Securing your home NAS box

I recently built a NAS box to backup personal documents and media streaming, based on headless Ubuntu install and the excellent HP NL54 ProLiant Micro Server. There are tons of helpful material out there on setting up the server and support/discussion threads like this and this, so there isn’t much to add to the set-up process.

Strangely enough, most setup articles I came across ignored steps needed to secure the box, perhaps because unlike me, most people access their NAS boxes locally? Whatever the reasons, it doesn’t take much to secure your box from unwelcome guests and the minimum that you should do is:

  1. Disable root access to the box
  2. Add a new new user (and only user ideally) representing you only with administrative privileges and
  3. Secure remote login to your box over SSH

Personally for me, that’s good enough. Optionally, you can enable a firewall and take actions to prevent brute force access attempts on your box, the former maybe even less so important since it’s likely that your NAS box is already behind a home router that’s running a firewall with it’s own DDoS protection.

For the basic steps and advanced options, have a look at this excellent write-up. The comments thread is also worth reading too.

2000-2009. The Last 10 Years in Picture.

From the New York Times, a pictorial summary of the first decade of the 21st century. It was meant to be a new era; a new millennium and a fresh beginning; but how it turned out to be a series of blunders and disasters. What will the next 10 years hold for us?

As one fellow redditor point’s out, “A tsunami that killed a quarter million people is next to guitar simulating video game. That sort of sums up the decade… catastrophic events and consumerism-fuelled apathy.”

Phillip Niemeyer | Picturing the Past 10 Years

Phillip Niemeyer | Picturing the Past 10 Years

Setting up the S60 SDK for Development

Ever had a problem where your application was running fine on the emulator, but failed to run on hardware? Ran an application on the emulator, but the application exited, without showing any reason? Or perhaps, you expected to see the emulator logs in the debugger window, but they never appeared?

That’s because of rather aggressive approach taken by the S60 SDK installer in terms of disabling emulator diagnostics (most annoyingly, platform security violations, which go unchecked on the emulator by default) and results in unexpected behavior from applications when run on real hardware.

If you already have the S60 SDK installed, its worth checking if the diagnostics are enabled and even if you don’t want them, at least know what options affects which bits of diagnostics.

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Disconnecting Distractions

Paul Graham has an excellent article on factors that create distractions, especially the computer, as he points out:

TV is in decline now, but only because people have found even more addictive ways of wasting time. And what’s especially dangerous is that many happen at your computer. This is no accident. An ever larger percentage of office workers sit in front of computers connected to the Internet, and distractions always evolve toward the procrastinators.

The worst aspect of computer based distractions, whether its just plain old browsing or checking the status of your friends on social networking websites is that, its become a seamless experience, because we can do it right in the middle of anything we were doing and it still doesn’t feel like it, as he explains:

Another reason it was hard to notice the danger of this new type of distraction was that social customs hadn’t yet caught up with it. If I’d spent a whole morning sitting on a sofa watching TV, I’d have noticed very quickly. That’s a known danger sign, like drinking alone. But using the Internet still looked and felt a lot like work.

One thing that Paul doesn’t take on directly is the effect of social networking and video sharing websites on encouraging procrastination. To me, they are the single biggest source of addiction for the masses hooked on to the web. What’s even more scary is that increasingly, social networking sites are becoming defacto start pages compared to search engines.

Oh, did I tell you I’m writing this because the mail/calendering client at work, an universally recognized pathetic piece of $hit called Lotus Notes just hung up, prompting me to discard what I was doing and, guess what? I got distracted enough to write a blog entry about it.