One of the dumbest political mistakes in the modern era

One of the dumbest political mistakes in the modern era

 Story image for Modern from Washington Post

Alex Brandon / Axios

President Trump’s firing of FBI Director James Comey is rightly seen as a terrific legal blunder: He undercut an investigation that might have shown he never colluded with the Russians, and spawned one that could result in obstruction of justice charges.

Why it matters: Regardless of the legal outcome, it’ll go down as one of the dumbest political mistakes in the modern era. One of the president’s outside advisers calls it the gravest political mistake since Richard Nixon decided not to apologize to the American people for Watergate, and instead proceeded with the cover-up.

“The Russia investigation is now the central narrative of the Trump administration, no matter what he does,” the adviser said. “He wanted to be a disruptive force for change, and now he’s stuck in the quicksand of the swamp.”
Trump himself has suggested to friends that he understands the bind he created: By taunting Comey about tapes that the president admitted yesterday don’t exist, he hastened the chain of events that led to the appointment of special counsel Bob Mueller, who’s expected to delve into the business affairs of the president and his family.
In retrospect, if Trump had kept Comey and stopped obsessing about his investigation, his legal troubles might have blown over: No evidence of collusion has emerged. As David Brooks pointed out in one of the better columns of the month, it’s striking how little has surfaced on the collusion front, given the gush of anti-Trump leaks.
Trump would be standing here today with a perfect record on contested special elections, a strong stock market, low unemployment and momentum heading into the tax reform debate. Instead, Trump’s impulsive decision — made against the advice of several trusted advisers — has:
  1. Consumed Trump: In phone calls, staff meetings and tweets, the president rages about Mueller. This often pushes aside conversation about his legislative agenda, executive actions and planned messages.
  2. Trapped Trump: The Russia probe has now mushroomed into one that includes obstruction of justice, adding a self-created investigation that will eat up precious time for months or years to come.
  3. Tainted Trump: Polls show the vast majority voters disapprove of his handling of Comey and Russia. More importantly, Republicans inclined to believe he didn’t collude with the Russians seem quite willing to believe he might have obstructed justice after canning Comey.
  4. Stalled Trump: He was hardly cooking with grease on the legislative front pre-Comey. Now, White House officials think they will be lucky to end 2017 with any substantial bills signed into law.
  5. Tagged Trump for 2020: If he runs again, Democrats can be expected to turn the firing, probes, and attacks on the special prosecutor into centerpieces of the case against Trump.                                                           [Source”pcworld”]

The beauty and ecological benefits of a garden in decay

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Spring is not a moment in the garden but a sequence, a gentle unfurling of plant life that grows fuller by the day at a tempo that is almost out of sync with human perception.

One minute perennials are peeping out of the earth, and the next the soil is covered by fully grown greenery. The fall is the same way, except the movement is in reverse. With each passing week between early October and Thanksgiving, more perennials, grasses, groundcovers and the stuff of the lower layers of the garden will shrink, darken and start to lie down. Because our gaze is fixed on the changing leaf colors of the trees and shrubs, this other show occurs at a more subconscious level, but the two are related and deserve to be enjoyed together.

Where once the odd coneflower looked dried in the flower beds, other plants follow the same course, until there is a wholesale shift in the character of the garden from repletion to decline and seediness.

We are wired to see decay as rot, and rot as a threat to our well-being. So when we take stock of the autumn landscape, especially after a killing frost, our instinct is to clean it all up. This is a mistake on a number of levels.

The withering of the top growth of perennials and grasses is not a pernicious thing, but a natural part of their life cycle. They will re-sprout afresh in the spring from their crown buds. This year’s declining growth, meanwhile, is likely to be full of the very stuff of life, ripening seed.

I think – I hope – that our gardens are becoming more lavishly and dynamically planted with perennials and grasses, and with an ecological bent. If so, this fall conundrum will only become more pressing.

I see this decay as something beautiful, the way a steel panel becomes patinated with surface rust. So my approach to garden grooming in the fall is to remove obvious blight – shriveled hosta leaves, for example, along with diseased foliage – but to let anything else stand through the fall and winter as long as it isn’t an eyesore.

I particularly like the effect of the black stalks and seed heads of rudbeckias, from the knee-high black-eyed Susans to the taller giant coneflower. Composites as a rule make for handsome zombies, especially the purple coneflowers. The tall, wiry cup plant is lovely in its deterioration. Asters, too, are attractive in the dead months, especially when the fluffy, downy seeds make a break for it. Other effective perennials include amsonias, calamintha, perovskia and swamp milkweed. Need it be said, this is the time of year when all the ornamental grasses come into their own, green or brown, including the native bluestems, panicums and prairie drop seed.

If you want icing on this cake, nature provides it in the dewdrops of October and the ice crystals of November and December. The latter is a phenomenon called riming, and although the mid-Atlantic isn’t perhaps the best climatic region for this, when it happens you should take a moment to savor it. The most dramatic display of riming I saw was about four years ago in England, where a whole woodland beyond a field was frosted. It was like observing a finely crafted black-and-white art photo, but in negative. Such morning scenes, in miniature, await the untidy gardener.

There is an equally compelling argument for not weed-whacking and clearing the ornamental beds at this time of year, or the leaf litter that is obsessively blown, gathered and bagged in November. This detritus provides vital shelter and nourishment for wildlife. Doug Tallamy, author of a landmark book about ecological gardening, “Bringing Nature Home,” sees a direct link between the decline of fireflies and the modern-day fixation with leaf blowing. “Fireflies spend their entire larval life in the litter,” he said. “They are only adults for a short period.” Tallamy, a professor of entomology at the University of Delaware, is also co-author of “The Living Landscape.”

When we cut back the seed heads and stalks, we deprive birds and small mammals of seeds. “I always encourage people, if they have seed-producing plants such as black-eyed Susans, purple coneflowers or goldenrods, to leave them up because the overwintering birds really rely on them,” said Deborah Landau, an ecologist with the Maryland/D.C. chapter of the Nature Conservancy.

Neatniks also harm countless species of beneficial insects. Landau said other casualties include the egg masses of such creatures as praying mantises and spiders. The former resembles a hardened foam mass enveloping a stem; the latter looks like a string of pearls.

Many native bee species spend the winter as pupae within the pithy stems of perennials and the canes of hydrangeas, Tallamy said. “Much of the insect community is spending winter in that debris we get rid of all the time,” he said. One option for appearance’s sake is to cut back material in the front yard but leave dead top growth standing in less-visible parts of the garden, he said. Stalks and leaves that must be cut can be stored elsewhere outside, but don’t lay them down. The snow will flatten a pile and it will rot, he said.

Landau said these undisturbed beds also provide shelter for frogs and salamanders (and presumably a third amphibian, the toad).

Also, this debris is home to butterflies. I was in the Smithsonian’s Ripley Garden the other day, and it was Grand Central for monarch butterflies – adults, caterpillars and even pupae. If it stays warm, the chrysalises will hatch soon and the butterflies will head south. But other butterflies spend the winter here in their cocoons, and the pipevine plants were loaded with pipevine swallowtail caterpillars eating their way into a pupal stage, to emerge as adults next year.

“The less disturbance the better,” Landau said. “All these animals have adapted to depend on these plants in the winter.” Maybe we can be smart enough to copy them.

 

 

[Source:- homesandproperty]

RHS Wisley hosts Butterflies in the Glasshouse

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Step out of winter and into a tropical paradise this winter.

RHS Wisley’s Glasshouse is the temporary home, until March 5th, for more than 6,000 free-flying exotic butterflies that are content to flit around the rainforest atmosphere of the Tropical Zone.

You will see more than 50 different butterfly species from the tropical world and be able to take photographs as many of them settle on the huge foliage and vibrant flowers as well as the occasional visitor.

In the interactive Education Zone you can learn about the fascinating lifecycle of a butterfly, get close to caterpillars and use microscopes to examine wings of the world’s most exquisite butterflies.

And naturally you enjoy butterfly-decorated cookies and cupcakes from the Taste of Wisley bakers at the Glasshouse Cafe.

Butterflies in the Glasshouse is free with normal garden entry and admission is always available, but you can pre-book a time slot by visiting gardentickets.rhs.org.uk.

 

 

 

[Source:- homesandproperty]

Still talk on the phone? You can make calls with this Viio Vezzo smart mirror

Image result for Still talk on the phone? You can make calls with this Viio Vezzo smart mirror

Need to call your friend while you put in your contacts? A company called Viio has created mirrors that let you chat through your mirror. Viio equips its mirrors with Bluetooth, so you can connect them wirelessly to your mobile device, tablet or computer. The built-in microphone and speakers let you make phone calls or play music directly through the mirrors. And if you’re just concerned with how you look, the Viio mirrors include LED lights around the perimeter.

The Viio mirrors come in three different models — the Vezzo, Vero and Vetta — that cost $395, $445 and $695, respectively. You can order the mirrors online and in a few Home Depot, Best Buy and Lowe’s stores in Canada. Home Depot and Lowe’s will begin to sell the mirrors in the US this spring. (The site doesn’t yet ship to the UK or Australia, but those prices range from £320 to £565, or AU$520 to AU$920.)

Smart mirrors might be the next hot category as tech companies begin to make health and beauty products. The company Simplehuman has its own line of smart mirrors that customize light settings based on selfies you save in the accompanying app. And an auto-sensing smart mirror called Juno has raised more than $425,000 during its Kickstarter crowdfunding campaign, thanks to features like light settings just for reading, makeup or selfies.

Viio features

  • Auxiliary cord connection
  • Anti-fog button
  • 6-hour battery or permanent plug
  • Wood backing to mount on walls
  • Vezzo: 24×32 inches, $395
  • Vero: 30-inch diameter circular mirror, $445
  • Vetta: 24×64 inches, $695

 
[Source:- CNET]

 

How to create a year-round garden:take a tour of the ultimate ‘outdoor room’ designed by Abigail Ahern

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With a coffee table overhung with a chandelier, a snug two-seater and curvy armchairs ranged around a fireplace, as well as a kitchen and dining table, Abigail Ahern’s back garden has to be the ultimate outdoor room.

When she moved to Hackney with husband Graham 13 years ago, Ahern, an accomplished interior designer but a self-confessed non-gardener, approached the outside space with caution. “At first I did what everybody else did, and had stuff down the perimeter and nothing in the middle,” she says, “but as I became more confident, I realised the same principles I applied to inside could apply to the outside.

“One of these is that you never have everything on the perimeter. I like to design interiors so you can’t walk in a straight line from one end of the room to the other, because there’s always something in your way. It’s the difference between walking in a field, where you can see all around you which is really boring, or in a forest, where you’re not sure what’s around the next corner. That’s what I wanted to do here.”

This atmospheric retreat, with weathered decking, leafy tree canopies and stashes of logs for fires indoors and out, looks like it was built in the heart of a forest. That is, if it weren’t for the cowboy cacti — realistic fakes that Ahern sells in her Islington shop and has tucked in among the hydrangea bushes, adding a touch of Santa Fe to the patio — and the petrol blue cabin at the rear, a £100 eBay find upcycled by Graham.

The roomy patio with York stone paving looks as cosy as the living room on the other side of the huge, two-storey glass doors. Another Ahern design principle is to supersize features and furniture to make a space look larger, so naturally, as well as chandeliers in every room of the house, an outsize chandelier of tiered driftwood pieces hangs over the black lacquer coffee table.

Lighting is a game changer, indoors and out, says Ahern. “I have a problem finding outdoor lights I like, so I put indoor lights outside, and have them professionally rewired.” These include a standard lamp and a Sixties pendant shade, while the bonus of overhanging electric cable is that the mile-a-minute vine scrambles along it, creating playful garlands of green above the patio.

To the right of the patio-cum-sittingroom is the dining area, defined by an Indian zinc-topped table from Petersham Nurseries and a customised concrete kitchen from Dutch company WWOO.

“The company customised the kitchen to fit around the Big Green Egg, a barbecue cooker I’m obsessed with ever since I designed a set for a TV programme with Heston Blumenthal, who uses it all the time. You can bake on it, roast with it and it’s all temperature controlled. We put something in on a Saturday morning, slow cook it for 10 hours and come back in the evening and supper’s ready. We even cook the Christmas turkey on it.”

Playing with different textures is a big part of Ahern’s design philosophy, and is apparent in her choice of materials in both hardscape and planting. The decked garden path that leads down to the cabin is a clever fake from Millboard that resembles old, weather-worn oak timber, and is edged down either side with a deep ruff of variegated tufted grass Carex oshimensis Everest.

Pebbles — another textural contrast — are her choice of flooring on either side, giving Ahern the freedom to gradually plant both areas over time. On one side is a wall of rustling bamboo, which she planted so she could look down from her bedroom window and enjoy the constant movement, and on the opposite wall, a sheet of evergreen jasmine. “We planted about 20 tiny plants and now the scent of the flowers in summer is beautiful,” she says. “I’m mad about watering all the time to make them cover the wall.”

 

[Source:- homesandproperty]

 

Best Blu-ray players 2017 UK: the most popular Blu-ray and DVD players you can buy in the UK, including 3D Blu-ray players | 3D Blu-ray player reviews

We reveal the best Blu-ray players you can buy in the UK in 2017. Blu-ray player buying advice. Most popular Blu-ray players to buy today.

Also see: Best Tech Deals

In a world of online catch-up TV, Netflix, Amazon Prime and YouTube who needs a DVD player any more? Without the arrival of high-quality Blu-ray discs some time ago maybe watching content on disc would have died out by now but most of us still have enough DVDs and box sets to warrant that extra box below the TV.

And today’s best Blu-ray players boast streaming features themselves, with smart apps and access to BBC iPlayer, Netflix and the rest built in.

If you have a 3D TV then you need your DVD/Blu-ray player to be 3D compatible, too – so look out for players that work with 3D Blu-ray discs.

Here we highlight the most popular Blu-ray/DVD players on Amazon, which are considered some of the best Blu-ray players by their user reviews. We also take into account user reviews on Reevoo, and independent reviews from the likes of Which? and other testers. We haven’t reviewed these products.

Features to look out for. All these players will play both Blu-ray and DVD discs, but some boast greater features than others.

Best Blu-ray players: what is Blu-ray

Blu-ray discs can hold much more data than DVD discs, and so are great for high-definition TVs, where the picture quality can be much higher than you’d get from a DVD. All Blu-ray players can also play standard DVDs (upscaling the video to near-HD resolutions). Usually the Blu-ray player is preset to upscale a 480i recording (SD-DVD) to 1080P (full HD) output by default. This doesn’t mean that content on DVDs looks as great as on Blu-ray discs but it should noticeably improve the DVD’s quality. Some newer models of Blu-ray player can “up-convert” 1080p high def to 4K for the latest Ultra HD TVs.

Best Blu-ray players: Blu-ray specs explained

Best Blu-ray players – 3D: You might think that owning a 3D TV means you can play 3D discs, but you’d be wrong. Your Blu-ray player also needs to be 3D compatible, so look out for this feature if you want to enjoy 3D movies on disc.

Best Blu-ray players – Wi-Fi: Some Blu-ray players have Wi-Fi built in so you can stream or download movies and TV shows from the Internet without the need for a wired Ethernet connection.

Best Blu-ray players – Ethernet: If you want your downloads to complete faster than via Wi-Fi look for a player with an Ethernet LAN port. These are only useful if you have a wired connection from your router nearby, which most people won’t have near their TV. However, you can use your house’s electrical cabling as a proxy Ethernet cable by using Powerline adapters. You plug one in to a wall power socket near your router, and connect that via Ethernet (cables included with the Powerline adapters), then plug another adapter near your home-entertainment centre/TV/Blu-ray player. Then you connect thise devices to the Powerline via another Ethernet cable. Bingo, you now have wired internet access straight to your TV/player. See Best Powerline adapters.

Best Blu-ray players – Smart apps: Smart Blu-ray players include built-in apps that offer TV- and movie-streaming on services such as Amazon Prime or Netflix, catch-up TV on apps such as BBC iPlayer, and even social media on Facebook and Twitter.

Best Blu-ray players – DNLA: DLNA (which stands for the Digital Living Network Alliance) allows sharing or streaming content such as movies, music and photos over a home network – for example, from your laptop to your TV, or playing an MP3 on your phone.

Best Blu-ray players – USB: Some Blu-ray players include a USB slot so you can simply plug in a USB memory stick or hard drive to play movies, TV shows, home videos, photos and music on your TV screen.

Best Blu-ray players – 4K: If you have a 4K TV you’ll want a Blu-ray player that can upscale to super high-resolution 4K, so look out for this feature. If you don’t have a 4K TV (or aren’t planning on buying one in the next year or so) this feature won’t matter to you.

Best Blu-ray players: where to buy

In this feature we look at the most popular Blu-ray players, using data from Amazon. But the models listed here can also be found – sometimes cheaper – on other online retailers such as Tesco, Currys, PCWorld and Argos.

Samsung BD-J4500

Samsung BD-J4500

  • RRP: £45

The Samsung BD-J4500 is one of the most popular Blu-ray players on Amazon. It’s super cheap but garners great user reviews on many retailer web sites, although it’s a no-frills budget model that lacks a network connection or smart apps. That said, if you’re after just a Blu-ray player and none of the extras this is great value.

It plays both Blu-ray and DVD discs, but not 3D. It plays high-quality Blu-ray discs and upscales DVDs to Full HD for rich, sharp visuals and clear sound.

The BD-J4500 also lets you play your own multimedia from a USB memory stick or HDD. And AllShare lets you access movies, music and photos via DLNA, so you can enjoy your content wirelessly.

One of its big claims – aside from the super-inexpensive price tag – is support for the largest number of codec and file formats. Many popular video formats such as Flash and QuickTime are supported, as well as VOB files from DVDs. In addition to MP3 audio, you can listen to lossless FLAC files as well as .WMA, .OGG, .WAV and more. Pictures can be viewed in the popular JPEG picture format, as well as PNG files, GIF files and more.

3D: No          Wi-Fi: No          Ethernet: No

Smart apps: No          DNLA: Yes        USB: Yes          4K: No

Sony BDP-S1500

Sony BDP-S1500

  • RRP: £69.60

Another bargain Blu-ray and DVD player the Sony BDP-S1500 offers Full HD. Images are detailed and clear, and colours take on a rich intensity thanks to Sony’s TRILUMINOS colour technology. (Note this technology is exclusive to Sony and optimised for use with accompanying TRILUMINOS TVs, so you’d need a matched TV to get the most from it, although the player will work without it on other TVs.)

Like the other Blu-ray players the BDP-S1500 also upscales standard definition DVD movies to near-HD quality.

You can also stream content from a variety of online entertainment providers (BBC iPlayer, YouTUbe, Skype and apps made for your TV via the Opera TV Store), via the Sony Entertainment Network.

The BDP-S1500 boasts a quick start so will deliver fast loading times, and it boots up in less than a second.

3D: No          Wi-Fi: No          Ethernet: Yes

Smart apps: Yes          DNLA:          USB: Yes          4K: No

Sony BDP-S5500 3D

Sony BDP-S5500 3D

  • RRP: £100

The compact Sony BDP-S5500 offers not just Blu-ray and DVD playback, but also supports 3D Blu-rays discs. This Blu-ray Disc player also upscales 2D video to “simulated 3D” for enhanced depth and improved on-screen image detail.

With the BDP-S5500’s built-in super Wi-Fi Pro, you can browse the best online entertainment on the big screen. Smooth, fast streaming means you’ll enjoy Internet content with fewer interruptions and greater picture quality. Upscaled and native 3D Blu-ray movies also come to life in Full HD 3D for a more immersive viewing experience.

With Miracast you can view and share smartphone content on your TV, giving your photos, videos, and music the big screen treatment. Also you can use your tablet or smartphone (Android or iOS) to control your Blu-ray Disc player, and learn more about what you’re watching, with the TV Sideview app.

Like the BDP-S1500 it is compatible with Sony’s exclusive TRILUMINOS colour technology.

Enjoy all the fine detail of the original recording in clear, high-fidelity surround sound with Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD. DLNA allows you to share multimedia content across all supported devices in your home. The USB slot is handily positioned on the front.

3D: Yes          Wi-Fi: Yes          Ethernet: Yes

Smart apps: Yes          DNLA: Yes          USB: Yes          4K: No

LG BP250

LG BP250

  • RRP: £49.99

The no-nonsense, compact LG BP250 is a Blu-ray and DVD player that also allows you to play videos, photos and music via a USB drive (handy slot on the front).

Like the other players here it will also upscale your DVD collection to near-HD quality.

While it won’t work with 3D discs and doesn’t offer smart TV apps most people won’t miss these extras. It has an HDMI slot on the back, but no Ethernet.

3D: No          Wi-Fi: No          Ethernet: No

Smart apps: No          DNLA: No          USB: Yes          4K: No

Samsung BD-J5500

Samsung BD-J5500

  • RRP: £61.99

This is one of the cheaper 3D Blu-ray players, and also includes smart functions such as Opera TV apps so you can watch BBC iPlayer, Amazon Prime, You Tube, and Netflix among others.

The curved design makes this Blu-ray/DVD player stand out from the crowd, and mimics Samsung’s curved TVs and soundbars.

You can plug in a USB memory stick or hard drive and then use ConnectShare Movie to share everything from home movies and downloaded music to photos, with friends and family. The BD-J5500 is DLNA compliant, and has built-in Wi-Fi.

3D: Yes          Wi-Fi: Yes         Ethernet: Yes

Smart apps: Yes         DNLA: Yes          4K: No

Sony BDP-S7200 4K

Sony BDP-S7200 4K

  • RRP: £169

The Song BDP-S7200 might cost more than the other Blu-ray drives listed here, but it does upscale Blu-ray Full HD content to 4K for the latest, high-resolution TVs. Audio playback is super high resolution too.

Its dual-core processor enables faster streaming, quicker loading and smoother playback.

Download the TV SideView app to start using your smartphone or tablet as a remote control. And you can view and share your smartphone on your TV with screen mirroring.

3D: No         Wi-Fi: Yes          Ethernet: Yes

Smart apps: Yes          DNLA: Yes         USB: Yes          4K: Yes

Samsung DVD-E360 DVD Player with USB Host 2.0

Samsung DVD-E360 DVD Player with USB Host 2.0

  • RRP: £29

This DVD player doesn’t play Blu-rays

This Samsung player is as simple and affordable as they come. It has the clever functionality of being able to play videos stored on USB sticks. You can even convert audio CDs onto MP3 with the built-in audio rip feature.

Sony DVP-SR170 DVD Player

Sony DVP-SR170 DVD Player

  • RRP: £39

This DVD player doesn’t play Blu-rays

One of the best selling DVD players on Amazon, this Sony DVD player will do everything you want (apart from play Blu-rays – scroll up for those).

It’s only 270mm thick, meaning it’s a great space saver with the ability to playback a plethora of media formats for video, audio and images.

Panasonic DVD Player

Panasonic DVD Player

  • RRP: £29.99

This DVD player doesn’t play Blu-rays

Hassle-free, dust-proof design coupled with handy USB playback make this a slim, easy DVD player to use. You really don’t need much more than the basics if all you want to do is play films.

 

[Source:- PCA]

Be inspired by Jonathan Adler’s iconic redesign of the Parker Palm Springs

Our first look inside designer Jonathan Adler’s first foray into public art is stylish, cool and absolutely fabulous. Along with the redesign of the Parker Palm Springs, Jonathan’s work spans myriad of categories, from pots to swanky sofas. In less than 20 years he’s opened nearly 30 stores.

The home decor expert refurbished the luxurious hotel with his signature flourishes and a vibrant and playful colour palette.

‘This hotel is a psychedelic passion project that has been part of my life for over a decade. When it came to refreshing the vibe I wanted The Parker to stay groovy but feel new.’

[Source:- IH]

Kitchen extensions: All the inspiration and advice you need

Colour code kitchen zones

Make large, open-plan spaces work by using colour to define different functions. Try white, handleless cabinetry for a practical, easy-to-maintain cooking and food preparation area. Introduce a contrast shade on a breakfast bar island to signpost the change of function, but keep the worktop white to indicate that this is a dual-function surface. For dining, go unfinished wood – in keeping with its proximity to the patio, this table and chairs could be mistaken for garden furniture. Unify the whole with timber flooring, a wooden sideboard and a row of wooden bar stools.

 

 

[Source:- IH]

best NAS drives 2017 UK: The best network storage you can buy in the UK

NAS drives are like cloud storage: you can access all your files from anywhere, both inside and outside of your home or office. You can use them to store and play your music and video collections, as well as documents and other files.

Also see: Best Tech Deals

NAS drive buyer’s guide

NAS stands for Network Attached Storage and as its name suggests it enables you to have a large amount of storage connected directly to your broadband router. This storage is therefore available to all your devices. NAS drives are designed to be turned on permanently, which means you can have access to your music, movies, photos and documents at all times. Most have timers so you can set them to turn on and off during the hours you want.

One of the most popular reasons to buy a NAS drive is for media playback. Videos can be viewed on your TV, without having to connect a computer. A NAS drive will use much less power than a regular PC, too, making them much cheaper to run. For ease of setup and ease of use, a dedicated NAS drive is hard to beat.

So what should you look for when choosing one to buy?

Capacity

The first requirement is capacity. You’ll need one that has enough storage to meet your needs now and in the future. Plenty of NAS drives come with no disks at all – these are known as diskless or bare drives. The advantage is that you can choose the drives you want and how much capacity you need.

You can now get disks up to 10TB is size, though for each disk you’ll be paying at least £400 or so for the privilege. 4TB disks are arguably the current sweet spot, at around £120.

Disks for NAS drives

When you choose your disks, look for ones that have been designed to work specifically with NAS boxes. NAS-optimised features include more secure construction providing more resistance to vibration, which makes a lot of sense for a drive that’s designed to be on the whole time. They also offer power management so they can adjust performance based on their temperature. These drives also offer special features in firmware known by WD as TLER (Time-Limited Error Recovery) and by Samsung and Hitachi as command completion time limit (CCTL). This optimises the error correction for drives when they are installed in a RAID array (explained below) as is usually the case with NAS drives.

RAID

RAID, stands for redundant array of inexpensive disks. RAID can be quite complex but at a basic level you’ll want to use it primarily to provide redundancy so if a disk fails your data is still safe. There are many variants but three of the most popular are known as RAID 1, RAID 5, and RAID 6.

Most NAS drives will offer at least two bays, which means that you can set them up as RAID 1. In this scenario the second drive is a mirror of the first, so if one drive fails completely all your data is safe on the other. You then can replace the faulty disk, and rebuild the RAID array (this will take many hours).

RAID 5 requires at least three drives and offers parity data. That means a RAID 5 array can withstand a single drive failure without losing data or access to data. As data is ‘striped’ across three drives, reads are fast, but at the expensive of slower writes because of having to also write the parity data.

RAID 6 meanwhile requires four drives but offers both striped and dual parity, so two drives could fail and the RAID could still recover.

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Whichever you choose however, don’t consider RAID to be your only backup of your data. First, you’re relying on the RAID array rebuilding successfully, and while from experience we know that it does work, it is another point of failure.

If the box just dies, or of something catastrophic happens like a fire, you’ll still lose all your data. To mitigate this you’ll want another external backup, preferably to the cloud. Most NAS offer native applications for certain providers, but these will require subscription to the service and will not necessarily be from your preferred one.

Hot swap

Another feature to look out for is hot-swap capability, which enables you to take out or add a drive without having to power down first, which could be important if you’re running business applications off your NAS and want to maintain uptime when replacing or adding a drive.

Remote connectivity

You should also consider whether you’ll need remote access to the drive. Previously this required signing up to a third-party DNS service, but these days with most NAS you can just sign up for an account with your NAS manufacturer as you set up the drive. Login to the account and they’ll handle the connectivity to your box at home. If privacy is a concern you many not wish to go down this route, but for ease of use it’s the way to go.

Transcoding

It’s also worth considering how powerful you need your NAS’s processor to be. The dedicated operating system that NAS drives run are lightweight but a faster processor and more memory will enable features such as transcoding. This means that any media files will be converted on the fly into a playable format, so you don’t have to rely on your client device being able to play the files smoothly. For example, HEVC H.265 files are becoming popular due to the small file sizes, but devices (aside from the latest 4K TVs) that can play this back natively are still uncommon. Transcoding will deal with this for you if your NAS is powerful enough. However, if you have 4K files and want to play these on all your devices you’ll need a fast NAS.

Apps

Finally, you might want to consider to what use you’ll be putting your NAS. As well as media a small business user will want to know what applications it has to offer, such as setting it up as an email server, a VPN server, or using it to host a website.

Best NAS drives to buy in 2017 in the UK

1. Synology 216+II NAS

Synology 216+II NAS

  • Rating: ratingsratingsratingsratingsratings
  • Reviewed on: 29 December 16
  • RRP: £231.99 inc. VAT

All-in-all the 216+II NAS matched up to our expectations from Synology and will be a very good choice for home or small business use. If you aren’t confident about installing hard disks, then this is the box to get as it’s easy and doesn’t require tools. There’s a huge range of applications to choose from the processor SoC offers plenty of horsepower to run them on too and it all runs quietly. With its fantastically easy installation, setup, app support and general ease of use the Synology is a very solid choice. However, if you like the idea of direct hook up via HDMI you may be swayed by the slightly pricier QNAP TS-251A.

Read our Synology 216+II NAS review.

2. Asustor AS1004T

Asustor AS1004T

  • Rating:
  • Reviewed on: 27 December 16
  • RRP: £239.99 inc. VAT

We liked the Asustor AS1004T for its ease of installation, it’s relatively quiet operation in normal use and its decent performance. It isn’t fast enough for hardware transcoding though, so you’ll need native support for all your files on all your client devices. Where it trumps the completion is that if offer a four-bay chassis where others at a similar price offer only two. If storage rather than performance is the priority then, it’s a great choice and while the ADM interface isn’t as accomplished looking as some of its rivals it’s got the apps you’ll likely need.

3. QNAP TS 251A

QNAP TS 251A

  • Rating:
  • Reviewed on: 30 December 16
  • RRP: £249.99 inc. VAT

The QNAP is an undoubtedly impressive NAS drive. There’s plenty of power for virtually all tasks, and H.265 aside it will handle anything you throw at it. The range of apps is very comprehensive and the interface is excellent. The downside is the lack of support for MKV from its native app, which will mean having to pay for Plex to play files on mobile devices. The unit was also noisier than we would have liked in operation and while it’s good value – it’s not cheap. If you’re willing to stretch to paying this much for a diskless system, the QNAP TS-251A is the best featured NAS drive at the price.

4. WD My Cloud Mirror 4TB

WD My Cloud Mirror 4TB

  • Rating:
  • Reviewed on: 2 January 17
  • RRP: £239.99 inc. VAT

When it comes to ease of use the WE My Cloud Mirror is hard to beat. Initial setup is very easy and even sorting our remote access is simple too. For sharing music, movies, photos and documents it works a treat and performance is fine. The downside is that you don’t get the huge range of apps that are available for other brands. However, if you prioritise ease of set up and ease of use the WD is worth looking at and with 4 TB of storage included for the price, it’s a great value option.

5. Synology DS115j

Synology DS115j

  • Rating:
  • Reviewed on: 18 December 14
  • RRP: £78 inc. VAT

Synology has made headlines with its new cut-price DS115j, and its recommended retail price of just £78. The performance has also been cut, along with useful features like USB 3.0, but if you need these the DS114 is still in the range for around £140. And if you really would rather not spend that, the cheaper DS115j will take on basic storage tasks, and still perform faster than some more expensive competition.

6. Netgear ReadyNAS RN212

Netgear ReadyNAS RN212

  • Rating:
  • Reviewed on: 28 December 16
  • RRP: £250.98 inc. VAT

The Netgear’s physical design and is very impressive, but we were troubled by issues that meant it lacked the appeal of drives we’ve tested from QNAP and Synology. Not all disks can be installed in a tool-less fashion and the interface for installing and using apps isn’t the best we’ve seen, not is the range of choices. Performance is good, but the ARM processor doesn’t quite have chops to handle 4K transcoding. It’s a good NAS, but it would need to be cheaper for us to recommend it over the competition.

7. Synology DiskStation DS216play

Synology DiskStation DS216play

  • Rating:
  • Reviewed on: 16 December 15
  • RRP: £190 inc VAT

The 216play will likely be a disappointment to 214play owners wondering about an upgrade. It makes sense only if you have – or will soon have – lots of 4K content that you need to transcode on the fly. Its performance is good, but if you don’t need real-time transcoding, you may want to opt for a different DiskStation (or indeed another NAS entirely) which has the extra ports and SD slot which the 216play lacks.

8. Synology DS414j

Synology DS414j

  • Rating:
  • Reviewed on: 20 October 14
  • RRP: £267 inc. VAT

The Synology DS414j may not be the most glamorous of NAS drives, if indeed there is a candidate leader, but it is well-made and packs just enough power to not embarrass itself in basic benchmark tests for its file-serving speed. That it runs the same carefully wrought and versatile operating system as its dearer brethren is a definite plus, making it suitable for small-scale business use as well as being turned to home entertainment duties.

9. Synology DS415play NAS

Synology DS415play NAS

  • Rating:
  • Reviewed on: 15 July 14
  • RRP: £372 inc. VAT

Synology’s RRP for the DS415play is £372 and at that price or the inevitably lower real shop prices the company should have a winner on its hands. The competing QNAP TS-469L is faster and has better specifications but is over £100 more expensive. When you combine the performance, price and the siren-like draw of DSM 5.0 this could be a crowd pleaser for the multimedia NAS market.

Read our Synology DS415play NAS review.

10. WD My Cloud EX2

WD My Cloud EX2

  • Rating:
  • Reviewed on: 20 June 14
  • RRP: £479 inc. VAT

The WD My Cloud EX2 has a few minor faults, but it’s easy to use and provides good performance and reliability at an attractive price. There are more sophisticated NAS drives available for larger businesses, but the EX2 provides all the features that home users and small businesses are likely to need, and presents them in a straightforward manner that will appeal to people who might not have used a NAS drive before.

 

[Source:- PCA]

Graham & Brown announces ‘Reflections’ as wallpaper of the year 2017

Fresh for the new year, Graham & Brown has unveiled Reflections as its wallpaper of the year. The contemporary design is a perfect fusion of geometric shapes, marbling and lustrous metallic shimmer – all identified as key trends for this season by the in-house design team.

Introducing the winning design, Paula Taylor, Colour & Trends Specialist says: ‘Our Wallpaper of the Year hones in on the striking simplicity of natural materials, complemented by subtle metallic embellishment and a trend-led colour palette for a contemporary graphic aesthetic that sits in any room of the home.’

More than just a name, we love how Reflections has an iridescent quality that will beautifully bounce light around a room. This thoughtful use of materials to masterfully work with light helps to balance the busy pattern, which can often make a space appear smaller making this perfect for even the smallest of rooms.

Reflections in Rose Gold, £40, Graham & Brown.

The print is also available in Copper and Silver colourways, both equally as beautiful with the same mix of marbling, concrete, wood grain and metallic effects.

The design is a bold move on from last year’s wallpaper of the year – Marbled Charcoal and Rose Gold. Let’s remind ourselves…

 
[Source:- IH]