Linux User & Developer, Issue 141

Linux User & Developer Issue 141In the latest issue of Imagine Publishing’s Linux User & Developer, in addition to my usual four-page spread of the latest news from the world of open source, I review the Synology DS414j network attached storage (NAS) system and the Duo Security two-factor authentication platform.

I actually came across Duo Security when I learned that support for the platform had been added to the LastPass password management service. Signing up for an account and registering my details, I found that the software could be quickly and easily used to protect an SSH server – and with more than one public-facing SSH server, that piqued my interest.

Duo Security is a two-factor authentication system which uses push messaging to a smartphone application, turning your phone into the ‘thing-you-have’ portion of the setup and precluding the need to buy a dedicated security token. There’s fallback to other authentication measures, from offline token generation similar to Google Authenticator through to SMS and even voice call functionality. Better still, an account is free for ‘enterprises’ of fewer than ten users.

The Synology DS414j, meanwhile, is the latest NAS device to appear from the company and one designed as an upgrade from its popular dual-bay boxes. Featuring four 3.5″ SATA drive bays, the DS414j comes with Synology’s excellent DiskStation Manager (DSM) Linux distribution, but there’s little doubting corners have been cut: the drive bays are not hot-swappable for a start, which means downtime if you need to swap out a failed drive.

My conclusions on both products, plus my take on the most interesting open-source stories of the month, can be yours with a simple trip to your local newsagent or supermarket, or digitally via digital distribution services like Zinio.

Linux User & Developer, Issue 128

Linux User & Developer Issue 128This month’s Linux User & Developer includes two reviews of mine, plus my new regular news spread: four pages of Linux and open source news covering the spread from hardware and software to business and politics.

First, the news spread. Following the departure of the magazine’s regular news contributor, I was asked to take over the four-page spread on an ongoing basis. I’d previous written for the news section to cover absence, but from now on it’s going to be all me. The exception will be when larger features eat up the page count: because there’s a limit to how many pages an individual freelancer can have in the magazine – blame the beancounters – there will be times when I only do two of the four pages.

Both reviews this month are centred around ARM-based devices, but with very different target audiences: the BeagleBone Black and the Synology DS213J, a single-board computer aimed at developers and a dual-bay network attached storage (NAS) device designed to be as easy to use as possible.

I’ve been excited to play with the BeagleBone Black since it was announced, as it offers significantly more capability than the Raspberry Pi for not a lot more money – contrasted with the original BeagleBone, which wouldn’t leave you much change from £150 if you wanted accessories and HDMI output. While the software still needs work – a constant refrain in the maker-oriented single-board computer market, I find – it’s certainly an impressive device.

The DS213J, meanwhile, is a minor upgrade to one of Synology’s varied dual-bay NAS devices. Using a new Marvell Armada system-on-chip, it offers improved performance, new hardware floating point extensions, wake-on-LAN support and double the RAM at 512MB. Considering its price puts it well below the equivalent Atom-based system, it was certainly worth giving a test-drive.

How did the two devices do? Well, I’m afraid you’ll have to pick up the magazine to find out. It’s in most good newsagents, or is available digitally via Zinio and other services.

Linux User & Developer, Issue 120

Linux User & Developer, Issue 120This month’s Linux User & Developer magazine includes the second feature to come out of my interview with Andreas Olofsson, founder of parallel processing startup Adapteva, on the subject of his Parallella Kickstarter project.

The focus of my previous article, published in Issue 111 of Custom PC Magazine, was on Parallella’s implications for the smartphone and tablet world – appropriately enough, given that it appeared in the Mobile Tech Watch column. This time, however, I’m looking at the platform itself and what it could spell for the future of computing education.

One thing Andreas was keen to point out was the openness of his platform: should the Parallella project reach its funding goal – something that, since writing, has been achieved – he promised to make everything relating to the Epiphany architecture that powers the 16- or 64-core co-processor open, from the documentation to the compiler toolchain. That’s something that could really shake up the industry: most embedded computing platforms are encumbered with proprietary drivers, obscure or missing documentation, and the requirement to sign onerous non-disclosure agreements – and usually hand over a wodge of cash – to get enough information to make use of the platform on anything but a very high level.

Parallella could change all that – and speaking to Andreas, one thing you can’t fault him on is his enthusiasm for the subject. Whether that enthusiasm will translate into a shipping and sustainable product, of course, is another matter.

This issue of the magazine also includes a review of Synology’s DS213air dual-drive network attached storage device. Based on a custom Linux distribution dubbed DSM – DiskStation Manager – Synology’s NAS boxes offer far more than the average, with the ability to install everything from an SSH server to Drupal. Does that justify the high retail price, though? Better read the review to find out, hadn’t you?

Finally, the front of the magazine includes a two-page spread of open-source news from the past month. Usually covered by an in-house staff writer, I’ve been handling it for the past two issues due to absence – and it’s been a nice change from my usual work for the magazine. As for what I covered, you’ll have to find a copy of the magazine and take a look if you’re really that curious.

Linux User & Developer Issue 120 is in shops now, with more details available on the official website.

Linux User & Developer, Issue 112

Linux User & Developer Magazine, Issue 112This month’s Linux User & Developer magazine features my usual group test – this time looking at mind-mapping software – and a review of Synology’s 12-bay NAS box.

Hardware reviews are a very different beast to software: you need to strip the system down, investigate its components, build it back up, install it, test it, benchmark it and build up an informed opinion of precisely how the system works. With something like Synology’s NAS boxes, that’s not too difficult: the company builds its systems to be easy to take apart, and its PR team members are great at getting things back to you when they say they will. With other companies, it’s not so easy…

The group test this month looks at mind-mapping software, a subject close to my heart. When I’m planning large-scale projects, like in-depth features or books, I use mind-mapping software to help lay out the subject matter in a logical manner. There are some real stinkers out there, though, so it’s important to pick the right one to start with – data portability wasn’t at the forefront of anyone’s mind when these packages were being developed!

More details are available over on the Linux User & Developer website.