Sunday, February 9, 2014

SMB and Media Server sharing of my external harddisk with TP-Link TL-WDR3600 router to PCs, tablets and TV box

I have just purchased a Transcend StoreJet 25A3 USB 3.0 1TB external harddisk from Lazada at the cost of  RM189 (with discounted price of RM219 and Lazada Chinese New Year voucher of RM30) and successfully shared it out with my TP-Link TL-WDR3600 router to my PC, laptops, Android tablets and HiMedia Q5II TV box using the SMB (Microsoft Server Message Block network file sharing protocol) as well as Media Server service.

This article is to record and share out my experience in setting up this external harddisk sharing.

By default, the Transcend StoreJet 25A3 is formatted with a single FAT32 partition occupying all its 1TB storage capacity. I learnt that the FAT32 partition type has the limitation in file size capped at a maximum of 4GB only. 4GB is just too small for partition image backup, for HD movie images and some other files which have big size.

I have tried to format the Transcend StoreJet 25A3 into different file systems, and here is my finding:

  • NTFS - this is supported by my TL-WDR3600 router. However, it is not a preferred file system for Linux (which is used in the firmware of the router), and its read/write speed is slow.
  • EXT2 - this is the most preferred file system for external harddisk connected to a Linux host. However, it is not supported by the stock firmware of my TL-WDR3600 router.
  • EXT3 - this is basically EXT2 with a journalized file system. It is also not supported by the stock firmware of my TL-WDR3600 router.
  • EXT4 - this is the most commonly used file system in Linux today. It is also not supported by the stock firmware of my TL-WDR3600 router.
As I need NTFS to store large files, and also FAT32 as a more stable file system for Linux host to store smaller files, I ended up formatting my Transcend StoreJet 25A3 into 2 primary partitions, one NTFS and another FAT32.

The harddisk partitioning and formatting was done using MiniTool Partition Wizard Home Edition, which is a free harddisk partition management software running on Windows that is capable of dealing with FAT32, NTFS, EXT2, EXT3 and EXT4 file systems. Most other Windows based partition management software can't deal with Linux file systems such as EXT2, EXT3, EXT4, etc.

After the partitioning and formatting, I made a Windows system image into the NTFS partition of the external harddisk, which is a crucial Windows restoration data that will be critically useful when the Windows system is corrupted (when infected by virus, critical system file is damaged, etc.). This can be done from within Windows 7 by going to Control Panel > System and Security > Backup and Restore > Create a System Image.

Then, I plugged the external harddisk into one of the USB port of my TL-WDR3600 router. Both the NTFS and FAT32 partitions are detected and ready to be shared out.

The stock TP-Link firmware supports USB file sharing using SMB (Storage Sharing), FTP (FTP Server) and Media Server.

Once a folder with photos, videos and/or music is shared out using Media Server, the TP-Link router will be detected as one of the Media Devices in the Network section of Windows 7, and the shared media files are accessible from there. They are also accessible from UPNP media access in HiMedia Q5II TV box.

As for the SMB sharing, it is accessible from Windows by opening Windows Explorer and key-in "\\" in the address bar. It is also accessible from Android devices by installing apps that is able to access SMB server, such as ES File Explorer. It is accessible from HiMedia Q5II TV box from SMB media access using the IP address of the router running the SMB service. You need to start the Samba service of the TV box in its Settings page before searching for the SMB server.

For easier future access, I have also mapped a drive in my Windows PC to the shared external harddisk partition.

I heard that the Asus RT-AC68U router supports USB sharing with Linux partition format. You can also add support for EXT2, EXT3, EXT4 in TP-Link router's USB sharing with custom firmware such as OpenWRT. There is reason why I didn't changed my TL-WDR3600 router to use custom firmware, which you can read here.

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Updated my HTC One to Android 4.4.2 (KitKat) with Sense 5.5

My HTC One received its OTA update from Android 4.3 (Jelly Bean) to Android 4.4.2 (KitKat) yesterday (7 February 2014).

The Sense UI version remains as 5.5, so there is not much changes to the UI from previous version in this update.

Here are some of the noticeable changes found in this update:
  • The battery bar in the battery icon changed colour from green (as in Android 4.3) to white.
  • There is a new icon for the Quick Settings screen called HTC Mini+ which can configure the phone to pair up with a HTC Mini+ device.

  • In Settings > Wireless & Networks, we can set the Default SMS app for the phone.

  • BlinkFeed can restrict auto refresh to use WiFi only. Can also configure for offline news reading. Its menu is now accessed by swiping from left side of the BlinkFeed screen.

  • New Location settings screen. The GPS toggle is controlled by the Mode setting here. Anyhow, you can still toggle GPS sensor on/off with the Quick Settings icon as it is still available as before.
  • Change in Gallery app and Music app.
  • Camera screen showing estimated video time and number of photos that can be taken with current storage available. The notorious purple-tint problem is still there, but seems to have improved from previous version (HTC One with Android 4.3 Jelly Bean has the worst purple-tint issue, worse than 4.2 and 4.4)
  • Built in support for Google Cloud printing. You can find a new Printing item in Settings menu.
  • New settings for Do Not Disturb found inside Sound settings.
  • Can switch over to QWERTY keyboard from the T9 keyboard in call dialer, and vice-versa.

Friday, February 7, 2014

What determines the salary of employees

Have you wonder what determines the salary of employees?

In my point of view, the lower limit of the salary is the price offered by employer so that the employee will stay put with the company, and the upper limit is the cost of the company to remain competitive in the business.

If the salary is on the low side compared with market rate, the employee will have a lot of options, including:

  • to join another employer who offer a better package
  • to self-employ
  • to stay at home
If the employer is paying a high salary, the cost of maintaining the company will be high, and that need to be compensated with either one or more of the following:
  • to charge higher price for goods/services provided to customers
  • to tolerate a lower profit margin
  • to cut cost from existing operations
  • to get more customers and/or sell more goods/services to existing customers
If the company charge higher price to customers, the customers might have options to buy from another company, or just not to buy.

If the company tolerate a lower profit margin, that will bring down the net profit, and in turn, lower down the dividend to shareholders/investors.

If the company try to cut cost from existing operations, it might need to sacrifice the quality and/or quantity of goods/services produced, which in turn reduce the customers satisfaction level, and the customers might have options to buy from another company, or just not to buy.

So, it is a rule of thumb that salary cannot be too low, or else the employees will part away. At the same time, it cannot be too high until the business is unsustainable.

The salary is indeed directly related to the productivity of the employee. A productive employee will be able to help the company generates more quantity and quality of goods/services that is saleable to customers, which can realized into sales and profit.

So, its seems that the only feasible option for sustainability is "to get more customers and/or sell more goods/services to existing customers" which needs to be backed up by the productivity of the employees. If the employees are not productive enough, the employer will need to hire more employees, which will then share out the HR salary budget of the company.

The more productive employees deserve higher salary, because competitors are willing to pay for that to bring over the employees to work with them. The supply and demand in job market will naturally drive the salary of productive employees.

In the investment world, there is a common indicator called Price/Earning (P/E) ratio to evaluate the worthiness for investor to buy and hold a share. Perhaps in the mind of the employers, there is also a Salary/Productivity ratio to evaluate the worthiness for the company to employ and maintain the employee.

As an employee, if you want to have high salary, then you need to:
  • be productive
  • join a highly productive company that is very profitable (driven by its productivity)
If you are not very productive and get a high salary, the good time might not be for long. If your company is very profitable but not supported by productivity, the good time might also not be for long.

During the 80's when Dr. Mahathir just became the prime minister, Malaysia is on the right track by emphasizing on productivity to boost the nation's economy, particularly the GDP. It seems that the current government has completely lost track by intervening the pricing of certain goods/services (instead of letting the free competition supply-demand factor to drive the price), intervening the salary with minimum wage, intervening the supply-demand by imposing restrictions that is non-productivity related, etc. Is there any hope that we will be on the right track again, and who will be the long waited hero to put back the right track in place?

Hint: Click on the "Older Posts" link to continue reading, or click here for a listing of all my past 3 months articles.