After 5 years it’s time to replace my Drobo with a Drobo (FS ->5N2)

I have been using a Drobo FS file store for over 5 years.  I purchased back in 2011/2012 and started out with 2 x 2TB hard disks (Which at the time seemed a huge amount).  Over the years I’ve added drives and replaced drives both because of failure and upgraded.  I’ve got from 2TB to 4TB, to 10 TB to it’s current state of 13.54 TB.

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In all this time I’ve lost no data and managed to survive 2 drive failures. Obviously the reasons for buying a Drobo vs the likes of Synology or QNAP are well documented.  Whilst I would have  had to buy a QNAP system and 4 match 2TB disks all in one go, with the Drobo I’ve been able to buy disks at the time I needed them.  I checked the receipt recently and when I first bought the system my 2TB drives were just over £250 each.  Fast forward 5 years, and a decent 4TB drive is now just over £100.  This flexibility is just too convenient and leads to a near complacency.

So why am I changing?

Firstly, I’m moving to another Drobo and secondly I’m not replacing but augmenting.  My plan is to add one of the new 5N2s with 3 x Segate 10TB Ironwolf Pros and a 240GB m.sata accelerator SSD.  In due course I’ll likely migrate most of the FS data onto the new 5N2, but I will have a period where I run them side by side.  I’ve still not fully decided if I’ll sell on the FS and move over wholesale.  Certainly moving 15 TB (the contents of my FS & some USB attached drives on my server) will take a good few days to move- so I’ll maybe put that decision off until later in the year.

What’s new in 5N2

I’d looked at both the D810N (the 8 bay SMB system) and the 5N2 which, when I began my decision making, was very new.  I decided to go for the 5N2, after considering the facts and realising that the 5N2 would give me 40TB usable storage for under £2200 at today’s prices (and hopefully less as drives drop in cost).  Secondly the SSD acceleration and tiered storage is now available in the 5 bay format, which should make for much greater disk performance.  

Drobo 5N2 m.SATA Accelerator.jpg

Coupled with the new dual gigabit network ports, and the latest generation Seagate Ironwolf drives with their 210MB read speeds, and I hope the whole system should be way more flexible and give me the capacity I need for the next 4 or 5 years.

Drobo 5N2 dual gigabit

Journey to Gig/Gig broadband with Hyperoptic (RT:

This article was originally published on my personal blog to do with technology and the like.  Given the clear benefits for photography (high upstream- great for uploading) I’ve republished it here.  Head on over to for more details of the hyperoptic service and my buildings journey to gig broadband!


I live in the centre of a major Scottish city, which has according to wikipedia has an urban population of 1.75 million people.  That’s no small number of people.  I just assumed when I bought my place, that being in a large new development that when infinity began rolling out that it’d be available pretty much after launch.  Well thanks to the mystery of BT Planning, I’ve sat for the last 5 years and watched as promised date after promised date has slipped.

Late in 2014 it became abundantly clear that BT had no interest in enabling us, all the vague excuses piled up and I realised it was going to have to be a DIY approach for our building.  First the facts- our building is just over 7 years old, is a steel frame building with inbuilt ducting and services and false ceilings.  All these things make it super easy to install services.  Secondly, the location and pricing of the building means that there’s a lot of young professionals, and home workers (i.e. a captive market).  To me it made no logical sense that the building hadn’t been enabled (I’ve actually come to get information that makes me believe it’s not a technical reason but a planning/political reason holding us back).

So i began my search, which in all honesty I was expecting to be fruitless.  I mean- if BT the largest telecoms group in the country can’t get us cable who can!  My first port of call was Virgin, where I reached out and got positive noises from they cable my street team.  I registered my interest, had a few neighbours do the same, and had good conversations with one of their outreach managers on twitter.  After 6 months though we had no committal, no in person engagement and weren’t going anywhere.

Frustrated I looked at the market again and came across Hyperoptic – a company which on paper our building was purpose made.  I have to confess that due to travel I didn’t make the first approach, but a neighbour picked up the baton and made the initial contact.  I got re-involved in summer of 2015, after which time I assumed the role of Hyperoptic Champion for the building, and pushed the project.  I started by joining our residents association, primarily for a single task (i.e. getting the fibre fitted) and began to work with the excellent John McCabe at Hyperoptic.  Our residents association really lacked social media skills, a domain name and a Facebook forum later I had the ability to outreach to folk and begin campaigning.

I started by speaking to neighbours I new in person, however it’s a big development so I probably only knew 20percent of the folks in the development. Hyperoptic require residents to register interest on their page, and have a very transparent tracker.  To assist I was sent marketing flyers and materials, which allowed me to do a mail drop.  I took the basic materials, and made them a bit more personal by branding and explaining a few things on an accompanying letter.  I mail dropped them in early September, and by the end of that same month we were showing the adequate number of registrations to move forward.

Hyperoptic were true to their word and surveyed the building, reporting back that they’d be able to fit the service with no issues.  The only fly in the ointment was the lack of service hatches in the ceilings outside the units. Hyperoptic offered a solution of installing these hatches and picking up the cost. (The truth being that we should have had these in anyway).  As is typical we had the doubters who though that these small hatches would “spoil the look” but to be frank I never accepted that given that we have smoke detectors, lights and so forth already there.  Anyway, a vote sent out by the factor saw no significant objection and we were green light to get the way leave signed to get Hyperoptic in and fitting.

The internal cabling is high quality Cat6e, I’m not 100percent sure of the switch infrastructure but effectively the fitted network should be able to support 10gigs and beyond (technology permitting).  Cabinets were installed in the basement levels where the switches are housed, and cat6E cabling was run first below in the carparks, and then up through the 3 blocks of the building (10 storeys).  The install is first class, to the point where in a straw poll of folks visiting my house I said- do you notice anything? – to which the answer was – what?

Fibre install has been a bit of a bear, with the contracts (BT) wasting dates, and making delays, however we have the fibre into the basement, and jointing is to go ahead.   I’m already confident this service will have massive benefits to our residents.  To go from a 14meg internet connection which is beginning to struggle to support multiple over the top media services, to a symmetric 1gig service is going to be a huge change, and I’m going to blog about how it affects the day to day of what and how we utilise media.   Stay tuned for more articles.

Another year, another Canada trip and another Macbook [Part 1]

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It seems that every year around this time I make another push to try to be a better blogging citizen of the world.  Some years it works, but some years it doesn’t.  Regardless, the first post that spurs me on tends to be a new toy, a new piece of technology and in this case this post trend this year is no different.

The shiny toy of my new affection? – a 2015 Macbook.  I must start this article by saying that I came to Canada this year (as we do every year) with absolutely no intention of buying a new Macbook.  Indeed, only last October I utilized my student discount to purchase a Macbook Pro Retina 13inch which I was more than happy with.  If you leaf back in the articles that I wrote about it, you’ll see that my aim was to see if it was possible to move as much as possible of my daily data to the cloud – as the device I had bought was the 128GB SSD version.  Long story short, it probably is, but for me 128GB was just a little too tight.  This years Macbook comes in 2 SSD flavours a 256GB or a 512GB version ( i picked the later) – something I’ll go into shortly.

So why did I go and change to maybe a somewhat more “limited” machine, after all, my Pro has a dual i5 2.6Ghz processor, whilst my new Macbook has only a a Core -M at 1.8Ghz (Dual core of course).  To tell the truth I’m wondering that myself.  Firstly a big factor in the purchase was the price (or lack of it) – due to the UK-CND exchange rate at the moment the device came in at just under 1000GBP after taxes and fees.  When I’m in doubt on such things I buy them anyway, with the rational that I’m at least 200GBP under the price I would pay in the UK.  Also with the device still in such short supply I can play with it for a couple weeks and if (unlikely) decide to pass it on, know I can get all my money back and a tidy profit.

I went for the upper of the two models the 1.8Ghz/8GB/512GB model.  Expect a few posts to tell you how I’m going.

New Member of the Fleet

Macbook Pro Retina 13 Inch - 2014

Macbook Pro Retina 13 Inch – 2014- The latest fleet member

For a while now, since I purchased my Mac Pro, I’ve been thinking if perhaps the 15 inch Macbook Pro Retina was overkill.  Certainly carrying it around in a camera backpack with a couple of SLR lenses and a DSLR body was proving to be an experience akin to an Iron Man contest- not what I need on an after party Saturday morning.  I have run the Macbook Pro 15 as my main machine for the last 2 years, after picking it up shortly after it went on general sale.  There is absolutely no qualms about the performance of the machine** with a quad core i7 and and no spinning rust drives it flys no matter what I throw at it.

So I decided to abuse my student discount one last time before it runs out and picked up an absolute base spec Macbook Pro Retina 13 inch (that’s Dual Core i5 2.6 Ghz / 8 GB RAM / 128GB of SSD).  In that spec the only thing that genuinely worries me is the SSD, can I copy with only 128GB of storage space – baring in mind I throw around 2 GB MKVs for fun these days, my camera easily shoots 120GB of raw photo files at a time, and VMWare Fusion machines running to 20-30GB.

Firstly the iTunes library is already in the cloud (thats 100GB sorted out) – and whilst I worry a little about not having a connection and thus no files I hope that the unlimited data contract from 3 plus tethering should make this rarer and rarer an occurrence.

VMware wise – my strategy is going to be to utilise the SD card space in the device.  With 128GB SD class 10 cards appearing on Amazon for 50 quid, my plan is to run the VMs off their own dedicated SD card.

The one inescapable storage problem (at least until I have a 200MB uplink) is RAW files from my camera.  To be honest this is a bit of a non starter as I already face the same issue on the current Macbook.  I’ve purchased one of the Execellent WD 2TB Passport drives (USB3.0) – for on the road, and another hooked to the Macbook.  It might be a quick and dirty backup, but it works!  I’ve got a whole other storage and backup solution scripted that backs the whole lot up onto a Drobo FS drive which has redundancy up until 2 drive failures.

If I can’t make all this cloudy restraint work, then I’ll go to OWC for one of these 480GB puppies but I am really going to try to make the cloudy lifestyle work.  I’m interested to see how the workflow will work out in the field, especially with the DSLR- what I might have to accept in alteration to accommodate the space issue I hope to balance out with much improved mobility and grab.

Now – the big question, will I be able to part with the 15inch Retina or just hoard it 🙂