GTA Online Smuggler’s Run

 

Tips for Smuggler’s Run

Smugglers Run DLC

 

 

What is it ?

Smugglar’s is the latest DLC from Rockstar, but I am not here to tell you what you already know, I am here to give you my take on it and  recommendations such as which Hangar to buy, which product to purchase and when, feel free to discuss in the comments below, it is ok to disagree or agree with me 🙂

 

 

Is Hangar or Hanger ?

 

So let’s start off with getting the elephant out of the room with this amusing image. Let’s just hope you don’t catch me out with it ..

 

Hangar vs Hanger

 

 

Which Hangar should you Buy ?

 

Hangar Locations

 

 

There are two main locations to buy hangars at, Fort Zancudo and LSIA (Los Santos international Airport). In the image above, Fort Zancudo is in the top left and LSIA is in the bottom left. You want to buy one at Zancudo even though the LSIA ones are cheaper. The reason been is you get low level access to the Military base. What this means is when you enter the base you no longer get 4 stars for entering since you already have access. Also all the Bunkers are up North, so it makes even more sense to buy at Zancudo, especially if you own the Fort Zancudo Bunker, it’s a no brainer. Getting to your Hangar and vice versa back to your Bunker is a breeze. If you have them at LSIA, you have to keep flying back and forth, but the main reason is for the low level base access which makes it worth while in itself.

 

 

So which Hangar at Fort Zancudo ?

Well this really depends on your cash flow. All Hangars work and look the same inside. The most expensive has a larger door and larger roof to land on to drop crates on, this might make a difference to you. I personally would recommend going with the most expensive because of that. If you are undecided and really don’t want to spend the cash or don’t have the cash, getting the cheapest one or the middle one will do just fine. All the spawns are in the same place, you don’t get better Pegasus spawns at the different hangars.

 

Hangar Locations

 

 

The 3 locations are marked with the red arrows, the most expensive hangar is in the middle of the base and then the other two are smaller ones.; I would probably get the one on the right jus because it is likely to be closer to where the pegasus vehicle would spawn. That been said the the hangar on the left would likely be the least busiest and give you extra time to escape if you needed to. I would still personally choose the middle hangar purely for the location in the base and not necessary because it is the most expensive.

 

 

 

Which product should I collect ?

The missions for every product is basically the same, the difference is the bonus you get after you deliver crates. My suggestion is if you think you going to deliver 50 crate, collect Narcotics, if you think you going to deliver 25 or less crates collect tobacco products. Take a look at the following table you you can decide. Here its the full table someone put together. Because Narcotics is the first product on your table, it is easy to make sure you don’t collect the wrong product. At the end of the day if you collection 50 crates, you can collect Medical, Chemicals or Narcotics, they will all give you the same bonus at 25 crates.

 

Spreadsheet with Smugglers Run calculations

 

If you going to collect less than 25 crates, collect Tobacco, Jewelry or Art. Again pick Art, because it is just underneath Narcotics and you less likely to make a mistake collecting the wrong product.

 

Smugglers Run Desktop

 

BONUS TIP: Make sure you sell any and all other products because you can only keep 50 Crates in our inventory at any one time. When you first collect your setup crates, it will give you 1 crate in two products, if you don’t sell these, and you don’t realize and you click the sell all crates button you will lose out on your bonus. Make sure you have only 1 product and when you sell make sure it says 50/50 crates collected, this is important.

 

50 out 50 Crates

 

 

 

Please go ahead and comment

I would love to hear from you and if I have missed anything, let me know and I will add it.

 

GTA Online Solo Session

SOLO Sessions

 

So there are various strategies for creating a solo session in GTA, this are forever changing as the fun police patch certain methods and new methods are created. Keep an eye on the local forums or the Seven Sins forums.

 

XBOX One SOLO Session using NAT Method

 

This isn’t my video, but this gives you a quick overview how to use the NAT Method with the new XBOX Dashboard. You can use the MTU method for the PS4. This may be patched the future if Rockstar make enough noise or M$ decide to make changes to the dashboard because of the fun police complaining.

 

 

 

The Switch Method (This is my preferred method)

 

I prefer the switch method and this will work with either PS4 or XBOX One. You basically break the network for 10 seconds, this can be done at the router coming into your house using a coax switch or a simple switch you can buy off ebay or Amazon. I break the connection for 10 seconds and boom you alone. The cool thing about this method is, if you in the middle of a mission or in the middle of a sell mission, then if you alone (meaning you don’t have friends in your organization), it will boot everyone out of your session except you and you can continue with your mission uninterrupted if you get it right. Sometimes it will disconnect, but most times if you time it just right, you can continue. The problem with other methods, it normally require you to do something, so doesn’t work if you in a mission. The above NAT method may work if you in a mission, I haven’t tested it, feel free to comment and let me know.

 

Here is a quick diagram I put together for the switch method and some links for the switches below.

So the basic concept or method is that you have some sort of switch in-between your main Firewall Router and your internet network. Most of these switches can be bought for $40 or less, you can even get them around $10. The two switch ethernet switch can be bought off Amazon or eBay for around $5-$20. I will try find one on Amazon for you guys as well as the coax switch if you don’t want to buy or use and internal switch. You only need one of the ports be plugged in, basically it is a switch to switch between two devices, you can leave 1 empty and when you switch it basically just breaks the connection. I have it on my desk where I sit and play with a long cable between the two, when someone enters my session I simply lean over and switch the connection for 10 seconds.

 

Where to Buy

1. Two port Ethernet switch

2. Two Port Coax Switch

3. 16 Port Internal Switch

4. External Router / Firewall 

 

 

Please let any comments and let me know if you think I missed anything, I will add more content as I get it it. Look forward to hearing from you.

 

Thanks

GTA Online Bunker The Best Way to Make Money in the Game (Gunning Running DLC)

 

GTA Online Gun Running

Bunker Money Making Tips for GTA Online

 

Bunker Money Maker in the Game

Without a doubt, the Bunker is one of the best money makers in the game. I get into arguments on the forum about this topic but it is clearly the winner because it is the least grindiest way to make money (passive vs grindy). The other competitors are the Vehicle Warehouse and now the most recent NightClub which compliments the Bunker. The Vehicle warehouse I find it too grindy for myself, but is a good easy and low cost money maker, it is a good money maker and fun if you have never tried it. I am going to tell you how to maximize your money in the Bunker so you can spend more time making money or doing other things.  My discussion will talk about selling a FULL bunker, but I will also reference selling a less than full bunker that you can continue to sell like you normally would if you sell less than 350K or only with only with 1 or 2 vehicles.

 

A couple of points if you like to sell in a full session because you like the rush, then maybe selling a full bunker is not necessarily the best idea if things go wrong. Always remember you can always quit before you deliver the last vehicle and only lose a bit of money. If all your vehicles are destroyed at the same time, then you will lose everything.

Second, this strategy only works if you have a bunker close to Los Santos. If you have a bunker in Paleto Bay or Noth of the Alamo Sea, you going to have to test whether it will work.

 

Third I am going to ramble a little bit, I will talk about selling a full bunker solo, but I will also talk about selling 1 – 2 vehicles as well to cover general selling for the bunker, but my main focus is selling a full bunker solo.

 

I used to hate the bunker when it first came out because of the sell missions. The supply missions were easy and fun, but the sell missions were mostly unpleasant until I saw a pattern. There are basically 5 Sell Missions which are consistent and are broken down into a few categories but are easily identifiable. There are two ways to determine which mission you want.

1. The time it takes to complete the mission is either 15 Minutes or 30 Minutes. You don’t want the 30 Minute missions if you haven’t done all the missions go ahead and try them to see if you like them. Some like the insurgent one with 3 friends is actually a lot of fun and if you have the Anti-Aircraft Trailor with the flak guns, it is a blast, I will talk a bit more about that later.

2. If you see the 0/15 or 0/10, these are the ones you don’t want unless you have 3 friends, but definitely not solo. You can maybe do them solo, but you run the risk of running out of time and you going to spend considerable more time and effort for a little extra reward. Some like the Marshall one can be done solo if the timing is right and on your side, but you literally will have seconds to spare.

3. The main way to tell if you have the right mission is when you have the single drop off missions you will see 1-3 DOTS in the right-hand corner —->GTA Online 3 Dots

 

 

GTA Online 3 Dots Mission

Single Delivery Vehicle Missions

When you do a sell mission, you can either get 1 delivery vehicle, 2 delivery vehicles or 3. This is usually determined by the amount of product you have produced (not what the product is worth when you sell it). So if you have $175K or less, you will always get 1 delivery vehicle, this is a good way to test all the sell missions, just do 1 vehicle at a time. If you have friends, doing the 30-minute missions can be a lot of fun especially the insurgent missions.

Bunker GTA ONLINE

BONUS Tip: If you have the Anti-Aircraft Trailer, you can hook it on the back of the insurgents and have fun, but just be careful because you can destroy the insurgents if you just shooting like crazy. I destroyed a friends insurgent because I was careless and having way too much fun. What I do is drop in on the main road before going to the yellow circle to avoid any accidents. The flak gun is the best attachment as it can take down Hydra’s, but needless to say, if a Hydra comes after you, chances are you done because the trailer can only take 1 hit. The homing missiles run out, so not ideal. If you haven’t done your research, the default guns as seen below, do a good enough job, so don’t worry, call it anyway because it is still fun. But ultimately you will the flak cannon upgrade for the most fun and most impact.

Anti Aircraft Trailer

As a note, you can pull the Anti-Aircraft Trailer with the following Vehicles but comes with a default truck. Just unhitch it and attach it to the back of you insurgent. You can call it via the vehicle menu for quick delivery right next to you.

  • Bobcat XL
  • Bison
  • Sadler
  • Nightshark
  • Half-track
  • APC
  • Insurgent Pick-Up Custom
  • Technical Custom

 

Bunker Sell Missions

The sell missions are generally made up of the following missions

  • Marshall (1-3 Vehicles) – 15/30 Minutes (0-15 dropoffs)
  • Insurgents (1-3 Vehicles) – 15/30 Minutes (0-15 dropoffs)
  • Dune Buggy (1-3 Vehicles) – 15/30 Minutes (0-15 dropoffs)
  • Insurgents (1-3 Vehicles) – 15 Minutes (1 drop off per vehicle)
  • Phantom Wedge (1-2 Vehicles) – 15 Minutes (1 drop off per vehicle)

 

 

Vehicle Numbers

So depending on how you want to sell, you can get 1-3 vehicles. If you have under $175K, you will get a single vehicle, if you have under $350K, you will get 2 Vehicles and anything above 350K of a product will generally give you 3 vehicles except the Phantom Wedge Mission which is 2 Phantom Wedges. A full bunker will always be 2 or 3 vehicles or more, so you definitely can’t handle some of the missions solo and even with friends some of them like the dune buggy is questionable in 15 minutes, but the game designed for you to fail and lose your money. 15 minutes to deliver plus deal with interference from other players are more than likely to not end well. Avoid the dune buggy mission, it is garbage.

Strategy

Okay here is the strategy to maximize your money, you want to avoid the first 3 missions. So how do you do this ? The easiest way is if you playing with friends, you simply go back to story mode and rejoin your friend’s session (This is the easiest and quickest). I will talk a little bit about solo sessions later. If you not playing with friends, then just switch sessions until you in another session. So what I mean by this is, if you get one of the 3 missions that are 15 or 30 minutes. You click on the SELL STOCK button and you end up outside your bunker facing either the Marshall’s, Insurgents or Dune Buggies that are the 15 or 30-minute missions or says 0/10 or 0/15 drop off’s, then simply switch your session and start another. You can also join a Crew session even if you don’t have any crew online, it will still join a session, might be quicker for some of you.

The Best way to identify the missions you need are making sure it doesn’t say 0/10 or 0/15 and it has 2 or 3 dots in the corner and are 15 minute missions.

 

 

I am talking about when you trying to sell a full or close to a full bunker. If you only have $175K or possibly two vehicles, you might want to proceed anyway, if you playing with friends why not. This means you either going to deliver 3 Insurgent Drop off vehicles or 2 Phantom Wedges. If you are selling a full Bunker  I suggest NOT doing this in a full lobby. If you want to try to get that awesome bonus feel free. Selling the full amount will get you $1,050,000 to LS. The bonus will be $10,500 per player however the risks are higher and you could lose everything. That being said if you want to try to get that extra bonus and things go south, quit your game before all the vehicles are destroyed and you should only lose 20-30K, no big deal.

 

The first is the easiest and that is when the 2 Phantom Wedges appear. You will have either of a couple endpoints to deliver both of these. When you deliver the first one, call up the Buzzard/Havok and fly back to the start point and deliver the second one to the exact same location. Sometimes the endpoint will be at the LS Airport in the far corner. When that happens your Buzzard will spawn far away. So you can call an aircraft or what I do is grab a cop car and drive to the HANGAR where the Titan normally spawns at and use the Titan to fly back to my bunker which is fun. The second mission you want to consider is the Insurgent. You will have 3 Insurgents and a 15-minute timer. Make sure it is the 15-minute timer!

 

This one requires some decent driving and flying skills but it is doable. Each one of these will go to a different location. I strongly suggest that you hop into one of the Insurgents and if the delivery location is fairly close, hit the road immediately. If it seems like it is really far, like near the airport or the docks, do that one last because you will need to make a return trip for the other two and it’s wasted time. With the long haul one being the final, you will not have to make a lengthy return trip. This one requires decent driving and flying skills. I generally have 2 – 3 minutes to spare when you delivering 3 vehicles, so as long as no one is messing with you or you don’t get the vehicle stuck, it’s easily doable and you not distracted by other things, stay focused  as your time is limited.

 

 

Bonus Tip: Oh yeah! One other word of caution: If you have more than 50% of your stock full, you do run the risk of your bunker being raided. So make sure to keep that in mind when attempting to fill that bunker up. You have about 10 hours real time before a raid kicks in, so if you go over 500K, make sure you sell that day, if you come back the next day and decide to do a heist or something else, you risk your bunker getting raided EVEN if you have the security upgrades. I lost 500K because I wasn’t paying attention. I had a full bunker and they took half my stock.

 

 

Selling in Blaine or in Los Santos?

Well, you going to want to sell Los Santos because you will get maximum payout, no point in selling local and making less money, just don’t do it.

Solo Sessions

See my post about solo sessions.

AFK in your Bunker?

You can AFK in your Bunker if you have the Security upgrade. The security cameras are right next to your computer in the Bunker. Simply watch the security feed, you can either plug in your controller or turn off your controller, you don’t need to keep your controller on to be AFK. If you opted not to buy the security upgrade, you can AFK in any of your apartments by watching TV or watching TV in your Office. Just sit down on the couch, turn on the TV and watch TV, then turn off your controller. For XBOX Owners, there is a new IDLE setting on your XB Dashboard which will kick you if idle, you should be able to find it on Settings, preferences, Idle Settings, disable this to avoid being kicked.

Which Upgrades to Buy?

I highly recommend you get all 3 upgrades asap.

  • The Equipment upgrades will help  your supplies last longer
  • Staff upgrades will allow your staff to produce more product faster
  • Security upgrades will lessen the risk of you getting raided, but more importantly, it will allow you to AFK in your Bunker, so you don’t have to leave and come back. All 3 upgrades are worth getting and will pay for themselves, so don’t worry, your bunker will basically pay for everything you could ever want or need in the game.

 

 

To Buy or Steal Supplies?

Once you have upgraded all your equipment, you should only buy supplies and use your time with IE (Import/Export) or doing missions or heists. The Bunker business is passive income, so basically as long as you online, you will be making money. If you stealing supplies you are basically throwing money out of the window and instead of earning money on top of your bunker, you are stealing supplies instead. Rather put this time to good use and be earning and let the supplies come in on its own. It takes exactly 9 minutes for supplies to be delivered, I found it is sometimes beneficial to wait for the supplies to be delivered before continuing with other activities. I have noticed recently that certain activities, heists for instance, I come back and my supplies haven’t been delivered. I think R* tweaked it to reduce the amount of product to be delivered so you intentionally lose money.

 

What I can confirm works for sure, is if you doing a sell, your supplies WILL be delivered during the sell, so what I normally do is buy supplies just before I do a sell, that way, my supplies are full by the time I am done and I can continue without waiting 9 minutes.

 

Don’t buy supplies if you have not upgraded your equipment or staff, as you will take a loss, it only becomes worthwhile to buy supplies when your equipment and staff are running efficiently, else continue to steal until you have upgraded. If you want you can continue to steal, but this is not how you run a passive business and you wasting more time than it is worth.

 

 

Bunker Maintenance Fees

Bonus Tip: Avoid the $9400 Bunker maintenance fees and now the $9000 facility fees by switching sessions every 40-48 minutes real time. If you switch sessions it will reset your time and you won’t get charged. You can also elect to just pay the fees and sell a Baller to cover your fees. Also if you are AFK’ing in your Bunker, before you become a CEO again, switch sessions, because as soon as you become a CEO or MC again and you have afk’ed for longer than 48 minutes, you will be charged the $9400 fee once you become a CEO.

 

Police Raids

If you purchase the Security upgrades, RAIDS will still happen but less frequent. The main way to avoid any raids is to make sure you sell after you go over 500K. Anytime you go over 500K your risk of getting raided increases. If you don’t leave your bunker then the chances of you getting raided is very unlikely, I have yet to be raided while I am in my bunker. What I normally do is set my spawning point in the bunker so we I log in to GTA, the first thing I do is buy supplies and check my stock levels. If I am between 600-700K, then you can sell. If you planning on playing something else like Missions, Heists, Smugglers Run and your stock is over 500K, sell your stock first even if it is only 500K, this way you won’t get raided. There is nothing worse than Failstar taking your hard earned product because you off enjoying something else in the game to come back to a RAID. Once a raid has started, you have already lost and there is no way to recover your money once a RAID has kicked in.

 

Saving Money on Supplies (Trick)

Fill the supply bar on your bunker or MC Club business, or both. then wait for production to take literally, a sliver out of your otherwise full supply bar.

Buy Supplies for 15k and then use an open heist, to teleport back to your apartment. Once there, you can start a Simeon contact mission (Blow Up 1 comes to mind) and it will 9 times out of 10, start while you’re still in the apt. just sit down and click the tv on and you won’t be kicked for AFK.

In about two hours it will consume a full supply bar making products and use all your supplies, you can time it but it is about 2 – 2.5hours.

You can then quit the mission (or complete it for an extra 18K, Blow up 1, you just need Buzzard and destroy all the cars in the parking lot and fly back to the garage) and after a while those supplies you ordered will show up, but they will fill your bar the entire way. you just got about a full bar of supplies for 15k.

BONUS TIP: Get a coke spot close to your bunker and do both at the same time. you can call in supplies at the paleto bay coke spot, and at your farmhouse bunker for example well before any calls to say they have been delivered. Then when you get online both are nice and full and you start your session with two sales at 1.4 mill

Video: Shows how easy it is selling a full bunker solo (3 Insurgents)

 

 

Video: Shows selling a full bunker with 2 Phantom Wedges (Best possible mission)

Please go ahead and comment

I would love to hear from you and if I have missed anything, let me know and I will add it.

A Scottish Sweetie

Tablet is a very rich, very sugar traditional Scottish sweet. Made from butter, condensed milk and sugar, this crumbly fudge-like candy does not win any awards for it’s health inducing properties; it does, however, sweep the board when it comes to ecstatic groan-inducing.

Before I go any further I must tell you that it should be D writing this. He and he alone has spent the past few weeks perfecting his tablet making skills. It hasn’t been an easy journey, tablet is notoriously difficult to make and many baking trays lost their lives in this quest. The sacrifices have most definitely been worth it though, for sitting next to me this very moment is a chunk of the tablet, no bigger than a matchbox. It’s creamy, it’s sweet, it’s slightly crumbly and, oh me oh my, it is absolutely divine.

An enormous thanks to Alice for sharing her recipe with D and for enduring all of his break time tablet-question sessions. 🙂

Alice’s Tablet

2lbs caster sugar

1/4lb butter

1 cup of whole milk

Tin of condensed milk

Teaspoon vanilla essence

* Remove all children, pets and clumsy people from the room. They tend not to mix well with vats of boiling sugar.
* In a heavy-based pan (and wearing rubber gloves) slowly melt sugar, milk and butter.
* Once it comes to the boil add the condensed milk.
* Slowly bring to the boil again, stirring constantly.
* Still stirring carefully, boil for 15 minutes or until mixture darkens to a butterscotch colour.
* To test if the mixture has boiled for long enough drop a teaspoon full into a glass of cold water. If it’s ready it will form a ball.
* Remove from heat and add vanilla essence.
* Beat until your arm nearly falls off and the mixture has thickened to a very thick custard-like state (approx. 15 mins).
* Pour into a greased tin and cool.
* Cut into squares. Store in an airtight container.



Please go ahead and leave me feedback

I would love to hear from you and if I have missed anything, let me know and I will add it. I would appreciate you linking back to our blog http://geekyfrog.com if you found any of these articles useful and please let us know where we could improve or add additional content on a specific subject.

Thank You


Setting up a Home NAS / File Server

Build a Home NAS

Scope of this Article (NAS)

 

This article will cover how to create a NAS Server for your home. I am going to talk about several ways to do this and how to go about configuring a NAS with Linux on a PC. If you would like to see certain points covered, just let me know in the comments section. I am not going to cover the most efficient way to create a NAS, but what works for me. My main reasons are 1. Duplicate my data so it is safe 2. Not use any propriety hardware like RAID Controllers which could fail and cause data loss 3. Cost – Keep it at a reasonable cost

 

The two topics I will cover are

  • Setting up a Linux NAS Server
  • Buying a NAS in a Box Solution.

 

There are many choices of Home NAS’s out there today which you could consider depending on what you looking for. One of the common solutions and well known is the Buffalo NAS Solution such as the Buffalo Link Station 210 .This is a easy solution in a box. If you looking for a no fuss solution, then take a look at the Buffalo Series, they have been around for a long time. There are various models and the price has come down quite a bit than when they first launched. They start around $150 – $200 without hard drives and some of them include hard disks, so look out for that.

 

Buffalo NAS in a Box

Buffalo NAS In a Box ModelsBuffalo NAS In a BOX

The more expensive version can be found here TeraStation 1400 4-Drive 8 TB Desktop for Home Office which does include hard disks and is an all around solution. If you looking for simple home NAS management, then a NAS In a box is for you. My only issue with these types of devices is your data is been managed by a NAS Solution and you don’t really have a lot of control of it. Sure it comes with some nice neat cool features like Raid 1 & 5 or whatever the latest RAID  fad is and overall this is fine. For me I like to be in control of my data. Another nice thing about this NAS in a BOX is it has RAID 5 type technologies, what this essentially means in layman’s terms is you get a bigger bang for your buck, hence you get more space, since it creates a RAID across the disks.

 

Product Highlights

Some of the features you get with these units are pretty cool. As I already mentioned the different RAIDS for either redundancy / performance or more disk space since you raiding across multiple disks. It is worth while reading up on RAID levels that you can make an educated decisions. Here is a quick comparison with RAID 5 vs 10. Personally I would recommend using RAID5 unless you need the performance else consider RAID 6 or 10 depending on what your unit supports.

 

  • Ideal for small businesses, home offices, and power users
  • Hot-swap SATA hard drives
  • RAID 0/1/5/10/JBOD (Individual Disks)
  • Hot-spare
  • 1.2 GHz dual-issue ARM processor, 512 MB DDR3
  • USB 2.0 port with accessory support
  • Active Directory integration
  • Disk quota support
  • Scheduled or real-time replication to other TeraStation devices
  • 10 free licenses of NovaBACKUP Business Essentials v14

 

QNAP Nas System

 

Another brand I can recommend is the QNAP Series, I have a friend who swears by them and has used them for over 5 years. One of the models is the  QNAP TS-453A 4-Bay Professional-Grade Network Attached Storage, Supports 4K Playback which is one of the more recent models.

QNAP NAS In a Box

 

== Product Highlights ==

  • NAS and iSCSI-SAN unified storage solution for server virtualization
  • Supports VMware, Citrix, and Microsoft Hyper-V and advanced virtualization features
  • AES-NI hardware-accelerated encryption for efficient cryptographic performance up to 412 MB/s
  • Supports hardware decoding and transcode 4K (H.264) videos on-the-fly or offline
  • Dual HDMI outputs for switching between mirroring and extended desktop options
  • Supports the Linux OS with direct output via HDMI
  • Equipped with 24-bit digital to analog converter (DAC) for amplifier and clear audio

 

 

Building your own NAS System

 

The HOME NAS I wanted to talk about meet some relatively simple objectives, if these objectives are for you, please read on. I am choosing Flexibility over HIGH Performance and data security without the fuss as time goes by

  • Fairly simple to setup and maintain
  • Easy to recover from a failure
  • Easy to upgrade disks to larger disks without impacting the NAS or having to try recreate a logical volume.
  • Keep old disks as backups should you have a complete failure or mishap
  • Raid 1 type redundancy (more costly)
  • Encrypted Disks. I think now days everything should be encrypted, this has added complexity and pro’s and con’s. If you are keeping sensitive information, tax forms, sensitive photo’s etc, you should be seriously considering encryption. If someone breaks in and steals your computer or NAS, you want to make sure it is safe. Most thieves typically won’t care about data, but depending on your circumstances, they might.

What I was not so much concerned about although would of been a nice to have

  • High Performance
  • Saving disk space or having large capacity when using RAID 5.

 

Negative side of RAID Controllers in the home environment

 

What I wanted to stay away from was a situation where I lost my data either due to a disk failure or unable to replace the hardware due to age such as a raid controller. In a RAID 5 environment your data is spread across 3 disks or more and losing one of those disks without a proper controller would mean data loss and complicate things generally. Now days it is mostly hardware that does this so you don’t have to worry.

Raid controllers are great when they work, but if you unable to replace them, you may have no data which will be a disaster if you rely on your NAS.

Take for example your RAID controller works fine and before you know it, 5 years has passed. The chances of you getting the same type of controller are slim to none in this fast moving hardware world.

I also want to be in control of my data and how it is backed up, accessed, encrypted, see it, use it and copy it if you needed to recover a file, typically what you would expect from a file server.

 

Building your NAS out of PC components

 

== Hardware Requirements ==

  • Suitable Server/PC with a basic configuration (We will talk a bit about the components)
  • A Case with Hard Disk Expansion and lots of cooling to keep your disks cool
  • A decent PSU (Power Supply Unit) 600 Watts and Above
  • A motherboard with 4-6 SATA connections or more, at minimum I would get at least 4 SATA Connections
  • A minimum of 2 Hard disks to start with (you probably want to build it up to 4 disks or more), 1-2TB and up. I would recommend a minimum of 2 x 2TB Disks + 1 Disk for the Boot disk. My preference is Seagate, but you can choose what you like.

 

Here my recommendations, you can choose what you like. Remember we trying to keep this cheap, it’s simply a file server and not your main PC.

 

Building a PC vs Buying a preconfigured PC ?

 

It is up to you if you want to build your own PC or build it from scratch buying components. Many local stores will build you want to your specs and you can tell them what you want in it. I have build computers in the past, but have no interest in trying to get everything to work, I would either buy a preconfigured computer (just make sure it has the 6 hard disk bays) and the motherboard with 6 SATA connections or more and have a local computer store build it for you. You can provide a list of parts you want them to use and have them build it to your spec, that way they will make sure it works and you take no risk in destroying a part. That been said, if you enjoy tinkering with computers and like building computers, here are some components you use. Do your research and buy the ones that your comfortable with and are within your budget. You should be able to build a decent computer for under $500.

 

Computer Case

Take a look at the Antec line of cases, they have some really inexpensive cases and some nice looking ones, here is one I bought many years ago, but there are many different types on the market. I like this one for the look and for the fact it can take at least 6 Hard Disks. I currently keep 5 Disks in Total (4 Data Disks and 1 Boot Disk).

  • A decent case for cooling your hard disks. I recommend the Antec 900 that can handle many 9 hard disks and has 7 fans for cooling. This is a really cool and inexpensive case. The 7 fans keep the hard drives as cool as anything. The fans also have a speed control, so you can make the hard disks super cool, definitely consider it.

 

You can get some cases for as low as $25 US and at the end of the day, they just going to serve your disks, so I wouldn’t go too crazy on the cost and look if you can avoid it. Get one with man bays and can take 3-4 fans, because you going to want to keep your disks cool. As a note, the more fans you have the more likely the case will collect dust, just an fyi

 

Antec Nine Hundred Black Steel Computer Case

 

Motherboard

I am a big fan of ASUS motherboards, but now days you can’t go wrong with the various brands out there. Look for one with 6 SATA connections, you don’t have to worry about the other fancy video connections etc. To reduce cost, just board one with all you need on a single board, Network Connections, WIFI if you want (I would still recommend a hard wired connection for a File Server.

 

ASUS ROG STRIX B250F GAMING

 

Hard Disks

As I already mentioned I am a fan of SEAGATE Hard Disks .. I have a low failure rate. A lot of people swear by Western Digital, so buy the brand you comfortable with. Here is an example for the Seagate

 

I recommend you look at either the 4TB or 8TB Disks. Try to get a disk with 5900RPMS and try stay away from the 7200 RPMS unless you getting the 8TB Disk.

Seagate Barracuda 4TB ST5000DM000                     Seagate Archive HDD 8TB SAT         Western Digital 4Tb SATA 6.0Gb/s 5400 RPM

               

For your Internal disk you can just get the cheapest smaller disk, either a 1TB, 2TB or even a SSD, just make sure you can run SSD Disks and Regular hard disks on the same motherboard

== Software Requirements ==

# Mint Linux (Current version) and up or any recent release 18.x etc
# Samba which should come preinstalled, but you may need to install it separately
# Truecrypt if you need or want encryption for your data. [http://www.truecrypt.org Truecrypt]. I will talk about Truecrypt in a bit and how the developers tried to kill it off.

== Setting up your NAS ==

# Install your preferred version of Linux
# Install SSH (apt-get install ssh) or just load up the software manager and install the feature software packs. Mint does a good job at allowing you to search and install packages with ease now.
# Install [[Truecrypt]]. You will need to download this 
# Verify all your disks are setup by going to System -> Administration -> Disk Utility / Gparted. You should see 3 Disks, 1 Boot disk and 2 Data disks.

 

 

Gparted Overview

Truecrypt

 

Let;s talk a little bit about Truecrypt, it is really a great piece of software and make no mistake, you can and should still use it. If you do research you going to see a whole bunch of conflicting messages. I think what happened is the government was forcing the developers to create a back door which they refused so they tried to kill it off. That been said, it is worth while reading this page

https://www.grc.com/misc/truecrypt/truecrypt.htm

Gibson Research is a well known name when it comes to security and if you were like me in the old days used them to scan your PC for vulnerabilities. This is the final resting home of Truecrypt and you can safely download the last releases. Make sure you download the 7.1a version and not any later version which will contain warnings in them. 7.1a is the version you want.

TrueCrypt Encryption Software

 

 

 

<!––nextpage––>

True crypt download

For Linux you can download it here.

Linux 64 Bit: truecrypt-7.1a-linux-console-x64.tar.gz

Linux 32 Bit: truecrypt-7.1a-linux-console-x86.tar.gz

Configuring your Disks

  • For each physical disk, create a file system on it such as /dev/sdc1, /dev/sda1. You can choose what ever file system you want, I chose ext3 or your can use ext4. This takes about 30 mins or so for a 2TB disk.
  • Once you have the file systems created, you can choose to encrypt the file systems or not. I am going to walk you through the process at a high level on how to encrypt the disks (I may create a separate Wiki for this). But it is really no different than creating a Linux file system perspective.
  • TrueCrypt comes with a gui now, so encrypting devices is fairly straight forward, here is a quick command line tutorial which does the same thing
  • Encrypt the entire disk, but you can also choose to create hidden volumes instead, but I recommend a full disk encryption as it is easier to manage

Once you have encrypted your volumes, you can just mount them with a simple script (I will provide you with my VERY simple script 🙂 ) or you can just  load the gui, but this is more of a pain if you have multiple file systems, it’s ok with one file system, but in my case I have 4 disks with 4 encrypted file systems on them.

Once you have the file systems mounted, you should have something like this

# df -h

Filesystem              Size  Used Avail Use% Mounted on

udev                    704M   12K  704M   1% /dev

tmpfs                   144M  1.4M  143M   1% /run

/dev/dm-0               457G  7.3G  427G   2% /

none                    4.0K     0  4.0K   0% /sys/fs/cgroup

none                    5.0M     0  5.0M   0% /run/lock

none                    720M   76K  720M   1% /run/shm

none                    100M   32K  100M   1% /run/user

/dev/sde1               236M   85M  140M  38% /boot

/dev/mapper/truecrypt1  3.6T  1.9T  1.6T  55% /fs2

/dev/mapper/truecrypt2  3.6T  1.9T  1.6T  55% /fs3

/dev/mapper/truecrypt3  1.8T  1.4T  365G  80% /fs4

/dev/mapper/truecrypt4  1.8T  1.4T  365G  80% /fs5

 

As you can see I have 4 File Systems, I have 2 x 4TB Disks and 2 x 2TB Disks in my system.  The nice thing is if I lose any 1 disk, it won’t impact me in anyway. If I lose both of my disks (either the 2TB or the 2 4TB) I am hooped, but the likely hood of that is low.

 

File System Mounting Script

I have a  very simple script which I run after I boot up my machine. I think I read there is a way to load a key file but I kind of think this defeats the purpose if someone else can potentially mount the disks. Not sure, feel free to comment. I like to manually mount my disks and enter in the passwords, makes it feel more secure. The downside is if I ever forget the password (I am getting old), I will lose everything.

#!/bin/bash -x

df | grep fs2
if [ “$?” -ne “0” ]
then
truecrypt /dev/sda /fs2
fi

df | grep fs3
if [ “$?” -ne “0” ]
then
truecrypt /dev/sdb /fs3
fi

df | grep fs4
if [ “$?” -ne “0” ]
then
truecrypt /dev/sdc1 /fs4
fi

df | grep fs5
if [ “$?” -ne “0” ]
then
truecrypt /dev/sdd1 /fs5
fi

Disk Replication / Rsync Disks

In order to keep your disks in sync, put a rsync script in cron which syncs your file systems

# m h dom mon dow command

00 01 * * * /fs2/rsync.sh

Replication Script (rsync.sh)

#!/bin/bash -x

rsync -a -v –delete /fs2/ /fs3 rsync -a -v –delete /fs4/ /fs5

Samba / File sharing

Once you have your disks up and running, you now need to setup samba.

  • Edit /etc/samba/smb.conf and add your shares.
  • Restart Samba /etc/init.d/samba restart
  • Try connecting from your PC to your NAS Server IP and your share name.

 

SAMBA.CONF

# more /etc/samba/smb.conf
[global]
workgroup = MYGROUP
server string = VMS Server
hosts allow = 192.168.2., 192.168.1.
; printcap name = /etc/printcap
load printers = yes
printing = lprng
; guest account = smbuser
log file = /var/log/samba/%m.log
;max log size = 0
security = user
encrypt passwords = true
smb passwd file = /etc/samba/smbpasswd
socket options = TCP_NODELAY SO_RCVBUF=8192 SO_SNDBUF=8192
dns proxy = no
log level = 2
debug level = 2
unix extensions = No
spnego = no
stream support = no
ea support = no
darwin_sreams:brlm = no

[Public]
path = /fs2/Folder
writable = yes
valid users = root,smbuser,[your username]
browseable = yes
public = yes

 

[fs2]
path = /fs2
public = yes
only guest = no
writable = yes
valid users = [your username], root
browseable = yes
public = yes

 

 

[fs4]
path = /fs4
public = no
only guest = no
writable = yes
valid users = [your username], root
browseable = no

[homes]
comment = Home Directories
browseable = no
writable = yes
create mask = 0700
directory mask = 0700

 

 

Please comment below and let me know what you think of this article and if there is anything I could add to improve it.

 

Thank you

Raid 5 vs Raid 10 Comparison Chart

RAID 5 vs. RAID 10

A RAID (redundant array of independent disks) combines multiple physical drives into one virtual storage device that offers more storage and, in most cases, fault tolerance so that data can be recovered even if one of the physical disks fails.

RAID configurations are organized into levels such as RAID 0, RAID 1, RAID 5, RAID 6 and RAID 10. RAID levels 0 through 6 are called standard levels. The most common RAID configurations are RAID 0 (striping, where data is split into blocks stored across different physical disks), RAID 1 (mirroring, where multiple copies of data are stored on separate disks for redundancy), RAID 5 (distributed parity, which includes striping plus storing parity information for error recovery), and RAID 6 (dual parity).

This comparison looks at RAID 5 and RAID 10 in detail

Comparison chart

Raid Comparison 5 vs 10

How I’d Hack Your Weak Passwords

How I’d Hack Your Weak Passwords

Internet standards expert, CEO of web company iFusion Labs, and blogger John Pozadzides knows a thing or two about password security—and he knows exactly how he’d hack the weak passwords you use all over the internet.
Note: This isn’t intended as a guide to hacking *other people’s* weak passwords. Instead, the aim is to help you better understand the security of your own passwords and how to bolster that security.
If you invited me to try and crack your password, you know the one that you use over and over for like every web page you visit, how many guesses would it take before I got it?
Let’s see… here is my top 10 list. I can obtain most of this information much easier than you think, then I might just be able to get into your e-mail, computer, or online banking. After all, if I get into one I’ll probably get into all of them.

 

  1. Your partner, child, or pet’s name, possibly followed by a 0 or 1 (because they’re always making you use a number, aren’t they?)
  2. The last 4 digits of your social security number.
  3. 123 or 1234 or 123456.
  4. “password”
  5. Your city, or college, football team name.
  6. Date of birth – yours, your partner’s or your child’s.
  7. “god”
  8. “letmein”
  9. “money”
  10. “love”

 

Statistically speaking that should probably cover about 20% of you. But don’t worry. If I didn’t get it yet it will probably only take a few more minutes before I do…
Hackers, and I’m not talking about the ethical kind, have developed a whole range of tools to get at your personal data. And the main impediment standing between your information remaining safe, or leaking out, is the password you choose. (Ironically, the best protection people have is usually the one they take least seriously.)
One of the simplest ways to gain access to your information is through the use of a Brute Force Attack. This is accomplished when a hacker uses a specially written piece of software to attempt to log into a site using your credentials. Insecure.org has a list of the Top 10 FREE Password Crackers right here.
So, how would one use this process to actually breach your personal security? Simple. Follow my logic:

 

  • You probably use the same password for lots of stuff right?
  • Some sites you access such as your Bank or work VPN probably have pretty decent security, so I’m not going to attack them.
  • However, other sites like the Hallmark e-mail greeting cards site, an online forum you frequent, or an e-commerce site you’ve shopped at might not be as well prepared. So those are the ones I’d work on.
  • So, all we have to do now is unleash Brutus, wwwhack, or THC Hydra on their server with instructions to try say 10,000 (or 100,000 – whatever makes you happy) different usernames and passwords as fast as possible.
  • Once we’ve got several login+password pairings we can then go back and test them on targeted sites.
  • But wait… How do I know which bank you use and what your login ID is for the sites you frequent? All those cookies are simply stored, unencrypted and nicely named, in your Web browser’s cache. (Read this post to remedy that problem.)

 

And how fast could this be done? Well, that depends on three main things, the length and complexity of your password, the speed of the hacker’s computer, and the speed of the hacker’s Internet connection.
Assuming the hacker has a reasonably fast connection and PC here is an estimate of the amount of time it would take to generate every possible combination of passwords for a given number of characters. After generating the list it’s just a matter of time before the computer runs through all the possibilities – or gets shut down trying.
Pay particular attention to the difference between using only lowercase characters and using all possible characters (uppercase, lowercase, and special characters – like @#$%^&*). Adding just one capital letter and one asterisk would change the processing time for an 8 character password from 2.4 days to 2.1 centuries.

How I’d Hack Your Weak Passwords

 

Remember, these are just for an average computer, and these assume you aren’t using any word in the dictionary. If Google put their computer to work on it they’d finish about 1,000 times faster.
Now, I could go on for hours and hours more about all sorts of ways to compromise your security and generally make your life miserable – but 95% of those methods begin with compromising your weak password. So, why not just protect yourself from the start and sleep better at night?
Believe me, I understand the need to choose passwords that are memorable. But if you’re going to do that how about using something that no one is ever going to guess AND doesn’t contain any common word or phrase in it.
Here are some password tips:

 

  1. Randomly substitute numbers for letters that look similar. The letter ‘o’ becomes the number ‘0′, or even better an ‘@’ or ‘*’. (i.e. – m0d3ltf0rd… like modelTford)
  2. Randomly throw in capital letters (i.e. – Mod3lTF0rd)
  3. Think of something you were attached to when you were younger, but DON’T CHOOSE A PERSON’S NAME! Every name plus every word in the dictionary will fail under a simple brute force attack.
  4. Maybe a place you loved, or a specific car, an attraction from a vacation, or a favorite restaurant?
  5. You really need to have different username / password combinations for everything. Remember, the technique is to break into anything you access just to figure out your standard password, then compromise everything else. This doesn’t work if you don’t use the same password everywhere.
  6. Since it can be difficult to remember a ton of passwords, I recommend using Roboform for Windows users. It will store all of your passwords in an encrypted format and allow you to use just one master password to access all of them. It will also automatically fill in forms on Web pages, and you can even get versions that allow you to take your password list with you on your PDA, phone or a USB key. If you’d like to download it without having to navigate their web site here is the direct download link. (Ed. note: Lifehacker readers love the free, open-source KeePass for this duty, while others swear by the cross-platform, browser-based LastPass.)
  7. Mac users can use 1Password. It is essentially the same thing as Roboform, except for Mac, and they even have an iPhone application so you can take them with you too.
  8. Once you’ve thought of a password, try Microsoft’s password strength tester to find out how secure it is

By request I also created a short RoboForm Demonstration video. Hope it helps…
Another thing to keep in mind is that some of the passwords you think matter least actually matter most. For example, some people think that the password to their e-mail box isn’t important because “I don’t get anything sensitive there.” Well, that e-mail box is probably connected to your online banking account. If I can compromise it then I can log into the Bank’s Web site and tell it I’ve forgotten my password to have it e-mailed to me. Now, what were you saying about it not being important?
Often times people also reason that all of their passwords and logins are stored on their computer at home, which is safe behind a router or firewall device. Of course, they’ve never bothered to change the default password on that device, so someone could drive up and park near the house, use a laptop to breach the wireless network and then try passwords from this list until they gain control of your network — after which time they will own you!
Now I realize that every day we encounter people who over-exaggerate points in order to move us to action, but trust me this is not one of those times. There are 50 other ways you can be compromised and punished for using weak passwords that I haven’t even mentioned.

I also realize that most people just don’t care about all this until it’s too late and they’ve learned a very hard lesson. But why don’t you do me, and yourself, a favor and take a little action to strengthen your passwords and let me know that all the time I spent on this article wasn’t completely in vain.
Please, be safe. It’s a jungle out there.

EDIT: You might also want to listen to my interview on Connecticut Public Radio about password security.

Scottish Tablet – How to Bake the best Scottish tablet

Scottish Tablet

My grandmother used to make tablet around about christmas time. She also made ginger beer and boston cream for new year

I remember being crazy for tablet, and it was always homemade stuff. The nearest commercial equivilent is Kendal mintcake that made it to the top of Mount Everest with Hilary.

Kendal mintcake is carried by mountaineers to give them energy, and when you see the recipe for tablet you can understand why.

1 kg of granulated sugar
1 tin of sweetend condensed milk
2 dl of cream
200 gm of unsalted butter

Melt the butter in a heavy bottomed deep pot. Add the sugar condensed milk and cream and bring the mixture to the boil. At this stage the liquid is a light creamy colour. Once the liquid is boiling reduce the temperature so that it is just simmering nicely. It is essential that you stir the mixture continuously to stop it from burning to the bottom of the pot. A flat wooden spatula is better than a wooden spoon for this job, becasue you can more easily scrape the bottom of the pot while you are stirring.

While it is boiling you can expect the volume of the liquid to perhaps double, and it is hellish hot so don’t go trying to taste the mixture straight from the pot as you will scald your tongue. As you stir the colour of the mixture will become darker and the stirring process usually take 20 minutes before the tablet is ready. You can test this by taking a teaspoon of the mixture from the pot and dropping it into a tumbler of cold water. If the mixture forms a solid globule then the mixture is ready.

Now remove the mixture from the heat and whisk for 10 minutes. Place some aluminium folio that has been greased with butter into a shallow baking tray and pour in the tablet mixture. It should begin to set almost immediately, but while it is still hot score the top of it with a knife so you can break it into squares afterwards. Set aside to cool and amuse yourself or your children by giving them the pot to lick.

One of the best thing about making tablet is licking the pot afterwards.

AWS Hosting for a Personal Website ?

This article is about evaluating whether AWS Hosting is a viable solution for personal websites vs another hosting solution.

A bit of background, I was in search of a hosting site for my WordPress Blog. I am a technical person, so one of the requirements was SSH access in case I needed it. Most of you won’t need to care for SSH access, but if you want to get down to to the nuts and bolts it may be something you want to consider. I setup a Linux PC at home with Mint Linux to get me started, but soon realized I needed something for stable, faster and realizable so started looking at web hosting providers. This will be a live overview of my experiences.

 

In search of a web hosting site and did a bit of research to find the best place to host a website. One of the things I considered was hosting on a personal PC even if I went out and bought a reasonably beefy PC but decided against it for various reasons, first it would probably be against my TOS from my internet provider although I could look into whether they would allow it. I will try not take too long before I jump into the AWS pieces. I will be talking about

 

  • A2 Hosting
  • Blue Hosting
  • AWS Cloud Hosting

 

Other factors such as power outages, slowness, security etc came to mind. Also I was looking for a long term strategy where I didn’t have to worry about power outages etc. After several hours of searching and one of my requirements was SSH access was a must for me. Two names stood out, A2 Hosting and BlueHost as the real contenders for me. This is a good site to look at the list of contenders.

 

List of top 10 hosting providers with SSH Access

 

Both are well known names in the hosting industry and I can probably recommend either one. I actually ended up choosing A2 Hosting even though everything in my gut was telling me to go with BlueHost. At the end I chose to go with A2 Hosting and regretted literally almost immediately, first thing I noticed it had used my domain name as my login credentials, this is bad, what if I wanted to change my domain, I actually didn’t think I would be locked into a domain name for my site, but everything was based on this. I am not sure if BlueHost does this as well ? Maybe someone can confirm for me. OK fine, so I logged a support ticket, thinking no problem, it can be changed.

 

So I waited and hour, 2 hours, 3 hours ? Geese I thought as a new client, I would get some sort of immediate attention should I run into any sign up issues. OK fine, maybe they busy so I take the dogs for a walk, thinking when I come back, I would of gotten a response, Nope! This was now 5 hours later and now I am just plain frustrated, so I login and CPANEL looks great, many icons/options (bear in mind I am relatively new here to web hosting, I did some many many years go, probably 10 to be host)



 

SSH Access

 

Anyway looked like they had many options. I thought let me test shell access while I am waiting, again my user name from my domain embedded everywhere, in the path, in the DB if I wanted to create a table, it had to be prefixed with my user name, all of this left a bad taste in my mouth, I tried to do a ‘who’, all of this has been disabled, I get the box is shared but too the point I couldn’t do a who on the server. For those looking for true SSH Shell Access .. these types of web hosts might not be the right fit.

 

If you looking for an easy to manage WordPress host with easy access to service without the fuss, then take a look at BlueHosting, I can’t in good conscience recommend A2 Hosting only because of my recent experience, but I also have nothing against them, I do believe they are are competitive hosting provider providing a service which is completely suitable for the novice person who doesn’t need or want SSH Access. They refunded me my money, no questions asked and this was one of the reasons I did sign up with them so I give them kudos for that and the zero fuss in getting my money back. Definitely take a look at them as an option.

On to AWS as Hosting Provider

 

Everything I saw, just didn’t leave a good feeling in my stomach. So I started thinking whether AWS would be a contender in this space. My immediate thoughts was AWS is too expensive, way more than I needed, probably didn’t offer the CPANEL that would make our lives easier, but thought why not. I remember looking at them for a little while ago and remembered they had a free tier service. What this essentially means is they will give you a certain amount free stuff before they start charging you for anything.

 

DISCLAIMER:

Before we get started. I am not trying to sell you on AWS, I don’t earn any commissions or sales and won’t make any money. I will discuss with my you my impressions and experiences. Ok now that the elephant is out of the room. The short end of the story is I do recommend AWS for personal hosting, there are many things I do like about it and some things I don’t, but it is going to be aimed at users who don’t mind using the command line like myself, but I will get more in to it. Continue reading if you I haven’t lost you yet.

 

OK first things first let’s talk about the Free Tier Service AWS offers. Head over to AWS if you want to understand more or click ont the below image.

 

List of free items you will get from AWS



 

Create an Account

Go check it out for yourself, you will need to supply a credit card before you can build anything (this was my biggest concern, but my fear is unfounded). They have a  great billing interface and you can also setup alerts and notifications for your budget. I put $20 to be alerted as a maximum. I have had an AWS account and so far I have only been billed 1c (one cent) for playing around with snapshots. FYI, don’t create snapshots unless you need to, although I wouldn’t worry, it’s still very cheap so it won’t hit your pocket too much should you decide to, but just know you do get charged for Snapshots. Snapshots are basically a copy of your Environment / Virtual Machine as a backup.

 

Second thing is, before I forget, any file you edit make a backup off. For example if you start editing httpd.conf, make a backup first. I messed this up and ended up need to restore it from a 2nd image hence the snapshots, just backup any file to a backup first, do something like cp httpd.conf httpd.conf.orig and so on.

 

Ok once you login to your AWS account, you going to see a screen like this

 

First screen you will see once you logged into the AWS Environment

 

 

You going to want to click on the Launch Virtual Machine. This will allow you to create a Virtual that you can test and play around on. I decided to go with the LightSail virtual image vs the EC2. I liked the price and it allowed me to remain in the $5 per month budget I had. From what I understand Light Sail is basically a simpler way to deploy a micro EC2 image without all the fuss and confusion around buckets, I wanted to keep it simple and looks like this was the route to go. Light sail is basically an EC2 Image.

 

Here is what they say so an explanation as the difference.

EC2 Instance vs LightSail

EC2 vs Lightsail Instances

 

The next option is the type of Image you going to want, I went with the $5 and currently they offering the images free for the first month, so if you don’t like it, this is a great way to test it out and get rid of it if it doesn’t suit your needs to you hate it.

 

WordPress Instance or OS only ?

Overview of options to pick to setup your virtual machine

 

The first thing you going to want to choose is either Linux or Windows. Windows is $10 a month vs Linux which is $5. I recommend the linux option, but whatever suits your needs. If you purely looking to run a WordPress setup and do not want to run any other websites, pick the WordPress Setup (this the one I picked). Next time I would likely pick just the OS, since I do have a need for another setup and having wordpress as the main setup complicated things slightly. I have found so far the micro or $5 instance is very responsive, I don’t notice anything slow about it whatever. If you need to upgrade, you can upgrade to a more beefier EC2 instance if you need.

 

I have read if you want a CPANEL for your environment, there is something called ZPANEL. I haven’t looked into it too much, but it is available, but does not work with a bitnami setup, so I would suggest again to select a bare OS to begin with and not pick the WordPress setup if you think this is something you may need.

 

Price

 

I can’t talk too much about price as this is a big concern for me as to what this will cost. I don’t have the answers yet but will report back. So far I know it it’s going to cost me $5 US a month Basically what they means is they will charge you up to $5 for the use as long as you don’t exceed the basic plan. It’s all going to depend how busy your site is and how much in resources you will consume.

 

I will come back and talk about this, once I have had a few months or my first month on what it is costing me so far. I have a WordPress Blog and a Website for my affiliate marketing which I use, so it is going to be an interesting experiment on how much this will cost me at the end of the day.

Cost Calculator

There is a cost calculator which is very overwhelming when you first use it, but perhaps I will come back and visit that as well for you folks who are interested, but I do recommend you take a stab at it if you want to to try work out some estimated costs. You can get it here AWS Simple Cost Calculator 



 

Ok next things, once you have select a image, you will need to select a location, it will default to one near you, I was defaulted to Oregon which is fine since I am on the West Coast. I don’t think is going to matter too much, and I believe you can move it should it become and issue down the road. But for blogging purposes it really should matter too much as the access is going to be quick no matter which data centre you are in.

Next things, head over to your service. Click on Services and select either Light Sail or EC2. It is not too intuitive and the Dashboard is a little confusing, but you basically can head over to LightSail if you chose that as your service.


All services

Compute
EC2
EC2 Container Service
Lightsail
Elastic Beanstalk
Lambda
Batch

 

You will then be presented with a nice Dashboard of your Services, they keep it nice and simple to manage.

 

Dashboard of your Services

 

Overview of Virtual VM list on AWS

 

From this point on you can now manage your Virtual Machine, reboot it etc. A free static IP is provided with the Lightsail service which is nice, so I recommend you use it. You can make snapshots, look at metrics to see how your VM is doing. Most of the time you will not need to come here often, but it’s a good idea to keep an eye on things.

 

Keep in mind you can only create 3 Free DNS Zones and they have to be top domains, basically you can attach 3 Domain names to your environment if you need. If you need more AWS has a DNS service which you can subscribe to. At the end of the day you probably not going to need more than 3 domain names.

 

Use only one Domain per site

From a google indexing perspective, you should never have more than 1 domain pointing at your site anyway else you will get penalized for duplicated content. I know it is tempting to point all your domains to a single site, but as much as I read, this is a very bad idea. FYI

 

Here is a screenshot of the managing the Environment and one of many of the metrics that you can look at. They have about 5 different metrics from networking, performance etc, it is pretty cool and allows you break it down from 1 Hour, 6 Hours, 1 Day, 1 Week, 2 Weeks to see how it is doing

 

Overview of Metrics screen on AWS

 

Connecting to your Instance

 

Connecting to your instance is pretty easy. They take security in mind and show you how to setup a SSH tunnel. The HOW-TO articles are pretty easy to understand and pretty straight forward in the most part. Connecting, configuring is easy. It is setup with a bitnami image which is basically a preconfigured setup, so your username is bitnami, your home directories are all /home/bitnami. Apps reside in /opt/bitnami/apps and /opt/bitnami/apache2, so it is all relatively easy to find and access if you comfortable at the command line.



 

Conclusion

 

AWS really provides the simplicity in setting up a environment that belongs to you. If you do not sharing it with anyone else from a VM perspective, this is the environment for you. The environments do likely reside on shared infrastructure like the blade or piece of hardware you reside on, but the instance is 100% yours, you can do with it what you want. You can do ‘who’ and df and all they good stuff. I really think this is how web hosting should be today.

 

It may not be as cost effective for hosting companiues, but ultimately that is what I am looking for.  Hosting companies should not be forcing you to have prefixes in my databases (meaning my tables don’t have to begin with username_) which is just silly and makes writing or using already created scripts problematic.I do recommend you check out AWS and try it for yourself, essentially it is free to try and you can quit up to a month if it is not for you. If you want real true SSH access with no strings attached, this is the setup for you.

 

If you looking for a web hosting provider which is much simpler, then checkout BlueHosting as an alternative. Would love to hear the feedback around your bluehost experience.

 

Personally I am loving the AWS experience so far, I feel I have full control and access to my environment. Over it still concerns me with costs and what this will cost me, but this is the type of environment I want. No strings attached, I can connect via SSH, I can backup and copy my files from local machines OSX, Linux without any problems. I take backups all the files I have modified and updated just in case something happens or I need to move to another provider. 95% of my development has happened directly on my image and I don’t feel it is slow at all.

 

I will report back in the next few months what my 1 month and 2 month costs have been. As well as other technical articles about setting up. Backing up with your script and share with you what I do to keep up my environment up and running. Feel free to comment and ask me any additional questions or if you feel I missed anything in this article. Also feel free to recommend and I will update it or create a separate post should I feel it warrants it.

 

Thank you

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