Category Archives: Miscellaneous

Just random stuff

Building a NAS (for photos and more) Part I


I’m a tech-y sort of guy. I work as an application developer and I have been building my home PCs for years. I recently upgraded my main computer, and I had a bunch of spare parts from the old build. With a growing archive of photos pushing 50,000 raw images, a digital archive of home movies, and 400 albums worth of ripped music from our CD collection, disk space and backups are always a concern. I’d been thinking about network attached storage for a while, but the prices are intimidating. As an example, a 5-Bay Drobo Nas without any drives installed, costs over $500. There are cheaper alternatives, but reviews are mixed. I was also worried that if something broke out of warranty, getting it fixed was going to be a headache.

I decided to take the plunge and build my own NAS/Media Server. The information that follows is more of a dump of my thought process and experiences rather than a “How To” lesson. Hardware gets dated, software gets updated and prices fluctuate.

Build or Buy?
You should buy a pre-built NAS if :

  • You want something that works out of the box with little or no setup
  • You don’t enjoy tinkering with computer parts
  • You don’t know what a command prompt is, and you don’t want to know
  • You trust that the manufacturer you pick will support your hardware, and are willing to replace the whole NAS if you have a hardware failure if the warranty is up. I’m not talking about a bad hard drive… I’m talking about the NAS itself.

You should build your own NAS if :

  • You are willing (and probably like) to tinker with hardware
  • You like the idea of having a new project to work on in your spare time
  • You want to save money, and have something tailored to your needs
  • You enjoy learning about stuff and are ready to do some research


If you decide to build your own system, you need to make a few decisions. Again, I’ve included my own thoughts and opinions

Step 1. How much storage do you need?
The first question to ask is how much storage do you need. My PC has 1.5 Terabytes of storage set up in raid-0 for speed. It has been very reliable and fast. I was down to about 15% free storage space and I was going to have to buy 2 or 3 bigger drives soon. I was flip flopping between 4 and 6 Terabytes of storage. Based on my current usage, I decided 4TB would be enough to last me 4 or 5 years. To protect against a single drive failing, I wanted to use Raid-5, which requires a minimum of 3 equally sized drives. To get 4TB of space with a Raid-5 setup I needed 3 2TB drives.

Step 2. What are you going to do with your data?
Life would be a lot simpler if I just wanted to build a storage only box, without any bells or whistles. I already had an old laptop with an external usb drive acting as an iTunes music server. I also wanted the ability to watch my home video collection on my TV and potentially other devices. The decisions you make here will influnece your decision in step 3. If you are just looking for shared, always on storage, and don’t have the need for raid, the cheapest setup is to buy a used laptop (or a Mac mini) with a large external hard drive.

Step 3. Choosing an operating system
This was probably the most difficult decision. I wanted to check out a few options before I went ahead with the full build. I highly recommend VMWare Player as a way to evaluate operating systems and testing configurations. Here are the OS’s I investigated :

Continue on to Part II

Panasonic GF1 and Optech Pro Loop Connectors

I’m a big fan of OpTech Straps. I had ordered a OpTech Classic Pro Loop Strap for my GF1 the other day. I wanted to use the strap from my D200 in the mean time. When I tried to attach the Pro Loop connectors, I was sadly frustrated by the tiny lugs on the GF1. I took a little bit of my hacker instinct, and decided to cut the leather attachment threading to open the loops up and attach them in a “permanent” way. The results are great and seem very secure. See more info below.

– Sean

Close Up of the leather that gets un-stitched

I used an x-acto knife to cut the threads in the leather shown here. The threads are in a box pattern with an “X” inside. The loops are already open, and don’t need to be cut once the stitching is removed. Next, i put the open loop through the GF1 Lugs, positioned the leather back on them so the strap would hang with the buckles facing in. Next, I put a few stitches in to hold everything in place so I could stich it back up without things moving around. Make sure your new stitches go through both parts of the loop – I positioned the loop ends carefully so that they were under the original needle holes. Then finish up the stitching, and repeat on the other connector.

Full Strap from my D200 now attached

I’m very happy with the results. The only downside is that the loop connectors would need to be cut off to take them off the GF1. I’ve never removed the connectors from my D200 until I did this mod…. so not a big deal for me.

The loop connectors attached together in “Hand Strap” configuration

In this photo, you can see the 2 loop adapters connected to each other, with the padded portion of the strap removed. This creates a nice hand strap when the full strap is not needed. The Optech snap in connectors are very secure and have never accidentally disconnected on my D200.

Let me know if you have any questions by leaving a comment.

One of these eggs just doesn’t belong here

Easter Egg Dying

It was a rough winter… but we had a nice taste of spring last week. We dyed some Easter Eggs last weekend with the kids. I’m strangely attracted to the black one in the upper right. It looks like it came right out of the pickled egg jar at Moe’s Tavern. Maybe for Halloween this year I’ll make a dozen “evil” eggs.