Peripherals

When printer memory’s hard to do.

I’ve been on kick upgrading the memory in my HP printers (as a friend of mine once said, “If you’ve got an open slot, fill it.”), and the latest and most difficult by far has been the HP Color Laserjet 2840.  I started at crucial.com, where I buy the majority of my memory, but for once they did not sell any for this printer.  After searching some, I found some no name websites selling the memory, but the memory always referred to Laserjet 4100.  I went to HP’s site, tracked down a part number, did more searching and found the memory again.  This time, the site I was on referred to an HP part number and a Kingston part number.  I went to Kingston.com and searched and found the part, which again said it was for the Laserjet 4100 series.  For some reason they had a link to buy.com for the same memory only cheaper, so I ended up buying it at buy.com.

The memory package says LJ4100/128 (128MB stick), but the buy.om slip said module for HP Laserjet 4100 1320 2800 MFP.  Bingo, 2800 series, that’s me.  Now I felt comfortable installing the memory.  It went in easily and came up to the max 224MB of memory.

If you own an laser printer that allows memory upgrades, I recommend it.  It will speed up printing large jobs and the memory is fairly inexpensive.

Linksys NSLU2 NAS

I picked one of these up on closeout from Wal-Mart.  I didn’t know what I was going to do with it at first, though.  Unlike my D-Link NAS, the Linksys NAS has no internal storage.  What it has is 2 USB ports for connecting external drives.  Both can be used for external hard drives, but the second one can also be used for USB thumb drives.

By default the Linksys formats drives with the EXT3 file system, although I read later firmware versions allow FAT32 and NTFS.  Drives connected to the Linksys are not hot swappable meaning the drives must be connected before the Linksys is powered on.  I connected a Seagate 500GB external drive to the Linksys and formatted it with EXT3.  Although I read on Linksys’ site something about people reporting problems connecting larger hard drives to the NAS, I have had no issues with mine.

Once I browsed the Linksys manual on the NAS, I figured out what I would use it for.  The Linksys NAS comes with backup software that can be used to backup drive 1 to drive 2 (if 2 drives are connected to the Linksys NAS) or can be used to backup to/from an external source.  I used the second option as a perfect way to keep my D-Link NAS backed up.  With the Linksys backup you can perform incremental, full, or synchronized backups.  I chose synchronized backups on a daily basis which I felt would provide the best protection for my data.  It was a little tricky getting the backup to work (I couldn’t get a user to connect to the D-Link and you have to create a share on the Linksys to backup to), but I eventually got it working.  The help and instructions did not give good examples, but trial and error should get it working.  The backup log helped as well to determine where I was having probles.  One annoying thing, though, was that the radio button for backing up kept resetting to “backup from Linksys” even though I kept setting it to “backup to Linksys.”

The Linksys NSLU2 has proved to be a nice addition to my network as a backup for my primary NAS.  If this is your only NAS device, connect a second hard drive for daily backup/synchronization of your primary drive.  I think the backup software, although simple in nature, makes this NAS a winner.

D-Link DNS 321 NAS

I picked up a D-Link DNS 321 NAS device on Black Friday from buy.com for $100.  There is also a DNS 323 model which includes a USB port to act as a print server, but I didn’t need that functionality for the significant increase in price it would have entailed.  Anyway, this was a nice find as I had been thinking of retiring my Windows 2000 home server – less power consumption, one less PC contributing heat in my cramped office.

The DNS 321 supports 2 SATA drives in the enclosure with a gigabit NIC.  The drives are very easy to install;  actually lifting off the front cover proved more difficult.  Once the cover is off, slide the drive into the enclosure until the power and data ports connect.  One thing I had read about this device is that if you only install one drive initially then add another later, you could screw up the labeling of the drives.  In a one drive scenario, the drive is labeled Volume_1 no matter which bay you put it in.  In a two drive scenario, the right drive is Volume_1 and the left drive is Volume_2.  So in order to avoid problems later, always install a single drive in the right side of the enclosure (looking at the front).

The DNS 321 uses a Linux OS with a web interface so it formats the drive(s) with the EXT3 file system (I ‘m pretty sure it’s this and not EXT2).  The device includes a wizard to handle basic setup like IP address, admin password, etc.  From the setup menu you can change workgroup, name, and other network info.  In the advanced menu you can setup user and group access, quotas, shares and permissions.  The DNS 321 also includes several network servers: FTP and DHCP, as well as media servers such as iTunes UPnP AV.

Under the tools menu you can set the admin password, set time properties and a time server to sync with, and restart, shutdown, or restore the system to factory defaults.  You can also update the firmware, setup email alerts and power management, setup Dynamic DNS, and configure RAID settings if you have 2 drives installed.  The DNS 321 supports RAID 0 & 1 as well as JBOD (spanning the drives into one volume), and a standard setting of 2 volumes.

Rounding out the menu is status and support.  Status gives LAN info, device info (including temperature), and hard drive info, including the make, model, and size.  Support provides a help system for different options available from the web interface.

I have been very happy with the function and performance of this device.  The only slowdown noticeable is when the hard drive needs to spin up after being powered down per the power settings, but this is only a very minor 1 to 2 second delay.  I have not had to restart the device or even touch it after the initial setup over a month ago.  I would recommend the DNS 321 to anyone looking for an inexpensive, reliable device to provide basic file server functionality for a home or small business.

Iomega Rev Drives – Latest news

I’ve been using and recommending Iomega Rev drives as a backup solution for small businesses for almost as long as they have been available. I’ve found them very easy to use, with a good transfer rate and nice, rugged disks. I’ve deployed mainly the 35GB drive, although I recently installed my first 70GB drive.

The only major problem I’ve seen with the Revs is that the disks may need to be formatted after a while or they won’t let you write to them. I’ve found a firmware update (23B, available at Iomega’s support site) which hopefully corrects the problem – I’ve updated one customer’s drive that was having disk problems so I’ll see if this fixes it.

The one Rev 70 drive I installed was a little different. The drive itself and the disks were similar to the Rev 35, but the drive didn’t come with Iomega’s Backup software I had always used with the Rev 35 drives. I loaded the software myself, but it would not recognize the Rev 70 drive. I have since found out that Iomega quit developing its backup software and instead recommends Retrospect. Thus, I used the included Arcserve OEM software to setup the Rev 70 drive backup scheme. I had not used Arcserve before, but a company where I worked in the past had used the NetWare version until we switched to a Windows version of Backup Exec. Arcserve seems very capable, but a bit overkill for the Rev drive, which I have always thought of as the perfect solution for small businesses. It would certainly be fine for the Rev Autoloader, but that was not what I was installing. After slogging my way through the software and help files, I finally figured out how to setup a backup schedule. Unfortunately, Arcserve compresses and backs up your files into one large file. I have never like this because it is much easier to backup the files in the original directory structure to the disk so that a restore is only a copy from the Rev disk to a hard drive affair. But currently this is where I am with the Rev 70.

Rev 120 drives are now out. They can only read Rev 70 disks from the description, so this baby’s for capacity not backward compatibility. The funny thing is the prices on Iomega’s site show the 120 costing not much more than the 70GB drives. Maybe that’s why the 120 Rev USB versions are currently out of stock.

As a final issue to this subject, I have just recently discovered that Iomega Backup may not be a good solution after all. I had one installation in which I couldn’t open the program even after upgrading it; also, it didn’t appear to be copying all of the files it was supposed to backup. Thus, I have tried my first deployment of Robocopy to do backups with the Rev drive. A dental equipment company’s technician had setup this program at a dental office I do work at, so I looked into it. It seems to be a souped up version of xcopy, and I will go into more detail on Robocopy later. But my first test run with it seemed to backup at a good speed, giving me an uncompressed backup of the directory structure, which I prefer. If this works out, I will start using this for all Rev deployments and may go back and switch my other clients to this method.

Vantec SATA / IDE To USB 2.0 Adapter

I found this very nice adapter on Cyberguys web site for less than $30. It supports both 3.5″ and 2.5″ IDE and SATA drives. I’ve used it so far on a 2.5″ IDE notebook and I only had to use the adapter. I guess the drive pulled power over the USB connection. The kit also includes an external power brick for IDE drives, with an adapter to support power to SATA drives. The IDE data connections are right on the adapter; there is a SATA data cable that plugs into a male SATA connection on top of the adapter with the other side connecting to the SATA drive.

I have found IDE to USB external adapters useful for copying data from PCs with bad drives or which won’t boot or work properly. It’s a lot better solution than having to connect the drive physically to another PC to copy the data to, which I had done in the past.

I had previously been using two different IDE drive containers from CompUSA for this purpose, but they took longer to setup, were separate, and did not support SATA. The Vantec adapter has turned out to be a nice all-in-one solution and I recommend it for quickly connecting hard drives via USB to another PC. I have not yet seen another solution at this price which offers both IDE and SATA connections.

Quick Takes – 02/13/2008

Finally hooked up the USB hub on my Dell 1907 FP. While I’ve seen many people complain about side mounted USB ports (or maybe it was because some monitors only had these ports) I found them very useful for quick, temporary USB connections. The two ports on the back seem right for more permanent connections that one doesn’t have to change very often, if ever.

I’ve been getting a lot of use out of my SanDisk Micro Cruzer USB key since I put it on my keychain. I always needed to have one of these with me in case I needed to copy something or have some software with me. This particular model has a tough gel covering around the key, and the part that hooks on a keyring is completely gel. Only problem is that I found 2 GB isn’t enough space anymore. I haven’t found any more spacious keys of this particular type yet, so I added my SanDisk Cruzer Micro U3 key also to my key chain. So far it hasn’t been too crowded. This one has a plastic covering, though, with a metal ring that goes over your keyring.

Had another encounter with DEP last night. I was trying to install the CD that came with my new Moto Q (more on this soon) on my Vista machine, but DEP didn’t like setup.exe on the CD. I tried a few different things, but finally had to completely disable DEP to install the software. My encounters with DEP have been ridiculous, and instead of protecting me from some threat, have only irritated me by preventing me from installing legitimate software. I am now 0 for 2 with DEP and recommend disabling it if you run into problems installing normal software and cannot overcome these problems within DEP’s configuration in Windows.

Dell Ultrasharp 1907FP

I decided to replace my 17″ Samsung 712N with a bigger flat panel, not because there was anything wrong with the Samsung (it has worked flawlessly for 3+ years), but because it just seemed smaller after I moved my old PC to it from a 21″ Samsung monitor. At first I considered buying a 24″ for my main PC and putting the 21″ on the others, but I am not a big fan of wide screen monitors (most are not vertically tall enough and look goofy, and I think monitor makers have just gone ga-ga over watching movies on your PC or something. How many people actually do this on a regular basis?). I also could not find one with which I was completely satisfied.

So I considered going to a 19″ “regular” flat panel – same resolution as a 17″, but everything’s bigger. Unfortunately, these are damn near impossible to find at retail (somehow I found a regular 17″ for my father-in-law at Best Buy recently for the office mixed in amongst a bunch of wide screens by accident, I guess). While buying some new PCs for an office, I checked Dell’s monitors since a lot of them get high ratings. I knew I wanted an Ultrasharp since these are their high-end models. I picked the Ultrasharp 1907FP and was not disappointed.

The monitor is very bright, yet easy on the eyes. It has vertical height adjustment for positioning, as well as VGA and DVI connectors. It also has a 4 port hub built-in.

Having used it for a couple of months now, I am very happy with my choice. 1280×1024 resolution is a lot easier on the eyesight with the larger screen size and this monitor’s brightness is comparable to my Samsung 213T (yet much brighter than the Samsung 712N), making it easier to switch views between monitors without losing focus.

I would recommend this monitor to anyone looking for a sub $300 monitor that is large, but not too large, and not widescreen (which does not mesh well with all of those old games I play).

Iomega Jaz Drive Still a Viable Backup Solution – Part 2 – Installation

Last week I was finally able to install the Jaz 2Gb drive at our office. The installation went without a hitch. I installed the Adaptec 2930 SCSI card in the PC, and at startup Windows recognized it and loaded a driver for it. Next I shutdown, connected the Jaz drive and booted up. Sure I could have hot plugged the Jaz drive in, but I’m a little nervous about such things since I damaged a PC by plugging a serial cable in while it was running (static electricity? who knows). The Jaz came up fine; I had Iomega Tools installed from the Zip 250 drive that I removed so the software even put a nice Jaz icon next to the drive in My Computer.

One thing I’ve always hated about the Jaz is that Iomega formatted the disks as FAT. Now granted the Jaz came out either before or right when FAT32 had just debuted, so this is not a surprise. Unfortunately, Iomega Tools replaces the normal format right-click menu command with its own which does not give you a choice as to which file system to use when formatting a disk. So I popped in the first disk, fired up the Disk Management console, verified the file system was FAT, then formatted it as FAT32. I formatted 2 more disks this way, but on the fourth disk I noticed it was already FAT32. The next two were the same. I looked at the disk cases and their model number was 10597. The other disks that were FAT formatted were model 10599. The first batch I acquired in a 3-pack, the others as part of a group of 10. Anyway, I thought this was interesting – maybe Iomega finally decided to format the disks as FAT32.

The only other problem I ran across was while inserting the Jaz disks. The disks need to be fully inserted to work properly. While testing my batch of 10 disks previously and while checking the current disks, I did not fully insert 1 disk at each time. When this happens, you can here the drive trying to spin up the disk but it cannot. The only thing I could do was turn off the drive then turn it back on. I was then able to eject the disk and reinsert it without further troubles. When the disks are fully inserted into the original green Jaz 2 GB drive (which I am using here), the disks actually go in farther than the lip off the insertion area. They are not flush with the front like the 1 GB Jaz disks are in the 1 GB Jaz drive.

So with the drive fully installed, I preceded to do a test backup. The batch file I use to copy the files from particular folders needed no changes and worked perfectly. So with that, I consider this a successful project with cost savings over the Rev solution mentioned in part 1, even with the extra disks and drives I purchased. With the amount of data currently being backed up, I figure I have at least 3 years until the Jaz 2 GB disks approach full. This is perfectly acceptable, giving me one less headache for a few years.

USB to SCSI Adapter Problem Solved

Finally figured out the problem with the USB to SCSI adapter not working with my Jaz 2GB drives. Turns out the SCSI id must be set to 0 for the adapter to work. I tried it with termination off and on, and this made no difference. The SCSI id was the difference on my Jaz 1GB drive – I’m glad I remembered that little fact.

So the adapter works now, but, as expected, is not fast. As a test I tried to copy a 275 MB file to a Jaz 2GB drive on the USB to SCSI adapter. Windows said it would take about 10 minutes to complete. I did not time the whole file to see the actual time, since I figured if Windows was anywhere close to accurate it would be a lousy interface to use. I figure I’ll use it if I have problems hooking up the Jaz 2GB to the Dell PC at the office with the Adaptec 2930 card; otherwise it is still a nice accessory to have in a pinch.

Iomega Jaz Drive Still a Viable Backup Solution – Part 1

I found myself in a bit of a backup quandary recently after one of my office’s backup media became maxed out. We are using an Iomega Zip 250 with a daily 6 disk rotation for backups. That has worked fine until the staff began scanning a lot of documents. Now that 250 MB isn’t quite big enough anymore. So I had to decide what backup solution to change to.

I’ve setup Iomega Rev drives at a few offices, including one of my own. However, considering I would need to buy the USB starter version (which comes with 6 disks), I thought $500-600 a little pricey considering the office does not need near 35 GB of backup space any time soon.

A solution between these two extremes was what I was shooting for. Since I have personally used an Iomega 1 GB Jaz drive for about ten years without any problems with the drive (I had 1 of 4 disks go bad, but it was replaced under warranty), a 2 GB Jaz drive seemed a good fit. Unfortunately, these drives have not been sold new for a few years. So I decided to check eBay and found some really good deals. There are a lot of used drives and disks for sale, and even some new disks and drives available (still sealed in the box). Although it took a few auctions, I was able to acquire a new Jaz drive, 6 disks, and a SCSI to USB adapter (Jaz drives all had SCSI interfaces) for just under $200. If this works out for a few years, I think it will be a great deal.

In part 2 of this thread, I will talk about how the deployment of the drive goes.

Stay tuned.