The Tale of the Two NAS Boxes

Wow, what a run this was! I got tired of waiting for the WD MyBook or whatever it was called to be back in stock, so I started looking for better solutions. OpenMediaVault was not really getting things done for me. It seemed to be getting in the way more than helping. I am sure this was all on me, but rather than learn the OMV menu system, I found I was just getting things done via the CLI. So I nuked it.

After spending far too much time reading reviews and watching YouTube videos, on January 31st, I purchased a Synology DS220j NAS and a pair of 4TB Seagate IronWolf hard drives to go in it. The NAS was available for less than retail via the Amazon Warehouse. A few days later, I had the NAS and the drives and set down the road to Frustration Town.

On Feb 28th, I ordered a Synology DS720+ from Andorma and said “Feicfidh mé thart thú!” to Frustration Town. Below are the main posts that I made in my forums about this journey.

TL;DR version: Skip the J series and go right to the 72_+, minimum.

06 Feb 2021 17:14 Yup. I am glad I watched all the YouTube videos and read all the blog posts that I did BEFORE the NAS arrived. I’d be so far back down the learning curve as to be very frustrated right now.
Set up, as in slapping the drives in and getting it basically launched, was easy enough, but understanding all of the different settings in this thing could take you a while to figure it out and get used to it.
I think I have the local user accounts set up and permissioned properly now.
I am pulling down my 753GB of OneDrive data to it now. While that is going on, I am looking at how to best integrate it with Windows. Then I have to look at doing the same with Linux, but that should be easy enough with NFS.
Then I get to figure out how to access the data from remote. That’ll be interesting.

08 Feb 2021 10:47 So, I am making progress on this, but it is a bigger and slower process than I anticipated it would be.
First, copying close to a terabyte of data across the Internet is not the fastest thing in the world. Definitely not helping!
But the number of steps it takes to do things on the NAS itself is also a little boggling.
Maybe I am going about this in the wrong way. Wouldn’t be the first time!
I’ve completely uninstalled OneDrive from my PC, and I have “unlinked” Jenny’s laptop from it, but have not removed anything yet.
I am, basically, moved in. In fact, I mounted my NFS shares on this Linux laptop this morning. This was a test before I do the same on the Plex server.
Honestly, that part has been the easiest process so far!

Late last night, I found a guy’s playlist on YouTube about setting up a Synology NAS for family use. It is 39 videos long! HA! This is NOT a small project. I made it to video #12, I think, last night. He has some interesting ideas, so I will continue on tonight. I am particularly interested in how Jenny will be able to access (INSIDE WINDOWS) stuff that I share with her, like the checking account spreadsheet, etc. As far as I have been able to see, she needs to log into the NAS to see these shared resources. That will NOT be happening.

And I need to ASAP figure out a backup strategy. In order to make shares from the music and video files, I had to move them outside of my /home directory (seems dumb). As a result, I am unable to sync them to OneDrive now, so I am exposed. There are a number of backup providers, but even this will require a research effort. Cost, features, and just who the eff are these guys that I am entrusting with my data are the main bullets.

08 Feb 2021 22:52 Goodness! I managed to get the NFS shares working with absolutely zero issue under Linux Mint (Debian edition) and Raspbian (based on Debian), but I struggled late in the work day to get them to work under Ubuntu 20.04 LTS (Focal Fossa), which is what is on the laptop with the Plex server. I eventually found this link after The Boy went to bed and I could work on this again. Everything started working when I reset the permission bits on the share mount points like this:

sudo chmod -R 755 /nfs/temp-share

The replacement HDHomeRun finally arrived. I stressed it a bit and I think it is working. I’ll have Jenny and Himself test it out for me tomorrow.
The next step on this project is purchasing a Plex Pass subscription so that I can start doing the Live TV DVR thing.

16 Feb 2021 14:24 Wow. This has been…yeah. It is not as easy as unbox it, slap some drives in and pop it on the LAN.
I think I am nearly there, though.

  • A bug was introduced by one of the backup app clients which broke SMB. Synology Support was great to work with. Seriously. I think they had seen it a few times before.
  • Once that was done, I got to grips with the Synology way of interfacing with the device. SMB/mapped drives are good and all, but they really want you using their version of the Dropbox folder, or the OneDrive folder. I actually set it up on my Linux laptop this morning, which I was really shocked at there being a client for.
  • Spent most of the weekend trying to get Jenny’s “file organization” into something approaching manageable. This was just her oft ignore OneDrive data.
  • Next step on that front is to be awake enough after they go to bed to grab what she has on the laptop (250GB M.2 SATA) and add it to the Synology Drive client. She’s pointed out to me that the only thing she really cares about at this point are four folders that she uses for the kid’s homeschooling. These are DO NOT TOUCH items.
  • Late last night, I signed up for my Plex Pass. This enabled the DVR functionality in the Live TV & DVR section. I tried to record an episode of Star Trek (Mudd’s Women) that was going to be airing after I went to bed, but I found a permissions issue this morning. I then recorded an episode of Nature Cat and it looks awesome. OTA DVR!!!! I have it set to record Bugs Bunny off of MeTV. ;-)
  • I’ve also decided to go with Synology C2 as the backup solution. $70 a year for 1TB, which I haven’t quite hit yet. I do not think that I will be backing up the DVR shows. Backup started at 12:30PM yesterday. I am 20% complete now…
  • Once I get Jenny’s files sorted out and show her how to deal with them, the only thing left will be getting the Atomic Pi back online as the torrent box.

Almost there, but this DS220j NAS is super slow when under load. It is, seriously, a bottom of the line device. Getting to something non-ARM is twice the cost, however, so I will deal with this for five years and then we’ll see where things are in the world.

20 Feb 2021 09:23 UGH! When I went to bed, feeling OK, on Thursday night, the backup was at 70%.
Woke up with what I thought was pink eye, but was just some kind of sinus/allergy thing that kept me confined to my bed for the entirety of the day. I mainly listened to podcasts with my eyes closed. Jenny took the opportunity to clean the bejammers out of my office. Sure, it needed it.
In the evening, I was feeling better, at least in my eyes, so I asked her to bring me up my laptop. The fecking thing was dead. It would not boot for anything.
Then I realized what happened. While she was cleaning/vacuuming, she hit the switch on the power strip that the laptop was plugged into. Guess what else is riding that power strip! Emmer effer. It was probably about 98% complete! 
Currently “processing data”. I am hoping it picks up where it left off and doesn’t have to start all over again.

23 Feb 2021 14:12
Hard drives started crackling away again.

I was watching a guy do a NAS to NAS backup last night (exciting life, right?) with 10Gbps connection between the two boxes. 26gibbles of data…36 hours!
And he had a MUCH beefier NAS box than I do. But this should be backing up only the changed files from here on out.
It has been so long that I need to go back to that punch-list I drew up earlier. I think dragging the rest of Jenny’s data over was the next step.

24 Feb 2021 10:39 MUCH better.
I have it set to backup every night at 3AM.

24 Feb 2021 13:17 It’ll be a bit more than 13 minutes today! I am reshuffling 37000 files in her OneDrive…that she doesn’t use.
Copies of files. And copies of copies of files. And copies of copies of copies of files.
The duplicate file report is going to look interesting!

27 Feb 2021 11:48 So, this DS220j is just crushing my spirits.
It is too slow to do the things that I was expecting it to be able to do, which is not a long list or a particularly resource-intensive list.
I think the ARM chip is a lesser model to that found on a Raspberry Pi. I should look it up to be sure. But what is really crushing it is the 512Meg O’RAM.
While it will do the facial recognition magic with the Moments app, it basically locks up the the box for any other usage, including, you know, basic NAS stuff.
List cost is $166. I scored an Amazon Warehouse deal for $112, so not too terrible.
I am looking at the DS720+ now as an eventual replacement.
It is $400 list, though. I think I am going to have to start budgeting for this, and then sell the DS220j on eBay.
Here’s a giant, English nerd telling me that I am right on this.

27 Feb 2021 12:39 So, yeah. Here we go.
The DS220j is basically a Pi3B with half the RAM.

Now, if I was really interested in just having storage available on the network, then the DS220j would be a fine solution. But that isn’t the reason to pony up for Synology, when I am doing just that with a USB2.0 external hard drive plugged into a Pi3B. The point of getting a Synology (or QNAP) is the additional things that can be done with the platform.

I’ve had little issue with finally getting my head around how they want me to do things, which is quite different from how we’ve learned to do things in decades of Windows use. But I get it now and I am almost 100% set up on my side of the house. The issue is migrating someone else’s entirely unorganized stuff to this model. And, again, if this was just so that the files were on the NAS and not on the tiny SATA M.2 in her laptop, that would be fine. But her inability/unwillingness to understand the basics file organization means that GIGs of precious photos will pretty much require the AI organizational skills of that Moments app.

The DS220j has two other short-comings that were not apparent when I was doing my initial research, but have since come to light from the Synology community.

The Moments application on the DS220j is only capable of doing facial recognition. It can’t do object recognition (food, animals, things, etc) or location detection (say from paper photographs that have been scanned in) without reading the location meta data embedded in the file. I’ve not looked, but I think most of her images lack this location meta data, as she is constantly making sure that Location Services are turned off. I am paranoid about a great many things, but she surpasses me in this area. You’d want this location data so that all of the pictures from our roadtrip to Montreal end up in the same place. Or all pictures taken at my parent’s house. Stuff like that. This matches how she stores her photos: by subject or location. The AI is a perfect match for her way of thinking.

Another thing that is lacking on the DS220j is that it does not look like it is going to get the new OS upgrade (DSM 7.0). This is a huge blow to my plans, because in this new release Synology reworked the two currently included and mutually exclusive photo apps, Moments and Photo Station, and merged the best features of both of them into a new app called DS Photo. It supports both anal-retentive file organizers (me) and, well, file slobs (someone else) at the same time. And it allows you to select where your pictures are stored in the directory tree. Currently, Moments will only install in the /{user}/SynologyDrive/Moments/ directory, which makes actually merging photos from multiple users incredibly difficult. Photo Station does allow for this, which means you can point it at /shared/Photos/ and you are done, but it does not have the magic AI. DS Photos will allow you to point at a shared location outside your private Home directory AND has the AI from Moments. That is the goal. That is what sold me on Synology in the first place, and I was lead to believe was possible on the DS220j…but it is not.

Additionally, and I need to further research this, I think the DS720+ is about as small a NAS as I can run a Plex server on. That is just gravy at this point, really. If I can help Herself get a bit more organized and allow her access to her “lost” photos and files (not lost…just unorganized and impossible to quickly locate), then the NAS will be doing its job. If I can run Plex on it as well, so much the better.

28 Feb 2021 15:49 Up until 1:30 this morning sorting/moving/deleting gibbles upon gibbles of data.
Found a favorite new YouTube channel to watch while transferring everything.

I wanted to make sure a major transfer finished before I headed to bed so that the backup would run AOK.
Woke this morning to see that the damned thing choked itself to death about 30 minutes before my eyes opened.
In an attempt to free hardware resources, I’ve removed every app and service that is not directly tied to moving files. Removing the Moments app sped this sucker up by a long shot. Trigger pulled on DS720+ and the RAM upgrade. There is no going back to OneDrive at this point.

I now have my laptop logged into the box as Jenny. From my PC, I am logged in as the admin via Brave, and my own account via Edge. This is making it much quicker to search and destroy duplicate files while moving things where they should be.

Coincidentally and unrelated, Herself called me into the dining room / schoolhouse earlier, saying “I can’t find anything on this laptop.” Funny you should say that, Bun…

28 Feb 2021 17:37 Now that the bits are flowing again, this isn’t too terrible, but, brother, don’t ask this model NAS to do a damn thing more than hold your files.
One thing I am noticing is that via the Drive client, it seems to need to register each file on the host PC. It sets it to “Online” or “Cloud” mode. I would have expected that it would have done this once the shared folder was set up, but this thing is crack-a-lacking through, listing file after file after file.

This is what the client looks like, with each of the shared folders (Team Folders) listed:

And this is the list of files being “synced”:

01 Mar 2021 07:34 Yeah, once I wrapped my brain around how they wanted it done, it was fairly simple. I was hitting the DS220j hardware limitations quicker than I expected, however.
All green this morning. Backup completed successfully and I am running an integrity check on it now.
I am sure that we have loads of duplicate files, but I haven’t looked at that report yet.
Gotta go to work!
I can’t wait for the more powerful box to arrive. I’m thinking about eventually getting two more 4TB drives and installing this original NAS at my sister’s house for an additional off-site backup.

07 Mar 2021 18:43 The new NAS is a damn sight better than the old one. I tried going cheap on the RAM upgrade, but it failed to boot the box. Synology will not give support if a non-Synology DIMM is installed. Their RAM is way overpriced. We are getting the last of the COVID money soon, so…

I am having one odd issue to do with external access. Everything seems to be set up properly on my end, but traceroute is showing that there is something funky going on in Verizon’s network.

The base unit is 2Gibbles O’RAM. I’ve yet to see it go much over 1GB of usage. Plex server is on there and rocking already. I’ve installed the Synology Drive client on Jenny’s laptop. As they use the laptop, it runs in the background setting up the “cloud” instances of all of the files the she doesn’t know that she has on the NAS already. Calin has been digging one of the Synology applications, DS Note, on my iPad. He uses it for doodling. DS Note is like a striped down version of Evernote. I have yet to explore it very deeply, but I think I like it. Last night, not knowing what it really was, Jenny asked me to install it on Calin’s iPad (I picked up a 2017 for him), too. That is a favorable sign. Now to get her sold on it, too. In all, things have been moving along very nicely. I need to get it moved down to the rack in the basement still. That will allow me to plug in the second Ethernet cable and set up the bonded connection. 2Gbps!!

And from there it has just been mostly smooth, uneventful sailing. I am still having weird issues with remote access, but seeing as we are home 99.999% of the time, this is not a pressing concern. Most things work, I am just having issues with reading the duplicate file report.

Just a couple of days ago, I set up the Chat server on the NAS and installed the client on Jenny’s laptop, my PC, my Linux laptop, and my iPhone. Calin is having fun chatting with me in it. 😉 Oh! I also setup a Docker container so that I could use the NAS as an iperf3 server. Super cool.

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