NASLite Network Attached Storage

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Task-specific simplicity with low hardware requirements.
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 Post subject: Still More Questions
PostPosted: Tue Aug 16, 2005 7:46 pm 
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I read and answered Tony's reply to my original question about confusion with the 4MB file size limits. Tony's answers were very informative but after reading them again it has given rise to new questions, or rather clarification to answers given. For example:
Quote:
NASLite v1.x runs with a 4M RAMDisk root. That is pretty tight, but necessary if you are trying to run in 32M ram. Every binary in that 4M root is selected for a reason.

So, does this means that any new feature, such as booting from CD-ROM or USB drive, needs to fit in a 4M RAMDisk or it won't be part of NASlite v1.x?

Here's the statement that prompted me to post this topic:
Quote:
The primary goal of NASLite is to operate at maximum efficiency on as much older hardware as possible. That means that it has to operate well on a P66 with 32M RAM just as it would on a 3GHz P4 with the works. The primary goal however was to take obsolete hardware and make it useful again - doing so in a way that will allow anyone to install, run and administer it without much prerequisite knowledge. As I’ve said before, I think we’ve done that.

I understand that goal and I think the achivement of it is admirable but how does that square with the fact that a lot of these "older machines" can't boot from anything but the hardrive or the floppy? Why come out with a version of NASlite (USB Flash) that can do this without "breaking" the 4M RAMDisk limitation or the 32MB restriction (is this true?). That doesn't make sense to me and it is one of the answers I would like clarified.

My last question/clarification relates to the possibility of a new version that supports features such as 2TB file size, ext3 FS Type and maybe a USB print server.
Quote:
Well, that’s fine except a number of older systems use non-ATAPI drives that are bootable by the BIOS but require additional drivers for the kernel to access them. Same goes for booting from USB, Firewire and SCSI CD-ROM drives. The process continues, the kernel grows, the root grows, system requirements grow, NASLite is slowly becoming less and less light.

I would recommend not changing what already exists (excellent product, for what it does) but offer to those users who pay for NASlite the opportunity to have a new product that is clearly distinct from the free, restricted, version in ways that give incentive to users trying NASlite a reason to purchase the upgraded package.

I'm not complaining, just asking.


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Tue Aug 16, 2005 11:52 pm 
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Why do I feel as if I'm being asked to defend the rational behind NASLite? I don't think that should be necessary, but I will try and clarify.

In order to get a better understanding of why NASLite v1.x is what it is, all you have to do is look around you. Most solutions are bloated and overkill for most users. The only way to avoid bloat is to eliminate that which will be used by less than 75% of the user base.

What exactly attracted you to NASLite? Was it the features? Fedora and Suse have all the features one may need. Why not use them? Well, you know the answer. That's why you are here.

Everyone has specific needs. RAID, multiple IDE/SCSI/SATA/etc. controllers, USB, Firewire, Unionfs, Ext3, Printer support, user management, ssh/ssl, backup solutions, CF, USB, HD boot options, web based configuration, LM sensor monitoring, share naming, etc... I can go on and on. All of the above are features that one or more NASLite users have requested because they are important to them.

Take NASLite+ for USB Flash for example. We did not intend to make such version, but people kept asking for it. Now you are asking what's the point. Well, people wanted to boot NASLite from USB in order to eliminate the CD and/or floppy and have all 4 IDEs open for storage. That's a pretty good reason, don't you think?

We will continue to improve all versions of NASLite as well as any future products that Server Elements may release. All branches of NASLite v1.x will be limited to a 4M RAMDisk. NASLite v2, 3, 4, etc. will not.

Here is one for you to consider - On that USB print server, where exactly will you spool the print jobs? On a NAS drive? Which one?

Now the 4G+ SMB file size and ext3 are most definitely going to be included in v2. That's a promise, but the USB print server will probably have to wait
;-)


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Wed Aug 17, 2005 1:42 pm 
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Tony,
Quote:
Why do I feel as if I'm being asked to defend the rational behind NASLite? I don't think that should be necessary, but I will try and clarify.

I'm sorry. My questions were never meant to annoy you, or make you feel like you had to defend NASlite, but rather they were meant to gain insight into why NASlite functions the way it does. Had I not purchased the product I might not be asking why it does what it does or when the newer versions will be available and what they will contain. However, since I did purchase the product, I feel it is my right to ask some pointed questions. I'm sure you feel the same way with software (and hardware) you purchase. If it doesn't live up to your expectations you should have the right to question the supplier.

I guess my main issue with NASlite is the fact that the current version caters to people using old, almost ancient, hardware. Those of us wishing to use NASlite on more powerful hardware appear to be contrained by this limitation. I am glad to see you state that the current version of NASlite is at end of life and that newer versions won't have the same restrictions.
Quote:
Now the 4G+ SMB file size and ext3 are most definitely going to be included in v2. That's a promise, but the USB print server will probably have to wait

This is exactly the type of information I was looking for when I asked some of my questions. :D

With respect to my request for USB print server capabilities, whatever you choose to do is fine. I was just hoping that with the expanded capabilities of NASlite 2.x, that this would be a possibility. As far as your question to me:
Quote:
Here is one for you to consider - On that USB print server, where exactly will you spool the print jobs? On a NAS drive? Which one?

I'm not sure why that is an issue. I have a basic USB print server device right now that is about 2 inches X 2 inches that provides network printer capabilities on my LAN. It doesn't have any hard drive/NAS associated with it, yet it functions perfectly. I believe the local client making the print request spools the data. The one thing I am sure of is that the device itself has no capability to spool print jobs.
Quote:
What exactly attracted you to NASLite? Was it the features? Fedora and Suse have all the features one may need. Why not use them? Well, you know the answer. That's why you are here.

With respect to why I am using NASlite instead of SuSE or Fedora, the answer is simple: NASlite does 95% of what I need it to do. If 2.x gives me the other 5% then it will be money well spent. If it doesn't, creating my own version of NASlite still remains an option. :wink:

Keep up the good work and please don't take offense at customer questions. They are only meant to help improve the product, not as criticisim.


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Wed Aug 17, 2005 3:24 pm 
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No offence taken sanmaster. My statement was lighthearted rather than defensive. This is a healthy discussion, so no problem on my end 8)

You said:
Quote:
With respect to why I am using NASlite instead of SuSE or Fedora, the answer is simple: NASlite does 95% of what I need it to do. If 2.x gives me the other 5% then it will be money well spent.


What puzzles me is this: Do you really feel that NASLite is not money well spent unless it satisfies 100% of your needs? And if so, what happens to NASLite when it satisfies everyone’s needs 100%. What product do you know of that does satisfy 100% of the user’s needs? :)


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Wed Aug 17, 2005 3:59 pm 
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Quote:
What puzzles me is this: Do you really feel that NASLite is not money well spent unless it satisfies 100% of your needs? And if so, what happens to NASLite when it satisfies everyone’s needs 100%. What product do you know of that does satisfy 100% of the user’s needs?

That's a loaded question if only for the fact that needs differ from person to person. However, I would venture to say that there are some applications I use that meet my needs 100%. They may not meet your needs but that means for me, at least, the application is well worth it.

With respect to NASlite, you may add features in 2.x that I don't need (or use) but if it contains all the features I need (or would like), then it would satisfy my needs 100%. It might not meet John Doe's needs because it doesn't have some feature he deems necessary, but if it has all the features I want, then it, indeed, has satisfied my needs 100%. Also, needs have priorities. For example, you stated that the USB print server would not be in 2.x. For me, that's not a big deal, so if it contained everything else you mentioned (and then some) it could still satisfy my needs 100%

Quote:
No offence taken sanmaster. My statement was lighthearted rather than defensive. This is a healthy discussion, so no problem on my end

I, too, enjoy a healthy discussion. Thanks for clarifying that for me. :D


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Wed Aug 17, 2005 5:05 pm 
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Exactly! :)
Quote:
That's a loaded question if only for the fact that needs differ from person to person. However, I would venture to say that there are some applications I use that meet my needs 100%. They may not meet your needs but that means for me, at least, the application is well worth it.


Now we are getting somewhere. As a developer, one has to design the product in a way that accommodates as many potential users as possible. It then becomes up to the user to decide if the product meets the necessary percentage of their needs in order for them to make the decision to purchase. It’s only basic economics and the core of product positioning.

If you purchase a Ford Focus, will you ask Ford to clarify why it’s vehicle does not perform as well as a Corvette? Perhaps your needs are more inline with the performance of a Hummer? Can a Hummer perform as a Corvette?

I doubt that NASLite will ever satisfy everyone. That is an unrealistic expectation due to the simple fact that everyone has unique needs. If you need quick and inexpensive NAS storage that runs on obsolete hardware and is easy to deploy and administer, then NASLite will be of benefit to you and the little money you spend will be well placed. All we are doing is offering a product that targets a particular task. If your needs are outside the scope of NASLite, then it’s not the right solution for your application.

In a previous topic you wrote:
Quote:
My confusion is this: Shouldn't the NASlite+ version that people pay for contain code that works? I understand that you can't fit the new code on the FREE floppies. Oh well! If you want updated code, spring for it.


As time progresses, so would the capabilities of NASlite, but suggesting that we are currently offering code that does not work is short sighted at best. I hope it all now makes sense. :wink:


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Wed Aug 17, 2005 8:58 pm 
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Ah, a good, healthy debate :!:

Quote:
If you purchase a Ford Focus, will you ask Ford to clarify why it’s vehicle does not perform as well as a Corvette? Perhaps your needs are more inline with the performance of a Hummer? Can a Hummer perform as a Corvette?

No, I certainly would not expect a Ford Focus to behave like a Corvette. But, if there was a problem with the Ford Focus that could be fixed by a technician (because a fix existed) I would expect Ford to issue a recall and have all Ford Focus vehicles that had the problem fixed. This is akin to the Samba problem of not being able to write files greater than 4GB.

If Ford advertised that this was NOT a problem but it turned out to be one, then it should be fixed for anyone who purchases a Ford Focus.

Again, I like your product and I am using it. :D However, there is an issue with one of the third party apps you included and there is a fix for it. It appeared to me that you were reluctant to fix it because you wanted to keep all 1.x versions the same, regardless of whether it was free or not.

If you say that version 2.x will fix the problem (and add functionality) then I am happy. I was just concerned that this might not be the case.
Quote:
As time progresses, so would the capabilities of NASlite, but suggesting that we are currently offering code that does not work is short sighted at best. I hope it all now makes sense.

My comment was not meant to imply that the code you supply doesn't work just that is was deficient. You must agree that not supporting 2TB files with SMB is a deficiency caused by the restrictions imposed by your implementation and a bug in the the third party app that fits within your restrictions.

As I said previously, keep up the good work! :D and please get 2.x out as soon as possible.


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Thu Aug 18, 2005 12:42 am 
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Frankly, Samba transfer speeds are significantly slower than FTP speeds, large files will yield better performance via FTP.

Since there's no file size limitation in the FTP or NFS implimentations, I simply have two mount points in my network neighborhood, one SMB, and one FTP. I drag 4gig+ files to the FTP mount.


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 Post subject: interesting discussion
PostPosted: Thu Aug 18, 2005 3:28 am 
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Well this has been an interesting one.
Sanmaster I must ask if you want USB print support and larger file transfers and want to run NASlite on an up to date system why haven't you installed a dedicated server os or at least Win XP Pro instead?

I run NASlite at home because it utilise an old pc because it gives me a fully accessible network storage system and becasue it was cheap, and I mean cheap, it was about £16 sterling when an OEM copy of Win XP Pro is about £80 and I don't need a £300 motherboard, processor, RAM combination to run it. In my office I need print server capability, security, DHCP, gateway access, RAID hard drives etc etc so I run Server 2000 on 3.0Ghz Intel machine. Cost about £1200. Horses for courses I'm afraid, yes there's stuff I'd like to see on NASlite but it's coming slowly but surely and when it does arrive, it works unlike some rushed onto the shelf software versions that should be labelled as BETA :lol:

NASlite does what it says, nothing more but more importantly nothing less and as I've said in previous posts I don't think server elements, and no disrespect Tony, have the same budgeting and resources as Microsoft so these changes take time.


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Thu Aug 18, 2005 9:01 am 
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Quote:
No, I certainly would not expect a Ford Focus to behave like a Corvette. But, if there was a problem with the Ford Focus that could be fixed by a technician (because a fix existed) I would expect Ford to issue a recall and have all Ford Focus vehicles that had the problem fixed. This is akin to the Samba problem of not being able to write files greater than 4GB.


For the sake of healthy discussion, I would equate the 4G SMB limit to a vehicle that you may consider underpowered. Just as NASLite does not handle large file transfers via SMB, neither does this vehicle handle 0 to 60 mph in 4.5 seconds. That’s a correctable condition because a fix exists. A technician can install a 350hp v8 in the vehicle, putting it at the power level you require. However, is the vehicle really broken if it’s designed for casual driving just to get around town? What if a major portion of the design criteria were fuel economy? Does it need to be fixed? I think not, especially if “fixing” it will put the vehicle outside of its design criteria.

The same is true for the current version of NASLite. It’s not broken for someone that wants to store his or her MP3s or the office PDFs, or whatever set of files that would never exceed 4G. Further, ext2 affords additional 10% to 15% of storage over ext3 on a given drive due to the lack or a journal. There is a drawback, but one that many people will be willing to put up with in order to gain the extra storage space.

What I’m trying to get across is that a product is always a compromise. What is broken for you may be the fix for someone else. That is why there is Focus, Corvette, Hummer and so on rather than just car.

That’s not to say that Server Elements will never release a “Corvette” or a “Hummer”, but one can make the same exact argument for each one of them also.

Quote:
Am I missing something here about why the CD versions of both NASlite+ products can't be updated to provide the SMB fix. Is is a compatability issue with the FREE floppies? If that's true, it appears to be a case where the people who pay for the product are penalized in favor of the people that get it for free.


I’ll try and wrap this discussion by saying that when you purchase NASlite v1.x (a Focus as our discussion goes.), you should not feel penalized in any way shape or form since that is what you chose to purchase. If you needed a Corvette, then I’m sure someone has a shiny new one ready for you. Get your wallet ready ;-)


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Thu Aug 18, 2005 9:25 am 
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Quote:
Well this has been an interesting one.
Sanmaster I must ask if you want USB print support and larger file transfers and want to run NASlite on an up to date system why haven't you installed a dedicated server os or at least Win XP Pro instead?

Wilbur, I suggested USB print support simply as a possible add-on to a system running NASlite especially if the kernel was going to grow and be able to run more apps.
Quote:
NASlite does what it says, nothing more but more importantly nothing less and as I've said in previous posts I don't think server elements, and no disrespect Tony, have the same budgeting and resources as Microsoft so these changes take time.

True, and it appears to do it very well. However, since this seems to have become a "religious debate" I will try to clarify my original position. The point that everyone seems to be missing in my posts (possibly because I haven't made it clear) is this: NASlite has been touted as a low cost, easy to install solution for antiquated systems that would otherwise have no use. That premise I can agree with and understand. What bothered me (and was the main point of my posts) was the fact that there exists two versions (NASlite+ for CD-ROM and NASlite+ for USB Flash) that obviously can't be used on old, antiquated systems. This breaks (or appears to be in conflict with) the original goal of NASlite (which is OK). To add to that, in order to get these versions, one has to pay $$ for them. If I want these versions (which I do) and they can't run on systems that don't support these features (which they don't), I could not understand why additional features/fixes could not be included. In other words, why not make these two versions NASlite 2.x instead of NASlite+, provide the 4GB file limit fix and ext3 and charge for them (as Server Elements does now)?

Please understand this, I'm not saying that NASlite is a bad product. I guess I am questioning some of the design/marketing decisions made by Server Elements particularly with respect to the product(s) they charge for.


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Thu Aug 18, 2005 9:52 am 
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sanmaster,

My last few posts were most definitely intended with good fun in mind. :)

On a serious note however, I do understand your point and I do agree that product improvement is paramount for success. We do have a lot of ideas with a number of products in various states of development. Ralph and I have been looking for a way to cram as much into the 2.88M bootable bin in order to create a v2 that’s capable, yet compact and compatible. If we can help it, the RAMDisk will be at 8M, so old hardware should still be fairly comfortable. We are close, but testing often reveals surprises that push the deadline a bit further.

Wilbur is absolutely correct when he pointed out that we work with a limited budget, so development is not as rapid as one can expect of Microsoft. However, we do make absolutely sure to release only software that will not fail and cause damage to user data.

I’ve enjoyed this discussion. Please don’t loose the enthusiasm. :wink:


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Thu Aug 18, 2005 8:52 pm 
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Tony,

Quote:
My last few posts were most definitely intended with good fun in mind.

And that is exactly how I took them. I was not offended in the least by any of your posts. I just realized that I might not have explained myself clearly and I also did not want to give the impression that I dislike the product.
Quote:
Wilbur is absolutely correct when he pointed out that we work with a limited budget, so development is not as rapid as one can expect of Microsoft. However, we do make absolutely sure to release only software that will not fail and cause damage to user data.

I totally understand this and I am grateful that you don't put out "vaporware" like other companies.

Just so you know, I, too, am a software developer having spent 28+ years working with Unix at the kernel level, application level, and as an administrator so I completely understand the development process. I also pride myself on putting out good, usable, code that functions as designed and documented.
Quote:
I’ve enjoyed this discussion. Please don’t loose the enthusiasm.

Same goes for me. NASlite is currently up, running and serving the many systems throughout my house. :D


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Mon Oct 16, 2006 8:16 pm 
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Tony wrote:
sanmaster,

My last few posts were most definitely intended with good fun in mind. :)

On a serious note however, I do understand your point and I do agree that product improvement is paramount for success. We do have a lot of ideas with a number of products in various states of development. Ralph and I have been looking for a way to cram as much into the 2.88M bootable bin in order to create a v2 that’s capable, yet compact and compatible. If we can help it, the RAMDisk will be at 8M, so old hardware should still be fairly comfortable. We are close, but testing often reveals surprises that push the deadline a bit further.

Wilbur is absolutely correct when he pointed out that we work with a limited budget, so development is not as rapid as one can expect of Microsoft. However, we do make absolutely sure to release only software that will not fail and cause damage to user data.

I’ve enjoyed this discussion. Please don’t loose the enthusiasm. :wink:


Ver 2 - I like this thing :) It's not as complicated as our last server, and all of the significant pieces seem to be there ...

But some "itches" remain:

1. Remote shutdown and powerup. Possibly even timed?
2. Virtualization of all storage capacity (even multiple servers) into a single share.
3. Easy UPS integration for controlled shutdown.


How is our box used? NASlite Drives 0,1,3 are currently utilized as actual share backups for our RAID Webdav NAS.

Second , third, fourth boxes I'm contemplating would store ReplayTV DVR mpegs (harvested with DV archive).

But none of these schemes will really work properly without those missing features......


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