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Setting up the Backup Software

Story location: Home / computing /
15/Oct/2007

Read Part 1.

Part 2

On the Desktop Computer

Setting up the FTP server was straightforward. After installing the programme, select the User Manager and click 'New' to add a new user.

See more ....
Setting up the FTP Server
You'll need to:

  • Set the password. If the computer is behind a firewall and can't be reached from outside, it'll be safe to set it to blank.
  • Add a 'root' directory. This will be the directory where the files to be synchronised are. The name used on the FTP server doesn't have to relate to the actual name on the computer.
  • Don't forget to give the remote user access to the directory by clicking on it and selecting read/write/create permissions.

On the Laptop

Setting up the SyncBack software was slightly more complicated, due to the extra options available. From the Profiles menu, select 'New' and choose 'Synchronisation'.
Setting up SyncBack
Give the profile a sensible name, then click 'OK'. The profile settings box should appear. Click on Expert to open up more options.
Setting up SyncBack
The 'Source' directory is the directory on the computer which is to be synchronised with the server. The 'Destination' is the directory name we chose on the FTP server. Most of the other settings can be left as they are, apart from the FTP tab.

After typing in all the details, it would be sensible to do a few tests first. Clicking on Test FTP Settings will check whether the serve is reachable. After making all the changes and clicking OK, SyncBack will do a 'test' run to see what files will be transferred.

Once everything is set up, it's only a few mouse clicks to synchronise the data between the two computers. This could be speeded up by telling SyncBack to always run the profile every time you double click on the icon. To do this, right-click on the desktop shortcut and select 'Preferences'. Add the name of the profile after the application name (in this case, work). When the icon is double-clicked, SyncBack will run the profile and then exit.
Running a profile on startup

The only potential problem I can foresee is that a file deleted from one computer but not both will re-appear after synchronising.



Synchronise Files between two computers

Story location: Home / computing /
14/Oct/2007

Part 1

I have been given a laptop computer for work but when I work at home I sometimes use my home desktop computer. I decided I needed some way of synchronising files between the two machines, so that I could easily keep both up to date.

Both machines have Bluetooth, which I could use to transfer the odd file manually, but I decided I needed something I could automate. All of the bluetooth syncing software I could find was designed for transferring between a computer and a phone, not between 2 computers.

I found other solutions which expected the files to be on a networked drive, but would keep local copies available for editing. I can't change the network settings on my work computer so it would be tricky for me to set up something like that.

See more ....

The only solution I could think of was to use FTP to copy the files between the machines. One computer would run an FTP server while the other would run some sort of backup software which would synchronise the files.

I found 2 programmes which looked suitable:

  1. Cerberus FTP Server. I'd used this a few years ago and it was fairly easy to set up.
  2. SyncBack. This comes in free and paid-for versions. The free version seemed to do everything I needed.

Both the programmes were fairly straightforward to install. Then came the tricky bits - setting up the computers to talk to each other.

Both computers can access the Internet through our router, and both would normally get assigned automatic IP addresses. I needed a fixed name or address to use, so that the laptop could find the server, so I set the desktop machine to request a fixed IP address from the router. I did this by opening the 'Wireless Network Connection Status' in windows by double-clicking on the wireless network icon which Windows places in the 'tray' in the taskbar. Clicking on 'Properties' then 'Internet Protocol (TCP/IP)' then 'Properties' again got me to a screen where I could specify an IP address.
Specify an IP Address
IP addresses on my network start at 192.168.1.1 for the router and .1.2 onwards for any computers. I chose .1.9 because it's unlikely that we would have 8 computers connected, so that address should always be free.

Read Part 2.



Wireless Network Clash

Story location: Home / computing /
25/Feb/2006

For the last week or so, my wireless broadband has been really slow. At first I suspected the broadband itself but the downstairs computer was fine, then I suspected the wireless router but the other upstairs computer was fine as well. It looked like it was just my PC which was having problems. The connection was very slow and would occasionally stall causing any downloads or web pages to time out.

I tried a few things to attempt to fix it:
Reset the router and set it to use a different broadcast channel and transmission rate.
Reinstalled the wireless card drivers on my computer.
Removed the wireless card from my PC and installed it in a different PCI slot.

None of these made any difference. It wasn't til I removed my bluetooth dongle that the network speed got back to it's normal rate. It's very strange if the bluetooth has only just started to interfere because it's been connected to my PC for several months with no apparent problems until recently.



How to stop neighbours stealing your internet bandwidth

Story location: Home / computing /
25/Feb/2006

When we first set up our wireless network, everything seemed to be ok. It was when everything seemed to slow down that we started to look into wireless security.

1. MAC Address filtering

This was the first thing we tried - by giving the router a list of the MAC addresses of our computers, it was supposed to allow them to connect but refuse connection for all other machines. Unfortunately, due to a bug in the router itself, it kept disconnecting us, forcing us to reset the router each time (this only affected the router when it was set to use 802.11g. It worked ok with 'b' only).

To find the MAC address of your computer on Windows XP, open a command window and type: ipconfig /all The MAC address is listed as 'Physical Address'.

2. Broadcast SSID

With this enabled, the router is telling the entire world (well, the bits that are within range) that there is a wireless access point available, and come over and steal our bandwidth. With this disabled, a computer needs to know the name of the network before it can connect to it.

The first thing to do is to change the name of the network. The default name in the router might be the model number or router type, which would be easy to guess and not at all secure. After that, disable the 'Broadcast SSID' (or ESSID) option. The chances are that your computer will now have been disconnected (unless you're being sensible and making these changes while physically connected using a good old fashioned network cable).

The next step is to let Windows know the name of the wireless network so it can connect. If the wireless card's own software is managing the connection, there should be an option somewhere to specify the network's name. Otherwise, you'll need to open the Wireless Network Connection icon, click on Properties and then select the Wireless Networks tab. From there you can add a new network and provide the SSID.

3. Encryption

This is the most secure method - it will stop people connecting to your network and will also prevent anyone from evesdropping on your data.
Again, this is a two stage process: Setting encryption on the router and then on each computer which needs to connect. The exact method will vary from one router to another but one of the standard methods is WEP or Wired Equivalent Privacy. On the router, select WEP 128 bit. You'll then need to provide the 128 bit key - either by typing in a series of hexadecimal numbers or by providing a word of phrase and having the key generated for you. Whichever method you use, you'll need to make a note of the key before clicking 'OK'.

In Windows XP, the encryption settings are in the same dialog box where the SSID was specified above. Network Authentication needs to be 'Open' and Data Encryption needs to be 'WEP'. Then type the encryption key in the boxes and click OK. With any luck, you'll have a nice secure wireless network.



USB Wireless broke my network

Story location: Home / computing /
05/Sep/2005

After claiming that the USB wireless network dongle (a Belkin F5D5070) was working ok on Emma's computer, it started playing up again. It would still lose network connection a few times per day and require re-starting. At least it didn't crash the computer forcing a hard-reset (unlike on my machine). We tried all the different hints and tips off the Internet:

  • Let the manufacturers software handle the network
  • Let Windows handle the network
  • Enable encryption

etc. etc. Nothing helped.
We took it back to the shop today. The person on the service desk was less than helpful. We explained that it seemed to work ok but would lose network connection several times per day while other computers in the same room worked fine. They took it into the back room to test, then came back 2 minutes later claiming it worked ok, completely ignoring our insistance that it only worked intermittantly. They suggested we phoned the manufacturers, and also gave us a number for their support line. I asked how much the call would cost and whether it was premium rate. I was ignored and simply told again that I should phone the number.
Back home, we phoned Belkin. They blamed Compaq and suggested I updated my USB drivers, despite me having a brand new machine, almost certainly having newer drivers than anything Belkin had when they developed the thing. Next, we phoned the support number the shop gave us (we checked first that it wasn't premium rate). The guy at the other end was a lot more helpful. He said that although he can't really offer support because it didn't come pre-installed in the computer, he'd had personal experience of the device and said, off the record, that he thought it was a heap of crap. He gave us a code to quote which meant we were returning it as faulty. We also mentioned that the original salesman told us that opening the case to install a card would invalidate the warranty, and that was the only reason we bought the USB version. He told us that wasn't strictly true and the warranty would only be invalid if we'd damaged the computer in the process.
We drove back to the shop again and spoke to a different service person this time (after waiting in a queue - we must have chosen a busy period for complaints and returns). We explained what had happened over the phone, that we only bought the USB version because we'd been misled about the warranty, and quoted the code we were given. Finally, we had a result: after disappearing for a minute to consult someone else, he returned and said we could exchange it for a proper internal card.



Windows XP SP2 killed my network

Story location: Home / computing /
15/Aug/2005

Or 'Compters often make people quite angry part 2'

Last week, after installing the USB wireless network on my computer, I thought everything was working ok. Unfortunately not so. During the week, my network connection kept dying. Using the 'repair connection' option would cause the computer to hang, requiring a reach for the power switch to reset it.

I tried the usual things: uninstall/reinstall, download new drivers from the manufacturers website. Nothing seemed to work. A quick check of various websites suggested that it's likely to be a problem with XP service pack 2 and USB wireless network devices. I tried some of the solutions mentioned: let windows manage the connection, let the software which came with the adaptor manage the connection, check the USB power saving settings. Nothing helped.

As I was getting ready to return it to the shop to exchange it for a 'proper' internal card (I only chose the USB option because it was the same price and should've been quicker to install), Emma suggested we swapped adaptors from her machine to mine. Her computer is running SP1, mine came with SP2 pre-installed. We swapped the cards, reinstalled the drivers, and (touch wood) everthing seems to be working ok.

As an aside, on friday our wireless router kept losing connection, requiring regular resets. It would connect to the Internet but neither of us could connect to the router. On saturday, we upgraded the firmware and re-initialised it. So far it seems to be working ok again. I don't know whether it's just a coincidence or whether SP2 had somehow managed to affect other devices on the network.

Update: 23/09/2005

I thought the idea of one computer having such an effect on the network was a little fanciful, but I have since observed something similar. I was using FTP to transfer data between two machines (sitting at computer A, using a drag-and-drop interface to copy files from computer B to computer C). Part way through a transfer, all the computers connected to the router would simultaneously disconnect. The first time it happened, I thought it was just a random event. The second time, it was a bit annoying. The third time, it was obvious what was causing it (but not how it was doing it).