Lacie 2Big NAS–Recovering Data with Good Drives/Bad Device

Today, my faithful Lacie 2Big NAS box which has served me reasonably well for a number of years had a bit of a problem.

The box is a simple device which in my case has 2x500GB hard drives in it and runs them in a mirrored (RAID1) configuration so that if a drive fails you simply take it out, drop in another one and it rebuilds the mirrored set for you.

Actually, that’s the dream. When I did have a drive fail, I found that I had to send the failed drive back to Lacie who then sent me a replacement so it’s still pretty good but not quite as simple as it seems. Following today’s investigations, I suspect that I could now sort that out myself.

The box has a number of status indicators on it and, specifically, at the back it has 2 lights which indicate drive health and a big on on the front which indicates “general health”. There’s a description of these lights on the Lacie website;

which reads;

The LED indicators above the drive bays and the front LED indicate drive status and activity.

During Startup
  • Front LED – blinks red/blue until both disks are powered on, then turns solid blue.
  • Rear LEDs – blinks red/blue until corresponding disk is powered on, then turns solid blue.

NOTE: If the device is not able to initiate the boot process following disk startup, the front is solid red.

During Bootup
  • Front LED – solid blue
  • Rear LEDs – solid blue

NOTE: If a disk is failing, both the disk’s corresponding rear LED and the front LED will be solid red.

During RAID Synchronization
  • Front LED – solid red
  • Rear LEDs – The LED corresponding to the original disk will be blinking blue and the one being synchronized is blinking red
  • Once both disks are synchronized, their corresponding rear LED and the front LED will be solid blue

Now, my particular problem didn’t seem to be well described by any of these in that my device didn’t seem to be starting up properly but the light indicators were as follows;

  • drive bay 1 – solid blue light
  • drive bay 2 – flashing blue light
  • front LED – off

and nowhere on the Lacie site do you get a description of what that might mean.

I’ve a suspicion that it’s perhaps the power supply that has broken or possibly it’s something inside the NAS device itself and so I sent off for a replacement power supply to see if that fixes the issue.

I suspected that the disks might be ok but I started to worry a little about getting the data off the drives even though I had a fairly recent backup of the data I still didn’t really want to consider the delta between the backup and the actual data on these 2 mirrored drives.

It’s at this point when I started to question whether it’d been wise to stick with this simple Lacie device for all these years as I realised that I had no idea how the data was actually stored on the drives and I began to figure that getting to it might not be as simple as I might hope for.

I stuck the 2 drives into an old desktop PC and took a look at the partitions on them and spotted pretty quickly that each disk looked pretty much identical and seemed to contain a 464MB partition which I suspected contained my data along with a bunch of other partitions.

I hunted around a little for a way of mounting the filesystem from that partition on a Windows box (I tried both this Ext2 installable driver and this Ext2Fsd driver) before coming to the conclusion that while some of the partitions on these drives were either in EXT2/EXT3 the actual data that I was looking for wasn't.

Given that it was a Linux box that stored this data, I gave up trying to use Windows to read it at this point and decided I’d try and use Linux to read it and settled for Ubuntu.

At this point, I struck pure Gold because I found this post;

The Great Lacie 1TB Big Disk Recovery Experiment 

which had almost the exact details of how to go about it albeit with a slightly different device. The particular steps that I followed were;

  1. Took all disks out of my desktop PC.
  2. Installed the 2 disks from my Lacie 2Big NAS into my desktop PC.
  3. Downloaded an ISO installation of the latest Ubuntu version.
  4. Installed that onto a USB key.
  5. Booted my desktop PC from that Ubuntu installation on the USB key (letting Ubuntu run from the USB key rather than actually installing it).

Once I had Ubuntu running, I followed the steps outlined in the original post although I think anyone armed with a little Unix history and man mdadm would be able to figure it out from this point in.

I used the GParted partition editor and managed to locate my 2 disks (/dev/sda and /dev/sdb for me) which contained the 2 partitions that made up the mirrored set. For me, these 2 partitions were called /dev/sda2 and /dev/sdb2 and were easy to identify because they showed up as 464GB partitions (labelled as XFS in the tool).

With those identified I installed mdadm by doing a;

app-get install mdadm

which seemed to work fine and then I did a;

mdadm –-query /dev/sda2

as detailed in the original post which told me that the device I was looking for was /dev/md4 and with that in place I could re-assemble the mirrored pair;

mdadm –A /dev/md4 /dev/sda2 /dev/sdb2

Now, at this point I got puzzled for a while because the original post suggested that this was all I’d need to do to access the filesystem but that turned out not to be the case for me. I still had to mount it. I found that I could check the status of the mirror by doing a quick;

mdadm –detail /dev/md4

and that looked promising because it gave a nice description of the 2 volumes and told me that they were clean and then finally I figured (by trying mount) that the filesystem wasn’t mounted and so did something along the lines of;

mount /dev/md4 /home/ubuntu/lacie

and then I found that I could see my data at /home/ubuntu/lacie and so I just stuck another USB drive into the desktop PC and started copying the data off there.

And with that all done – I think I’ve got my data back Smile For me, I’m going to have a think about whether I trust this device to manage my files in the future given that it’s storing data in a fairly opaque way which can make it a little tricky to retrieve if something goes wrong. It’s also quite an old device so maybe it’s time for a rethink.

I hope if you come across this post via a web search then it’s useful to you and that you also get your data back too Smile

Windows Phone 7–Backup Location/Disk Space

I just updated my Windows Phone 7 and I noticed that I lost quite a lot of disk space in the process as the phone backup hit my local machine.

Just in case you're like me and hadn't quite planned for backing up your phone onto your hard drive (I'm running low on disk space), the phone backup seems to dump a lot of 4K data files in;

c:\users\{user}\appdata\local\microsoft\windows phone update\

I’m blogging this here in case anyone else is trying to find that location. As an aside, I used windirstat to find those files as I couldn't seem to find a parameter to tweak for the backup file location.

The Phone update's looking good though 🙂

Hardware Lineup 2011

As we head into 2011, I’m running a whole bunch of kit with the main items being;


I’ve had the HTC Mozart running Windows Phone 7 for about 5-6 weeks now and I’m really loving it – mainly I’m using it as a phone (!) and I’m finding that performance, battery life, voice and text are all really strong but I also use it as a connected device mainly running Maps (love maps on the phone), Seesmic and Messenger on it and the integrated search functionality which I find a lot more useful than being presented with a web browser. From time to time I drop into IE as well but it’s only as a last resort as I’d rather use a dedicated app for whatever I’m trying to get done.

I don’t use the phone too much for music or video as it doesn’t have a tonne of storage on it but I do have it sync’ing certain sets of photos.

As an aside, when it comes to music I’m a bit binary. Either a device can store all my music or it can’t. If it can’t then I can’t generally be bothered to figure out which music I do/don’t want on that particular device so I tend not to put music on the device at all.

I also don’t use it for games but that’s really because I’m not really a big video game player.

One of the unexpected upsides of the WP7 is using the Zune software to manage sync’ing – I’ve found that to be a really positive experience and it knocks iTunes into a cocked hat (ok, I know that’s not necessarily saying much) but it’s a big thumbs up to whoever worked on the sync’ing experience for Zune<->WP7.

Verdict: 9/10. Hold!

Music Player

For music, I have the old, classic iPod and I can’t see me replacing it unless it breaks. It’s got 80GB and easily fits all my music onto it and the battery life lasts for ages so I’m happy with that.

Verdict: 7/10. Hold ( the UI is quite clunky on these old iPods but I’m keeping it ).


I recently took a long holiday and wanted a lightweight computing device to read stuff on and I got a 32GB WIFI iPad for that and I’ve been really pleased with it ( especially since the update brought along multi-tasking ). It’s a nice device ( if a bit on the expensive side ) but it does come with that “locked in” feeling every now and again.

Primarily, I’ve used the iPad for Photos, Maps, Twitter, RSS reading, Windows Live Messenger ( including uploading photos to Windows Live ), Skype calls, newspaper reading ( the Telegraph seems to be the best free example of this ) and I’ve also used it quite a lot for watching TV/films on planes.

Mostly, I’m spending my time in apps and not the browser but I still find myself in Safari from time to time. One of the things I’ve been most impressed with about the iPad is its battery life and, particularly, its battery life while watching video.

Once again, because the 32GB doesn’t fit my entire music collection, I’ve avoided putting any music on the iPad at all but I figure it I’m carrying around the iPad then I’ve probably got a bag with me and I can drop the iPod into it so there’s not really much point in having the music duplicated.

Where I’ve found the iPad limited is in the iTunes experience ( I don’t find the sync process much fun ) and also in the locked-down nature of the device. As a simple example, I found the process of getting a photograph from a camera to Windows Live something of a challenge on the iPad and took a little bit of figuring out as in;

  1. Buy the “camera connector” kit from Apple Sad smile What? No USB?
  2. Plug in camera.
  3. Bring photos into iPhoto on the iPad.
  4. Have very limited options for manipulating those photos inside iPhoto on the device. Can’t create events. Can’t do much.
  5. Use Safari to visit Windows Live. Find that Safari disables any file upload buttons on HTML pages Sad smile
  6. Look for an alternative. Find that Windows Live Messenger iPhone app allows photo upload to Windows Live ( Microsoft 1, Apple 0 )
  7. Upload photos.

It’s not particularly intuitive and you realise that you’re “not working the way that Apple wants you to work” when you’re doing it Sad smile

I also find the experience of “connect iPad to iMac and both iTunes and iPhoto pop up and start trying to sync” a little bit weird – I’m not sure that pretending that the iPad is a camera is the right experience here.

Anyway, the overall experience is a positive one and I’m hoping that there’ll soon be some Windows powered devices with this form factor that give the iPad a genuine run for its money with perhaps more flexibility to make the device open to a few more scenarios.

Verdict: 8/10. Hold.


Compared to the other devices, I spend tonnes of time with my laptop and so it’s more important than any of the other devices I’m using.

I’m still running my trusty Dell XPS 1640 which is the best laptop I’ve ever owned. I’m (of course) running Windows 7 Ultimate on it which is the best version of Windows client I’ve ever run so this makes for a very happy experience all round. I had a panic with the XPS this year when the keyboard broke but Dell were great in getting an engineer out to fix it really quickly.

My only worry is that Dell will ditch the XPS 16 series without replacing it with something better.

When I’m not on the road somewhere, I have the XPS connected to the Dell SX2210T touch-screen monitor that I bought this year;

I only connect the “touch screen” part of this when I actually need it ( it’s a separate USB cable ) but I’m pretty happy with it as a second monitor as it’s nice and bright and matches the 1920×1080 of my laptop screen.

I also plug it into a set of speakers that I’ve had for ages, the Logitech THX Z2300;

which are more than good enough for the “home office” and, being a bit of a mouse-collector, I’m still running with my Explorer Mini Mouse which I’ve had for ages and really like;


In terms of storage, the laptop also syncs up to my very simple NAS, the Lacie-2Big 1TB which is just a 2-disk mirrored affair that I use for storing photos, music and a few other bits and pieces. Because it got updated to support Universal Plug n Play I find it’s quite a useful little box so I’ve kept it;

and, elsewhere, I’ve a Philips Streamium device which connects to this and plays music off it remotely;

and they seem to get along with each other most of the time connecting over Belkin “1Gbps” Powerline ethernet;

which seems to generally deliver about 200Mbps which I’m very happy with although I do find that I have to reboot these devices perhaps on average once per week in order to keep them running smoothly.

Verdict: 9/10. Hold.


In the desktop world, I have an old Windows desktop kicking around that I haven’t switched on for quite a while and I have an ageing iMac which gets used for some general web-browsing and it plays a part in managing music and photos collections.

I bought this machine as an experiment a few years ago when, in all honesty, using a Windows Vista machine as a “general purpose desktop” in the house wasn’t working out too well. Sorry Vista Sad smile

If I was looking at it again today, I’d probably ditch the iMac and replace it with a cheaper Windows machine as I find that there’s nothing much that works “better” for me on the iMac than it does on Windows 7 and, in truth, I find that this particular machine is always dropping its IP address settings and I have a devil of a time getting it to print so I’m a bit fed up with it although I’d quite like to try my hand at a little development for it this coming year if I “find the time”.

Verdict: 6/10. Sell ( or, more likely, just avoid and use other kit Smile ).