Home NAS has flourished after Microsoft decided to kneecap its very useful Home Server product, an option which gave new life to an old PC or laptop. Although Redmond never attempted to market this product very hard... if it all.The candidates in the budget home NAS market are embedded Linux boxes, and are usually sold without the disks. You're then invited to set up a RAID set and be a BOFH for an hour or two: adding users and turning on the bewildering range of features on offer, from basic media sharing and streaming to IP camera recording and, increasingly, many third-party packages.Synology has deservedly carved out a leading role here against some stiff competition, thanks to a rich feature set, an easy-to-use GUI, and the support of a thriving community. Although it produces NAS enterprise kit, it boldly set out a small office/consumer proposition using lower cost Marvell ARM boards - which is what we have here, in the new DS214.
The DS214 is Synology's new two-drive budget model, setting a new floor for the entry price, at a shade over the £200 for a diskless two-drive unit. Budget in another £110 for two 1TB NAS-ready disks, or £175 for two 2TB units, and you'll still have change from £400. Western Digital now even markets NAS-ready, Red-brand 2.5-inch disks, a sign of the growing interest in the market.But using ARM doesn't mean low performance. I found the DS214 compared very well against Synology's more powerful and professional DS712+, which was a $752 choice just 18 months ago. Fitted with 1GB of RAM, as a reference unit, the DS712+ does Ethernet link aggregation (bonding), providing your router can support it, but in single Ethernet mode the DS214 wrote and read faster than the DS712+. The DS214 uses a dual core, 1.1GHz Marvell ARM with 512MB of RAM.This year the budget end of Synology's also gets the "tool-less assembly" treatment. No screwdriver is required to install the hard drives and get under way, and it took under five minutes to power up the box.
Things take longer after that, the unit needs an internet connection to go out and find the OS image - DSM, DiskStation Manager - and it takes much longer to build your RAID set, although you can do other things on it in the mean time. The DS214 also allows hot-swapping, should one drive fail. This trickle of high end capabilities and features into cheap home gear is very welcome.So what do you get? What's it all for? A budget NAS box is typically, if nothing else, a central backup point for a home or small office, with USB printer sharing and proper user accounts with proper permissions and quotas. I'm of the view that every home should have one.The system will recognise an external photo folder, and has a dedicated Copy button on the front, so if you allow it, the box will suck up the photos automatically. The DS214 doesn't, like the DS213 Synology models, have an SD card slot, but the Copy Button is still there.More advanced pro options such as iSCSI are also available in the budget boxes - where by a portion of the storage can be parcelled off and used to spoof a directly attached, natively formatted local drive. Up to 10 iSCSI LUNs (aka partitions) are supported in the DS214.
Synology has also long bundled MPEG streaming and photo viewing and a crude iTunes server. By crude, I mean advanced features like ratings aren't really supported - it simply streams to an iTunes client.Well, you can adopt DIY crypto tools, and try to teach your neighbour to use them. But most will give up long before they're proficient in them - which means affordable powerful legal tools for the individual to exercise against government and corporations are vital. Laws and procedures that recognise the individual as sovereign, the supreme owner of the data, of digital objects or things. The individual would then have contractual relationships with companies and governments, as need be. In other words, property rights that allow every individual to assert where their property is used and for how long. This has a name: habeas data.
And the very good news is these powerful individual legal rights to assert ownership and usage over stuff we create are already here. They're called intellectual property laws. And now you can begin to see why technology companies have lobbied so hard and furiously to weaken them, particularly by weakening copyright. This is a classic misdirection. Invent a bogeyman, and divert the people's attention to fighting it, while you quietly steal their rights. Try and persuade people they're not rights at all, but restrictions on freedom. Lobby governments to make those rights ineffective. And if that fails, weaken the ability of the individual to get access to justice in enforcing those rights.Alas, I expect lots of windy rhetoric about a "bill of rights", in which web giants would promise to never, ever abuse your privacy… unless you allowed them to in a 94-page click-through contract. A government-blessed privacy right would be little more use, particularly as these things contain acres of exceptions that render the rights meaningless. (Example: ECHR Article 10, supposedly guaranteeing freedom of speech. Except when the shit hits the fan - and you don't have any.)
Because the web industry has spent 20 years fighting the application of individual property rights to digital things, like data, we can expect it to fight very hard for a meaningless set of "rights" that don't protect your privacy. Through campaigns branded with the over-used phrase "open data", the web industry has even persuaded governments to give away potentially lucrative data for nothing, without a penny being returned to the investor: the taxpayer. Yet without being able to assert property-ish rights (rights that exclude others), you'll never have any privacy.The way forward should not be as complicated as you might fear. First we need to recognise the web industry with its "siren servers" isn't our friend, or any defender of the individual - and that's already happening, I think. It's apparent with every feature on Google Glass. Then we can begin to assert that we own everything we produce, extending copyright rights and practice to our own data. Only then will the giant web companies - who have lots of positive things to contribute - realise that they need to show respect to the individual, too. The "collective externalised mind" is its own form of tyranny.
Is it too much to ask? We've seen a concerted effort to grant legal rights to trees and rivers - with lawyers ventriloquising on their behalf. If trees can gain rights, why must we lose ours? That’s on the exposed half of the 110 x 110mm motherboard. Round the other side sits the surface-mounted two-core, four-thread i5-4250U processor with its on-die Intel HD Graphics 5000 GPU. The CPU runs at 1.3GHz but can auto-overclock to 2.6GHz if thermals permit. Windows reported a maximum speed of 1.9GHz, though PCMark 7 pushed it over 2.10GHz a number of times during its run and peaked at 2.45GHz.Intel slipped me a 180GB mSATA SSD and 802.11ac Wi-Fi card with which to test the new NUC, but it doesn’t come with these devices as standard. Kingston Technologies kindly lent me an 8GB stick of its ValueRAM 1.35V DDR3L.Last year’s NUC got a PCMark 7 score of 3960. Its successor scored 4676, an 18 per cent increase despite a 27.8 per cent decrease in base clock speed, though of course different storage and memory products make the values not directly comparable - or with those from other NUCs, for the same reason.
Last year’s NUC is now running the XBMC-based OpenElec OS - very capably, I might add - so I couldn’t do a head-to-head graphics performance test, but running 3DMark 8 shows the new NUC’s HD 5000 GPU delivers a decent performance for an IGP provided you don’t yank up the quality settings. Full HD playback is no problem.Intel’s SSD came with Windows 8 pre-loaded, but clearly you’re free to install your own choice on your own, empty drive. I slipped in a Ubuntu live USB stick and found that it worked without bother. With no handy remote control, I couldn’t try the IR receiver, though.NUC remains a pricey option. The NUC kit alone with set you back just under £300 and you’ll have to budget for memory and an mSATA SSD at the very least, more if you require Wi-Fi and don’t want to use Ethernet. A 240GB Crucial M500 mSATA drive will cost you around £120, or £245 for a 480GB one. You’re looking at around £120 for a pair of 8GB DDR3L-1600 SO-Dimms, plus perhaps £30 if you don’t happen to have a keyboard and a mouse going spare.