing With People by Les Giblin

1e37124128a02faf24b06010.L._AA300_"How To Have Confidence And Power In Dealing With People” by Les Giblin had been sitting on my bookshelf for years and I was expecting it to be an over the top sales book so had put off reading it, but I was so wrong and now wish I had read it years ago. This is a superb book that has lots of great advice, good examples and is well written. I also really appreciate the short recap that each section has at the end summarising the key points.