JARVYS, Set It and Forget It Linux Backups

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Wouldn’t it be great if there was a cloud based file backup system that put Linux FIRST?  One that made it so we didn’t have to use FUSE?  One that didn’t put out a Windows client first and the Linux client was an afterthought?  One that you could get installed and configured quickly and easily which would allow you to ‘set it and forget it’?  Me too!

Until a few weeks ago…I wasn’t sure something like that existed.  Then I was approached by the founders of JARVYS, a backup software solution that does just that.  I had a chance to interview Cade Proulx and Matt Connor of JARVYS to understand a bit more about how it works, where it is headed, and why its perfect for those of us who develop on Linux.  I’d like to disclose that JARVYS is a sponsor of this blog.

Q:  Tell us a little bit about yourselves?

A:  Matt has been using and developing with Linux for around 15 years and I’m (Cade) a gamer at heart (MOD creation, Rig building, etc).  We met at Chapman University and began to take our start-up ideas into reality with SSD Nodes, JARVYS and Xerq.io.  We’re active in the venture capital and start-up scene; not only for ourselves, but also helping others to get started.

Q: Where did the idea of JARVYS come from?

A: We have a company named SSD Nodes that provides on-demand datacenter services, specializing in reliable, high performance cloud computing. We provide a massive dynamic platform that allows you to quickly innovate and deploy your applications on a global scale.  With that being said, our customers had a need to do small file level backups with a way to easily restore.

Q:  So is JARVYS only for people who need datacenter level services?

A:  Not at all.  The idea for JARVYS is to provide a quick (you can get installed and backing up in 60 seconds) and easy way for end users to get started with backups.  We wanted to provide a very low barrier for entry on these types of backups and restores…to make it so that people can get to working with what matters to them instead of worrying about backups.  JARVYS will work on servers or desktops…it doesn’t matter.  What matters is that JARVYS gets out of the way and lets you do your work while it continues to back your important stuff up.

Q:  When was JARVYS founded?

A:  We’ve been using the idea and backup solution with most of our customers at SSD Nodes for a long time…but JARVYS as a company and product only came to be in August or September of this year.  It was at that time we really made the code modular and cleaned it up enough to make it presentable.  We’re still in beta right now as we’re introducing some great features like zero-knowledge encryption.

Q:  How did you come up with the name “JARVYS”?

A:  JARVYS is a very popular name in the French language and we thought of JARVYS as a butler of sorts.  It seemed fitting that our software just took care of the backups for you…much in the way a butler would if you had one.

Q:  How many people work on JARVYS at the moment?

A:  We currently have 7 employees and growing.

Q: So what programming language do you use for JARVYS?

A:  Golang mostly.

Q:  Is there an API for end users to build on or a plugin system?

A:  Not yet, but in the future we plan on having a very robust API and plugin framework.  We really want people to build things on top of JARVYS.

Q:  What are your ultimate goals for JARVYS?

A:  We want JARVYS  to make dataloss a thing of the past.  We’ve seen so many customers mess up backups and lose data. There are so many holes with data preservation. There are so many moving parts to a backup such as  the restore, notifications for success and loss.  And of course, a backup system isn’t complete until you’re able to restore your data.  It is our hope that JARVYS takes the difficulty out of the backup for Linux users.

Q:  Let’s say I’m a customer and I install and get started today.  What happens to my data/backup?  Is it encrypted?  

A:  The JARVYS client uses an encrypted SSH tunnel to transmit your data to our servers here.  We’re still in beta right now but ultimately we’re looking at an encrypted storage place for everyone’s data.  We want this to be YOUR data…we want to make it so that you hold the keys to the kingdom and not even JARVYS can see your files or decrypt them.  We’re not there yet but we are currently developing and testing this ‘zero knowledge’ storage system right now.

Q:  Do you have a free plan?  If so, will it always be free?

A:  Yes, we have a free plan.  We feel that with developers and the  Linux community that there should always be a free plan.  It’s important that we contribute and give back because we’re standing on the shoulders of giants.  It just makes sense that if we take, we should give.  So we’ll always have a free plan that can get you started with hassle free backups within 60 seconds.

Q:  What would you say if someone asked “Isn’t this just another Dropbox?”

A:  We’d say that it really isn’t like Dropbox at all.  For example, with Dropbox restores aren’t going to be seamless with a single command like they are with JARVYS.  Dropbox also has a daemon that runs and it uses FUSE on Linux.  JARVYS is cron enabled and only runs when the backup happens.  It’s designed to have a very small footprint.  Restores with JARVYS take less than a few seconds while restoring files with Dropbox will take quite a bit longer.

Q:  How do I keep up to date with JARVYS releases and news?

A:  You can find us on Twitter, Facebook, and Google+.  You can also keep up with JARVYS on our Blog.

Q:  Where can I check out JARVYS?

A:  You can get started using the free plan we mentioned above.  As we said, it’s free and will always be free.  Alternatively, we’re offering a special for Yet Another Linux Blog readers:  20% off, any tier plan for the lifetime of the plan.  It’s a great deal!  To take advantage, simply use the code “linux-blog” at checkout.  Head over to our pricing page to get started.  We hope JARVYS takes the hassle out of your backups and thanks for checking us out!

Ubuntu 12.04, Amahi, and Linux Not Detecting Hard Disks

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It’s been quite a long time since I’ve had this much trouble with Linux detecting a hard drive.  It brought me back to Ye Olde Linux days when 14 floppy disks housed your distribution and more times than not you didn’t have compatible hardware and had to find out via BBS what modem worked with what kernel…sometimes, it was a major pain…and that was the fun in it :)

In today’s installation of Linux…I thought I’d left those days behind.  I was wrong, unfortunately.

I downloaded Ubuntu 12.04 to install so that I could put Amahi on my video/picture/file/tv/movie share Linux machine.  Amahi is pretty much the best program on the face of the planet to use for this purpose…I’d put it up against any ‘samba-like’ distribution of Linux out there and I think it would come out on top.  Anyway, I went to install Ubuntu 12.04 and I immediately hit a problem:  it wasn’t detecting my hard drive.  I got out my notes for when I last installed an operating system on this server and it happened to be the last release of Amahi on Fedora…which was Fedora 14.  In that instance, I had to pass the nodmraid option in order for my hard drive to detect.

Easy enough.  I went into the Ubuntu options for booting.  Chose F6 and then selected nodmraid.  It booted fine and I went to a desktop.  Once there, I clicked the install icon.  Things were looking good until I went to the part of the installer where you choose a hard disk…which didn’t give me any hard disks.  I tried this process again and again…often times putting in other options such as noapic, nolapic and other awesome boot parameters using the F6 portion of the boot prompt.  No joy on any of these tries.  What could it be?

After a few minutes of brainstorming, I realized that Ubuntu wasn’t actually honoring the boot parameter for nodmraid.  Since this was the case, the hard drive wasn’t detecting.  In order to get the hard drive detecting, I should remove the dmraid information from my hard drive and see if this made a difference.  So, here’s how I fixed this problem:

  1. Instead of booting to install Ubuntu, select the option to Try it first
  2. Once there, hit up the dashboard, click on all applications, and search through all 78 until you find Terminal
  3. Once the terminal is up, type sudo su and hit enter.  You’re now root.
  4. type fdisk -l and take note of the letter designation of your hard drive that is having problems detecting (sda in my case).
  5. type dmraid -E -r /dev/sdX where ‘X’ is the letter designation of your hard drive.
  6. Answer yes to the question it asks of if you wish to remove the dmraid information on the drive.
  7. Reboot and Install Ubuntu.  It should now detect.

Not a hard thing to figure out…but it might be for some new users…and I’m almost certain Amahi users will run across this…because many of them are converts from Windows Home Server.  In this case, they’d probably be pretty freaked out having to drop down to a command line and issue commands.  Hopefully, this article will be a handy tool for them to use in order to get Ubuntu and subsequently, Amahi installed on their computer.  Thanks for reading!

Feedly, Chromium , and Google Reader

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How many of you use Google Chrome or Chromium and have more than 10 active feeds in Google Reader?  I’m sure that most of you raised your hand…well, maybe not physically but a mental raising of the hand I suppose.  How about 20+ feeds?  30+?  Is your (virtual) hand still up?  Mine is.

I’m plugged in…maybe too plugged in.  The “mark all items read” button received much use in my RSS reader.  I found myself skipping more than I actually read.  Google reader is awesome, don’t get me wrong, but it is a bit simplistic and plain…which is fine, it does its job well.  I’m informed.  But I often times find myself trying to sift through the cruft that is my various feeds.  I have wordpress design feeds, freelance feeds, Linux feeds, sports feeds, business feeds, inspirational feeds, youtube feeds, feeds about feeds, and feeds feeding those feeds.

Feedly

Feedly, RSS on Steroids

I wanted to get more from my news/RSS.  Enter Feedly.  Feedly is a way that my feeds become VISUAL.  Instead of line by line by line, I’m given tiles and mosaic patchworks in an easy to read format.  I have variety.  I have images.  I have screenshots.  I have thumbnails.  I can see my feeds.  I can see what they’re describing.  I can see what people are blogging about.  I started using Feedly a mere 4 days ago and I have completely caught up on my reading.  Before I started I had over 3000 articles and was many, many days behind on my reading.  I’m completely caught up now with a manageable 200  articles to read.

Does this mean I’m reading thousands of articles with Feedly?  Not by a long shot.  But I’m finding what is important to me faster and thus being much more efficient.  I’m still skipping many articles…but at least now I know WHAT I’m skipping.  I’m not just marking all read so that I can catch up.  Feedly allows me to peruse my feeds in almost a catalog fashion which speeds up my reading times and focuses my attention on the things that catch my eye.

Feedly is free by the way.  I use it with Chromium/Chrom (works with any web browser though, just head over to their website) and you can too.  Install it as a web application in the Chrome web store.  Once installed, synchronize it with your Google Reader account…things you mark as read in Feedly will be marked read in your Google Reader account and vice versa.  I also use it on my Android tablet.  Make sure to check out the settings page in Feedly to configure the right layout and colors for yourself to make things easier to read and fit your workflow.  I guarantee you will find yourself reading more interesting articles…bookmarking links more…and paying attention to what matters to you.

Mozilla Firefox, From Darling to Enemy in One Release

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FirefoxWhat is wrong with everyone in Linux land bagging on Mozilla Firefox and their 5.0 release?

Complaints pretty much have one thing in common:  They claim there isn’t enough ‘new and shiny’ things inside FF5 to warrant a major version.  This is illogical thinking because major version means NOTHING when it comes to usability of software.  I’ve noticed that I can browse and use FF5 just as easily as I could FF4 and FF3 before it…I still type in URL’s and websites display.  My plugins all still work.  It starts up a bit faster and websites seem to load just a bit faster…which is good.  So why all the whining and complaining?

The silliest thing about this is that the same people complaining about Firefox 5 say that Chrome and IE are going to overtake it and that this is the beginning of the end for Mozilla and Firefox.  Poppycock!  Chrome and Chromium have been using Agile programming and the SAME EXACT METHODOLOGY BEHIND releases and version numbers that Firefox is doing now.  So where was the flack for Google and Chromium when they released often and incremented all the way up to version 10 and then version 12??

It is my opinion that the people shouting from the rooftops that Mozilla and Firefox are a sinking ship doomed to fail while using Chrome/Chromium in the background have no clue what Agile Programming (or in Google’s case, Agile-like programming) is or what it sets out to accomplish…and they’re showing how hypocritical they are.  If you’re one of these people, where were you when Chrome and Chromium was ratcheting up their version numbers without noticeable improvements and features?

Sad that Firefox and Mozilla, who championed one of the first fantastic browsers on Linux, has went from Linux Darling to Public Enemy Number One in a single release in some peoples eyes.  Hopefully, people will realize how silly it is and stop complaining?  Well, one can dream right?

Let’s look at the quality of the software when levelling complaints instead of being upset that the version number doesn’t jive with what we think it should.  Thus far, my experience with FF5 has been pretty darn fantastic.  Thanks go out to Mozilla…you’ve done a great iteration of software yet again.

Rethinking Home Servers

Since my first home-built server (a PI 75Mhz behemoth) I’ve used Red Hat based distributions as my home server.  This lasted until around 2002-3 when I moved into a 4 bedroom house with 3 of my Air Force buddies and one of them wanted to learn Linux.

I knew from experience in the mid-nineties that Slackware was probably the most Unix-like distribution out there…I felt at home there quite a bit after learning the *nix ropes on Solaris 2.0.  So we configured a Slackware 8.1 dual processor tower server he was lucky enough to acquire as our home firewall-all-around-great-linux box.  He took his beginning steps there and flourished since our Air Force job already had us jumping around in a VAX/VMS mainframe.  We had many late night hacking sessions attempting to get things to work or compile there.  We also had a multi GB shared hard disk (unheard of at the time!) shared over samba.

After I got moved out, I continued to keep the Slackware box up to date.  I moved onward to Slackware 9.  Samba operated like a champ and Slackware was a great routing system and dhcp server.  Then I discovered ClarkConnect and loved the web interface.  I could do things in half the time!  I could do them over the web from work without SSH tunneling!  All this appealed to me at the time.

I continued to run ClarkConnect from that point on and have continued to all the way up to when it changed to ClearOS this past year.  Indeed, I have ClearOS now as my central server.

The only problem is that I’ve suffered 2 of the most catastrophic losses of files in my samba shares when running ClarkConnect/ClearOS…and I didn’t draw the lines together  on these separate incidents until just recently.

The first loss came when an entire samba share was completely eradicated…13GB of music was just gone.  The second loss happened just the other day when tons of scanned pictures just VANISHED into thin air.  Each time these happened, I was using ClarkConnect/ClearOS.  Each time it happened a few users reported instability in the forums of those distributions.  I am not sure how it could have happened and I was caught completely off guard on the second time…my backups were not yet configured since it was a new server.  The first time it happened…I didn’t know the value of having a good backup routine.  So each time, no backups :(  Lesson learned the hard way but learned nonetheless.

I recall running Slackware on my server and NEVER having the problems I have had with ClarkConnect/ClearOS.  This got me rethinking my home server design.  Servers should be the epitome of stability.  One should be able to migrate from one version of the operating system to the next with few hiccups.  When considering each of these it is very apparent that I should be running Slackware core on my main samba server.

I will be making that transition in the next week or two and moving to a Slackware core based server.  I’m not sure what to use for backups across the network (I usually mirror the drive to an NTFS drive in my Windows based multimedia server) nor backups locally to other hard drives.  If you have any suggestions, I’d really like to hear them.  Also, I’d like to know what readers consider using for a server.  Please vote for your favorite below and drop me a comment letting me know specifics and thanks for your help!

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Get a Link from YALB, Become a Featured Site at Blogbridge.com

I previously blogged about how your website/blog (or one you know of) could be a featured blog for BlogBridge.com. For those of you unfamiliar with what blogbridge is…it’s a program that allows you to manage all your RSS feeds that is cross platform.

This ‘featured’ list is a default list for the “Linux” feed that users can select after installing. If they don’t want to add their own linux feeds and would rather use the “expert feed” built in function, they’ll download the Syndication list I’ve created for blogbridge. Sound like something you would like to be a part of?

The response to my initial post was a bit underwhelming…remember, this could be just a blog you read on a daily basis. If you have a linux website you can’t do without and it has an RSS feed, let me know about it! If you don’t feel like doing that, let the authors of those sites know that they can submit their site. Remember, those I choose will get a direct link from this blog to theirs…which is pretty valuable considering I’m in the top two results in google for search term “linux blog”.

So, if you’d like to be considered or would like a favorite website of yours to be considered, please drop me a comment here with link to the site. I’ll check it out and announce the selections in approximately 2 weeks.