Righteous Hack

Proxmox Lab: Intel NUC

by on Aug.05, 2015, under Hardware, Linux, Product Review, Virtualization

Thanks for reading this first post in a new series I am putting together titled “Proxmox Lab”. In this blog series I will be covering various things related to Proxmox and the various hardware I have tested things on.

In this installment we will discuss a small foot print low power build that you can carry in your pocket, well, if you wear cargo shorts with the big pockets on the side.

Around two years ago I had purchased one of the earlier all black Intel NUC systems and a 32GB Crucial mSATA disk to run Proxmox 3.1 or 3.2, I forget the version at the time. Anyhow, around the same time that I attempted to complete the build of the device a client called up and expressed an immediate need for a small PC that could hide behind a conference room wall mount TV. Just like that my Intel NUC disappeared…

Months later I was able to find enough free time to get a new NUC, this time it was the more modern, current as of the time of this post, silver and black version. I went with the Core i3 variant as I didn’t want to go Celeron and the i5 was out of stock. Armed with 8GB of low voltage RAM (1.35V s required), I installed Proxmox to a 32GB Crucial mSATA drive and off I went. I strictly used the local storage for ISOs and the Proxmox system itself. This system ran excellently and never gave me so much as a hiccup. The combination of super fast BIOS and the SSD boot volume meant that this thing would boot or reboot so fast that I had to double check that I actually shut it down, quite a nice problem to have.

As so often happens here at the home office lab, I change hardware pretty frequently. Often times it is due to client needs or desires, other times it’s simply that I see something new and shiny. Regardless of the reasons, I rarely regret the money spent as the investment always comes back many times over in the form of education and experience gained.

This i3 system was eventually replaced about a year later when someone I knew really wanted the i3 NUC so I sent it packing to a new and better home. Since I had grown accustom to the silence, low power/heat, and wonderfully small size of the NUC, I had to find something like it to replace the one I had just gotten rid of. Well, after little debate, I ordered a new Intel NUC again, this time armed with a higher clock speed and the wondrous Core i5 badge. System memory was boosted to the full 16GB allowed by the board and off I went. Just like its Core i3 counterpart, this NUC performed flawlessly in all regards. Stable, fast, and truly affordable.

If you are looking for low power (as in electricity consumption), high performance, and physically small and beautiful package for your home lab test machine/hypervisor, be sure to take a serious look at the Intel NUC. Just imagine a shoe box full of Intel NUCs acting as a full on Proxmox cluster! Aside from the physical memory constraints inherent to this platform, I have seriously considered putting a handful of these into client networks as small foot print Proxmox clusters.

Pros: Tiny system, low energy usage, high performance.
Cons: Usually a tad more expensive than a comparable i3/i5 SFF desktop PC with the same specs. Requires mSATA and low voltage memory, both of which you probably do not have laying around.

A final note, unless you are doing CPU intensive tasks, which you probably are not, then skip the i5 variant. While it works great, I noticed zero performance increase over my Core i3 NUC. Obviously, this varies from workload to workload so be sure you know what you need.

I hope this helps any perspective home lab enthusiasts out there and be sure to stay tuned for my next build which I just finished ordering…

–himuraken

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Power Consumption Table

by on May.27, 2015, under Uncategorized

This page is reserved for keeping track of power usage of commonly used systems and components. Eventually this should be combined into a sort able table but this will do for now.

Dell Power Edge T430
PSU: 495W
CPU(s):
System powered off: 8W
Idle 0 drive(s): 108W
Idle 1x2TB Constellation SAS drive(s): 119W
Idle 4x2TB Constellation SAS drive(s): 147W
Idle 8x2TB Constellation SAS drive(s): 181W

Lenovo TS440 8Bay (XUX sku)
PSU: 450W
CPU(s): 1x Intel Xeon E3-1225 v3 (3.20GHz)
System powered off: 4W
Idle 0 drive(s): 54W
Idle 1x1TB Constellation SAS drive(s): 63W
Idle 4x1TB Constellation SAS drive(s): 87W
Idle 8x1TB Constellation SAS drive(s): 115W

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FreeNAS on the Lenovo TS440

by on Apr.16, 2015, under BSD, Hardware, Product Review, Storage, ZFS

With a recent build fresh on the brain I figured I’d share some thoughts on the hardware used as I hope it helps others. I googled and tried to find information ahead of time and found sparse info.

Recently, I set out to replace my current small office FreeNAS box. From a performance standpoint the box looked great on paper: AMD 8core @ 3.4Ghz, 32GB of “good” memory, an expensive Seasonic power supply, and 16 drives attached to a pair of Dell PERC H200 controllers packed into a high end Lian Li full tower. The tower had a SAS backplane and the 5.25″ bays had two 4 disk SATA enclosures installed. The towering behemoth worked like a champ for quite sometime. Day in and day out, the trusty homebrew served up NFS exports to ESXi, Proxmox, and numerous other LAN hosts ranging from RaspberryPi’s to FOG imaging VMs and things of that nature.

LIFE WAS GOOD AND IGNORANCE IS BLISS.

Once or twice while physically away from the box, meaning out of town, I received alerts from an external monitoring service that some of my VMs were down. Of course this only happens when you are away, and only to systems that DON’T have a hardware level remote access solution like IPMI, Intel vPro, HP iLO, or Dell DRAC. But I digress for surely it is OK to just have your entire FreeNAS box just mysteriously power off. Not a UPS failure, just an old fashioned “who knows”. Take all that plus the frustration of not being able to power the box on remotely and you begin to see why the homebrew had to go.

Some cursory searches online and a quick check with the fine folk over in #freenas got me thinking about custom vs prebuilt boxes. After comparing prices of various boards and form factors I determined that the Lenovo TS series of towers servers might be a good fit. Several people on #freenas and the internet in general had info on the TS140 which is the smaller and cheaper of the two, but I wanted at least 8 drive bays. The TS140 looks nice if you only need 1-4 cabled drives, hot swap isn’t an option on the little guy.

Armed with what seemed like proper info at the time, I ordered the 4bay variant of the TS440 since it was on sale for a meager $299.99 with free shipping. My plan was to test the system as it came and then add the secondary drive cage and backplane for a grand total of 8 hard drives. As it turns out, my plan was ill conceived as I could not locate any vendor selling the hardware I needed. I reached out to a well known IT and Lenovo vendor to get the info I needed. Much to my dismay, I was informed that Lenovo does not sell the parts needed to take the 4 bay all the way up to 8 drives. This detail is quite frustrating since the documentation I found stated that the system can be used with a 4 or 8 bay config. That is technically true, but only if you order the right SKU/Lenovo specific part number in the first place.

I am happy to report that the TS440 with XUX SKU is humming along happily now. The XUX model comes with the drive cage, backplane, and add-on controller necessary to run 8 drives. The RAID controller included in the system happily recognized my 4TB SATA disks and 3TB SAS disks. The controller supports RAID levels 0/1/10 out of the box but defaults to exporting disks as JBOD as long as you don’t manually set them up in a RAID array, perfect for ZFS. An option that I also decided to go with was the second power supply. The TS440 comes with a single hot swap supply and a spacer/blank slot for the second.

Hope this helps you with your small office NAS builds if you are condering a Lenovo TS440.

–himuraken

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Backing Up IIS 7.0 Quickly & Easily

by on Apr.05, 2013, under Uncategorized

I recently needed to install an IIS based web app for a client and wanted to be sure that everything was backed up. I found a really simple and fast way to do just that by following the steps outlined over on this blog post.

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Adobe CS2 & Windows 7

by on Jan.08, 2013, under Software, Windows

If you have Adobe CS2 and plan to install to a Windows 7 machine, please note the following:

The installation program will NOT recognize the Program Files (x86) folder and will not allow installation in the Program Files. Through browsing for the folder you may get the program to install. However, when you try to run one of the included apps you will be presented with an error message stating that the
personalization info cannot be found or is invalid.

To correct this, uninstall CS2 and reinstall using Progra~2 for the installation folder.

Thanks to Google for providing the solution.

– habanero_joe

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New-ish Blog Shoutout

by on Dec.30, 2012, under Blogs, Events

Check out http://www.1hundredsixty8.com for everyday discussion. The author is a good friend.

– habanero_joe

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SwiftKey Flow Public Beta Available

by on Dec.25, 2012, under Android, Mobile Apps, Non-technical, Product Review

I personally have used the Swype keyboard on my android phones since it was in beta. It was exciting to see SwiftKey launch its own variation on this type of keyboard. Swype has always had issues differentiating between “if” and “of” and other similar letter combinations. It was a nuisance to go back over every message and proof it for these typographical errors. I used SwiftKey 3 for a few days to test it out a few months ago. Their prediction is vastly superior to Swypes built in dictionary and word prediction. SwiftKey learns from your writing style and increases it prediction accuracy over time. There are even options to scan your text messages, emails, and facebook posts to learn your writing style. I didn’t mind letting it scan my text messages, but I was not interested in it reading my emails and facebook posts. A major difference between Swype and SwiftKey Flow is the option to never lift your finger until your done typing. Using Flow you simply move your finger across the space bar and move on to the next word. Being used to lifting a finger to either allow Swype to insert a space or manually hitting the space bar, it took some time getting used to swiping down to the space bar and continuing on. Once you get used to this method of typing you will notice a nice boost in your typing speed.

Being a Beta (the first Public release) there are still some issues to be worked out. Currently once SwiftKey predicts the incorrect word the only way to change it is to stop typing and delete it. There are ideas being thrown around in the VIP forum on how to fix this. The two methods I liked are either you swipe left from the delete key to remove the last word typed, or be able to swipe up to the prediction bar to the word you want, then continue on with your message. SwiftKey also has problems properly predicting words that have two of the same letter together like “too” and “fell” which becomes “feel”. It is also currently having issues with words that incorporate an apostrophe. Surely the SwiftKey team is working on ironing these issues out and the release version of this keyboard will be fantastic.

Overall I can see myself using this keyboard going forward. Even in its Beta form it is more fun, and more accurate than Swype. If you do not currently own SwiftKey 3, now is a good time to grab it. It is on sale for $2.00 in the PlayStore at this LINK!

The Flow Beta can be found HERE!

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Dell Latitude ST and Windows 8 Wifi connectivity

by on Oct.24, 2012, under Hardware, HowTo, Networking, Windows, Wireless

Installing Windows 8 on this tablet went off without a hitch. For a severely under powered device it is actually running Windows 8 very well. After reading numerous comments around the net about how slow it was running Win8, I was curious to find out for myself.
So far I have only found 2 issues. The first being the Windows 7 N-Trig drivers were not compatible with Win8. Secondly the Dell Atheros Wifi drivers were also not compatible. The N-trig issue was an easy fix. N-Trig has drivers on their site at n-trig.com that are compatible with Win8. The wifi on the other hand took some more tinkering. After a couple hours of learning the new UI and figuring out where everything was I decided to take the time to get Wifi up and running. The Dell A06 driver install package as I mentioned above is not compatible with Win8. However it does have the required driver packaged up inside. Before unpacking the install application I tried to install it under Windows 7 compatibility mode which also did not work.

Here are the steps I took to get the wifi driver installed:
Execute the installer package and it will extract the files into your Temp folder and the Atheros Installer.msi will be located in one of the {insert random number and text here} folders. The installer itself will throw an error stating that you must be using Windows 7.
Before you hit OK, using windows explorer browse to your C:\Users\yourusername\AppData\Local\Temp\ folder and find the Atheros Installer.msi. Copy or move that file to wherever you want, just make sure you remember where you put it. It is now safe to hit OK on the Dell Installer.
The installer will most likely clean up the temp folder automatically and you would not be able to find the file after hitting OK.
Use msiexec to extract the contents of the installer.
Open up a command prompt with administrator privileges. Once there the following command will be used: msiexec /a filepath to MSI file /qb TARGETDIR=filepath to target folder.
Now look in your Device Manager you should have an exclamation point listed next to SDIO Device. Click on that and update driver. Choose the folder you extracted the msi to and Windows will take care of the rest.
If for some reason you already have a driver listed for your dell mini card you will have to uninstall the driver and reboot. Upon reboot follow the above instructions.

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