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A request for Beta testers (Read 9976 times)
Andrew Haslam
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A request for Beta testers
Aug 15th, 2011 at 5:59pm
 
Hi,

By way of introduction, my name is Andrew Haslam and along with Nigel Bree (who I believe used to be a moderator on Radified), I was a member of the original development team for Ghost at Binary Research and eventually architect for Ghost at Symantec.  Amongst other work, I was responsible for Ghost's NTFS cloning logic and created GhostWalker, Ghost's SID changer.

I am now the developer of a desktop cloud storage product called MonsterDrive and I am looking for people to use it in earnest as Beta testers - I believe that users of cloning software are ideally placed to use and test a full virtual cloud disk solution to its fullest.

MonsterDrive is a storage solution that looks and behaves just like a massive hard disk, powered by Amazon's S3 storage cloud and utilizing Amazon Payments to track and bill customer data usage.

If you are interested in becoming a Beta test user, please visit http://www.monsterdrive.com, download the Beta version and start using it.

NB: There is no charge for use of the service during the Beta test phase if you stay within a limit of 3GB of data and an appropriate and related amount of traffic - full details can be found on the pricing page of the website.
However, due to the way Amazon Payments works, before you can use the Beta version you will need to register credit card details with them as part of the configuration process.

A Beta test forum has been set up on the website for feedback, bug reports and so on.  If you have any questions, please feel free to contact me directly at:

...

Disclaimer: I have previously asked and received Rad's blessing before posting this message.
 
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NightOwl
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Re: A request for Beta testers
Reply #1 - Aug 17th, 2011 at 9:40am
 
@
Andrew Haslam

Well, I guess you are who you say you are:  http://nz.linkedin.com/in/aphaslam

Quote:
I am looking for people to use it in earnest as Beta testers

Okay.

Quote:
There is no charge for use of the service during the Beta test phase if you stay within a limit of 3GB of data and an appropriate and related amount of traffic - full details can be found on the pricing page of the website.  (  http://www.monsterdrive.com/pricing.html), and http://aws.amazon.com/s3/#pricing)
However, due to the way Amazon Payments works, before you can use the Beta version you will need to register credit card details with them as part of the configuration process.

Sure looks like your program has *gone live*--what exactly is being *beta tested*?  Looks like the only thing to test is *how many beta testers will exceed the *free* limits* and trigger billing by Amazon!

Quote:
Pricing

Business-as-usual pricing has not yet been finalised but for the duration of the Beta program, MonsterDrive is FREE to use up to the following monthly storage and transfer limits:

•3 Gb Storage (standard or reduced redundancy).
•10,000 upload or list requests.
•10,000 download requests.
•1 Gb data transfer out.

Once these limits are exceeded, you will be automatically billed at standard Amazon S3 rates

What exactly constitutes *upload or list requests* and *download requests*--how do you tract that usage?  I saw where you can put limits on the amount of data your program backs up--but with all the *automation* that's going on in the background--how many *automatic* requests are occurring as the program continues to run--when am I going to reach those *triggers*?

And getting your data back--only 1 GB before having to pay Amazon  (and presumably *you*) for the privilege!

Sorry if I seem *skeptical*--I guess we are all *beta testers* of any software--commercial or freeware--as any user of Windows, Linux, DOS, or other software know--there are always bugs.......

Quote:
Disclaimer: I have previously asked and received Rad's blessing before posting this message.

Good thing you said that, otherwise I might have deleted your post!
 

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Andrew Haslam
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Re: A request for Beta testers
Reply #2 - Aug 17th, 2011 at 3:00pm
 
Hi,

I guess I can understand how my request could be viewed as spam designed to trick users into paying me money - but it's certainly not my intention.

The application *is* still requiring Beta testing and to test it end to end, including the use of the Amazon metering and billing system means exercising all functionality, even if that means those charges are zero. 

I would dearly like to be able to offer unlimited use to Beta testers but I'm not in a position to be able to do that.   What I have ended up with is a compromise that will hopefully allow anyone interested enough leeway to use it effectively without being charged for going to the trouble to use the application.

Regarding the number of upload requests - here's how to work it out:  this can be loosely worked out by dividing the total stored data by 128k which will give you the number of transfer blocks and hence the number of upload requests. 

Download requests work the same way but will generally be a lot less because of the local cache the application uses - most data will already be local unless the settings are changed radically.  Downloads will also vary depending on whether you share the drive ie other users will be generating download requests that you will be liable for.

In the interests of disclosure, I should add that I have just discovered a miscalculation in the pricing regarding the maximum free upload requests required to support a 3Gb storage threshold - it should be 25,000 upload requests instead of the 10,000 it is currently set to and in cases where users have made full use of the max free storage limit may result in a small one off charge of 5 - 10 cents.  I'm happy to refund this charge but as there has been not much in the way of response to requests for Beta testers in general, I don't believe many people will be affected.  This is about to be changed but may take some time to take effect.

Anyway, thanks for downloading the Beta - I hope you try it out.  And thanks for not deleting my post.

- Andrew
 
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Re: A request for Beta testers
Reply #3 - Aug 18th, 2011 at 1:49am
 
nigel says he's cool.
 
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Re: A request for Beta testers
Reply #4 - Aug 18th, 2011 at 11:42pm
 
@
Andrew Haslam

So, obviously there are metrics being tracked to determine charges for usage.

Is there a way to include a UI (user interface) that has counters, or meters, or ..... whatever, that show what one's chargeable usage is?  Can one query Amazon's tracking data for one's account--or the internal workings of the program, to let someone know what their activity is costing them?

 

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Re: A request for Beta testers
Reply #5 - Aug 19th, 2011 at 6:01pm
 
Andrew, (1) how is MonsterDrive different from ADrive?

(2) It has been reported that there is no No Privacy on Amazon’s Cloud Drive.  Since MosterDrive uses Amazon's A3 for storage, isn't this a serious issue?

Thank you.
 

ple • o • nasm n. “The use of more words than are required to express an idea”
 
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Andrew Haslam
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Re: A request for Beta testers
Reply #6 - Aug 22nd, 2011 at 4:40am
 
@ NightOwl

Yes, there are quite a few metrics which would be valuable to the user but which are not currently being displayed - this is a consequence of getting a usable app to a Beta testing stage in the shortest time possible.   Also, it's only when you bring an app to real users using the full end-to-end system that all these issues show themselves - so thanks for highlighting it.

As a workaround, user's can always track their current costs and data usage in their Amazon Payments account by using the link on the About tab in the Application dashboard or by following the link to Amazon Payments on the website's pricing page.


@ Pleonasm

Andrew, (1) how is MonsterDrive different from ADrive?

MonsterDrive is a block based cloud storage solution ie. it uses a virtual disk which is actually formatted with a real filesystem - in the case of Windows, it is NTFS. 

All of the other personal cloud storage offerings I have seen use WebDav/Fuse to provide a generic filesystem that presents to the user as a simple folder and file hierarchy - with the emphasis on 'simple'.

While this difference may just sound like semantics, it becomes fairly real if you are interested in using the filesystem attributes that the 'simple' model does not support ie. alternate data streams, journalling, permissions, encrypted files, compression etc.  You lose all of those attributes because the WebDav/Fuse model does not support those filesystem features.

I don't pretend to think that this will be of much importance to the average consumer user - but business users, power users and developers may well appreciate that they can now use a cloud storage solution based on a real filesystem stored on a virtual disk because it preserves information that they have come to rely on.

One of the advantages for users who use these attributes is that it allows them the possibility of using and working with their data in place on MonsterDrive and not just using it as a backup repository.  This is also a bonus if you have a storage constrained device like a tablet and you want transparent access to a massive storage volume which looks and behaves just like a real disk formatted with a real filesystem.

It has been reported that there is no No Privacy on Amazon’s Cloud Drive.  Since MonsterDrive uses Amazon's A3 for storage, isn't this a serious issue?

I haven't seen any language of this sort in the Amazon Web Services Terms and Conditions http://aws.amazon.com/agreement/ which covers Amazon S3 and MonsterDrive's use of it.  So I believe it must be a term specific to Amazon Cloud Drive which in turn is most likely built on Amazon S3.

FWIW, DropBox and Apple's iCloud also use Amazon S3 in the same capacity as MonsterDrive and I would find it difficult to imagine they would accept terms like that.
 
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Re: A request for Beta testers
Reply #7 - Aug 23rd, 2011 at 10:28pm
 
the impresson i get is that nigel would appreciate if you take andrew's new scooter for a spin around the block. cuz you guys are the best scooter drivers on the web. =)

and you know how we all love (& miss) nigel.

he still helps me with programming.
 
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Andrew Haslam
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Re: A request for Beta testers
Reply #8 - Aug 23rd, 2011 at 11:14pm
 
That's very generous of Nigel - he is perhaps the most formidable developer I have ever had the good fortune to work with.  If I had even a fraction of his coverage and understanding of computer science and its real-life application, I would consider myself lucky indeed.  Not to mention his incendiary intellect as applied to the subject as well.

Regarding MonsterDrive - besides getting people to use it to find any last remaining bugs, I am also looking for some sort of validation that an approach focusing on features that deliver:

a) data security ie. privacy and robustness (rather than social features such as file sharing and collaboration which inherently complicate security)
and
b) true data fidelity

are useful to people.  The question that follows is of course whether people would find those features compelling enough to spend money to use it.

So:

* Would you use such a tool? 

* Do you value the security and privacy of your data over the 'social' features of tools like DropBox, Box.Net, ZumoDrive etc. that allow you to send your mother links to the latest baby pictures?

* How about extending MonsterDrive so it's like a kind of evolved TrueCrypt - a rock solid file encryption vault with the addition of compression, snapshots, an intelligent cache etc. and all backed by robust cloud storage?

Keen to hear what people think - if you have an opinion - for or against - I'd love to hear it.

- Andrew
 
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Re: A request for Beta testers
Reply #9 - Aug 24th, 2011 at 1:51pm
 
Andrew Haslam wrote on Aug 23rd, 2011 at 11:14pm:
* Would you use such a tool?

I've been interested in such a tool for a very long time but haven't yet due to the cost and limited capacity of most products out right now.  I'm not sure what your rates will be when the beta period ends, but I can't justify paying S3 rates when I could buy a new HD every month for the price of the same amount of S3 capacity.

Andrew Haslam wrote on Aug 23rd, 2011 at 11:14pm:
* Do you value the security and privacy of your data over the 'social' features of tools like DropBox, Box.Net, ZumoDrive etc. that allow you to send your mother links to the latest baby pictures?

Absolutely.  Pictures belong on Flickr.  Security and privacy are probably #2 on my priorities for a service like this, behind reliability and availability.

Andrew Haslam wrote on Aug 23rd, 2011 at 11:14pm:
* How about extending MonsterDrive so it's like a kind of evolved TrueCrypt - a rock solid file encryption vault with the addition of compression, snapshots, an intelligent cache etc. and all backed by robust cloud storage?

That would be great, but again, what's the cost? For $15-20 / month, I can get my own VPS, run encryptFS and live w/ scp file transfers.  So, I'd say it'd have to be under $10 / month for a decent amount of storage.
 
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Andrew Haslam
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Re: A request for Beta testers
Reply #10 - Aug 24th, 2011 at 2:54pm
 
That's interesting, MrMagoo,

Just to clarify - from your figures, I assume that when you talk about a 'decent amount of storage', you are talking about Tb's of data and further, that you'd see it as a value when storage costs drop to around 1cent/Gb?

 
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Re: A request for Beta testers
Reply #11 - Aug 24th, 2011 at 5:48pm
 
Andrew Haslam wrote on Aug 24th, 2011 at 2:54pm:
Just to clarify - from your figures, I assume that when you talk about a 'decent amount of storage', you are talking about Tb's

No, I don't think an average technical person needs TB's of cloud storage.  Tens of GB would be plenty for pictures, documents, config backups, etc. 

As an example, I looked into Backblaze one time, which claims to offer "unlimited" data storage for ~$4/month.  It turns out that "unlimited" means 5GB, with the price for extra storage quickly becoming ridiculous.  At that time, I wanted to store some packages and some iso's so I could get at them from the different data centers I work out of, but for the price of the extra storage I needed made it make way more sense to buy a huge USB stick and forgo some convenience.  The numbers seem to work out about the same way for the other storage providers.

The only way the price ever seems to make sense to me is if you have sensitive data that is so important that you'd like to have backups in multiple places and you're willing to pay a few dollars to do it (or limit the data to your most precious few GB, an easy amount to fill these days.)  In my case, I have a VPS I already pay for so I've been able to get by with that.

I think that even if most consumers would be better off on your solution, it's hard to get that message to them amidst everyone else's marketing.  I tried to start a cloud-storage company myself just after Hurricane Katrina with a focus on encryption.  We wanted encryption so well thought out that we could tell our customers we couldn't get to their data even if the government asked us for it.  We worked on it for a while but the market quickly got crowded and we weren't confident we could easily convince non-technical consumers of the superiority of our offering.  I wonder if you are in a similar situation trying to sell block-level access to consumers. 

I think the fact that you offer block level access could mean interesting things to a developer or a business user, and the security is something no one else focuses on. The ability for a business to set up a mapped cloud drive which obeys permission restrictions and has reasonable encryption might be enticing for some small IT depts.  Developers might also be excited about having a cloud drive with block level access since you've already done all the heavy lifting for them to get open access to the file system.

That said, I understand you're just trying to get it beta tested right now.
 
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Re: A request for Beta testers
Reply #12 - Aug 26th, 2011 at 11:29pm
 
MrMagoo wrote on Aug 24th, 2011 at 5:48pm:
We wanted encryption so well thought out that we could tell our customers we couldn't get to their data even if the government asked us for it.

Isnt that what everybody really wants?
 
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