The Stochastic Game

Ramblings of General Geekery

Data First: The File Server (part 1)

The central piece to a data-first methodology is, in my opinion, having a file server.

The reason for this is that you’re going to want to access your data anytime, anywhere: streaming your music to your work PC, your movies to your iPad, or accessing your documents from your phone. You need a secure and reliable to way to store and serve that data, and this is best done with a file server.

File Server

(if you’re already about to ask why I don’t just use iCloud or something, you may need to read my introduction post again)

Let’s look at the basics for getting a file server after the break.

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PieCrust 1.0

PieCrust reached the big milestone of version 1.0 without much fanfare – and this post won’t be any different from the other release announcements. After a few release candidates I figured I would never be quite satisfied, so why not just keep going with the releases and not pay too much attention to the first digit.

Strawberry Rhubarb pie #gluten-free

You’ll see releases 1.1.0 and up coming soon, with the usual bunch of fixes, changes, and new features. The only difference is that the version number will now reflect better what’s going on, since I’ll be loosely following the semantic versioning specification. In a nuthsell, the digit being incremented reflects whether a release is a bug fix, a non-breaking change, or a major and/or breaking change.

The one big new thing that comes with version 1.0 is an installer script, along with a .phar binary, to make it easier for people to use PieCrust if they don’t want or need the source code. Head over to the PieCrust documentation for more information.

For the rest of the changes, keep reading.

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Data First

I like to think I’m being careful and responsible with my data, especially when I look at what most people do with theirs, so I thought I’d start a new series of posts on the subject.

Hard Disk

Data-first” is about choosing applications, services and devices based, first and foremost, on the data that you will get out of them, or the data they accept as input. It’s important because, at the end of the day, once you’ve quit your apps and turned off your devices, your data is the only thing that’s left, and the only thing from which you’ll start again tomorrow. It’s also the only thing you’ll have when you decide to switch to different applications, different OSes, or different devices.

Who is this for?

Some companies – Apple, Google, Amazon, or Microsoft – want you to trust them with your data. Trust that they will keep it available to you as the technological landscape around us changes. Trust that they will keep it stored for the next 50 years or so. And that they’ll always be there to unlock the files for you. And that they’ll pass it all on to your kids when you die.

If you can trust at least one of them, “data-first” is probably not for you. Instead you’ll choose the path of least resistance where all you have to do is tap a button on your iPad or Kindle Fire, watch that movie or read that book, and forget about it. Did you just rent or purchase? Do you own or merely lease? Does it have DRM? What about maybe switching to another eco-system in the future? Who cares! I applaud your ability to not worry about such things. Be on your way, you blissfully lucky person, I wish you well.

If you’re like me, however, there’s no way you can think that way. Being French means, at best, having a… let’s say: a “healthy” distrust of governments and corporations. Even if I trusted a company right now (which I don’t), I have no guarantee that the next CEO or board of directors are not going to screw their customers over. And this is important when you want to keep consuming your data for a long time. Am I ever going to stop re-watching “Who Framed Roger Rabbit” or “The Shining”? Or stop re-reading any Alan Moore comic? Probably not. And how long is “Game Of Thrones” going to last? Another 6 years, maybe? Remember how things were 6 years ago? Yeah, that was when people were eagerly waiting for the first iPhone to be released, and Netflix was still about mailing DVDs to people.

So no, I will not trust anybody but myself to manage my data for the next 50 years, let alone the next 10.

What is it for?

Keep in mind that the “data-first” approach has nothing to do with services and applications where you’re not supposed to keep any data. This includes iTunes rentals and subscription based services like Spotify or Netflix. I have absolutely no problem with those, which I use extensively.

What it’s for is any data you’ve chosen to purchase (videos, music, books, whatever), or that you have created or shared (emails, IMs, or other social media bullshit). That’s what we’ll be talking about.

Data-first” posts will be tagged with the eponymous tag, so keep an eye on it for case-by-case studies.