Friday, May 27, 2011

Drobo FS... a preview

Hey all,

Excuse the absence of posts, I'm in The 'Stan supporting Operation Enduring Freedom with the 552nd Military Police Company based out of Schofield Barracks, HI. The good news is we get back in 48 days! So what warrants a blog post on my Photography Blog, that's a good question...

So one of the gadgets I convinced myself I was gonna get upon returning to the states was building a Windows Home Server Box (using WHS 2011). Picking the individual components was pretty fun, I used my goto site for computers So I had everything picked out, case, motherboard, processor, memory, OS hard drive, Data HDDs (5x 2TB Western Digital Caviar Green), etc. The price was double to triple what I originally planned, but I also upped the ante going from one to two 2TB drives to a whopping 5 2TBs drives :D

Fast forward to two days ago and I get an email from Data Robotics offering a Memorial Day Sale of their Drobo's

What is a Drobo? Click Here to Find Out

Basically it was $100 off the normal price plus a chance to win a 2nd Drobo if you ordered one, or linked to their site.

So I started doing a little research, seeing if a Drobo could replace the idea of a WHS box. After reading that Microsoft was cutting Drive Extender from WHS 2011 (one of the best features of WHS v1) I was pretty bummed, but had options. Either use RAID to ensure no loss of data or use an add-in for WHS 2011 called StableBit Drive Pool, essentially a third party option that put DE back into WHS 2011. Still sounded like a little bit of work for the latter and a ton of work for the former (RAID=headaches galore).

I've actually heard of Drobo and their products for quite some time (atleast a couple of years) after reading a review from a professional photog who uses them to backup his photographs. What he liked (and what attracted me to the idea as well) was it was a pretty simple and an ingenious way to ensure you have your data (in my case photos mostly) is safe. You add drives to the Drobo (the size/brand/etc can vary unlike RAID arrays), you select single or double drive redundancy (if you want your data to survive one or two disk failures at the sacrifice of available space. You can calculate the space available using Drobo's Capacity Calculator (I linked the calculator to their 5 bay Drobo's as that's what I was looking for). I added 5x 2TB drives to the calculator and came up with 7.26TB with single drive redundancy or 5.44TB for dual disk redundancy, I'm leaning toward the latter.

The more and more research I did and reviews I read, the more and more I liked the idea of a Drobo, plus the idea of winning a 2nd one for free and a roughly "one in four chance" sounded awesome. So I did what any gadget obsessed compulsive spender did, order the Drobo FS (5 bay with gigabit Ethernet) from Data Robotics themselves, using the promo code (email me, or comment with your email address and I'll send you the promo code) to get the $100 off and a chance to win two. Opened a new tab, zoomed to Amazon and ordered my 5x 2TB WD Green drives. I then put away my hot-to-the-touch credit card, while my savings account scowled at me.

The best part is, it can work in conjunction with a WHS box, by either mapping the Drobo to the WHS or using the Drobo to back-up the WHS. Maybe once my car is bought, my block leave (post deployment vacations) are over, and other expenditures are done (install iPad into car aka soundmancaraudio on YouTube) I start saving (again) for my WHS build.

So here's to Drobo and I hope it lives upto my expectations. The best part is, it'll be in Hawaii before I get back (care of a friends' mailing address) so I can play with it right away if I choose :D

Thanks for reading and of course, once I get hands on with it, I'll post more :)


Saturday, July 03, 2010

Stairway to Heaven (Haiku Stairs)

Hey all,

I know it's been a while since I posted, but I've had a lot going with work and not so much with Photography :( So the Haiku Stairs, aka the Stairway to Heaven, well a little back story on them and how I first heard of them. It was actually right after I hiked Koko Crater. I was showing the pictures to my boss and she was like "That isn't the Stairway to Heaven is it?" I was like "I don't think so, I'm pretty sure this was Koko Crater. What's the Stairway to Heaven?" So she proceeded to tell me it's a little stairway that's on the East side of the island, you can see it right after you get out of the tunnel on the H3 interstate. Naturally the next time I had some free time I drove that way and caught my first glimpse of it, I immediately thought "I have to climb that!"

So I did a little research, came across a great site Friends of Haiku Stairs, on the first page, "The Haiku Stairs lead 3,922 steps up the Koolau Pali to the 2800-foot summit of Puu Keahiakahoe overlooking Haiku Valley." Holy bigebus, Koko Crater was only 1,205 ft high and 1,106 steps and kicked my butt pretty good. Then I read the tiny fine print above the info, "WARNING: THE HAIKU STAIRS ARE CLOSED." My heart sank a little bit. I did some more web searching, saw some awesome pictures, some videos on YouTube, which just upped the ante on me wanting to do it. I dunno if it being closed made me want to do it more, probably not since I first heard of it in March 2009 and didn't climb it until July 2010. Every now and then I'd find someone who hiked it, since it was a dangerous hike I definitely didn't want to do it alone, and I wanted someone who had done it before to go with me, since you have to sneak in and all. I had some co-workers who wanted to do it over a long weekend, however they picked a day when I said I was shooting a wedding :(

So flash forward to this week, we had some training over on the marine base on Kaneohe, and we're all riding a bus. I look up as we pass the tunnel to catch a glimpse of the elusive stairway when I hear someone say "Man I wanna hike that..." we get to chatting and I was like I'm down, and he's like Let's do it Friday, since we have a four day weekend. I was stoked. I had driven around the neighborhood where you have to park to get it, but I re-googled it to make sure I knew where to park and have directions.

So Friday morning rolls around, I wake up at 5:30am, since we wanted to leave Schofield by 6:00am to make it there before the security guard showed up. It was raining on our side of the island, but we both figured maybe it was only raining here, and we were already awake, let's do it anyway. I packed my Army issued wet weather gear, a camelback, and my camera. Speaking of camera, since I'm deploying in July and had no inkling to take my DSLR with me, I left it with Steph so she could get pictures of the kids while I was gone. I was thinking of buying a camera before deploying to take with me, but when I heard I was going on this hike, I had to have a camera. So Wednesday I picked up the Canon Powershot G11 from Best Buy, a camera that was getting great reviews "near DSLR performance from a compact camera", which is exactly what I wanted since I consider myself a DSLR snob, I didn't want a POS camera that I'd be frustrated with all the time. Anyway back to the hike, so we get to the gate, park the car, try not to attract too much attention and slip through the gate. It was right about 7am.

Our first view of the H3 overpass from inside the gate.

So we start up the access road and neither of us have no real clue where exactly we need to go. Out of respect for the residents who live near the gate, there isn't a definitive guide on where you need to go (I guess this is there to try and cut down on people hiking the stairs). So we're wondering and wondering, there's a couple of forks in the road and we end up at a dead end.

Dead end number one.

Well crap, so we head back to the nearest junction and take it, find another junction pick one way and crap another dead end. So we start heading back to where it split when finally we catch our first view of the stairs...

Well this gets us fired up and we kinda have an idea on where we need to go.

More awesome views along the way.

We finally find the entrance to the stairs after an hour of walking around (I guess this is pretty common).

Thankfully even after wondering around for an hour we still got to the entrance before the security guard. Here's some pictures and videos of the hike... For the videos, turn your speakers down as there is a ton of wind noise, it was a really windy day on an already windy hike...

The H3 interstate

Soon to be the first citizen of Kreplachistan to summit the Haiku Stairs ;)

A view down, I wish I'd gotten more of the actual stairs, but since 1) it was windy and rainy 2) my first time hiking and 3) I didn't want to let go of the railing much I didn't get as many shots as I wanted. Keep in mind these stairs are only about 18" wide...

One of the steepest parts of the stairs

The clouds whipping around the ridgeline just looked awesome

Another scenic spot to take a picture with the H3 tunnel in the background. We were warned it was pretty socked in so we wanted some pictures of us while we could still see

Into the clouds, literally

View from the first landing (1620 ft out of 2800ft, holy crap we're just over halfway...

The next section, yikes...

Me at the first landing

Progress Report

Almost there...

Socked in...

At the top!

I'm trying to smile and look happy but the wind was gusting probably around 40-50mph up here

And back down...

1st Landing on the way down

Back on the ground!

So definitely the hardest, scariest and probably awesome-est thing I've ever done. When we got down the security guard was pretty cool, we chatted and BSed with him for about 15-20 minutes. He said on the weekends on holidays he gets there early and will chase people down the stairs. Yes the stairs are closed, and yes you are trespassing if you decide to hike it anyway. I'm not gonna tell you what to do, but if you do decide to hike it, remember to be respectful of the environment, other hikers, and the security guards if you're instructed to leave. It took us somewhere between an hour and a half to an hour and 45 minutes to summit. My legs were on fire most of the time, and were definitely shaking (muscle failure) on the way down). It took about an hour to get down from the top. The security guard said his fastest summit was 37 minutes and he did Koko Crater in 14:54, yikes.

Afterward we grabbed some lunch in Kaneohe and of course the summit completely cleared up. As we left it was socked back in again. I heard from a friend there's only about 15 days a year where it's clear the whole way up. I didn't mind the cloud cover, mist and wind going up as it kept me pretty cool. I couldn't imagine hiking it on a clear day. After I got back yesterday afternoon I took 3 extra strength Ibuprofen as my back was very sore to the point where I really couldn't walk without looking crippled. Today my back is better, or since my calfs are literally on fire I don't notice my back hurting ;) I can't really walk, I kinda hobble if I need to move. I have weird bruises on my arms, they're sore from when I'd used them to help pull me up to give me legs a break, and using my arms and hands as brakes on the way down. Other than that I feel great (lol yeah right) it was definitely worth it. Koko Crater aint got nothing on Stairway, and Koko Crater was still pretty tough lol. So will I do it again? I dunno lemme see how long it takes to recover ;)

Thanks for reading,

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Will and Megan Huff's Wedding

Hey all,

I'm sure just about everybody who follows this blog is also friends with me on Facebook lol but I thought I'd post some of my favorite pictures from a wedding I shot on Saturday anyways.

Click here to see the entire shoot

Thanks for looking,

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Animoto and Baseball

Well with Baseball Season coming up soon, and football being over :( I decided to play around with Animoto some more since I recently upgraded to their unlimited videos for a year. Anyway I made two quick videos: 2003 Kansas State Baseball and 2009 Hawaii Pacific University Baseball. There's some quirks I'd work out, like the weird crops Animoto likes to pick sometimes, but overall it's a fun new way to show off my pictures :)

2003 Kansas State University Baseball

2009 Hawaii Pacific University Baseball

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Two thumbs up for Garmin!

I know this isn't really Photography related, but I just wanted to post this RAVE I have about Garmin's customer service.

I've been a loyal Garmin customer since the days of the Garmin V. That thing was a beast, no color screen, no touch screen, heck it didn't even connect to the computer via USB, it was a serial connection back then. It didn't even come preloaded with the US Maps, it had Interstates and major highways pre-loaded on the device, but you had to select which areas you wanted detailed data of. And it took forever to upload that data thanks to the serial cable, think 2-3 hours to upload 25MB of maps to the device. Still an awesome GPS.

Anyway I've owned various Garmin GPSs since then, even a few other brands, had the iPhone with it's GPS, but every time I'd compare them to Garmin and my old Garmin V. So in June I purchased a Garmin nuvi 885T, at the time Garmin's best model, you could talk to the device and it would work off of voice commands ie "Navigate to McDonalds" and it'd direct you to the nearest McDs.

Well on vacation in Colorado, I noticed the device was no longer charging. Lucky for me I got the 4 year service plan with Best Buy when I bought the Garmin. I bring it in and Best Buy was like we don't carry this model anymore. Ok no biggie, I have the Service plan, not the Replacement plan, so send it in for service. Didn't even get that far, Best Buy is like no we're gonna give you a brand new different unit today. Well score, that's pretty awesome, no waiting until my 885T gets back from service.

The customer service rep initially got me the 1390T, the downside was none of Garmin's current models carried the voice recognition, I was a little bummed. I guess Garmin discontinued that feature because it was really buggy about working or not. I didn't seem to notice too many problems unless I had a lot of background noise. Anyway so the 1390T looked nice, seemed a lot more responsive and quicker to respond than my 885T. They do the exchange and I take a lap around the store. I head up to car/audio/gps and see the next model up 1490T with it's huge 5" screen for the same price as the 1390T they just switched me to. After a little bit of coaxing the manager agrees to give me the 1490T instead :)

So where does Garmin come into play? Well earlier in November I purchased the lifetime map upgrade for my 885T since it was a nice model I planned on keeping it for a while, little did I know it would be replaced in two months. No biggie. So I get home after giving the 1490T a little test drive and pull up Garmin's website. A little bit of searching later and I found out it's not possible to transfer my lifetime map updates :( Well it's not like I just bought a new unit on the whim, hopefully they'll be able to make an exception.

Eventually I email Garmin, explain the situation and about 2 days later the Rep says, sure sounds good just get me a copy of the receipt via email or fax and we'll be good to go. It takes me a couple days to respond, I couldn't find the receipt so I had to goto Best Buy and get another hard copy. I do, take pictures and email that back to Garmin. Now I'm expecting it to be another couple of days before they get back to me, not a problem at all. Well about an hour later I get a new email alert, I think it's Garmin's automated response, saying yes we got your email, standby before a normal human reads it and replies. But sure enough it was from a real human being, and they had already switched the lifetime maps to my new GPS.

Pretty awesome customer service there, other companies take note. I'm definitely a technology junkie, always looking at the latest and greatest out there, but to have a company that has great customer service, treats you like a human being, is willing to make the exception to keep a customer happy, is one that will stay successful, and more importantly, keep my fickle techno obsessed self loyal to their company. :)

Hooray to Garmin, keep up the awesome work (and quality products too) :D

Aaron Brown