Posted tagged ‘https’

Building cheap cloud storage – the Backblaze way!



I recently read this article written by cloud backup service provider Backblaze on how to build  a cheap cloud storage device – 67 TB of storage for under 8000 USD to be exact.

Backblaze provides unlimited backups to individuals for a mere 5 USD/month, and it is really interesting to read about how they are coping with the demand.

I am going to make a brief summary of the most interesting parts of their  article.

Use of cheap RAID controllers
It’s interesting that they don’t use expensive hardware RAID controllers – their “Syba SD-SA2PEX-2IR” controllers cost only 35 dollars a piece, and leave the CPU to handle the job of maintaining RAID functions. This is ingenious in cloud storage, because the cost of a good CPU is far less than four or more full-featured hardware RAID controllers. (They use a Intel Core 2 in their rig, but since the post is a few months old a Core i5/i7 would probably be a better choice today.)

RAID structure
Using 45 drives in each server, Backblaze chooses to divide these drives into three RAID6 volumes of 15 drives each. This gives every volume  resistance against two disk failures, or a total of six drive failures in a best-case  scenario. (Two failing drives per volume.) The interesting part here is the “threshold” for maximum number of disks in a RAID6 volume, as estimated by Backblaze. With every new disk added, the likelihood of two drive failures in quick succession increases.

Tomcat backbone for communication
I mostly put this in to further dispel the idea that Java is “slow”. This is a great choice of platform, which must have lowered development costs considerably over an alternative implementation. (Such as modifying Apache, or writing a custom daemon to handle the communication.)

Encrypted communication
I am still a bit puzzled at this. I guess the encryption is supposed to protect against snooping on their internal network, but the data is encrypted on end users personal computers before upload, so this measure seems a bit unnecessary, especially with the added CPU usage. I’d be glad to hear some other ideas on this, so if you know, leave a comment!

JFS File system
JFS is a stable file system with low CPU utilization and great performance when looking for files. Read this in-depth file system benchmark for more information.

And that’s all. If you have any questions or other ideas, don’t hesitate to leave a comment!

Tinfoil Tom Series – Episode 1: Securing your web browser


f73603379ec11c4bdc493282f4b2d547p_510x270“What’cha lookin’ at?!”
(Thanks to Sarah for this beautiful depiction of paranoia!)

Hi and welcome to the “Tinfoil Tom” series that I intend on running on this very blog. This series of post will be dedicated to end-user computer security – for the slightly paranoid. So it seemed appropriate to start with what you’re doing at this very moment – that is, surfing the web! (Whatever else you were doing is but your own business, in the spirit of tinfoil hats, paranoia and all.)

This guide is first and foremost directed at power-users, but it is written in a way so that (hopefully) anyone can follow it without problems.

The web browser
Try asking someone about their web browser preference and you’ll notice that many people would rather bite your head off than consider an alternative one. That being said, according to me – the power-user browser is Firefox. Opera is not far behind and may very well excel in some categories, but with the grand focus on security, the enormous community and the perpetually growing add-on library that all Firefox users can enjoy, it’s simply unbeatable, and so it will be a prerequisite for this tutorial.

With its out-of-the-box configuration Firefox is one of the most secure browsers, but we won’t stop there! To make your experience even safer – read on for some useful add-ons.

Added security
Here are some great add-ons that will help in tightening your browsers security.

Adblock Plus

beforeafterBefore and after shot. Unfortunately, some of that heavily
appealing “bling-bling” disappears together with the ads.

Whilst not technically a security add-on, Adblock plus make practically all ads on pages disappear, and in such way makes you less targetable to third-party exploits such as XSS attacks, not to mention those bastard animated smileys. *shivers*

Using Ad blocking software has come under heavy fire lately, with many ad-financed sites expressing heavy criticism towards the users, some sites have even started to reject users with ad-blocking software. Luckily, the number of these sites so far is very small, and let us hope it doesn’t spread. One could probably spend a whole series of posts just discussing the moral aspects of ad blocking (Which according to me has heavy parallels to downloading or TiVo‘ing TV shows, effectively skipping the commercials.) but I’ll leave it for another day.

Get Adblock for Firefox here.


logoEvil script is evil.

Before you install this add-on, you should be aware of the fact that breaks almost all modern websites because it interferes (or rather completely shuts off) JavaScript support unless you specifically enable it on a per-site basis. But it also stops a lot of third-party homepages from running scripts and makes a lot of other security improvements under the hood. Although I don’t recommend this add-on for normal users, power users who often visit the same set of homepages may benefit greatly in terms of increased security – this add-on will truly make your browser an impenetrable fortress.

Get NoScript for Firefox here.


tor_stickerJust watching that onion makes my eyes tear up… with laughter!

TorButton is actually a quick proxy gateway to Tor, an online darknet-like anonymization effort, but because the Tor software acts as a standard HTTP proxy, we can use any proxy server in its place, and because the TorButton add-on features many security tweaks, some similar to NoScript, even running it through a transparent server on your own computers adds security, and as far as I have noticed, TorButton breaks much fewer websites and barely requires any user attention. The only problem might be the cumbersome task of properly setting up a proxy server, but for Windows I can recommend CCProxy which I use myself. (Demo version with some non-timebased restrictions, although works fine for our intentions.)

Get TorButton for Firefox here.

Coming up!
In the next episode of the Tinfoil Tom series we will be discussing laptop security, secure file deletion through wiping and file recovery.

In other news…
Randomly speaking of video game soundtracks – the classical Unreal Tournament Score is really such a pearl. Fantastic and surprisingly mellow soundscapes with a hint of almost organic roughness. I’m pretty certain it isn’t being sold anymore (I think it was only included in the special editions to begin with.) but I found a mirror, let’s hope it stays up!