Monthly Archives: February 2011

Grooveshark in your Steam browser

I got this idea from a post I saw on reddit and thought it was so cool that I wanted to share it here.

Grooveshark and Steam may seem like a weird combination to talk about at once, but if you are a big fan of both, like I am, there is a great application for these two programs that you may not have realized.

You can use the in-game Steam browser and load up Grooveshark.com and that way you can listen to and control your music without leaving the game! Even if you have dual monitors you may typically leave Grooveshark opened on one screen while playing on the other, but you have to Alt+Tab out of the game in order to get to the browser, sometimes minimizing the game.

Complete Overview of Installing FlexRAID in Windows 7

If you are not familiar with FlexRAID, it is essentially an alternative to the traditional RAID and more similar to unRAID, except that it is free. FlexRAID offers a number of benefits over traditional RAID. Currently FlexRAID is a snapshot RAID and not real-time, making it suitable for data that does not change very often (eg. movie/music archive) as you are only able to revert to a state when a snapshot was taken, not the most recent state before disk failure. However, a real-time version of FlexRAID is under development called FlexRAID Live.

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I put together this guide because I was looking all over the place for a comprehensive, beginning-to-end, guide to running and installing FlexRAID so I could evaluate the software and decide if I wanted to move to FlexRAID for my filestorage.

This guide will take you through the process of installing FlexRAID on a Windows 7 computer. This will include managing the configruation through the WebUI and installing FlexView so that all your drives show up as a single instance of pooled storage. This guide was written when FlexRAID version 1.4 beta was the most up to date release.

FlexRAID Installation (Host, CMD, and WebUI)

  1. If UAC (user account control) is enabled you must disable it during this installation process but it can be re-enabled afterwards. A guide can be found here.
  2. Install the FlexRAID Basic Host Service 1.4 with default settings so that it installs FlexRAID as a service.
  3. Install the FlexRAID CMD client for Windows
  4. Launch the CMD Client.
  5. It will prompt you to Connect to: and here you type “localhost“.
  6. It should connect immediately and leave you with a command prompt where you want to type “view install” to install FlexView. You will see a message saying FlexRAID-View was successfully installed and you can proceed.
  7. Download and save the WebUI 1.4 beta for Windows client to your Desktop
  8. Unzip the WebUI folder and move it to C:\FlexRAIDWebUI. You can move it wherever you want, but you need to make sure there are no spaces in the path.
  9. To launch the WebUI you need to open the folder C:\FlexRAIDWebUI and run start.cmd, this will open a command prompt that will begin to startup the WebUI. The first time you run this you will be prompted by Windows Firewall to Allow access to java.exe, you must click Allow.
  10. Give the webserver a few moments to start up and then you can type http://localhost:8080 into your browser to bring up the FlexRAID login screen.
  11. The default login and password are admin, admin

FlexRAID WebUI Configuration

  1. This is a very good guide by FlexRAID’s author, Brahim, about how to go through configuring a FlexRAID setup through the WebUI, so I will not bother to re-explain these steps. If you have just added hard drives to the computer and they do not show up in the WebUI, you must go into Computer Management>Disk Management to Initialize and Format the disks. The WebUI will only show the disks that are visible in the My Computer window.
  2. For my setup I am running the T1+ RAID engine and have 2 DRU’s set up, H:\ and I:\ and drive J:\ is the single PPU. I have decided to dedicate entire disks to this array, but one of the features of FlexRAID is the ability to put certain folders in the array if you wanted.

FlexRAID-View Configuration

From the other guides I read on the topic, I found this portion to be the most confusing and it took experimenting in order to get it to display the way I had wanted and expected. The official guide can be found here and includes more details and tweaks than I will discuss.

  1. Open the FlexRAID CMD window, login to “localhost”, and then enter the following 2 commands to install patches to make it work on Windows 7 and then close out of the command window.
    • patch install view-sys-patch
    • patch install view-cl-patch
  2. We need to change the permissions of the FlexRAID Host folder so that we can create a View Configuration file. In order to do this. navigate to the OpenEgg directory which by default is “C:\Program Files (x86)\OpenEgg.org” and right click on the “FlexRAID Basic Host Service 1.4” folder and select Properties. Click on the “Security” tab and click “Edit” to change the permissions. Click on Users and check off Allow for the Modify and Write permissions and press Apply.
  3. Now open the “FlexRAID Basic Host Service 1.4” folder and Right Click>New>Text Document and name this file “ViewConfig”.
  4. The contents of my ViewConfig.txt file are below. With FlexRAID-View you have to model every folder join that is taking place, even in the sub-folders. This is a simple example, but what is happening is that I have specified drive Z to be the drive that shows up with the specified “virtual” view, using DRU’s H: and I:. Then I go on to model Z: which contains the virtual folders Music and Videos. Then each of those virtual folders are defined below. The syntax for this file can be found in the guide FlexRAID-View guide mentioned above, but for me a simple example really helped get a basic understanding.
  5. The config file below allows me to open the Z: drive and see 2 folders, Music and Videos. The contents of those folders will be a combination of the files and folders found within the respective folders on the H: and I: drives.

    Note: FlexRAID View does not manage load balancing the drives or distributing your files in a smart method, but rather all the files you move into a folder will be on your first drive specified, in this case for Videos it is drive H: and then once H: is full it will overflow to drive I:.

DRIVE=Z UNIQUE=H:\;I:\ RESTRICT= RESERVE=2GB THREAD=5 REMOVABLE=false -Z:\ |-<Music> |-<Videos> -Z:\Music |-*H:\Music |-*I:\Music -Z:\Videos |-*H:\Videos |-*I:\Videos

FlexRAID Data Recovery Simulation/Test

Before you decide to transition to FlexRAID it is a good idea to test the recovery to make sure it works and make sure you understand the proper procedure to recover from various failures. I was initially unsure about how to go about these tests but I have documented them below. All my testing is being done with VMWare Workstation so I can easily simulate suddenly disconnecting (eg. failure) and adding disks but the same can be done using physical hardware.

  1. In order to test a simulated failure, copy some files to the disks you want to be fault resistant.
  2. Enter the web-ui and run an update to rebuild the parity.
  3. After the build is complete, disconnect any one of the disks and you will be unable to access the files from the disconnected disk.
  4. Insert a new disk (or you can just use a new folder on one of the disks if you do not have a spare drive laying around).
  5. Map the new drive to replace the failed drive.
  6. In the web-ui, restore the data to the newly added drive.
  7. If it restores the data that was on the original drive, you are all set.

I hope this was helpful.

NOTE: The author of FlexRaid is working on v2 of the application and from the screenshots on his website it looks like a very sleek new interface. The core part of this guide seems like it will still be applicable, but many of the steps will likely be simplified with the new Web-UI.

Jolicloud Review

Jolicloud is a version of linux that is designed for the computers designed to stay connected – netbooks. They have recently release version 1.1 of their operating system so I decided to take another look. I immediately saw major visual changes from what I experienced when I fooled around with the pre-release v0.9. What makes Jolicloud different from other versions of linux is that it is based around the cloud as is geared towards non-technical users.

Having only played around in linux for brief periods of time I found it to have an extremely steep learning curve. Jolicloud completely eliminates this.

Jolicloud is basically an application launcher that sits in front of the typical linux desktop. That way when you log in you are presented with a set of icons for your applications in a format that upon first glance resembles an iPhone.

I have gone through the process of installing applications in linux and have run into many issues due to my lack of experience. However, in Jolicloud, the process of adding applications could not be simpler. You just press the big green Add application button and you are presented with all the applications (over 700). This list of available applications is not only sorted into categories so you can browser, but it is also completely searchable. You just click Add next the the application(s) you want and they get downloaded and installed for you.

One of the features that Jolicloud prides itself on is its cloud storage abilities. What this means for a user is that when they add an application on 1 computer, that application is also automatically synced and added to any other computer that you log into with your Jolicloud account. That means you will no longer have to worry about installing all of your programs when you switch/transfer computers.

The major focus of jolicloud is staying connected and to me it feels similar to Boxee. You can follow your friends and you can see streams of information from them about things like what applications they recommend or what they have recently installed.

You may be thinking, what good is syncing and cloud storage if I only want to run this OS on my single netbook or laptop. But recently Jolicloud has come out with a Chrome extension, allowing you to access all your files and applications from anywhere, using your Chrome browser.

Jolicloud Chrome dashboard