FreeNAS backups and share

I’ve been thinking for a long time about solidifying and formalising my backup procedures. To be honest, my existing system is pretty awful, even though it’s caused me problems in the past.

Existing Backup solution

On my desktop, I have an SSD where my operating system (Xubuntu) lives. This drive is 250GB. I have an HDD, which is 360GB called “coffee”, which is where I store photographs, music, videos, download, etc. MOST of what I download ends up here, but some ends up on the SSD when I forget to move it.

I also have numerous external hard drives, where a collection of media I’ve built up over the last decade lives, in a pretty awful folder structure. Some of this is duplicates, some of it isn’t, some of it is corrupt, some of the hard drives are dead.

I know for a fact that the majority of photographs I took between 2006-2010 are gone forever, because the drive I was storing them on died.

Sarah’s files

Sarah’s laptop is slightly better in some ways, and much worse in others. It’s better because File History in Windows 10 is turned on, but worse because:

  • -The drive that the file history is on is one of my many external hard drives
  • -We never connect the drive
  • -Her filing system is non-existent.

*It’s really bad. Her Music is so scattered and so poorly named that it’s going to take me a while to get it sorted out. I’m going to try out a few different tools for automatic tagging and renaming, see where it gets us.*

 FreeNAS & HP Proliant Microserver

I’ve played with FreeNAS before, and I love how it works and what it can do, but I’ve never had any dedicated hardware to run it on. That’s changed now that I’ve bought one of these:

c03760124.png (474×356)

I’ve begun setting it up and getting a working FreeNAS install on it, but I’ve got a lot of thinking to do about how it’s going to all work and fit together.

I’ve got a few basic requirements:

  1. Have regular backups from Sarah’s laptop
  2. Have regular backups from my desktop
  3. Have a network share configured on it for all of our pictures
  4. Have a network share for all of our Music
  5. Install the OwnCloud plugin
  6. Our phones must auto-backup images to Owncloud
  7. Owncloud must somehow share the storage space so that our images are visible from Owncloud and our phone images are visible on the network share

Once this is all done, I want to be able to do the following:

  1. Access the music shares from Kodi, on my raspberry pi. The Raspi is hooked up to my amplifier, and I want to control what it’s playing from my phone.
  2. Access Owncloud from the internet. This will be a small project all on it’s own

I need to make a few decision about how the shares will work. If I’m already backing up everything from Sarah’s laptop, do I want to use Windows File History to make the backups, or something else?

If I use File History, then it’s going to dump all versions of everything in a network share. I don’t really want all the old versions to be visible to every other device (and Owncloud) that is using that particular share or dataset.



Steamleft II

A while ago I discovered Steamleft, and decided to use it to try and track my progress in finishing my backlog of Steam games. There are some major flaws with it, such as it counting games I’ve played but not on Steam (eg, Half-life: Blue Shift). It also has really really high estimates for how long it should take me to “complete” Dota 2, a game I got for free and despise (because I suck at it).

Every now and then I run GNUplot over my logging file of hours left in Steam. Here’s a sample:


The data points between between May 9th and May 16th are probably when my estimated hour to completetion were modified by a free trial, or something.

The sudden drop off in the back end of April, I’ve no idea what caused that one.

Here’s a newer graph:



The sudden drop off is again probably from a game I had for a weekend or something. I have bought a few games since I started this, but not too many.


Somebody sent me to this tool.

If your Steam Profile is public, it will show you how long you’d need to play for to “complete” all games in your steam library.

My own entry is here.

It relies on average game length statistics from , which will obviously be a bit hit and miss with games like Kerbal Space Program. For open ended sandbox games, like KSP, what counts as beating it?

Actually, I’ll go and look it up:




I suppose KSP does have a Career mode these days, and maybe that’s what’s been submitted for the Main Story stat? Even so, I could play this game for literally the rest of my life and I’d still probably find stuff to do.

So SteamLeft won’t be perfect, by a long shot. I’ve got whole sections of my library dedicated to multiplayer games that I’ll never “beat”, and I’ve got a load of duplicate games as well, for when things have a separate beta branch entry in my games list.

However, I wrote myself a little script to scrape my steamleft entry daily, and log the results to a file.

The script is here:

 wget -O - | echo $(date +"%d-%m-%Y") $(xmllint --html --xpath "/html/body/main/div/div/section[1]/div[4]/text()" - 2>/dev/null) >> /home/anorak/steamleft/bob

I’ll break down what it’s doing:

wget -O -

Wget grabs whatever content exists at the URL you give it. In this case, the URL is the steamleft page for my steam account. This information is looked up in realtime when you visit the page (presumably).

The “-O -” argument redirect the downloaded contents to standard in, rather than writing the results to disk. This is useful because we don’t need to then look up the contents of disk afterwards, and the next part of the command can read directly from standard input.

| echo $(date +"%d-%m-%Y") $(xmllint --html --xpath "/html/body/main/div/div/section[1]/div[4]/text()" - 2>/dev/null) >> /home/anorak/steamleft/bob

The “|” character is a pipe, and it’s used for directing the output of the command before it to the input of the command after it.

echo $(date +”%d-%m-%Y”)

This outputs the date in the format “dd-mm-yyyy”.

xmllint --html --xpath "/html/body/main/div/div/section[1]/div[4]/text()

xmllint I had to install myself, it wasn’t part of my standard ubuntu install. It’s a program for parsing XML. The “–html” option allows parsing of HTML (HTML is often not XML compliant).

The “–xpath” option  lets me grab the actual element I want from the page.  I found the xpath by looking through the steamleft page in Google Chrome:


$(xmllint --html --xpath "/html/body/main/div/div/section[1]/div[4]/text()" - 2>/dev/null) >> /home/anorak/steamleft/bob

The “-” reads the input from standard in.

the “2>/dev/null” redircects all errors to /dev/null. And there WILL be errors, because it’s HTML. And XML parsers do not like HTML very much.

>> /home/anorak/steamleft/bob

This adds the result to the end of the output file.

The output file looks like this:

30-03-2015 1768 continuous hours
31-03-2015 1768 continuous hours

This script is set to execute once per day. I’ll leave it running for a few months, and see how I’m doing at beating my library. I’ll hook it up to GNUplot at some point too, for shits and giggles.

I’ve been fairly good at not buying new games, with the intention of beating my  back-catalog. This should give me an indication of how I’m doing. And it gave me an interesting little exercise. In fact it took me longer to write up how I did it than it took to actually do it.


Half-Life 2: Point Insertion Part II

#ABANDON POINTLESS PROJECT. I lost the screenshots I was taking for this, and then found this post in my drafts folder. I cannot be arsed to continue this.

Christ on a bike, it was 2 years since I last thought about doing anything with this.

his flesh is jelly!

He partially melted

We last left our hero GORDON FREEMAN standing in front of a turnstile. Gordon felt threatened by the irregular gate, and remained motionless for some time.

As Gordon watched, a man walked through the gate. And when I say through the gate, I don’t mean that the turnstile turned around him, as is proper.

I mean we walked THROUGH the gate. He warped through it. He phased through it. He ignored everyday physical laws.

Gordon, being a theoretical physicist, calms down and stops trying to worry so much. He realises that the man in question is in possession of alien technology. Or he is possessed.

On the other side of the gate is the main station arrivals / departures area. It’s got a few people in it to interact with, all of which inform the setting, all of whom I’ll talk about in a moment.

Looking at this room 9 years later is strange. These days, you’d generally expect it to hold a dozen people or more, to make it seem busier, and make the world seem more real. However this can be a detriment in some ways – if you populate a room with that many people, you’d want each one to have at least SOMETHING to say, and it becomes harder and harder to avoid problems such as – NPCs standing around doing nothing. Not interacting, not talking, not going anywhere. Even here, with these few NPCs, that problem is not totally avoided.

Each of the NPCs has a specific task, an action they must perform. They are mere puppets, condemned to play out the same stage directions over and over again, with no variations.

Paranoid Guy

Paranoid Guy looks a little older than most of the people we talk to here. His line delivery is twitch, and furtive; he doesn’t want to be seen talking to you, but still feels obliged to warn you.

According to him, They have been putting something in the water, to sap the precious bodily fluids to make everyone forget. If this is true, and not just the paranoid delusions of an old man, we never get a hint of it. For all Gordon knows, he could have been talking about stuff in the water even before the Combine invasion, and he probably believed in chemtrails and the Illuminate.

However, it wouldn’t really be out of character for the combine to be drugging the population into submissiveness and compliance. If people can’t recall a time before the combine so easily, then they’d be less likely to rebel?

Of course – history (and 1984) shows us that there are much subtler ways to achieve this. Mass propaganda and fear can accomplish much the same thing.

Muttering Guy

Muttering guy paces back and forth in front of the departures/arrivals board

Petulant Guy

Guys Soon To be Dragged Away By Secret Police and Shot


Terry Pratchett was born in 1948 and is still not dead.

….Is the very first thing printed in my copy of Reaper Man.  I suppose it’s fitting, that Reaper Man was the first one that came to hand. It’s Reaper man that contains one of the more profound insights into the duration of a single human life:

no-one is finally dead until the ripples they cause in the world die away

So in a sense, the title of this post is still true, and will always be true – it will be a very long time before the ripples of Sir Terry’s work finally die away.

I saw Sir Terry speak twice at the Hay Literature festival, once when I was about 7 years old, and again when I was 15. I’ve also met him in a different setting entirely.  When I was 7 the only books of his I had read were Truckers, Diggers and Wings – books I hope to introduce my own children to, one day. My dad had taken me, and he’d taken his copy of Maskerade to get it signed. He wasn’t able to, but I started to read it on the way home.

When I was 15, I’d gone with a friend to see him talk, and that was just around the release of Thud!. Afterwards, during the signings, he spoke to me at some length about Half-Life 2, because I was wearing a Half-Life 2 tshirt. It was incredible to have someone I looked up to so much just talk to me for a few minutes about a common interest.

The final time I met him, was a far more personal setting. He came into the bookshop I was working in. My boss was out to lunch, so I was manning the counter. I was sure it was him, but didn’t want to completely geek out at him while he was just doing some shopping. He bought several rare second hand books (And I can’t remember for the life of me what they were), and when the transaction was completed, I told him I was a big fan of his books. I’ve always wondered what it was like for celebrities to be pestered in public, but he didn’t mind at all, and we spoke for a few minutes about the Hay festival and Hay itself. I said that his descriptions of L-space had always reminded me of the second hand bookshops in Hay-on-Wye.

My boss came back, and brazenly capitalized on the situation by asking Sir Terry to sign some of our stock! He was quite happy to, but my boss barely waited for him to be out of the door before marking the prices up and sticking them in the window. (My boss apparently went to the same school as Bernard Black).

I’m going to go away and celebrate the life of Terry Pratchett, one of the greatest authors of all time, by reading Reaper Man. I’ll have a glass of whiskey, and I’ll light a candle.

“What I could do with right now is one of Mr Dibbler’s famous meat pies – ‘

And then he died.

The Archchancellor glanced at his fellow wizards, and then tiptoed across to the wheelchair and lifted a blue-veined wrist to check the pulse. He shook his head.

“That’s the way I want to go,” said the Dean.

“What, muttering about meat pies?” said the Bursar.

“No. Late.”

Goodbye, Sir Terry Pratchett. We’ll miss you.

I miss ‘puter games.

I haven’t played anything in weeks, if not months. I’ve been working away from home since mid May, and during that time I’ve barely touched anything.

Instead I’ve been reading about games, keeping up with releases, but over the last couple of weeks I’ve instead been caught up in DRAMA. Games Journalism DRAMA.

I’m sick of it, yet morbidly fascinated by it. But I’ve lost sight a bit of why this is my hobby in the first place. So I’ve gone down my steam list and installed things that:

a) Will run on my work laptop

b) I haven’t played before

Here’s what I’ve got installed at the moment:

Red Faction runs very poorly.

CoH won’t launch.

I’ve played KSP a lot already.

So a trip to 1998 is in order. I’m going to play SiN.

New project: Triumph GT6

For about 3 years now, I’ve been looking to buy a classic British sports car. This desire was spawned by seeing how much fun Matt was having with his MG.

There’s something really special about “classic” cars, there’s an aesthetic you just don’t tend to see in modern cars.

So I’ve bought myself a Triumph GT6. When I bought her she was in pretty good shape, and I’m going to be working on her a lot, trying to restore and improve as much as possible. Here she is:

I'm sitting behind the wheel.

I’m sitting behind the wheel.

Driving this car is an incredible feeling. I’ve previously only driven cheap, modern cars that have been thrashed by a series of learner drivers. This car has no power steering, no servo assist on the brakes, and she’s pretty low to the ground. The engine is bigger than anything I’ve driven before (Except 4x4s), and so driving was at first a little intimidating.

You can feel everything that’s going on with the car, I feel like I’m connected directly to the road. There’s no float, and there’s feedback I can actually feel whenever anything happens, I can feel the road quality. Not that I’m a fantastic driver who can feed all this back into how I drive or anything, but as a sensation it’s fantastic.

There’s a lot of work needs doing, and I’m going to write up a lot of what I get do here, for posterity, and to let my friends know.

I’m still rubbish at Dark Souls

Since working out that I was trying to take on enemies that were FAR beyond my current character, I’ve been having an easier time of things.

I can actually progress through the Undead Burg, and kill a few enemies at a time before getting wasted.

There’s something very satisfying about progressing in this game, it’s the feeling that you are learning and mastering systems that you once found irredeemably hard.
My progress (when not trying to kill skeletons) followed this pattern:

1. Run up the hill, kill an enemy or two.
2. Make a stupid mistake and die.
3. Run up the hill, kill a few more enemies.
4. Progress a little further, find a new area, kill an enemy and die.

Each time I try again, I can get further into the unknown without dying. It’s not that I’m memorizing where enemies will come from (even though I am doing), it’s more that I’m getting better and better at combat, so even new, unknown areas don’t kill me quite as quickly as before.

I still make stupid mistakes often though.

Making it to a bonfire triggers such a sense of relief. The save system might be irritating sometimes, but it really does create a wonderful tension. I’m forced to play slowly, carefully, methodically. I can’t run in and slash enemies to death, even if I know how many there are and I’ve taken them on a while load of times already.

All that said, the Taurus Demon took some doing for me. All that tension the save system can create just turns to frustration for me, when dealing with a boss.

If I have to play for ten minutes to meet the boss, and get squashed flat in 30 seconds, it’s hard for me to learn it’s attack patterns.

The excruciating slowness of the “stand up” animation means that if I’ve been knocked over, I’ll rarely get up in time to dodge the next (completely lethal) attack. And then I have to trek all the way back up to the boss to try again, try a different strategy, or just try my luck again.

The video above shows me going through some of my failures with the Taurus Demon. Each time I got killed through what felt like luck, and when I did eventually succeed, it felt more like I was exploiting an AI weakness than outsmarting a massive Demon. I found a blind spot under his legs where he couldn’t hit me, and whacked him in the groin until he exploded. Even doing this I took damage because I got trodden on.

After this, it was back to the exploration and cautious fights, which are what I like most so far. Finding the ladder back down to the bonfire was a relief, especially since I’d narrowly avoided dying by dragon.

And then I climbed a staircase and got flattened by a big bastard black knight type bloke.

I’m rubbish at Dark Souls

I picked up Dark Souls: Prepare to Die edition in the autumn steam sale. I tried to play it with keyboard and mouse, and found the controls to be decidedly lacking.

I resolved to wait, until I could get a gamepad to play with instead. I’ve been wanting to get a gamepad for a while, preferably a wireless one, so I can play the more arcade type games I own from my sofa.

Having finally got a controller, I started Dark Souls again.

And I’m terrible at it.

In the tutorial level, the first weapon I picked up was a broken sword hilt. This was fine for taking care of the non-violent zombies that are scattered through the first level, and you’re supposed to pick up your real weapon the first time you meet an archer, just after you get your shield (I think).

I managed to miss this.

And forged ahead anyway.

I died.

A lot.

After meeting a dying knight, who gave me his Easter (Estus) flask, I had my first “real” fight with a zombie wielding a sword. I was only doing about 2 damage per hit, 3 if I did a heavy attack. It took a very long time to kill it.

Just after him, was a small courtyard where I had to deal with 2 at the same time. They trounced me over and over again, and then around the corner was an archer, and the entrance to the boss fight.

I played this section repeatedly for about 2 hours. I lost track of how many times I died.

When my sword hilt broke, I realised that no matter how hard this game was supposed to be, the tutorial probably shouldn’t be THIS hard. I backtracked a lot, and found my real sword. Which did 20x the damage of the hilt.


I managed to kill the Asylum Demon without too much trouble (in fact I think I got it on the first go).

I savored my victory for a short while, walked out of the room and was then startled when I walked into an airport (the giant crow picked me up).

Now that I’m in the next area, I’m trying to deal with these two skeleton chaps. I’ve been trying for about two hours now. I’m starting to wonder If I’ve done the same thing – did I miss something really obvious? Maybe. Anyway, here’s a video of me failing a lot. I recorded this using Nvidia shadowplay, which is a very neat tool. Much nicer than having to pay for fraps, and it doesn’t impact my framerate much.

I fail at parrying, I role the wrong way, I lock the wrong target, I get stuck on things.

I’m not very good at this game.