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ASUSTOR AS-204TE Review

New Article has been published on http://computingondemand.com/asustor-204te-review/

ASUSTOR AS-204TE Review

Unless you have been living under a small stone in a field behind Bilbo Baggins’ home, you may have heard the term NAS (Network Attached Storage).  NAS are becoming more prevalent in the home, the small office, and the Enterprise.  These flexible, inexpensive, devices can nearly do it all, which is what makes them so attractive.  Well, it seems like everyone and their cousin is producing a NAS of some sort, but only a few have really got their act together.  Among that small few, those that have more in R&D than they do in sales, is a company by the name of ASUSTOR.  Today, ASUSTOR is no longer just a startup company.  Instead, they have been producing some of the best, low-cost, NAS that money can buy.  We had the chance to review their AS-302T, as well as the AS-608T and absolutely loved it.  Let’s see if their AS-204T can live up to our lofty expectations.

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ASUSTOR has set out with two variations of the AS-204, one T and one TE.  The difference between the two? The TS-204TE has an additional 512MB of DDR3 RAM for a total of 1GB and HDMI 1.4a.  They both feature the same Intel Atom 1.2GHz Dual-Core processor, they both sport a single USB 3.0 Port, two USB 2.0 Ports, and a single Gigabit Ethernet Port.  Both units measure in at 185.5(H) x 170(W) x 230(D) mm and weigh just 3.4 kg / 7.5 lb.  The AS2-204T/TE can support Single disk, JBOD, RAID 0, RAID 1, RAID 5, RAID 6, and RAID 10 configurations and 6TB drives.

Hardware Specifications

  • CPU: Intel® ATOM™ 1.2GHz Dual-Core Processor
  • Memory: 1GB Memory DDR3
  • HDD: 2.5″ / 3.5″ SATA II/ III or SSD x 4¹ Compatibility
  • Expansion: USB 3.0 x 2, USB 2.0 x 2
  • Network: Gigabit Ethernet x 1
  • Output: HDMI 1.4a x1
  • System Fan: 120mm x 1
  • Infrared Receiver
  • 3.5mm Audio Jack
  • Input Power Voltage: 100V to 240V AC*
  • Certification: FCC, CE, VCCI, BSMI, C-TICK

Operation

  • Power Consumption: 36W (Operation); 22.6W (Disk Hibernation); 0.8W (Sleep Mode)²
  • Noise Level: 19.4dB
  • Operation Temperature: 5°C~35°C (40°F~95°F)
  • Humidity: 5% to 95% RH

Eco-Friendly Design

  • System Sleep Mode (S3)
  • Auto-Standby for Both Internal and External Disks
  • Auto Fan Control
  • LED Night Mode
  • Power Schedule: On, Off, Restart, and Sleep

Having the HDMI port and expanded memory allows you to run the ASUSTOR Portal app from the App Center in administration.  ASUSTOR Portal allows you to connect your NAS to any HDMI ready display and run an application like XBMC on your NAS instead of adding an additional piece of equipment to your home theater like an HTPC or Raspberry Pi.  Having an Infrared Receiver built-in means you can use the optional AS-RC10 remote control for easy navigation.  Personally, I prefer the iOS XBMC app or XBMC constellation for control, but your mileage may vary.

The ASUSTOR AS-204TE looks like any other NAS in the ASUSTOR lineup.  However, don’t be fooled by its appearance, there are some key differences.  Up front, the AS-204TE is simple and fantastic looking.  The raised asustor logo defines the brand.  The power button and blue LED are smooth and flush.  The HDD glows a soothing green.  Although there are two positions for Ethernet connectivity LEDs, only one is populated; the other is plugged.  The OTB (one touch backup) button is similar to that of the Power button, but unlike QNAP TS-470 it features a USB 3.0 port for quick data transfers.

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Occupying the majority of the AS-204TE’s face is a plastic piece of trickery. Normally, you would expect there to be an LCD panel hidden behind the clear plastic, similar to that of the AS-608T.  However, ASUSTOR has done no such thing here.  The only thing that resides here is the IR receiver.

Just below is the hard drive cage.  Each drive tray sports a quick release button and the smoothest action of any HDD tray we have seen in a NAS to date.  Again, similar to others in the ASUSTOR lineup and those by QNAP, there are no drive tray numbers.  Each drive tray is manufactured from high quality materials and the release mechanism is strong.  Each drive tray has its own LED indicator for power and activity and can home either a 3.5″ or 2.5″ hard drive.

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Around back, the ASUSTOR NAS has a solitary USB 3.0 Port and Gigabit Ethernet Port, the HDMI port, Audio connectivity, dual USB 2.0 ports, a Kensington Security Slot, a HUGE 120mm exhaust fan, and power connectivity.

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Inside, simplicity reigns supreme.  Disassembling this NAS is far easier than it was for the QNAP TS-470.

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The AS-204TE is powered by an FSP Group Inc. 150 Watt Power supply.  Unfortunately, the PSU is not 80 PLUS certified and the product page specifies that this unit operates at 72% efficiency.

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The AS-204TE does not allow for memory expansion.  The Samsung PC1600 DDR3 DRAM (K4B2G1646Q-BCK0 DDR3 ) is fixed.

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USB 3.0 is handled by an Etron EJ188H controller and has a maximum bandwidth of 1.25 Gigabyte/s per port and up to 5Gb/s in SuperSpeed.

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The Intel ATOM processor is cooled by a simple heatsink

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For the mobile enthusiast, ASUSTOR’s mobile applications bring management and multimedia with you, wherever you go.

AiMaster
AiMaster is dedicated NAS management software for your mobile device. No matter if you are an individual user or IT administrator, AiMaster lets you conveniently manage your NAS while its comprehensive support for push notifications ensures that you stay up to date with the status of your system.

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AiMaster has to be the best mobile NAS management application I have used yet.  It brings the NAS UI to the mobile platform better than the competitors do.

AiData
AiData lets you safely browse and access all the files stored on your NAS from your mobile device. Additionally, it allows you to stream multimedia content and view photos from your NAS as well as providing integration with Dropbox that gives you easy data management across the cloud.

AiDownload
Use your mobile device to control Download Center on your ASUSTOR NAS. Whether it’s searching, downloading or managing tasks, AiDownload gets it done in the blink of an eye. Furthermore, when your downloads are completed, your mobile device will receive immediate notification.

NAS setup couldn’t be easier.  The included ASUSTOR control panel quickly finds your NAS on the network for quick setup.  Once found, the application gives you some quick and useful information about your NAS.

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The application then walks you through your initial configuration.

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The initialization process will prompt you to either upload ADM or connect to ASUSTOR for the latest firmware available

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After firmware has been applied, ADM presents two options.  1-Click Setup and Custom Setup.  1-Click Setup uses optimized settings in accordance with your computer settings and the installed hard drives.  Personally, I always choose the Customer Setup.

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The rest of the configuration is broken down into 5 steps.

  1. The first being Hostname and admin Password.
  2. The second is time & date
  3. Network configuration
  4. Storage Configuration
  5. Settings applied

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The last 3 screens are for an ASUSTOR ID.  This provides you with the ability to get technical support and download apps from the ASUSTOR App Central and is also required for the Cloud Connect Service.

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ADM 2.0, the ASUSTOR Data Master Operating System, is a sleek and robust Linux-based operating system.  The interface is well designed and navigation is as easy as using an iPhone.  The OS is standard across the entire ASUSTOR lineup.  Simplicity? Yes. Multitasking? Yes.  Looks good? Yes.  Bloated? No way.  With the advanced web IU, you can rearrange settings, create pages based on your usage preferences, and even change the background image.  You can run multiple applications without having to commit to those changes and lose everything; the applications can be minimized, moved, or closed.

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The administration, out of the box, is broken up into several different “apps” that reside on the desktop.  The apps are logically defined and it is easy to figure out what does what without requiring a manual.

Access Control

Access control is where your users, groups, app privileges, and shared folders reside.  Users can be added with just a few clicks and groups can be assigned just as easily to make administrating access to shared folders easy.  Shared Folders can be created and added in no time at all and allows for advanced user access permissions.  ADM is the first NAS OS we tested that recognizes right clicks and presents options for individual items quickly.  Others have followed since.

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Activity Monitor

The activity monitor presents everything you need to know about what your NAS is doing in a very slick way.  The percentage of each CPU (core) is displayed graphically, as well as memory, network activity, disk usage, and running processes.

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Backup & Restore

Backup & Restore is everything the name describes.  You can create RSYNC jobs, FTP Backup jobs, configure backup to external devices, configure the One Touch Backup, backup to Cloud (currently only supports Amazon S3), and the ability to export and import your backup settings.

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File Explorer

File explorer is as self-descriptive as can be.  You can view and manage documents easily.  With the cloud services ASUSTOR builds into the NAS, you also have the ability to create a public share for any specific document quickly to allow someone from the outside to download.  Beyond that, compression is built-in (zip or 7z!); just right-click on a file and choose.

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Settings

Settings is home to the basic configuration of your NAS.  You can configure system ports, regional options, enable notifications, restore to factory default, configure networking, modify energy-saving features, and more.  The hardware subsection allows you to configure things like LED indicators, buzzers, HDD power down settings, and customize the LCD panel.  ADM defender is a very basic firewall that can ban specific IP addresses or ban them based on failed login attempts.  ADM update allows you to check for and install any software updates available for your system.

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Services

Services is where you configure most of what your NAS will do for you.  Here you can enable and configure CIFS/SAMBA, AFP, NFS, FTP, WebDAV, the Web Server, MySQL, Terminal Access, and the RSYNC Services.  Each of these are easy to configure, but I am a bit disappointed in the RSYNC implementation.  Creating modules for each folder you have can become a cumbersome and time-consuming process. It would be helpful if an RSYNC Module was created automatically each time a share is created, or at least an option available for creating the module when the share is created.

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Storage Manager

The Storage Manager is where your disk management and volume management reside.  Here you can create volumes in various RAID and non-RAID arrays (RAID 0,1, single disk or JBOD).  Inside the Disk tab you can view SMART information or get down and dirty with the Disk Doctor.  The Disk Doctor is something that every NAS should employ.  It not only allows you to do a SMART scan, but it will also do a bad block scan.  To further enhance the feature, you can schedule each of these and have the AS-302T report to you its findings.  Worried about losing data? This can be your first line of defense in detecting potential issues and being proactive.  This NAS has support for iSCSI for use in shared storage environments.

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System Information

The System Information module gives you insight into some basic information about your NAS.  It will let you know what version of ADM you are running as well as the ASUSTOR ID you have assigned to the AS-302T.  Here you can also find what model you have, the CPU, how much RAM is installed, and what temperatures your NAS is experiencing.  The Networking tab shows you some basic network information.  The Log tab shows you the latest issues or experiences your NAS has had.  Online users is self-explanatory.  The Dr. ASUSTOR, however, is something unique.  It is a utility that can help you proactively manage your NAS.  It will list errors and solutions as well as offer suggestions for keeping your NAS healthy.

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App Central

App Central is your portal to expanding your NAS horizons.  Applications from ASUSTOR and the community can further enhance the functionality and usability of your NAS.  Applications range from Social Networking to Backup & Sync with everything in between.

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It is a given that using your NAS should be easy, and it is also a given that your NAS should perform well in serving up your files. After all, this is basically what the devices is intended for. To benchmark the NAS, we run synthetic benchmarks as well as benchmark some real world activities.

NAS Benchmarking Hardware & Methodology details hardware used & methodology for conducting benchmarks.
To see how this NAS compares to others, please visit our NAS Benchmarking Database

For testing the large file transfer speed of the NAS, we transfer a 46.6GB Blu-Ray ISO (Avatar) from the workstation to the NAS and back five times. We pipe the transfer speeds during the benchmark to a .csv file for charting. For more on our Avatar Benchmark please see our Benchmarking application: COD Benchmarking Utility

[table id=1 hide_rows=all show_rows=1,29 hide_columns=all show_columns=3,6,7 use_datatables=false /]

For testing the transfer speed of the NAS with smaller files, we use the same method as the Avatar test but instead create two hundred individual MP3′s of specific file sizes for repeatable results. The files are copied from the workstation to the NAS and back 5 times. We pipe the transfer speeds during the benchmark to a .csv file for charting.

[table id=2 hide_rows=all show_rows=1,29 hide_columns=all show_columns=3,6,7 use_datatables=false /]

For testing the large file transfer speed of the NAS, we transfer a 2GB file from the workstation to the NAS and back five times. We pipe the transfer speeds during the benchmark to a .csv file for charting.

[table id=2 hide_rows=all show_rows=1,29 hide_columns=all show_columns=3,6,7 use_datatables=false /]

For further benchmarking, we test each NAS using Intel’s NAS Performance Toolkit to rate 2 key areas of NAS performance. We measure File Copy speeds to and from the NAS and the Directory Copy speeds to and from the NAS. System RAM is set to 2048MB of RAM to ensure there is no mem caching for transfers.

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For benchmarking the performance of iSCIS, we created an iSCSI connection to the NAS and benchmark the NAS using Intel’s IOMeter. IOMeter has to be one of the most widely used software packages for benchmarking disks. There are an endless number of ways you can build a benchmark, but we chose to limit our benchmarking to 100 percent Sequential Read and Write then 100 percent Random Read and Write. You can emulate our benchmarking by using the following configuration

‘size % of size % reads % writes % sequential % random delay burst align reply
2,097,152 100 100 0 100 0 0 1 0 0
2,097,152 100 0 100 100 0 0 1 0 0
2,097,152 100 100 0 0 100 0 1 0 0
2,097,152 100 0 100 0 100 0 1 0 0
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CrystalDiskMark is another benchmarking utility that determines speeds by measuring 512KB, 4KB, and 4KB (Queue Depth 32) sequential and random read and write speeds. Test data can be Random, 0Fill, and 1Fill. For our purposes, we left the test at Random.

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[table id=16 hide_rows=all show_rows=1,29 hide_columns=1,2,3,4,6,7,8,9,12,13,14,15,16,17 use_datatables=false /]
[table id=16 hide_rows=all show_rows=1,29 hide_columns=1,2,3,4,6,7,8,9,10,11,14,15,16,17 use_datatables=false /]
[table id=16 hide_rows=all show_rows=1,29 hide_columns=1,2,3,4,6,7,8,9,10,11,12,13,16,17 use_datatables=false /]
[table id=16 hide_rows=all show_rows=1,29 hide_columns=1,2,3,4,6,7,8,9,10,11,12,13,14,15 use_datatables=false /]

The ASUSTOR AS-204TE is not a power house NAS; and it isn’t designed to be. With a price tag of right around $430.00 USD, this NAS is meant to be an affordable Home/SOHO NAS that delivers features you would expect to find in a NAS that costs hundreds more.  Although, it may not have the beefiest processor or loaded with tons of RAM, it does have everything you need, and more.

When comparing the benchmarks to other 4-bay NAS we have reviewed, the AS-204TE isn’t the fastest. Don’t let number in the review criteria fool you… That is a number we use when comparing this NAS to all 4-bay we have reviewed, including the TS-470 which sells for right around $1,053.99 USD.  This NAS is still capable of serving up your files quickly in a small network.

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The ASUSTOR OS (ADM) is strong with features and is smoother than Sade.  Operating this NAS is easy and with the ASUSTOR Portal it can replace your HTPC or cable box as well as serve up files at home or on the road.

Although we didn’t cover XBMC in any detail in this review, the application is as fluid running here as on my 8-Core HTPC. It also uses far less electricity… 42W in testing at full load.  We had no issues with playback and menu transitions were effortless.  Upgrade your experience with the optional remote or with XBMC Constellation and you end up with a powerful multimedia appliance that makes a big impact with a small footprint.

The AS-204TE is packed with all the features you look for in a small, inexpensive, package, making it hard to pass up.  If you are a home user looking for a good NAS at a great price, the AS-204TE may be the one for you.  Bottom line, if you are looking for a NAS on a budget… don’t look at anything else.

A TEXT POST

Where is the Startup Folder in Windows 8.1?

New Article has been published on http://computingondemand.com/startup-folder-windows-8-1/

Where is the Startup Folder in Windows 8.1?

Ok, we all know that a lot of things have changed in Windows 8 and Windows 8.1 from the “Good Ol’e days”.  While poking around pointlessly this morning, I started to wonder where the Startup folder had gone… and is it still used at all.

If you are looking for the “new” Startup, go to the Task Manager tab for Startup.

Well, the quest for the Startup folder was a bit short-lived but surprisingly not as easy to find as I would have imagined.  Once I found it, I was quite surprised to find out that it is still used… for some applications.

To find the Startup folder in Windows 8.1

Method 1: Normal Desktop Usage with Keyboard and Mouse

  1. Press the Windows Key & R simultaneously.
  2. in the RUN command type shell:startup

windows8startupfolder2 Where is the Startup Folder in Windows 8.1?

Method 2: Through the Windows Modern UI

  1. Swipe down to reveal all programs
  2. Scroll all the way to the right, you will find Run under the Windows System option
  3. in the RUN command type shell:startup

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Either way you go, you still end up here…

windows8startupfolder3 300x183 Where is the Startup Folder in Windows 8.1?

A TEXT POST

Updates to the COD NAS Benchmarking Database

New Article has been published on http://computingondemand.com/updates-cod-nas-benchmarking-database/

Updates to the COD NAS Benchmarking Database

I am proud to announce that Computingondemand.com’s benchmarking databases have been updated.  The new enhancements now allow you to filter the tables in the database to make your benchmarking comparison research easier than ever.

Each benchmark and table can be filtered

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The NAS benchmarking Database now has filters for:

  • Manufacturer
  • Model
  • RAID Level
  • # of Drives

If you would like to compare all 4 bay devices that we have reviewed against each other in a specific benchmark, just select the option from the drop-down at the top of the table.

The SSD Benchmarking Database now has filters for:

  • Manufacturer
  • Model
  • Size of Drive

Enjoy!

A TEXT POST

Delete a PivotTable in Excel

New Article has been published on http://computingondemand.com/delete-pivottable-excel/

Delete a PivotTable in Excel

If you have ever struggled with deleting a PivotTable in Excel, then you have come to the right place.  We use Excel for all kinds of things.  Once in a while, we like to do a bit of house cleaning.  We recently published an article on how to export all of your worksheets within an Excel Workbook to CSV.  Well, in order for that to be useful, you can’t have a bunch of extraneous information running around your worksheets, like PivotTables.

Removing a PivotTable isn’t as straight forward as you would think… it isn’t as simple as highlighting it and hitting delete.  It isn’t difficult either, you just have to do it the way Microsoft wants you to.

To remove a PivotTable:

  1. Click anywhere within the PivotTable to show the PivotTable Tools on the ribbon.
    PivotTable delete 1 Delete a PivotTable in Excel
  2. Click Analyze, Select, and then pick Entire PivotTable.
    PivotTable delete 2 Delete a PivotTable in Excel
  3. Press Delete.

Enjoy!

A TEXT POST

A Farewell to Orkut

New Article has been published on http://computingondemand.com/farewell-orkut/

A Farewell to Orkut

Today, Google officially announced its closing of the Orkut service, September 30,2014.

After ten years of sparking conversations and forging connections, we have decided it’s time for us to start saying goodbye to Orkut. Over the past decade, YouTube, Blogger and Google+ have taken off, with communities springing up in every corner of the world. Because the growth of these communities has outpaced Orkut’s growth, we’ve decided to focus our energy and resources on making these other social platforms as amazing as possible for everyone who uses them.

We will shut down Orkut on September 30, 2014. Until then, there will be no impact on you, so you may have time to manage the transition. You can export your profile data, community posts and photos using Google Takeout (available until September 2016). We are preserving an archive of all public communities, which will be available online starting September 30, 2014. If you don’t want your posts or name to be included in the community archive, you can remove Orkut permanently from your Google account. Please visit our Help Center for any further details.

It’s been a great 10 years, and we apologize to those of you still actively using the service. We hope you will find other online communities to spark more conversations and build even more connections for the next decade and beyond.

Ten years ago, Orkut was Google’s first foray into social networking. Built as a “20 percent” project, Orkut communities started conversations, and forged connections, that had never existed before. Orkut helped shape life online before people really knew what “social networking” was. Over the past decade, YouTube, Blogger and Google+ have taken off, with communities springing up in every corner of the world. Because the growth of these communities has outpaced Orkut’s growth, we’ve decided to bid Orkut farewell (or, tchau). We’ll be focusing our energy and resources on making these other social platforms as amazing as possible for everyone who uses them. We will shut down Orkut on September 30, 2014. Until then, there will be no impact on current Orkut users, to give the community time to manage the transition. People can export their profile data, community posts and photos using Google Takeout (available until September 2016). Starting today, it will not be possible to create a new Orkut account. Orkut, the service, may be going away, but all of those incredible communities Orkut users have created will live on. We are preserving an archive of all public communities, which will be available online starting September 30, 2014. If you don’t want your posts or name to be included in the community archive, you can remove Orkut permanently from your Google account. Please visit our Help Center for further details. It’s been a great 10 years, and we apologize to those still actively using the service. We hope people will find other online communities to spark more conversations and build even more connections for the next decade and beyond.
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Microsoft Security Bulletin Advance Notification for July 2014

New Article has been published on http://computingondemand.com/microsoft-security-bulletin-advance-notification-july-2014/

Microsoft Security Bulletin Advance Notification for July 2014

Microsoft is getting ready for their latest round of patches.  Patch Tuesday will see six in total with varying degrees of importance.

The following table summarizes the security bulletins for this month in order of severity.

For details on affected software, see the next section, Affected Software.

Bulletin ID Maximum Severity Rating and Vulnerability Impact Restart Requirement Affected Software
Bulletin 1 Critical
Remote Code Execution
Requires restart Microsoft Windows,
Internet Explorer
Bulletin 2 Critical
Remote Code Execution
May require restart Microsoft Windows
Bulletin 3 Important
Elevation of Privilege
Requires restart Microsoft Windows
Bulletin 4 Important
Elevation of Privilege
Requires restart Microsoft Windows
Bulletin 5 Important
Elevation of Privilege
May require restart Microsoft Windows
Bulletin 6 Moderate
Denial of Service
Does not require restart Microsoft Server Software

The following table details Microsoft’s classification for severity

Rating Definition
Critical A vulnerability whose exploitation could allow code execution without user interaction. These scenarios include self-propagating malware (e.g. network worms), or unavoidable common use scenarios where code execution occurs without warnings or prompts. This could mean browsing to a web page or opening email.

Microsoft recommends that customers apply Critical updates immediately.

Important A vulnerability whose exploitation could result in compromise of the confidentiality, integrity, or availability of user data, or of the integrity or availability of processing resources. These scenarios include common use scenarios where client is compromised with warnings or prompts regardless of the prompt’s provenance, quality, or usability. Sequences of user actions that do not generate prompts or warnings are also covered.

Microsoft recommends that customers apply Important updates at the earliest opportunity.

Moderate Impact of the vulnerability is mitigated to a significant degree by factors such as authentication requirements or applicability only to non-default configurations.

Microsoft recommends that customers consider applying the security update.

Low Impact of the vulnerability is comprehensively mitigated by the characteristics of the affected component. Microsoft recommends that customers evaluate whether to apply the security update to the affected systems.
A TEXT POST

New Article has been published on http://computingondemand.com/104609/

Now that more people are starting to use XBMC 13.0 codename “Gotham,” several issues have popped up which testing hadn’t previously revealed. After releasing two betas and a release candidate, it’s time for a final 13.1 release. The incorporated fixes are the ones already mentioned in the release candidate announcement, nonetheless we will list them again below. Do note that this release contains only fixes, and no new features. This 13.1 release can be safely installed on top of any previous XBMC releases. Please read the important notice at the bottom as well. Should you find any problems, you can find how to report these at the bottom of this announcement. Very likely we will release another bug-fix release after this version, with additional fixes and small improvements. These are however to intrusive to already include in this 13.1 release, as they need careful testing.

This 13.1 release contains the fixes compared to previous 13.0

  • Fix resume point of certain PVR items begin stale on playback.
  • Fix weirdness when certain TVs query XBMC’s UPnP server and it starts running a bunch of add-ons which cause popups on the XBMC machine.
  • Fix crash at exit while airplay is playing
  • Better recovery of VDPAU on errors.
  • Fixes for cropping of interlaced content using VDPAU.
  • Fix for FLAC tracks with large embedded images not playing.
  • Fix for crash if librtmp wasn’t available.
  • Fix for ffmpeg building on linux using later versions of librtmp.
  • Fix for broken m4a, mp4 playback with paplayer.
  • Fix for the hint text not being shown in editcontrols once unfocused.
  • Fix minor memory leak in PlayMedia builtin function.
  • Fix albumartist use in song smartplaylists.
  • Use unique client broadcast UID in the PVR api.

Important notice

Backup your data Before upgrading we would recommend you create a backup of your current userdata folder which contains all your current settings and database files. In the unlikely case that something went wrong during your upgrade, a backup will ensure that you are still able to go back to the previous state. Where the userdata folder is located on your system can be found on our userdata wiki page. Do note that when first upgrading from Frodo 12.x it may take some time until you see the familiar homescreen as several internal upgrades need to be performed.

Add-ons As mentioned in previous blog posts, due to changes related to our add-on system and skin improvement, certain plugins, scripts and skins may become incompatible when upgrading from Frodo to Gotham. Sadly this is part of the continuing process of development and improvement. We hope the impact of these changes will be limited but we feel a warning would be beneficial. If there are any addons you particularly depend on, we advise that you visit the forum thread of that add-on to see if the author has ensured support in XBMC 13.

After you have updated from Frodo or any earlier alpha or beta it may be beneficial to force refresh the XBMC.org repository. This will ensure the most recent repository list is loaded and needed updates become available. Here’s a quick how-to from our wiki: Force refresh

Download

Courtesy of: http://xbmc.org/xbmc-13-1-gotham-returns/

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Contact Us

New Article has been published on http://computingondemand.com/contact-us/

Contact Us

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Samsung 840 EVO 250GB Review

New Article has been published on http://computingondemand.com/samsung-840-evo-250gb-review/

Samsung 840 EVO 250GB Review

We love speed… and after reviewing the Samsung 840 Pro, we were chomping at the bit to get the 840 EVO in the lab.  Not only does the newer EVO model use newer 19nm 3-bit Triple-Level Cell vs that of 2-bit MLC found in the 840 Pro, but it also features a much more attractive price-point and an increased IOPS… on paper.

Samsung’s 840 EVO comes in a variety of flavors: 120GB, 250GB, 500GB, 750GB, and 1 wonderful TB.  The 840 Evo measures in at just 7mm thick, conforms to the 2.5 inch form factor, and sports Samsung’s 3-core MEX controller.  Samsung claims that the EVO can reach sequential read speeds of up to 540MB/s and sequential write speeds up to 520MB/s in their specifications.  The drive sports a MTFB of 1.5 million hours and a 3 year warranty. If you do the math, 1.5 million hours is equal to 171 years!

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The drive is available in 3 different packages:

  • Basic (Drive only), Laptop Upgrade and Desktop Upgrade kit.
  • The Laptop Upgrade kit comes with a SATA to USB 3.0 connector and a mounting spacer.
  • The Desktop Upgrade kit includes a SATA to USB 2.0 connector, a SATA data cable, screws, a 2.5” to 3.5” adapter bracket.

The EVO comes in rocking the same smooth finish found in the PRO model.  The sleek grey and black exterior exudes confidence.  Unlike our OCZ Vector, this drive is light, tinny, and free from graphics.  I do, however, appreciate the sold feel I get from the Vector; that is if feel means anything to you.  The Samsung EVO looks great, but “feels” cheap.  When handling the drive, it almost seems like the components inside are flopping about.

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Inside the EVO, there is a lot of open space.  The PCB takes up just a fraction of its enclosure.  Samsung outfitted this drive with two 3-BIT MLC (A.K.A. TLC) 128GB (K90KGY8S7M-CCK0) packages, the Samsung MEX controller (S4LN045X01-B030) , and LPDDR2 DRAM for caching (K4P4G324EB-FGC2).  The MEX controller uses  a 3-core ARM Cortex R4 processor at 400 MHz.  The Cortex R4 processor is the first real-time processor based on the ARMv7-R architecture.

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Ok… So what is the deal with TLC? And no, it isn’t a Micheal Jackson reference.  Instead, TLC is what I consider to be a natural evolution in the SSD Market.  First, there was SLC, then MLC, and now TLC.  SLC, or Single-Level Cell can store 1 bit of data per cell.  Because of that, it costs much more per gigabyte but offers the highest performance.  MLC, Multi-Level Cell, is in the middle.  It can store 2 bits of data per cell and offers good performance and a decreased price point.  Drawbacks include a decrease in endurance and a far greater complexity in determining the drives state.  It is much easier to determine if an SLC is occupied.  TLC, Triple-Level Cell, is the most affordable of the lot.  However, it offers the lowest performance and an increased rate at which the NAND cells degrade.  With TLC there are 8 states to distinguish between, with only a few electrons making the difference between one state or another.

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So, why would anyone want to buy an SSD with lower performance and an increase in cell degradation?  Well, engineers thought about it… a lot. They came up with complex and clever solutions.  With things like Advanced wear-level coding, new garbage collecting algorithms, improved ECC (Error-Correcting  Code), over-provisioning, and parallelization.

To get speeds up, manufacturers like Samsung, that make every single aspect of this drive, can choose from the highest quality NAND in their manufacturing process.  Also, the decrease in production costs for TLC means Samsung can increase the number of NAND chips in their SSD, which allows for more parallelization and the implementation of something called TurboWrite.

TurboWrite is a technology that simulates faster SLC NAND on a portion of the drive.  During write operations, data is first written to the buffer at accelerated speeds.  Then during the idle periods, the data is moved from the buffer to primary storage.

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The buffer size varies with drive sizes and starts with a minimum size of 3GB on the 120GB flavor.

SSD Capacity 120GB 250GB 500GB 750GB 1TB
Buffer Size 3GB 3GB 6GB 9GB 12GB

Now, a buffer is just that… a buffer.  Under consecutive write operations, the buffer will fill. When that happens, the transfer will exit TurboWrite and write data directly to the drive at 3-bit MLC performance.

SSD Capacity 120GB 250GB 500GB 750GB 1TB
TurboWrite 410 MB/s 520 MB/s 520 MB/s 520 MB/s 520 MB/s
Exit TurboWrite 140 MB/s 270 MB/s 420 MB/s 420 MB/s 420 MB/s

Packaged with each drive, no matter the trim level, is Samsung Magician software and Samsung Data Migration Software.  Samsung Magician software is a suite of tools and recommendations that can help you get the most out of your configured system.  Outside of the fancy graphical representation of usage and the easy firmware update process, the drive can help you configure your OS and drive to improve performance, maximize capacity, improve reliability, or customize your own profile.

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RAPID was unable to be configured on our test system.  Stay tuned for an update when those issues are resolved.

The following is take directly from the Samsung Magician Software White paper:

  • The “Maximum Performance” configuration profile sacrifices a small amount of SSD lifespan (or endurance) in favor of the fastest possible performance. Features like “Hibernation Mode,” “Virtual Memory,” and “indexing,” which require extra writes to the SSD in order to function, are enabled for added speed.
  • The “Maximum Capacity” profile disables features that require a large amount of extra storage space to function, including “Hibernation Mode,” “Virtual Memory,” and “Automatic Backup,” all of which reserve rather large portions of SSD storage. This configuration is particularly useful for those who purchased a low capacity SSD and want to ensure they have as much space available as possible for their own files without the OS claiming precious space for itself.
  • “The Maximum Reliability” configuration profile disables all features that produce extra writes to the SSD in order to maximize potential SSD lifespan. It is a well-known fact that SSDs have a limited number of write/erase cycles. While this limit is far beyond any usage level a regular user might encounter, some still prefer to take extra cautionary measures. Features like “Indexing,” “Hibernation Mode, “Virtual Memory” and “Automatic Backup,” which make frequent writes to the SSD, will all be switched off. While there may be a slight performance decrease when using the “Maximum Capacity” or “Maximum Reliability” profiles, especially when waking from sleep, SSD technology’s incredible read/write speeds ensure users will still enjoy a noticeable performance and usability improvement over traditional hard disk drive (HDD) technology. Of course, there is always the option to choose a custom configuration via the “Advanced” tab. Even power users will find this tab useful, as it provides quick access to all relevant OS features either via simple toggle or via a shortcut to the appropriate Windows dialog box.

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Magician software also has a built-in benchmarking utility so you can easily document how your drive is performing.  The benchmark measures four key areas: Sequential Read, Sequential Write, Random Read (IOPS), and Random Writes (IOPS).

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The software can also set Over Provisioning on your Samsung drive.  Over Provisioning is an easy way to set aside a minimum amount of space that the SSD controller can use as a “swap space”.  As you overwrite data on your drive, the controller has to erase an entire NAND block that may contain some still valid data.  While this is going on, the controller goes through a complex process of moving data around trying to wear cells evenly and prepare free blocks for future data writes.  As you fill your drive, the amount of space the controller has to work with becomes more limited and Over Provisioning solves this by setting the space aside.

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SSD Benchmarking Hardware & Methodology details hardware used & methodology for conducting benchmarks.
To see how this SSD compares to others, please visit our SSD Benchmarking Database

SSD Key Bencharmking Results

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AS SSD is a small but powerful SSD benchmarking utility created specifically for that purpose. The software uses “incompressible” data to benchmark your drive without the benefits of compression that may increase performance under certain circumstances.

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CrystalDiskMark is another benchmarking utility that determines speeds by measuring 512KB, 4KB, and 4KB (Queue Depth 32) sequential and random read and write speeds. Test data can be Random, 0Fill, and 1Fill. For our purposes, we left the test at Random.

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Anvil Storage Benchmark is a software package that I strolled across one day while cruising some reviews. The software is still in BETA and offers it out to you for free during the BETA period. The software has an SSD benchmark that can be configured to test with data from 0Fill to 1Fill. You get read write speeds in MB/s and IOPS. There are other benchmarking options, but we are only concerned with the SSD benchmarking at 0Fill and 100% (1Fill – Incompressible).

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IOMeter has to be one of the most widely used software packages for benchmarking disks. There are an endless number of ways you can build a benchmark, but we chose to limit our benchmarking to 100 percent Sequential Read and Write then 100 percent Random Read and Write. You can emulate our benchmarking by using the following configuration

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The ATTO Disk Benchmark performance measurement tool is compatible with Microsoft Windows. Measure your storage systems performance with various transfer sizes and test lengths for reads and writes. Several options are available to customize your performance measurement including queue depth, overlapped I/O and even a comparison mode with the option to run continuously. Use ATTO Disk Benchmark to test any manufacturers RAID controllers, storage controllers, host adapters, hard drives and SSD drives and notice that ATTO products will consistently provide the highest level of performance to your storage.

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PCMark Vantage is a benchmarking suite designed to stress components in various ways to measure performance. For our purposes, we will be utilizing the HDD Suite to gain an understanding on how this drive will perform under these simulated criteria: Windows Defender, Gaming, Importing Photos, Windows Vista Startup, Video Editing Windows Media Center, Adding Music, and Application Loading.

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Using traces recorded from Adobe Creative Suite, Microsoft Office and a selection of popular games, PCMark 8 Storage highlights real-world performance differences between storage devices. You do not need to have these applications installed on your system to run the Storage benchmark. The PCMark 8 Storage benchmark test contains the following workload traces:

  • Adobe Photoshop light
  • Adobe Photoshop heavy
  • Adobe Illustrator
  • Adobe InDesign
  • Adobe After Effect
  • Microsoft Word
  • Microsoft Excel
  • Microsoft PowerPoint
  • World of Warcraft
  • Battlefield 3
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There really is no question about where SSD’s are going.  TLC NAND and future enhancements is going to keep the price trending downward.  I am interested to see how other manufacturers, that do not have the same level of control that Samsung has, can fare in this new market.  With 4-bit MLC NAND on the horizon in production drives, keeping performance up will be an increasingly difficult road to navigate.

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Ok, so what does this mean when you add it all up?  It means that Samsung has put together a drive that leaves others in the dust at a price that everyone can afford.  The Samsung EVO has proven itself to be akin to a cost-effective sports car.  The use of TLC in the EVO keeps the prices down while technology like TurboWrite and parrellization keeps the speeds up.  Clever enhancements and new technology have provided a roadmap for the future. Bottom line, the Samsung EVO will have no issues standing tall among the SSD elite.  The real question boils down to… Is it worth your money?  Well, considering that you don’t have to shell out a ton of it ($147.oo USD) to get a 256GB EVO, I would say yes.

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Zentyal announces Zentyal Server 3.5

New Article has been published on http://computingondemand.com/zentyal-announces-zentyal-server-3-5/

Zentyal announces Zentyal Server 3.5

Zentyal Development Team today announced Zentyal Server 3.5, a new release of the Zentyal Linux small business server. Zentyal Server aims at offering small and medium businesses (SMBs) a native drop-in replacement for Windows® Small Business Server and Microsoft® Exchange Server, that can be set up in less than 30 minutes and is both easy-to-use and affordable.

Zentyal Server 3.5 release focuses on providing a stable server edition with simplified architecture. Therefore, the release comes with a single LDAP implementation based on Samba4, helping to solve a number of synchronization issues caused by having two LDAP implementations in the earlier editions. In addition, a number of modules have been removed in order to focus on Zentyal Server’s goal: Offer a drop-in replacement for Windows® Small Business Server and Microsoft® Exchange Server.

In this regard, Zentyal Server 3.5 release has also focused on providing improved Microsoft® Exchange Server replacement based on the OpenChange technology. Besides a number of minor improvements, the release features support for Microsoft Outlook® 2010 and automatic Inbox refresh with recent versions of Microsoft Outlook®.

Technical features

Zentyal Server 3.5 comes with improved LDAP integration based solely on Samba4 and improved native interoperability with Microsoft® Exchange Server. It is based on the latest Ubuntu LTS distribution (Ubuntu 14.04) and offers greater stability thanks to the removal of modules that fall out of the focus of a “small business server” or were little-used.

New features and improvements include:

  • Improved LDAP integration based only on Samba4 (synchronization with OpenLDAP was removed)
  • Distribution upgrade from Ubuntu Server 13.10 to Ubuntu Server 14.04 LTS
  • Support for Microsoft Outlook® 2010
  • Automatic Inbox refresh with recent versions of Microsoft Outlook®

Removed modules include:

  • L7 filter
  • FTP
  • Zarafa
  • User Corner
  • Captive Portal
  • Bandwidth Monitor

Upgrading

Automatic migration path from Zentyal 3.4 to Zentyal 3.5 will be provided shortly. The migration not only affects Zentyal Server, but also involves a Ubuntu base distribution upgrade (from Ubuntu 13.10 to 14.04). The migration process will be made available in a few weeks in order to consolidate the scenario.

Availability

Zentyal Server 3.5 is released under the GPLv2 license and is freely available for download at: http://www.zentyal.org/download/

The Zentyal Server source code is available at: https://github.com/Zentyal/zentyal/