Archive for December, 2007

NAS Nightmare.

December 12, 2007

Having smelled a wiff of success with FreeNAS, I’ve now spent the last few nights trying to build my own RAID 5 Server with Linux.  Linux comes in so many flavors.  I’m playing with Fedora now in my vision quest.  I’ve grown quite familiar with Ubuntu and Fedora is kind of alien.  Yet, in some ways it is more powerful.  The primary way this is true is that Fedora lets you set up a software RAID 5.  Ubuntu does not (at least as far as I can tell).

As of right now, I have the Fedora machine set up with a functioning RAID 5 with three 250 GB drives.  I’ve been stalled for hours, however, in something as simple as getting Samba to work.  Samba is what lets the windows machines talk to the Fedora box.

After many hours of head banging and googling, I think I have it figured out.  It seems Fedora comes with it’s own security software called SELinux.  This software doesn’t let Samba or windbind do anything.  Yet disabling this security did nothing.  The Windows machines still can’t see the Fedora box at all.

The next night…
I changed one setting in samba from workgroup to mshome and the shares were recognized by the other machines, ironically in the workgroup folder.  I thought I had finally had my cheap and easy server.  Nope.  I could see the shares with the other machines, but I could not write to them.  I file server that doesn’t let you see the files or write to the files does not do much good I’m afraid.  I am now down to editing the smb.conf file.  This is not where I want to be.  A friend of mine has suggested that he might have an old RAID card lying around that he can give me.  Certainly, that would make things much easier.  In fact, I could probably go back to FreeNAS at that point.

But I press on, continuing to try new things.  I may go with the RAID card though.  We’ll see.


FreeNAS Dream.

December 8, 2007

So since December 4th, I’ve managed to clear out three 250 GB drives. I’ve set them up in a box running FreeNAS. It’s working very well. This may sound stupid, but it’s more like the servers that I use at work than using a USB drive. Is that possible? I mean other NAS or external drives I’ve used seem to get bogged down when multiple users are sending files to them. FreeNAS still has an input/output performance range, it just seems to handle use by multiple computers better.

With the three drives, I ended up with 415 GB of usable space. Moreover, it was a blast to put it together. It was fully as much fun as building PCs. The concept now is that I need to be choosy about what data I should put on it because (in theory) the data on this drive should be the safest place in the house. This should be where the best data resides. I also want to go paperless in my home office. That’s going to create a lot more data.

It’s actually exciting. About a year and a half ago, I wrote about Gordon Bell and his attempts to digitize his life. While I have no intention of going as far as he has, I do want to put all of my data into one safe location. Right now, it’s spread out across many computers and duplicated on many drives. This sort of chaos organization is actually pretty good for preserving the data because the hard drives don’t get used much. However, it’s completely useless for keeping track of what you have.

As a side issue, I’ve discovered that my kids have an interest in watching TiVo shows on their computers. The server is ideal for sharing that content.

I see this FreeNAS server as the first build of many, many servers in the future. I still want a Drobo, but my experience with FreeNAS has been so positive that I’ve got a lot more to do with that first. I have plenty of old computers and hard drives. The cost of building a 4 TB Drobo is $400-500 for the unit and then probably $800 for the four 1 TB drives. I *might* be limited to 3 drives on a FreeNAS server but I still have extra computers so the server box is free. The cost of new drives is the same. If I can add additional controller cards and more hard drives that will be recognized by FreeNAS, it gains the advantage. Even if I built a completely new FreeNAS box, I could have *more* storage than the drobo for less money.

Stable, fast, useful NAS storage. It’s like a dream.


Sadly, it remains a dream. I’ve had unrecoverable problems (accessing folders causing reboot). I tried switching back to a more stable build, but RAID 5 in the stable build is unstable. The best I can hope for now is just a big network drive that offers no more security than anything else. Ah well, there’s always the Drobo.


Don’t give up on FreeNAS.  With the addition of a RAID card, things are going much better. 

Playing around with FreeNas.

December 4, 2007

I set up a computer tonight running FreeNas.  I successfully wrote files to it over my network from both a windows box and a Linux Box.  I have this unhealthy fixation on network storage.  I already have a Netgear NAS and an external USB drive that plugs into my router.  I have a terabyte of existing NAS storage.  So why do I need to be monkeying around with FreeNas?

Because I can, mostly.  It’s fun.  It’s actually very straightforward.  I wanted to play around with it tonight on this test box I have with an 80 gig drive in it.  Ultimately, I want to build a RAID 5 unit with 3 250 gig drives.  What I don’t have is one place for all my data that is not vulnerable to disk crashes.

I really, really want a Drobo, but maybe I can build a poor man’s Drobo using FreeNas.

Linux, Teamspeak and a quest for something better than Skype for podcasting.

December 2, 2007

Well, I spent many hours today messing with Teamspeak.  I think I’m going to blog about this because while I failed miserably, I learned a great deal.  I had heard about Teamspeak from Linux Journal.  This is an outstanding magazine with lots of very technical and very informative articles.  The article in question was actually evaluating using three Linux distros to turn old laptops into servers.  The author reviewed Xubuntu, Vector Linux and Damn Small Linux.  In trying to get Teamspeak to work (as the author claimed he did) I used Ubuntu, Xubuntu and DSM.  This is what took many, many hours.

Ubuntu had a blocked port that I could not circumvent.  Xubuntu kept disagreeing with my graphics card and DSM is just fracking crazy.  So I’m kinda embarrassed to admit that I ended up using the Windows versions of both the terminal and server.  They just worked.  It took me two seconds after spending half the day with Linux.

Now here’s the fail part:  Teamspeak seems to be just for gaming or other applications where audio quality doesn’t have to be any better than a cell phone.  When it’s working, Skype is the best thing going by light years.

But again, it wasn’t a total waste of time.  When you can get things to work in Linux (like Wireshark for example or even Firefox) there is a great deal of satisfaction in that.  My flagship Ubuntu box is quite stable.  I am confident that I could have run Teamspeak on it if I could have figured out how to unblock the port.  Alas, I wasn’t willing to spend any more time on it.  Now I also want to learn more about Apache and Lighttpd and PHP.

I’m still looking for a Skype replacement for podcasting.  I doubt there is one at this point.

After watching the network traffic on my Ubuntu box, I think I may actually have activated Teamspeak as a server when I downloaded it with the Synaptic Package Manager and that’s why the port was blocked. It was already running. The weird thing is that, as far as I can tell, it didn’t show up as a running process in the System Monitor. There does not appear to be a GUI interface for the server software in Linux, however, (there is in Windows) so I’m going to have to do some digging to shut it off.

I was able to get Xubuntu working on the other box by putting an old NVidia graphics card in it that I had lying around.  Sometimes it pays to keep old junk! 😉

My friend Scott had this to say:

Yes, in Ubuntu when you install a package like apache, lighttpd, mysql, or teamspeak it is usually immediately turned on by default. I actually don’t agree with this functionality. I think it should ask you if you want to turn it on immediately or not.

Secondly, you should not use the graphical system monitor. Open a terminal and learn to use the ps command. Most often I use it one of two different ways.

ps aux | lessThis way allows me to see every process with lots of information such as CPU and memory usage. I use this when I’m trying to find a process, but I don’t know which one.

ps -eH | lessThis command shows a hierarchy of processes. This lets me see which processes spawned which other processes. I use this most often to just get a nice overview of what is going on in the system.

For more information, of course you should RTFM.
man ps
The top command is also useful in this way.
man top

He was right.  Teamspeak is running as a server on the Ubuntu box.  On a lark, I logged into it on the Windows box.  It was a lot better than the other machine at the maximum bandwidth.  Now I think I need to do more testing.

Friday Night Party Line Episode 21

December 1, 2007

Tonight on FNPL, we have David, Scott, Kyle, Rym & Thaed.  Here are the topics:

–Why do people keep that which they do not use?  You have people with real problems throwing things away in an extreme way.  Their houses are full of what amounts to garbage.  On the other hand, some people throw away something immediately when it no longer has a ready purpose.  Many of us are somewhere in between.  Is it ok to keep something you don’t use?

–We now have the scientific capability to track human abilities and illnesses to genetic characteristics.  Should we then score genetic potential in humans the same way we do I.Q.  Should everyone be tested and then receive a gene score?  Would this create new bar-room bragging between the sexes?  Would it create a new line of insults?  Is it horrific or inevitable?  (15:54)

–Excesses in entertainment consumption.  Those of us who were alive in the 80s remember the emergence of conspicuous consumption.  Today, however, I would propose that we have more ways to entertain ourselves than ever before to the point where there’s kinds of entertainment that we forgo not because we don’t like it, but because there’s something we like slightly more.  Is this bad?  (41:08)

–Ask the Economist:  Earlier this month, the offices of the folks who make the Liberty Dollar were raided.  What do you think about this?  Federal law is pretty darn specific about who gets to issue currency in this country?  What’s the deal?  How is this different from giving someone a promissory note or a share in stock for example?  Bonus discussion on IRAs and 401ks.  (50:29)

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