Blog

Welcome to my small blog that is going to be about daily computer stuff. I planned to write in Swedish, but since there are a lot larger crowd that could be interested, i decided to write in English.

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140224 - Ri-Vier RVS2-06A review

When i started to build my new FreeNAS server i had a pretty open mind on what the case would look like. I had some 4U Compucase cases lying around, but they were pretty old and didn't have the number of HDD slots that i wanted.

So i searched forums, case manufacturers, Ebay in the chase for a perfect case for my build. It would be pretty cheap with good shipping possibilites, at least 10 HDD slots and possible to mount it in my rack. I found some really nice Norco-cases and some other brands, but the main problem was that they were either too expensive to ship or required some other hardware that also was expensive. But then i found the distributor/reseller/manufacturer Ri-Vier which is based in The Netherlands.

It would still take some weeks to decide on what Ri-Vier case i would buy, and it was somewhat of a chance that the cases would not be as good as they looked on the Ri-Vier webpage. But i took a shot, and ordered the 2U 12-bay RVS2-06A rack case that they had in stock. It was shipped to me (in sweden) in about 5 days which is very good in my book. I also had some communication with them before buying and it felt very "right".

The total cost with rack rails and shipping would land on around $300. In total i'm very pleased with the price and shipping costs.



The case came very shielded in the package and the Swedish Post didn't even hurt it (though there were som marks on the package). As i said earlier, this case has 12 trays for SATA-harddrives and a SATA backplane. It uses a standard 2U power supply but you can easily use a TFX PSU with some minimal modding.



The case was very light in weight when i picked it up for the first time. It felt well built but i noticed that it wasnt the thickest metal case i've ever seen.



The HDD trays is fairly standard for a budget case. The locking mechanism is not like a 8x more expensive server case from HP or IBM, but it feels pretty solid in general. Since you normally don't use that much hotswap (at least not me) i can take that the trays demands a little work to get them into the case. In general this was easy, but it took some seconds more for certain trays. The front has a power button, reset button, power/harddrive/nic LED and a USB port.



Since the RVS2-06A is only 55 cm deep you can easily see when you open the case for the first time that it is very compact on the inside. The space between the fans and the backplane is only 4-5 centimeters which could give you some problems if you are running hot harddrives and components.

I solved the cooling and minimal space by removing one fan to use the space for cables and also used velcro strips to optimize the airflow as much as possible. The fans are pretty loud at 12 volt (i would think around 45-50 dBA) so i used small 7V-resistors to lower the noise a bit, which helped alot. You could also swap the fans for better ones with higher static pressure.



The backplane has 6 molex connectors that powers 2 hard drives each. The SATA connectors are somewhat embedded into the backplane and it's a little hard to press the SATA-cables in when you don't have good space to move in (like if it's mounted in a rack) but it's not a major problem.

To build in the RVS2-06A was pretty simple. The only thing you want to notice is that it does not support full height cards which was not a problem in my build. If you are running more than 6 drives i would buy velcro strips or cable ties to clear up any cables messing with the airflow. Since the case is only 2U it gets hot pretty fast, especially with 7200 RPM-drives and warm components in general.



In general i was very pleased with the building part of this case. It's pretty straight forward and even though it does not have the 40 KG IBM server feel, it feels sturdy. Since it does not have any internal 2.5 inch slots i mounted a Intel 330 60GB SSD on the side of the case, and you can easily fit another if you have the need for it, but it's not that optimal.



If i would summarize this case i would say it's a very affordable case. It is pretty small (2U, 55 cm depth) but has pretty good cooling options and 12 drive bays. With 4 TB drives you get 48 TB raw space which should be enough for most of the home users buying this case. The HDD trays are not perfect, but they are working well and the general feeling of the case is as i said earlier, pretty sturdy. The rack rail mounting is pretty undocumented and there is actually no manual for the mounting procedure. I have mounted some rack cases in my days, but it took a while to figure the mounting out.

Pros
  • Very affordable with fast shipping
  • Good cooling options
  • USB connector in the front
Cons
  • No internal 2.5 inch places
  • Very strange rack mounting
I would recommend this case to anyone who needs a affordable 2U chassis and don't have alot of 7200 RPM drives and don't need a SAS-8087 backplane. I am very pleased with my Ri-Vier RVS2-06A build and the hardware inside.

Last but not least, a picture of the add-in cards of my build: a SuperMicro AOC-STG-I2 10GbE CX4 card and a IBM M1015.



140127 - Mumble Server (murmur) on FreeNAS 9.2

I'm playing alot right now with my new FreeNAS-based fileserver. I'll give more information about the filserver at a later time. I just found a very simple and short guide on how to install Mumble Server (murmur) on FreeNAS 9.2. I will probably work with most of the new versions of FreeNAS. Murmur is a very simple server for mumble but is extremley good to have when you're playing games with friends and so on.

Guide:
  • Create a new jail and open a new shell to it (view jails, select the new jail and press "Shell" on the buttons below all jails)
  • Get murmur by typing pkg install murmur
  • Use your favourite text editor (i use nano for FreeNAS) to edit your settings in /usr/local/etc/murmur.ini
  • Set the SuperUser password: /usr/local/sbin/murmurd -ini /usr/local/etc/murmur.ini -supw yourpassword
  • Edit /etc/rc.conf and add murmur_enable="YES"
  • Start the server with service murmur start
I'm a newbie when it comes to hacking the FreeBSD CLI but i'm learning as i go. So far the new filserver has been working very good. I'm just looking now on what other plugins i can start playing with. The FreeBSD jail system is really neat for me as an old Windows-user.

131019 - The quest for 10 Gigabit

I have been using a one gigabit network at my home for almost 10 years. Back in those days it was an amazing speed and the 100 Mbit interfaces were really slowing down the file transfers. Earlier this year i was at that point too. I don't have that much fileservers and stuff like that but enough to be bothered by the really slow file transfers of large files on the network.

The most logical thing was to migrate the network at home to 10 Gigabit. I started doing research of diffrent standards and learning about diffrent types of networks and stuff like that. At the end of the day i stumbled upon the pretty old network standard CX4 on the Pfsense forum where people had been using it for some time. CX4 was pretty much the first copper based 10 Gigabit standard and it wasn't really that broad adpoted. Still it had uses in big enviroments both as LAN and SAN.

I started searching on Ebay and found several diffrent network cards but got the chance on buying a 2 port SuperMicro CX4-card (AOC-STG-I2) for almost nothing. The auction ended pretty fast and i won the card! After that i started researching on switches. Most switches from the main manufacturers as HP, Cisco, Juniper were really expensive, even on Ebay. But i found an open source switch from Woven Brocade with the model number LB4 that was perfect for my home network. It had four CX4 Gigabit ports and 48 normal gigabit ports. Then in the middle of this my friend and i started to plan for a LAN and then i just had to buy the switch. It was shipped from New York and it only took around 1.5 week to get it.

SuperMicro CX4 network card Woven Brocade LB4

The switch pretty much directly gave me problems. It was in default setting and for that you need to access the switch with a serial (RJ45 > Serial> connection and then configure IP-adress for management through it's web interface. I had to get a serial cable, an USB serial adapter to access it. There is pretty much nothing documented about this switch and there is a manual for a FortiSwitch 100 but the commands did not work at all in serial mode.

But i have made a small guide to get it working fast:
  • 1. Login through serial
  • 2. Enter boot mode
  • 3. Clear the config and enter operational mode
  • 4. Use the standard password to get config rights
  • 5. Use "show running-config" to figure out the IP-adress of the unit
  • 6. Access the web interface and set new ip
After the switch was working as it should i installed the SuperMicro card into my regular workstation. I also bought CX4 cables from china which too around 2 weeks to get. The cables are fairly expensive but i got two 3 meter cables for around $50 with free freight which is okay in my book. The next step is to get 10 meter cables for use from my workstation to the 19" rack.

CX4 Cable CX4 Cable

I've only played around with the switch at home, it's going to probably be another 1-2 months before i make it the main switch in the rack. First i also need two network cards and play with the performance and see how much diffrent file sharing protocols really can transfer. I have high expectations on iSCSI. Also i bought some Zalman RC100 resistors to lower the noise from the Switch. The LB4 / TRX100 is pretty loud in standard mode. I have not measured the temperature or anything but the switch seems pretty cold despite having 5 volt resistors on all fans.



The next step is to get another card and begin the tests of what operating systems is best for 10 Gigabit, which file protocols (iSCSI, NFS, SMB/CIFS) are best and which computers should have a 10 Gigabit card. I did buy a PCI-X card for 1 Euro but i have not found any computer/server at home with PCI-X - yet. So far i have the following stuff:

  • Woven Brocade LB4 Open Source Switch
  • SuperMicro AOC-STG-I2 2-port CX4 NIC
  • 2x 3M JESS-LINK 3m CX4 cable
  • Chelsio 10 GbE PCI-X NIC


Stay tuned for more test results - i'm very eager to get the testing started!

130510 - Flashing IBM M1015

When buying a controller card nowdays a "normal" card without RAID is more or less desirable because of the nice filesystems like ZFS out there. But normally when you buy an inexpensive HBA you get a RAID-BIOS that want's you to configure either a RAID0, RAID1 or a JBOD-configuration of the disks. However, there are ways of bypassing this. One of the easiest is to buy another card, but then it's getting very expensive fast. One other way is flashing the controller card with another firmware that has no RAID/JBOD-functions.

IBM M1015 IBM M1015

One such card is M1015 from IBM. It has been well known in the ZFS/FreeNAS-world for some time and nowdays there are alot of guides for flashing it to a more "standard" firmware. Since the card is built on a LSI Logic-controller circuit, you can flash it to a normal controller card pretty easy.

I mainly used the guide from ServeTheHome which covers pretty much everything. Anyhow, this is how you convert a standard IBM M1015 card to a standard controller with LSI IT-firmware:

  • Create a bootable CD/diskette/USB-memory
  • Download the files from anywhere, i have it on my server here.
  • Boot it and type the following:

    megarec -writesbr 0 sbrempty.bin
    megarec -cleanflash 0
    *reboot, back to USB stick*
    sas2flsh -o -f 2118it.bin -b mptsas2.rom (sas2flsh -o -f 2118it.bin if OptionROM is not needed)
    sas2flsh -o -sasadd 500605bxxxxxxxxx (x= numbers for SAS address)
    *reboot*

    It worked flawlessly even though there have been reports of "PAL Error"-troubles on certain motherboard. The motherboard i used for flashing was a MSI X48 Platinum.

    IBM M1015 IBM M1015

    130409 - Netgear Prosecure STM150

    I rarley get to play with new hardware when it comes to 19-inch stuff. Usually i get the used appliances and servers that are at least a couple of years. But this month i had the chance of buying a new Netgear Prosecure for around $100 which is alot less than they usually cost.



    However, the STM150 is a entry appliance and had a theoretical HTTP throughput of only 42 Mbit. I read a review where the posted that the STM150 had a VIA C7 processor which was good news since i figured that Netgears original software would not be that fun. VIA C7 is no speed deamon, but it is x86-based (no 64 bit support though) and supports alot of fun dists, such as Pfsense which is my favourite software when it comes to routing at least.

    So i bought it on chance that i could install Pfsense or any other routing distribution. Here's the inside of the product:

    Netgear Prosecure STM150

    I was a bit suprised by a couple of things when i opened it up the first time:
    • The unit has a 3.5 inch hard drive which is kind of overkill for this appliance in my thoughts
    • The PSU is not covered at all - only a small plastic transparent cover separates the unit from the PSU - potentially very dangerous!
    • A VGA header on the motherboard, which is not that common i think
    Netgear Prosecure STM150 Netgear Prosecure STM150

    The Broadcom BCM53115SKFBG network circuit is a 5 port gigabit switch with alot of features, such as loop detection (without spanning tree), Q-in-Q, LACP and QoS. The STM150 has 4 internal interfaces and one WAN.

    The processor in the unit was as i suspected a VIA C7 at 1.5 GHz with 400 MHz FSB. It has a TDP of 12 watt and comes with a NanoBGA2 package.

    Further the STM150 had 2x1 GB of SO-DIMM DDR2 at 800 MHz and a Western Digital "RE3" WD2502ABYS 3.5 inch hard drive.

    But to the interesting parts, here's my observations during the trial & error to get this thing running FreeBSD:
    • The VGA header does not work. There are only one array of pins on the motherboard that maybe could be used to get VGA output, but i did not suceed finding it. Very strange to put a VGA header on the motherboard with no function.
    • The STM150 would not boot any Pfsense versions or FreeBSD/FreeNAs either. Serial console did not work either, probably it was designed to work with the Netgear OS.
    • The unit did not boot the original OS. It has no way of telling what it's doing either. Most appliances have a integrated small speaker or a LCD. It could potentially be a DOA, but i have no clue if it works or not.
    After many hours of testing i gave up. It's very disapointing that the unit did not work as i expected. My old router (the Panda GateDefender 8100) is slowly dying i think and this would be a perfect replacement. It has alot lower power consumption and more interfaces. Well, hopefully i can get my hands into similar hardware where Pfsense can be installed. The quest for a new router has just begun!

    130304 - Vattenfall Smart Plug

    For some time i have looked around for a solution to monitor the energy consumption of the rack. There are solutions available, but most are very advanced and expensive. But i found a very nice product that solved my problem for a very good price. The pretty unknown company Vattenfall that is focused on delivering power has released the Smart Plug which has a couple of very nice features.

    The product is much like a normal remote power plug (like a Nexa for example) but it communicates with Wifi (802.11g/n) instead of RF which makes it alot smarter than the average power plug. You set it up with your telephone and with an app (iOS/Android) and then you can monitor the actual power draw of the stuff you connect - a very nice feature. It also features a timer and of course a remove on/off-function. In general an ideal product for measuring stuff that uses alot of energy.

    On the picture below you see my energy consumption for the stuff connected to the UPS.

    Vattenfall Smart Plug

    As far as i know, it will only be sold in Sweden. The price is ~500 SEK. Don't have any clue if this will be available in English in the future.

    130302 - Hard hard-reset HP 2650-48

    I have played around with the switches and i'm learning their webinterface and CLI slowly. However, two switches did not wanted to reset and the "buttons" to do it didn't seem to be where they should be. So i opened one up and looked around what could be the cause. When i opened the first one, a small switch fell out of the box - problem found. Probably someone tried to reset them but pressed to hard which caused that the "buttons" fell of the small circut board they sit on.

    HP 2650

    Since i dont have any soldering stuff i could not solder the small switch back to the board (the small one with a flat cable attached to it in the front left). But i found another, not so nice looking, but working solution.

    HP 2650

    By short-circuting the missing buttons points where they sat it worked just as good as pressing the buttons. Not the cleanest solution, but a solution no less. And it worked perfectly!

    130116 - New switches

    I have not been that good updating this blog while moving. But after this, i will hopefully post something every month. The new rack is very nice to work with and i have 100 ideas that needs time - it's so much fun!

    I have a new Compaq 42 unit 19-inch rack that i will play alot with in the future i guess. More about all those projects later. Yesterday my company threw away lot of junk, but some nice stuff also. I grabbed the following:

    • 3 HP ProCurve 2650 48 port
    • 1 HP ProCurve 2610-48 port
    • 1 HP ProCurve 2610-24 port
    New switches

    Since these are only 100 Mbit i cannot use them for my daily projects, but i'm planning to play around some with LACP (Link Aggregation Control Protocol) and see what i can use of it in my current network enviroment. I have for a long time been using Gigabit, and i think it's time to up the bandwidth some. But more about that later!

    120618 - A logstalgia server part 2

    The last post about the logstalgia server did not show that much information. What i did was seeing the excellent log analyzer with OpenGL-support logstalgia some time ago. Since i have a monitor in my entrance to the apartment already plans began to form to make it into showing the web requests as a Pong game on that monitor. I searched alot for hardware and came over a Mini-ITX motherboard with a low power processor and memorys for a small ammount (Thanks Lei on Sweclockers!) that was suitable for this kind of thing.

    So the hardware i used in the end is:

    • Motherboard: Asrock H61M-HVS (S1155, Intel H61, VIA VT1705, Realtek RTL8105E)
    • Processor: Intel Celeron G530 @ 2.4 GHz
    • Memory: 2x2 GB Kingston HyperX 1333 MHz
    • Hard disk: Kingspec 8 GB SATA2 SSD (KSD-SA25.5-XXXMJ)
    • Chassis: Compucase S411 4U
    • Power supply: Antec NeoPower 480W
    • Monitor: LaCie Photon20VisionII 20" 1600x1200
    • Operating system: Ubuntu 12.04 LTS

    The socket 1155 Intel Pentium G530 processor.


    A very small SSD is perfect for this kind of work. This specific model is 8 GB.

    At first i played around some with Xubuntu but apparently Samba was not that easy to work with in that system, so i switched to Ubuntu 12.04 LTS which has worked great. Since i'm a kind of newbie with Linux things takes a bit longer than with BSD or Windows, but i'm learning stuff every day. I installed logstalgia and then i mapped a CIFS-share from my webserver into the Ubuntu system. But it seemed that logstalgia not displayed all the requests to the server correctly so i tried to save an extra access-log from Apache on a local folder in the Ubuntu machine and it worked alot better.

    In short pretty basic. A standard Ubuntu-installation with logstalgia and network access to the Apache-server. I made a startup script which executes the logstalgia commandline every time the machine boots. In reality very simple!

    Update: I also have a gallery at SweClockers where you can vote on the machine: here.



    120608 - A logstalgia server

    Some time ago i found the project logstalgia which is pretty neat. I built a new computer to show the Apache webserver logs on my server monitor. More information soon..



    120606 - msk0: watchdog timeout..

    The new router has worked pretty good, but the other day i was sitting at my job and organizing at my filserver at home. Suddenly the connection was closed, and i was not able to reach any of the resources. When i got home, my router had flooded msk0: watchdog timeout all over the screen and the Internet connection was broken. I restarted the router and everything seemed to work fine. But after some research it seems that the msk driver for Marvell Yukon network interfaces is not stable in the current FreeBSD release that Pfsense is based on. However, i think i found a fix!

    I added the following in the /boot/loader.conf:
    • hw.msk.msi_disable="1"
    • hw.pci.enable_msi=0
    • hw.pci.enable_msix=0
    After that it seems like everything works as normal. The Panda GateDefender 8100 with Pfsense has been running under heavy load for about 24 hours now with no problems.

    120603 - Small hack on Panda GateDefender 8100

    Last friday i bought two Panda GateDefender 8100 for a very small ammount from a company that had replaced them with newer hardware. By default they are 1U IPS appliances for network security. They were more or less in mint condition and the hardware was actually better than i guessed. They have a SuperMicro motherboard and a 3.4 GHz Pentium 4 processor on socket 775, 1 GB RAM (2x512 MB) DDR400 memory and two Marvell Gigabit network interfaces. Pretty much ideal for Pfsense or another routing distribution.

    Panda GateDefender 8100 x2

    My old router (the Nortel Contivity 1600) has not been 100% stable and the CPU-utilization has been very high during Torrent traffic, so to see that the GateDefender 8100 was suitable was very nice. But before installing Pfsense i had to optimize the hardware a bit. The default CPU is a Intel Northwood 3.4 GHz Pentium 4 which is a monster both when it comes to consuming energy and making the whole 1U box very hot. So i changed it to a little cooler CPU, a 2.8 GHz P4. I tried to boot with a Wolfdale based Pentium E5300 CPU but it would not start with it. Maybe in the future i can upgrade the BIOS to make it boot with a newer CPU that uses less power and is more efficent.

    Panda GateDefender 8100 x2

    It was a bit tricky to open the first time - alot of screws that had to be unscrewed. Now to the optimization: first i removed the old 80 GB SATA 3.5-inch hard drive that had the original operating system. I replaced it with a 160 GB Seagate Momentus 5400.3 drive which will lower the power consumtion and make the case cooler. I also installed a D-Link DWA-547 wireless card (Atheros based) for wireless traffic in my apartment.

    Panda GateDefender 8100 x2

    The case itself has no less than 5 40mm Sunon fans that are very loud. I removed the 3 pin cables on every fan except one and it seems to work fine. I also put a 5V resistor on the fan to make it quiet but rather efficient. I have ordered some more of those 3-pin resistors so in the future i'll probably use them on all fans to make the case a bit cooler in general.

    The tricky thing with this unit is the standard BIOS password. I had some luck and stumbled upon this blog where someone had used the tool CmosPwd to hack the password, which by the way is "adnap17". When you get into the BIOS, the first thing to do is disable the "Watchdog Timer" option that can be found under Integrated Peripherals in BIOS. If set to enabled, the system will reboot every 4th minute if it does no recieve a heartbeat signal from the original OS. A small tip is also to enable USB (there are 2 USB ports behind the front cover of the unit), remove the BIOS passwords and disable the serial ports (if you not are going to use them).

    The installation went fairly smooth and fast. Pfsense found two network interfaces with the msk driver. The motherboard also has a "console" network interface, but i have no yet found anything that enables me to use it. I really miss the PHPSysInfo package that was available in Pfsense in the past.

    Panda GateDefender 8100 x2

    Next thing is to use the small LCD display (through the LCDproc package) on the front of the unit to show CPU load, network statistics and uptime. That would be pretty damn sweet.

    120411 - Samsung S27A950D mini review

    Normally i don't change monitor that often. Over the last 20 years or so, i have roughly switched monitor every 4th year. My last monitor was an NEC MultiSync 2690WUXi, an 26" H-IPS monitor with really good picture quality. But ever since i changed to an LCD monitor i have noticed the small "lag" on the screen when you just drag the mouse pointer around and playing computer games. This is because of input lag, but it's also about that most LCD monitors only have a 60 Hz update freqency.

    Samsung S27A950D
    So i started to sweep the Internet for a new monitor with 120 Hz, something that i have been missing since the CRT-days. There is alot of monitors on the market, an also quite a few 120 Hz-models. But i soon fell for the Samsung A950D monitor which has a unique design and good specs.

    So i got one Samsung A950D this weekend. I was really impressed by this very thin design. At first startup, you need to change to 120 Hz, and after that you really get that "CRT"-feeling. Games works even better. I play some Heroes of Newerth and it feels like a new game.

    However, compared to my old H-IPS monitor, the picture quality is lower. It's something you have to accept when you buy a TN-based monitor. There is also a bit backlight bleeding from the lower right part of the screen. After some calibration, the picture quality is decent. I still love the 120 Hz and think it's an upgrade even though my old monitor is twice as expensive. One thing i really dislike is the external power adapter. It's a 14V adapter not even with Samsungs name on it. It feels like it will brake in a couple of weeks. Lets hope it doesn't.

    But in general i'm very happy with this monitor. It looks very nice on my glass desk and gives a very exclusive feeling. I don't mind the picture quality that much when i get 120 Hz to be honest. For general internet browsing and games, this monitor is a very nice.

    Summary
    Pros:
    • Unique, thin design
    • 120 Hz
    • Good picture quality for a TN
    • Low power consumption
    Cons:
    • External power adapter
    • Some backlight bleeding
    • Height cannot be adjusted
    • Slightly expensive

    120312 - iSCSI on FreeNAS 8 part 2

    In my last post, i tried a little iSCSI FreeNAS on old hardware. I got it working pretty easy, but the performance was not what i was expecting. The hardware itself could be a bottleneck (800 MHz VIA C3 CPU and an old platform in general) but the main bottleneck should be the network card which was only 100 Mbit.

    So i changed the Intel PRO/100 NIC with an new Realtek 8169-based card (TP-Link TG-3269) which support Gigabit. It is still PCI, but the platform does not support PCIe at all, so it's the best available.

    New NIC for the iSCSI-server, a TP-Link TG-3269



    The performance really increased! Especially writing performance was alot better with a Gigabit network card. Next time it's time to test with some more serious hardware and maybe create an own SAN for the traffic, which could increase performance alot more. iSCSI is a beautiful protocol and deservs some more testing time in my home network!

    120305 - iSCSI on FreeNAS 8

    Since the first time i laid my eyes on the performance of the iSCSI protocol it has definitively been my favourite protocol for storage. On most mid-tier NAS products you can find very nifty iSCSI-implementations that runs very fast. Most of the ones i've tried have fully utilized the performance my Gigabit network, which is nice.

    But what does happen to the performance when you use old hardware? I had an old LaCie Ethernet Disk that is built on a VIA Eden-platform which is very slow by todays standards. But i wanted to try out iSCSI on the FreeBSD-based storage appliance FreeNAS, combined with the storage block system ZFS.



    The hardware which i'm going to use is very old. The VIA Eden motherboard has basic functions, but no SATA-controller for example. The integrated VIA C3 processor runs at 800 MHz and has 1 GB of 400 MHz DDR-memory as company. The biggest setback for this hardware is probably the network card - it only supports 100 Mbit. But somewhere i have a Gigabit-NIC laying around, so i will probably test that in the future.



    As hard drives i used two pretty old 500 GB IDE Maxtor drives. Normally you install FreeNAS itself on a USB-memory.

    There is alot of configuration to be done before you can actually use FreeNAS. The configuration procedure is not an easy task and it took me a few hours before i had everything figured out. For you who want to try it out i made a small guide which could make configuring iSCSI on FreeNAS (with ZFS) alot easier.

      iSCSI on FreeNAS 8 guide
    • Under "Services" and "Control Services", activate iSCSI
    • Review the settings under "Target Global Configuration"
    • If you are going to use CHAP authentication, create an authorized access under Services > iSCSI > Authorized Accesses
    • Create a drive extent, if you only want i file-based extent, create that
    • Create an initiator, the normal home settings should be "ALL"
    • Create a portal, 0.0.0.0 for access on every interface, else, specify active iSCSI interface
    • Create a target
    • Associate a target with an extent, if you have more drives (as i do) you need to associate one for every drive
    • Start the iSCSI initiator on your operating system and discover portals on the IP (unless you have a local DNS server)
    • Start using iSCSI!
    It's really fun the first time you open the Disk Management and some new disks pops up! The thing i like the most is that you can use them any way you want, just like a local disk. The ideal would be several interfaces on the FreeNAS-server, and then specific interfaces for a drive extent, and then make a RAID0 under the client, you could probably go past 200 MB/s on a normal Gigabit network with that setup. But, it requires alot of CPU power (which the VIA C3 does not have) and a proper network setup.

    The two Maxtor drives that i had in the FreeNAS box popped up in the Disk Management:





    As you can see, the performance is heavily dependent on the network card which limits the performance to around 12 MB/s. As for the write performance, i need to investigate more to understand why it's so low. It could be the performance of the CPU is not nearly enough, but it could be other things too, like the small RAM-size. The test was done with the ATTO Benchmark on the logical disk which was formatted as RAID0-array under Windows 7. I really hope i can increase the performance with a Gigabit network card.

    Since i really like iSCSI and want to learn more about FreeNAS i'm thinking of making a better machine (Core 2 and at least 4 GB RAM) of hardware i have lying, and try some more. To be confinued!

    120305 - LaCie LaPlug #2

    I promised some more testing of the LaPlug from LaCie. To be honest i don't plan to keep the product since i have alot of NAS-products at home already. The performance of really large files (5 GB+) is around 20-25 MB/s as the earlier performance numbers hinted. Anyways, i did some basic power testing. The Etech PM300 is farily accurate when it comes to minimal loads, but don't take these numbers as 100% correct.

    Idle with no hard drive connected to the left, connected 2.5 portable drive to the right

    As expected, the LaPlug does not consume that much energy. With a 2.5 portable drive connected, the power outtage is around 11 Watt. Also sorry for the bad pictures, need to buy brighter lamps in my apartment :-)

    120305 - Cisco PIX 520

    What landed on my table today? A Cisco PIX 520. An pretty old firewall from an discontinued line of firewalls. Nevertheless, it may still come to good use. As usual i'm planning to try to install m0n0wall or Pfsense on it.

    Cisco PIX 520



    The inside was fairly suprising. The components are mainly standard x86-based with a Intel-based motherboard, PC133 memory and internal headers for PS/2-ports. The PCI-ports was filled with four Intel PRO/100 NICs which is good network cards to use with m0n0wall/Pfsense. It has a ISA-card with some kind of BIOS on it, which is probably holds the small operating system on it. If i remove it and start using the IDE-ports on the motherboard, i could probably get this thing to run some sweet software.

    The motherboard also has some kind of AGP-port on it. It does not look as a regular 1.5V AGP-port, so probably it's an old 3.3V AGPx1/2-port which requires a special AGP graphic card, but it would be pretty cool to get some graphics on this firewall. So far i don't have a laptop or computer with a serial port that can be used. First i need to take away or modify the built in 92 mm fan that makes ALOT of noise though.

    An Intel SB82558B-based network card. This badass has four of em'

    120301 - LaCie LaPlug

    I got one nifty product on my table today. The LaPlug was introduced some months ago, but apparently now it's EOL. Strange that it lived so short, even with the electronics industri standard.

    LaCie LaPlug

    The LaPlug is a device that shares printers and storage units on the network, through a network cable or wireless. It has 4 USB-ports in total and a RJ45 network interface. I was thining of doing a short performance test on this product and found an old LaCie 250 GB 2.5-inch portable drive that would fit perfectly. Said and done, i connected the LaPlug to the network, and the LaCie Little Disk 250 GB hard drive to the LaPlug.

    Very polished black plastic that covers the unit.

    The backside with 3 USB-ports and the ethernet connection.

    The testdisk, an old LaCie Little Disk 250 GB.

    I powered on the unit and it blinks around one minute, and then it was visible in the network. I connected the Little Disk and pretty much instantly i could access the drive in the network. There is some settings in the web interface, but i'm missing a feature to turn off the wireless complete. In general the web interface is straight forward and good looking.



    Time for some benchmarking. The best tool for network performance that i know of is IoZone that has alot of customization options. The actual commandline i was running looks like this:

    iozone -Rab laplug.wks -n 32M -i 0 -i 1 -g 1G -q 64k -y 64k -e -f x:\001.tmp

    Now to the results:

    Read performance:
    • 32 KB - 34,8 MB/s
    • 64 KB - 34,6 MB/s
    • 131 KB - 23,8 MB/s
    • 256 KB - 25,4 MB/s
    • 512 KB - 25,7 MB/s
    • 1024 KB - 25,4 MB/s
    Write performance:
    • 32 KB - 17,5 MB/s
    • 64 KB - 25 MB/s
    • 131 KB - 23,8 MB/s
    • 256 KB - 24,4 MB/s
    • 512 KB - 24 MB/s
    • 1024 KB - 23,8 MB/s
    I was suprised by the performance. Sure, the LaPlug isn't that cheap by any means but it has better performance than most cheap 1-bay NAS:es. For reading small files i guess the bottleneck is the USB 2.0-connection, not the hard drive or the network. This was just last-minute testing before going to sleep, so going to try some more heavy testing in the next couple of days to get a better overall picture of the performance. So far i'm pretty impressed.

    Didn't have the time to measure power outtage or more performance, so that's in the pipeline so to speak.

    120301 - Small hack of Nortel Contivity 1600 part 2

    I just checked the CPU usage of the rather slow processor (Intel Celeron @ 433 MHz) today and was pretty suprised it had no problems routing my torrents and downloads, IRC, Web and FTP-sessions. I thought it could be a bottleneck for my Internet connection, but was pretty impressed. Now it's time to check weather it handles a Captive Portal, proxy, several wireless interfaces and stuff like that just as good. Notice that i don't have the fastest Internet connection, only a 28/3 Mbit ADSL line.

    Chart of the CPU utilization


    120229 - Small hack of Nortel Contivity 1600

    Today i got a Nortel Contivity 1600 on my desk. It's an old firewall in a 2U 19" inch case. Since the chassis is nice i wanted to see what's inside. I was pretty suprised when i found an old Intel CA810 motherboard, an Celeron-processor and 128 MB of RAM inside.

    Nortel Contivity 1600

    The motherboard even had a VGA-output but no IO-plate for it. The motherboard also had a built-in Intel NIC-controller (also a Intel PRO/100 card in a PCI-port) which is pretty good for routing OS:es... like my favorite Pfsense. Time to make a small hack to it, so i can use it as a (proper) router.



    I found a Intel CA810E motherboard on the inside, paired with a Celeron processor @ 433 MHz and 128 MB of PC133 RAM. It had 2 IDE channels and a floppy disk controller. The Maxtor drive had Nortels own operating system which was not ideal to my standards.



    The motherboard had VGA, PS/2 and other outputs from the motherboard, but the IO-plate (in thick metal) only showed the onboard LAN and serial outputs. So i loosened the motherboard and connected a monitor to the VGA port and a keyboard to a free USB-port. And it booted!


    Nortel original operating system

    I played around with the Nortel operating system but got bored pretty soon. Time to install some real routing software!



    I connected a regular IDE optical drive and it had no problems to boot. Since the original Maxtor drive was pretty loud i found a 40 GB Hitachi Deskstar (Deathstar) that was alot quieter. I installed Pfsense on it and set up the WAN/LAN-configuration. Since you cannot have a monitor to the unit while the motherboard is fastened, you need to have the LAN-configuration with IP-adress and interface 100 percent correct.

    When you start up the drive with no keyboard/monitor it seems to boot whatever you have plugged in, like in this case a 40 GB Hitachi drive with Pfsense. I also installed a 4-port Adaptec server ethernet adapter and a D-Link DWA-547 for serving my home with wireless connections. The unit has 4 PCI ports but since it only has 2 risers either 2 NIC:s or an adapter with several onboard NICs is recommended.

    A 4 port server adapter from Adaptec



    The Nortel Contivity 1600 has 2 80 mm fans that are connected to the same 3-pin connector on the motherboard, and if you want it alot quieter, just plug it out. The CPU fan needs to be running (seems to be a pretty cool processor in general) so i connected it with a small 7v adapter that made the sound level alot more reasonable.



    The backside has a on/off button and a reset. I already plan to modify it a bit more so that i can connect it to my KVM-switch. The last thing i did was to connect it to a energy meter (Etech PM3000) to check how much watt it used.



    45 Watt isnt bad. I would have liked to used a small SSD/2.5 inch mechanical drive, but had no available at the moment. I also know the Adaptec server ethernet controller is a energy thief. My current router (alot more powerful) is around 120 watt in idle, so the Nortel is alot cheaper in the long run.

    A guide, in short:

    • Open up the unit and connect a CD/DVD drive
    • Unscrew the motherboard and connect a keyboard and a monitor
    • Boot Pfsense (i386) and install it on the hard drive (replace the drive with a quieter is recommended)
    • Configure LAN with an interface and IP-adress (very important)
    • Fasten the motherboard, the PCI-cards and boot the unit and start using Pfsense!

    120228 - A little more color in the rack

    I wanted a little more control in my rack, what cable goes where and so on. Yesterday i got a bag filled with CAT5e/CAT6 cables in all sorts of colors. This will make my life alot easier. Stay tuned!