Tag Archives: Synology

Avoid losing old Time Machine backups

Every now and then you get a problem with OS X’s Time Machine function. When that happens the system asks you to start a new backup which results in you losing all previous backups.

It hasn’t happened to me for more than two years or so and even if it does usually I have something in place so that I don’t lose my backups: My NAS backs up to another NAS that can take snapshots, so usually I’d be able to rollback to a previous snapshot of the Time Machine.

Unfortunately, when this happened to me recently I had just deleted the previous snapshots because I was running out of space and didn’t want to buy another hard disk – so I couldn’t roll back to a previous snapshot.

Well, for now I have just created a new Time Machine share, meaning that if I need to go back I can access the old Time Machine in the previous share.

PS: When I had an Apple Time Capsule this problem occurred every few months. With y Synology NAS it only seems to happen every few years.


Synology Hyper Backup

In a previous blog post, I described how I set up my Synology NAS to create network backups on another machine using

Synology: Backup & Replication Backup Destination – Create Network Backup Destination Backup – Create Backup and set a schedule

Well, unfortunately, one of the updates from Synology, a few months ago, got rid of this function, at least in the old form, and my NAS stopped backing up to my NAS4FREE machine.

The functionality is however still available. It’s in Synology’s Hyper Backup Package. This package will even remember the old settings from the Backup & Replication Backup.

I thought I will have a lot of work getting updates going again, but luckily I just had to start Hyper Backup.

By the way, Synology does now offer Snapshots, but unfortunately not for my model.

Installing NAS4Free on an HP Gen8 Microserver

2015-07-30 14.32.55 I recently bought a HP Proliant Microserver Gen8. It was < £170 (because I bought it from a Spanish company though Amazon DE, in the UK it was about £15 more at the time), which makes it nearly as cheap as a two bay Synology NAS, but with much better hardware. You got to take care of the software yourself, though.

Came with 2GB RAM, I added another 8GB.
Came with 2GB RAM, I added another 8GB.

I bought mine with the main purpose (for now) of being an rsync server for my Synology NAS. I guess it would be much better to move everything to the HP Microserver, but I don’t have the disk capacity for such a transfer, plus it might be difficult (I haven’t checked) to backup to the Synology NAS because of their restrictive software (I won’t go into more details about all the restrictions I found in the past, many of them don’t seem to make sense). So here’s what I did to install NAS4Free on my HP Gen8 Microserver, and what I did to set it up as an rsync server.

Nice, a USB port on the motherboard.
Nice, a USB port on the motherboard.

1) Download x64 Live USB version

from https://sourceforge.net/projects/nas4free/files/

2) Copy image to USB stick

In OS X’s terminal

diskutil list

Find the USB stick so that you can unmount it …in my case disk2

diskutil unmountDisk /dev/disk2

Copy the image. Writing to rdisk is much faster than writing to disk

sudo dd if=Downloads/NAS4Free-x64-LiveUSB- of=/dev/rdisk2 bs=1m

If you don’t set the block size copying will take much(!) longer.

diskutil eject /dev/disk2

3) Boot Microserver from USB stick

In the Console Menu chose 9) Install/Upgrade from LiveCD/LiveUSB

4) Install the embedded version onto another USB stick

There is the idea that this will wear the USB stick out. It’s the cheapest option for me for now. Good USB sticks cost less then £5 and my system doesn’t seem to use the Swap partition. In the Console Menu under 2) I didn’t use DHCP. I want a fixed address, but want to set it up in NAS4Free, so that I don’t use the same IP in case I boot another OS / ESXi used default gateway used Google’s DNS Didn’t configure IPv6

5) Access the web interface

Next I looked at the web interface, in my case at WebGUI Disks|Management Added my HDD (the plus icon on the right is for adding)

6) Disks|Format

Formatted disk as ZFS

7) Disks|ZFS|Pools|Virtual device

I only have one drive, so I chose Stripe

8) Disks|ZFS|Pools|Management

Added a Pool , Apply The next step didn’t work initially. I think you have to reboot after creating the pool. It did work after I did a reboot. 

9) Disks|ZFS|Datasets|Dataset|Add

Added a dataset where rsync is supposed to go. Enabled compression (hope that’s a good idea)

10) Access|Users|Add

Added a user for the rsync task in the wheel group

11) Services|Rsync|Server|Settings

Enabled this and mapped it to the user created in the previous step

12) Services|Rsync|Server|Modules

Created a module, this will then be shown in the Synology NAS when you set up the rsync backup. Synology backups to the Microserver didn’t work initially when the user field was left empty. It worked after I set userid to root as mentioned at http://forums.nas4free.org/viewtopic.php?f=28&t=5985

13) Set up the Synology NAS

Went to Synology: Backup & Replication Backup Destination – Create Network Backup Destination Backup – Create Backup and set a schedule


I’m just doing my first rsync backup and am getting 50MB/s (400 Mb/s) data transfer rates despite using compression and a long ethernet cable (of poor quality). That’s faster than expected, but I guess the reason it’s not even fast is the Synology station, not NAS4Free on the Gen8 Microserver. I changed power daemon settings in System Advanced, but haven’t tested what difference it actually makes in terms of power use. I also used power saving settings in hdd settings and changed Disks|Management|S.M.A.R.T. Power Mode to standby. Not sure whether I should turn that off, rsync will only need the HDD once a day. After the first backups of the different Synology shares have finished I want to activate Disks|ZFS|Snapshots|Auto Snapshot.

Synology Backup to Dropbox


A few weeks ago I got a Synology NAS after having used a Netgear ReadyNAS for a few years.

The ReadyNAS was quite slow, especially when many small files are involved. I won’t go into details why it is the way it is, but the Synology NAS is much faster.

The ‘bare metal’ side of the Synology is worse (no display, case and drive bays more flimsy), but the software side is, generally, much better, with some exceptions (like the restrictions that snapshots have to be stored outside the RAID).


The (re)discovery of the loss of three months worth of digital photos made me rethink my backup situation, which is basically non-existent (RAID is nice but it isn’t backup).

I store snapshots of some folders on an external drive, but a better backup solution would be nice. I have thought about Amazon Glacier etc, but am not sure about the cost (not sure how many requests my backup would generate).


When I logged on to Dropbox I discovered, to my surprise, that I now have 1TB of storage – despite only having the free account …so I am now planning to use Dropbox to backup some folders, starting with my photo folder.

As I don’t want the nice guys from Dropbox seeing my photos I want to encrypt the backup. Not that there’s anything strange in my photos, but I haven’t read the Dropbox T&Cs that carefully, so I don’t know what they do with my files. I might also want to backup other files with more sensitive information in the future if this works well.

My plan was to create an encrypted disk image and sync it with Dropbox, but it turns out Synology has an option to encrypt the Backup for you. Unfortunately I didn’t find any useful information about what kind of encryption they use in their help file.


Problems with the out of the box solution

Unfortunately there are two problems with directly backing up files using Cloud Sync and the built-in data encryption.

  • Files are sent individually and file names are transmitted as is (e.g. puffins.jpg is still puffins.jpg) and
  • all files and subfolders of the folder I want to back up end up in my Dropbox’s root folder.

I’m not an expert, but I would  assume that knowing the files are jpg means you know how their header etc is supposed to look like, and having thousands of individually encrypted files, presumably encrypted with the same key, should make it easier for anyone trying to decrypt them. I don’t even know what Synology is using to encrypt the files – maybe some simple block cipher.

Alternative solution

My alternative solution is my original idea: to put all the files I want to back up in an encrypted disk image and sync that disk image to Dropbox. If you keep your files in disk image as well as in their ‘usual’ place it does however mean that you use up twice as much space on your NAS.

I created a new share where the encrypted disk image will go.


I then set up Could Sync to sync this share with Dropbox.

I then created a new encrypted sparse bundle image in this share.

Disk Utility / New Image. Choose sparse bundle under Image Format.

Sparse bundle images are a good choice because they expand when more files are being added, so they don’t take up too much unnecessary space.


This way you still get individual files sent to Dropbox, but they are in your sparse bundle folder and they don’t directly correspond to your original files anymore.

Because this is supposed to be a backup, not something I need on all machines using Dropbox I used selective sync in Dropbox to stop it from syncing this folder to my computer.