Category Archives: setup

New monitor and other updates

The Dell UltraSharp U2410 monitor has been replaced with an Acer XB271HU monitor. This is a 27″ WQHD IPS monitor with a 4ms response time and 165GHz refresh rate. So it is a nice upgrade to the current one. Slightly larger but the display is really beautiful, sharp and bright. The IPS panel will still provide for good color accuracy while the better response time and refresh rate would allow for better gaming.

Two issues with the monitor are the availability of only one DisplayPort and one HDMI which is very little and that the Windows machine with the NVIDIA GTX970 would need to connect via DisplayPort for G-SYNC to work. So the rest of the machines would need to connect via a single HDMI. To connect the Mac and server, I have gotten a cheap HDMI switch from Challenger which actually works quite well (I was initially worried about the resolution issue since it is 2560×1440, WQHD). The ATEN KVM will still be used as a keyboard and USB switch. This means that switching machines would be more troublesome with more buttons to press but it is definitely far cheaper than getting another KVM that supports HDMI at that kind of resolution. And I typically only switch between the Mac and the Windows anyway.

G-SYNC appears to be working as advertised as the NVIDIA control panel shows it as been enabled. When running games, it does appear to be smoother, lag is reduced but the impact is probably not that big. I noticed a bigger difference in the brightness and clarity more than the smoothness.

The external eSATA units have had their contents copied over to the new internal expanded ZFS pool. The units held on despite some initial issues with the hardware. They have been decommissioned and the internal ZFS pool is the main storage unit now.

The operating system for the server has been updated to 16.04 LTS so it is good for another couple of years. Everything is back online after the hardware changes.

So everything is now good for another year πŸ™‚

System updates

Another year has almost passed and as with most years with leave to clear, this is a period where I update the systems.

The Mac Pro has been developing random shutdowns and is now retired. And its drives removed for other uses.

The server has the most changes, all the internal drives have been upgraded to 6TB drives with the addition of 5 Toshiba 6TB drives. This will provide enough space to house all the data and allow for the retirement of the external eSATA units. The drives on the eSATA units are very very old, some of them are at the 7 year mark. And zfs scrubs are showing lots of checksum errors and there has been one or two data corruptions. The system drive which was a 256GB M.2 has been replaced with the Crucial 1TB SSD from the Mac Pro. The graphics adapter has been changed to Asus NVIDIA GeForce GT 730 which provides for more modern connectors like HDMI and DisplayPort in anticipation of a new monitor. The memory has also been upgraded via 4 x 16GB DDR4 Corsair LPX 3200MHz modules to give a total of 64GB of memory.

The initial idea was to supplement the existing 32GB of memory with another 32GB but the differences in the voltages of the old and new modules meant that this was not possible. Kind of sad.

The disks were replaced one by one, each time physically replacing a single disk and then using zpool replace to bring the pool from degraded to online status before the next replacement is done. This took a very very long time since each replacement took about 5 hours. This is probably a dangerous operation since there is no extra drive during this process and true enough one file had an error which could not be recovered. But since a full backup was done prior to the replacement, the file was restored and then the resilvering done again. This time it well fine.

Once all the drives have been replaced, the next step was to grow the pool to the new size and this was based on instructions at which worked well. I had a problem with the export which I finally traced to the fact that NFS was still using the pool. Once NFS was stopped, the export worked fine.

The grow operation worked as advertised and the capacity has been doubled. The next step would be to copy all the data on the external eSATA units to the new expanded internal pool. This will probably take a very very long time and I hope that the old disk will hold till the copy is done.

I got a Henge dock for my Macbook Pro Retina 13″ so that it can serve as the Mac Pro replacement and that has been working out very well.

The Windows machine has received a modest upgrade in the form of an additional 16GB of memory bringing its total memory to 24GB.

New server

So I was monitoring the buy and sell sections of local forums for a good bargain on a X99 or X79 system. I was interested in trying out virtualisation but for that, I will need more RAM and faster processors.Β The current system was built for low power and noise while having the ability to host a lot of drives. With the release of the X99, I thought it was a good time to change.

I managed to get a good deal on a MSI X99S SLI PLUS with 32GB of RAM and a m.2 256GB SSD. On top of that, a new Fractal Design Define R5 casing, a Corsair RM650 power supply, a Intel i7- 5820K, Coolmaster Hyper 612 v2 cooler and 2 additional 3TB WD Red drives. I recycled a NVIDIA Quadro NVS 290. This gives me a fast SSD for the boot drive, 8x3TB for the ZFS RAID, 6 cores and lots of memory. A ready power house.

The surprising thing was how silent it runs. Even when doing the stress testing, the machine was very silent. This is probably a combination of the casing and the CPU cooler.

I got Ubuntu 14.04 LTS on it and KVM is running multiple VMs. I have one VM running the web server supporting this WordPress site and another running Plex as a media server. The great thing is being able to testing application in VMs and throwing them away once I am done. This keeps the base system really clean. All I have on the base system is file sharing stuff like AFP, Samba and NFS.

The old server was recycled as my work PC since my Sony VAIO laptop was dying. Got a Samsung EVO 850 256GB SSD for it and it is running Windows 8.1 for work. Windows 8.1 is a big switch from Windows 7 in terms of UI and I see little benefit in the new UI. Just more irritating UI bits. It is faster but the Metro apps really drive me nuts.

The next server build

I guess with the availability of Haswell-E, my next server will be based on that. With updated storage and DDR4 memory, it will probably meetΒ my needs of more memory and storage. So I will probably be tracking the cost of the system for a while to see when would be a good time to get it. The following is the current cost at Fuwell.

Item Cost Units Total
Crucial Ballistix Sport 2400MHz 1x8GB 199 2 398
Asrock X99 Extreme4 with Intel i7 5820K 875 1 875
Corsair HX750i Modular 750W 229 1 229
Corsair H80i Hydro Cooling 158 1 158
WD Green 6TB 338 4 1352

So the total cost today would be about $3k or so. Let’s take a look a couple of weeks later.

The Epson TX700W has died

The Epson TX700W is died with a message about the ink pads being full and needing replacement. So after some googling, apparently there is a counter for this which is based on the number of pages printed. Rather upset with Epson, so they know that the ink pads will get filled up and instead of engineering something to solve this problem, they decided to just kill the printer when they think it is full (remember the counter). In the US, they make available a re-setter software for this but not for the rest of the world (maybe we do need to be a bit more trigger happy with lawsuits).

Getting this back to Epson would certainly be costly. Getting a resetting software is possible but will either be difficult to find or it will cost me. Went to Sim Lim and asked around and 2 shops have indicated that they can perform the reset with one of them doing an additional cleaning of the ink pads which is probably a good idea. God knows how much ink has been deposited on the thing. Pretty cheap too, $25 for the reset and cleaning. Will bring down the printer one of these days to try. It is such a good printer so it would be a shame to let it go to waste.

Since Pauline needs to print, I got a Brother DCP-J725DW as a replacement for now while I get the TX700W fixed. So far so good, the photo printouts are nice looking but certainly not as sharp as the Epson. Airprint is quite cool but of limited use since no settings can be done. Ink is also rather cheap and boy does the thing print fast. The Epson has good printout but it is slow, so it is nice to have something that prints fast. I am rather impatient πŸ™‚

My setup 20121229 update

Another year has passed and with it more changes to the systems. The server is still around, no major changes this year, the LSI SAS1064ET is still good so both RAID5 are still kicking around. A SIL3132 SATA controller was transferred from the Mac Pro for the 2 eSATA ports, one of which is connected to a 4 bay Hotway external enclosure containing 4 x 3TB Western Digital green drives providing an additional 9TB of RAID5. That leaves another eSATA port to connect to another 4 bay enclosure.

The previous E8400 windows machine is being used by Esther as her HP workstation is now in the living acting as the media player since the Popcorn Hour C-200 kicked the bucket. I got a new windows machine with a Intel i5-3570K CPU on an ASUS P8Z77-V LK mainboard with 8Gb of RAM, a 120GB ADATA SSD and a Palit GTX670 graphics card. The windows machine is excellent for games πŸ™‚

The Marantz AVR NR1501 has decided to stop producing any sound so instead of another AVR, I got a pair of Creative GigaWorks T40 Series II since with everyone in the study room I cannot really listen to music.

A Xbox 360 is connected to the ATEN KVM. The PS3 is not really in use, especially with the new windows machine around.


Updates to the server 20110421

It has been a lot time since the last update. The LSI 8408E went south and brought down the entire RAID5. Thank god nothing important was on it. This is the last time I am going the hardware raid route. At least for software RAID, I can get any other controller and re-assemble the RAID5. But for hardware RAID, I will probably have to get the same controller and I am definitely not buying a new LSI 8408E, that would have cost a bomb.

So for a while I use a Western Digital ShareSpace which has 4TB in RAID5 (3TB usable) but boy is it slow. Transfers are about 10MB/s which is rather bad. Finally I got a LSI SAS1064ET which gives me 4 additional SATA ports which I attached 4 2TB drives and created a software RAID5 under linux (6TB usable). So if the card fails again, I just have to assemble the RAID5 in another machine. The previous 1TB drives were connected to the ICH10R to form 5TB RAID5 (4TB usable). This gives me a total of 10TB in RAID5 storage on the server with an additional 3TB in the WD ShareSpace. The last SATA on the ICH10R was used for the system drive (1TB). This should keep things going for a while more πŸ™‚

RAM has been increased to 8GB since some of the work I am doing requires a lot of RAM. During the house moving, the power supply decided to quit and another modular one was installed.

My setup 20110421 update

We shifted house and the new place is bigger and gives us a chance to re-organize everything. The main sever has undergone some changes but is largely the same.

I have gotten a number of new machines from an auction following the closure of my previous company. With the company closing, they made a great decision of auctioning the computer hardware that we have. The auction was done by an external company EquipNet who are professionals at this kind of work. The actual auction was rather exciting as everyone wanted those machines but are not really sure how much to bid.

In the end, I managed to get hold of 10 HP workstations and 1 Mac Pro. The Mac Pro is really the jewel here, a 8 core monster with 8GB of RAM and a 24″ cinema display. A real steal at $1400. This means that I can go back to using the mac as the main machine rather than windows. As for the HP workstations, I will be getting 3 of them and the rest will be sold to other colleagues. In addition, I got hold of 2 HP laptops courtesy of Dong Liang who bidded for all 23 πŸ™‚

The Mac Pro was updated with a OCZ Vertex 2 120GB SSD and boy does the system fly now. For media storage, it has 2 x 2TB WD Black in RAID 0 for maximum speed. There is another 2TB WD Green for backups. This is really a powerhouse πŸ™‚ It has also gotten an internal PCI-E card providing it with 2 E-SATA ports and I have it connected to a Hotway 4 way enclosure. This way I can add more drives if needed.

Ernest and Esther are each getting a HP workstation, each upgraded with a WD 500GB Black. The workstations are hooked up to 22″ LCD monitors mounted on articulating arms clipped to their tables. The 2 laptops have either a 160GB or 500GB 2.5″ drive since I reused one of the old portable drives. The laptops have been upgraded with more RAM so one of them has 6GB and the other 4GB. The last HP workstation has been give to my brother.

So my current work area has a Dell UltraSharp U2410 which is a fantastic screen. This is hooked up to a Aten KVM which is in turn connected to a Mac Pro, the server and the windows machine. The windows machine has been upgraded with more RAM and a new graphics card, a ATI Radeon HD 5850. Gigabit LAN is used for the interconnects so that transfers are really fast.

This setup has gotten a new set of speakers, Wharfedale Diamond 9 which is connected to a Marantz AVR NR1501. This is also connected to a Playstation 3 which is connected to the Dell U2410 via HDMI.

An Avision AV50F scanner and Brother P-Touch QL-550 is also connected for scanning and label printing.

It is a really nice setup, great hardware, tons of storage, fast network, 3 different operating system, beautiful sound and visuals. It certainly beats my workplace setup.

For printing, the Brother HL-4050CDN is still around but it is starting to develop problems. A new Samsung CPL-350N was purchased which is even worse than the going to drop dead Brother. Very disappointing. On the bright side, an Epson TX770 has replaced the HP Photosmart C6180. And it is a very very good printer. Beautiful photo print outs that look even better than the ones from the standard photo developing shops. It is also pretty accurate in terms of color after a but of tweaking. With a color calibrated screen and a tweaked printer, all the photos look really good and the colors are very consistent.

For the rest of the house, everything is connected via Gigabit LAN. There are LAN points everywhere and 3 WiFi access point provide wireless coverage for the whole house.

For the living room, there is a Popcorn Hour C-200 which plays back media streamed via LAN. It is connected via HDMI to a DENON AVR-1910. A Definitive Technology ProCinema 800 is in turn connected to the AVR. For the screen, a Sony KDL-46EX500 is used. The Sony display is actually quite good, I am really impressed. So we finally get a cinema experience at home πŸ™‚

The kids’ room has a 32″ LCD TV which is connected to a Wii and our room has another 32″ LCD TV connected to a A.C. Ryan Playon!HD Mini.

My setup 20090809

The server was running low on storage again. The Nikon D300 taking 10MB a piece RAW photos is really eating up a lot of data storage. I managed to get a second hand LSI 8408E 8 port PCIE SATA RAID card and it works well in Ubuntu. This means that I get up to 8 SATA ports in addition to the 6 provided by the ICH10R. The SiI 3114 did not manage to recognize my 1TB Seagate drives.

This time round, I decided to go all the way and max out the drives. So I got another 3 bay 5.25″ to 4 3.5″ converter and got an additional 6 1TB drives. The idea being to connect all 8 1TB drives to the LSI 8408E in a RAID 5 configuration for 7TB of storage. This will be supplemented by a 3 x 500GB RAID 5 providing an addition 1TB of storage. So all in all, I would have 8TB of storage which is more then double what I had previously (3TB). And this time round, it will all be in RAID 5 for a piece of mind. Hopefully this will last me for the next 3 years or so.

The MacBook Pro was also running low on disk space so I got a Seagate Desktop Extreme 1.5TB for it hooked up via firewire 400. For now, I am using the drive to backup the data on the 2 1TB Seagates so that I can construct the 8 drive RAID 5. So there is a lot of copying right now to move the data into the external drives to free up the 2 Seagate 1TB drives.