Category: Mini Server

Anything having to do with our mini server line


Organizing Digital Photos

Organizing Photos12 Stones Technology Bridging the Gap To Your Organized Digital Photos

We no longer live in the days of a single camera with film, producing precious few paper copies of photos that we stored in shoe boxes and photo albums. In the digital age, we take thousands of pictures on multiple devices.  Trying to locate a photo among thousands becomes a monumental task!  Or we try to back them up, only to create multiple copies in multiple locations, compounding the problem of trying to find that one particular photo.

Keeping the photos taken by a single person with a camera and an iPhone organized can be tough enough, but when an entire family is involved, the problem can grow out of control.  There are some basic steps for organizing digital photos and making them accessible.

In order to assess your situation, ask yourself the following questions:

  • Where are all the photos located and how many are there? (The number of photos is less important than the size of all the photos.)
  • Do you have one central place with enough file space where you can store all your photos?
  • How fast are you adding photos?
  • Will you have enough space for at least one year of additional photos?
  • How much is your photo collection worth to you?
  • Do you need to share them and with whom?

For most people, storing all your photos online is not an option unless you are willing to pay for storage. This is where the “how much is it worth” comes into play. If you absolutely can’t afford to lose photos, then uploading them to a cloud storage can give you some peace of mind. If you don’t want to pay to store your photos, then you definitely want to have one or more backups. You may also opt for both. You can store some important photos in the cloud while others are kept locally.

If you have a newer desktop computer with enough storage for all your photos, that is the best place to start for your base storage location. A laptop can be used but since it can be carried around and out of your home, it is not the safest location for your treasures.  If you need to share the photos from your base storage location, you will need to set that up on your local area network to make it available to other devices.

All current operating systems offer a location specifically for photos, so begin consolidating your photos there.  Many photo programs can organize photos for you but they don’t usually organize the actual files.  Actually placing files in directories that make sense to you is the best way to go.  Try using a folder structure starting with years and then months. You can break the months down with special event folders or a specific day or whatever you want.

01 Jan
02 Feb
03 Mar

By limiting the number of photos in a directory, it makes it simpler to find the file you need access to for sharing, printing, etc. Fewer files in a directory also reduces problems with similar file names.

So how do you get all your photos onto one computer?  With all the devices we have to take photos, it can be difficult to get them all into one place. There are multiple methods of accomplishing the same thing but here is one method:  For those with iOS devices, a file manager program needs to be installed so you can access your picture files and transfer them to another device. FileExplorer Free is a program that can be installed to do just that.

For those with Android devices there are many options for network explorer programs. One I like to use is ES File Explorer.

Once the app is configured to access your desktop computer or network share, just copy all the photos on your phone to the remote computer.  This should be a photo dump; this is not the time to organize.

After getting all your photos moved to the desktop computer you will need to sort through them and place them in the appropriate directories.  Next, you will need to eliminate duplicates. Duplicate files can cause confusion as well as consuming additional storage space. Running a de-duplication program can help clean up your photos and reduce the storage space required. I have used Super DeDupe  You can download and try the program for 30 days.  If you wish to use it longer, you will need to purchase it for $19.95.

Now that all your photos are organized in one place and you have removed duplicates, it’s time to back them up.  An external hard drive, Network Attached Storage, or even a home server can be used for this.  If the photos are highly important, you can also back them up to a cloud storage solution.  Another off-site backup solution is to give a copy of your files to a family member not living with you. This can be done via an external hard drive you physically give to them or using other file transfer methods to create a backup on their computer.

Once you are all organized you can relax and peruse your photos any time you like.  And, after a filing method is set up, adding new photos becomes much simpler.  If you need help with some or all of this process, please contact me.

Cloud Storage Alternative

Devices Built With Cloud Storage in Mind

cloud-storageIf you have an iPad, Google Nexus, Macbook Air, Windows tablet or any smart phone, chances are you could use more storage space.  All of these devices have solid state storage which is great for speed and power usage but it tends to limit the capacity of your device.  Depending on what your use your device for, it can be hard to get all the files you want on your device.  The Big Three: Apple, Microsoft, and Google all have their own cloud services they would like you to use, iCloud, SkyDrive, and Google Drive.  All three offer a basic free account, 5 GB, 7 GB, and 15 GB respectively.  Cloud service from one of these three is usually baked into  the operating system making it simple for you to store your data on their servers.  The problem comes when you need more space. Google and Apple both count email space in their free accounts.   So if you have a lot of emails in your Apple account, that uses a portion your 5 GB of space leaving the remainder for other files.  If you have emails with photos or movie clips, your space can erode quickly.  Google is a bit more generous with 15 GB of free space.   Microsoft Outlook or Hotmail emails accounts do not encroach on SkyDrive space.  Of course you could mix and match as well.  Anyone can use a Gmail account giving them 15 GB of storage, while they still use iCloud for syncing photos between their devices.  Other services can be added such as Dropbox or any number of other cloud storage services.

If you have more data than what a free account will allow and you would like to keep your data in one location under your control, I suggest using your own cloud.  OwnCloud is an open source cloud program that runs on your own computer or server.  This allows you to make your own files available and share them with whoever you want to because it’s your “OwnCloud.”  You could have terabytes available on your own server and share between devices easily.  If you have a family or small business with a lot of devices and a growing storage bill, it may be time to consider keeping your own data.  If you would like more information on solutions that 12 Stones Tech can offer, please contact us.

Ubuntu Mini Server Just Keeps on Going

Over a Year without a reboot or power failure

I just checked up on one of the little servers I have built.  It is used constantly for a small business with a remote office utilizing OwnCloud to share files.  This particular server has been in constant operation for over a year now.  366 Days to be exact.  The server is assisted by a UPS that has kept things powered through several power outages but the server just keeps on ticking.  If you are interested in a storage solution for your small business contact me for more information.

Webmin Capture 366

Backup Your Computer to Backup Your Life


What’s on your computer may not really be your life, but for most of us it is the slide show or video of our life.  Think about all the files you keep on your computer: work files, important personal files such as taxes, pictures of your kids being born and growing up, movies of all the great life events, all your music and whatever else you keep.  If you don’t have a good backup plan, you could be sitting there someday sobbing, holding that computer or hard drive like it’s a dead pet.  Just like a life being snuffed out, never to return, that is what happens when a hard drive dies.

If you’re like most people, you know you need a backup and may even have some form of backup.  However, are you sure if you really needed it that you could count on it being there?

There are several types of backups and each has their good and bad points.  The simplest form of backup is an external hard drive connected to your computer via a USB or firewire type connection.  With these, you can plug in the external hard drive and copy files over to it whenever you want.  Transfers are fairly quick depending on what connection you are using.  Some of the external hard drives even come with backup software.  Some of these programs will run automatically and backup files.  Exactly what is backed up will depend on how well the software is set up.  I have seen external hard drives with a whole bunch of directories that are supposedly backups.  Without drilling down into each of them, it’s hard to tell what was backed up.  If you had to find a lost file, it could be difficult to determine where the file was placed.  Overall though, these external hard drives make the process a little simpler, and if you keep the drive connected, offer some kind of automation to the process.


The problem with this type of backup is if you keep the hard drive connected to your computer at all times, it becomes susceptible to accidental deletion and/or virus attacks.  This type of backup is only a single drive so it doubles your chances of saving your data in the event of a hardware failure.


The second type of backup is an off-the-shelf NAS (Network Attached Storage) device.  These are very similar to the USB connected devices, except that these connect via the network and area available to multiple computers, not just a single one.  Some of these also come with backup software with the same caveats that some software is OK and some is not-so OK.  An NAS can have a single hard drive or multiple drives depending on the type.  Most NAS boxes will allow for Windows/MAC/Linux machines to access them.  Transfer speeds to a NAS box will depend on your network speed.  A hardwired connection utilizing 10/100 megabit speeds is going to get the job done but will take a while.  Similarly a wireless connection will get the job done but won’t win any speed records.  A gigabit, hardwired system would be the preferred setup allowing backups to occur quickly.  Although a NAS is always on, it will be less susceptible to virus attacks occurring on a single computer.  Mapped drives though mean deletions are still possible.


My personal backup of choice is an actual mini server.  Much like an NAS, these devices are attached to the network and are available to any computer on the local network.  They can also be made available to remote devices through a web interface.  If the mini server has a single hard drive, it will be very similar to the NAS described above.  The difference becomes apparent when second hard drives are added or second servers are added.  The second hard drive can be used as a third backup.  Files are located on your computer, and then copied to the server.  At specific times the server will run a backup of the first hard drive and duplicate the files on the second hard drive.  This can be done in a way that the second backup drive will not delete files.  In the case of an accidental deletion that goes unnoticed for a while, the first backup process will usually delete the file from the backup; the secondary backup can be set to not delete files so the file can be recovered.  The secondary backup is also not a mapped or mounted drive so is inaccessible from computers on the network.  This makes these files safer as they can’t be accidently deleted by your kid playing on your computer.  A second server can repeat this process and the server can be located in another part of the home/business or even offsite for protection from fire or theft at the fist site.   Offsite backups require a good internet connection.

All of these solutions are local backups; they work on the local computer or network.  The advantage of having your own backup is that it’s yours.  Nobody else has your files; you are not reliant on anyone else to keep your files for you.  If the internet goes down, you still have your files available.  The downside is that no one else has your files so if you don’t do it, no one else will.  Offsite backups add protection against the computer and backup being damaged from fire, Mother Nature or vandalism.  For a good summary of available services head over here  Some of these have free plans but usually only for a very limited amount of space.

All of these cloud-based backups will have to run over your internet connection.  This means that it can take weeks to get a backup run initially, depending on how much you are backing up.  When you are sending files to these services your speed is based on your upload speed not your download speed.  For most connections the upload speed is much slower than what you get for downloading.  If you routinely add a lot of photos or even video, then you better have a good upload speed or it could be days to backup your new files, even after the initial upload.  If you look at one of these, be sure that they meet your needs.  Some won’t allow for backing up an attached device; some will only allow a single computer.  You just have to be sure you get what you need.

Depending on what you have to backup, some combination of the discussed methods is probably what’s right for you.  Having an offsite backup for some files is probably a prudent thing to do, but the cost and speed can be prohibitive if your backup is large.


Changing The Default WordPress Username

WordPress is a great blogging software.  It comes pretty much ready to use right out of the box.  Whether you use it on a hosted site or you have set it up yourself using the scripts.  There is a security problem built in that has been there for some time.  The problem is that the default username is admin.  Since every installation of WordPress uses this username unless the operator of the site does something to change the admin account that leaves only the password between your blog and someone who would like to take over your site.  This article demonstrates the problem.

Since I use a WordPress blog for this site I had been concerned about the default username not being very secure.  I had looked for ways to change it but had not seen any.  When I ran across the article I decided it needed to be changed.  I had considered simply accessing the database the WordPress uses and editing the account.  After a little diffing I found that this was indeed a good way to accomplish the change.  So using PhpMyAdmin I changed the admin user in the wp_users table to something different.   Hackers looking to gain access to a system need to know two pieces of information the username and the password.  If one is known than half the job is done.  This is also why simply using your name for the username is not advisable when security is needed.

Testing Alternatives to an Apple Server

Although I personally use Windows 7, Android and Linux operating systems, I have many friends who use Mac’s, iPads, and iPhones.  Well just like the rest of us, Mac users need to have ways to back up and share their data.  Sure Apple offers solutions such as cloud services or special back-up hard drives i.e. time machines; however, like most other Apple hardware, the alternatives are substantially less expensive.  With this in mind, I tried something new over the weekend.  Using a very old laptop I had lying around, I installed Lubuntu (A light Ubuntu Linux variant) and then added some additional software to configure an “apple” server.  Obviously it’s not a real Apple server but the Mac I used to test it on didn’t know the difference.  I need to try this out with some different versions of the Mac operating system to see if they all work, but if all goes well, I could create a personal cloud drive for Mac users.  This means you could keep your data right in your own home and not pay extra fees to Apple, or have to purchase additional costly Apple devices. The great thing about Linux, in a situation like this, is that the same cloud drive could allow you to share files between the Apple device and other common operating systems.