jake's blog

dribble from the Tech World

5. January 2014 20:43
by jake rutski
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DL380 G6 Loud Fan Noise

5. January 2014 20:43 by jake rutski | 0 Comments

The Proliant G6 line of servers are quiet - and that's big for anyone using server grade hardware at home (me). I had started with G5 servers, but those were pretty loud - especially the DL380 - per the HP quickspecs document, 44dB. Then I upgraded everything to G6 servers and it made a HUGE difference - sort of.

The ESX host is a DL360 - nothing special here, just an extra NIC. The G6 is much quieter - 33dB per quickspecs, and I believe it.

Then there's the DL380 G6 storage server. At the time, it was a redesign of the previous storage server - including an IBM M1015 card and the HP SAS expander to use all 16 of the front SFF drives. The internal P400 card is OK for some applications, but ZFS is NOT one of them - it does not present drives to the OS natively (pass-through) so that's why the M1015 card is in use.

This server was LOUD and it was supposed to be quieter than the DL360 sitting right below it - a full 11dB quieter at 22dB. This was simply not the case - the fans were spinning at or near 100%. There are tons of posts about different settings for the fans in the BIOS of the server that allow some control of the fans, but I had these set correctly for minimal fan noise. There are also several posts about a newer BIOS firmware for the DL380 that improve the settings available for fan control...but that was not the case as the first thing I had done was use the smart update disk so I knew it was up to date.

I searched for a while looking for drivers or a setting in FreeBSD that could maybe control the fan speed...nothing.

Here's the kicker: I saw a single line in some HP document stating that PCI card electrical load will cause the fans to throttle up. That was it! The HP SAS Expander and M1015 cards were causing the fans to spin like crazy - while fine for the datacenter, NOT fine for the home lab.

Needless to say, the DL380 G6 is now an ESX host with NO PCI cards and it is nearly silent.

7. September 2013 21:36
by jake rutski
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StarWind SAN V8 - Beta Initial Testing

7. September 2013 21:36 by jake rutski | 0 Comments

Last Friday, 9/6/2013, StarWind released a beta of version 8 of their core SAN product - iSCSI SAN. This version has been in the works for several months - it includes what appears to be a major rewrite of the core storage code as well as a simplified management console. The core includes:

Please note that this release is a beta release. That said, I could not wait to give it a shot...even though it's not quite the same setup as in previous tests. My physical SAN\NAS is now based on FreeNAS with NFS storage presented to VMware - this test will have to be virtual. As a basic first test, I have a 2vCPU, 8GB RAM 2008R2 virtual machine with StarWind iSCSI SAN V8 installed. It is presenting a 50GB volume (which is presented by NFS from FreeNAS) backed by 5GB write-back cache. The initial install of StarWind shows a vastly different console:

Additionally, I am prompted to store data somewhere - either the C: drive, or another volume:

Next, I created the LSFS based iSCSI target - using the advanced device wizard:

 

After all that, I presented the target to VMware, and cloned a 2008R2 VM from template. Note that the datastore shows full VAAI support, and according to StarWind it is supported. I ended up cloning 2 VMs to the datastore - each with 10GB worth of data. The StarWind server itself showed only 10.1 GB used with DeDupe turned on, but VMware showed 20GB used. The real test: IOMeter:

Again - please note that this is an iSCSI volume based on a VMDK presented by NFS to an ESX host...so there's a few layers of storage virtualization here...plus it's only 8GB of virtual RAM, which is not that much (and it's virtual). All that being said, a write-heavy, random IO test produced EXTREMELY favorable results:

3400 IOPS???!?!?! That's AMAZING! and it's all virtual? Imagine if this were a physical server, with tons of RAM and an SSD L2 cache. I would imagine that it would only get better from here. More tests to come!

30. August 2013 08:16
by jake rutski
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FreeNAS 9.1 - LZ4 Compression

30. August 2013 08:16 by jake rutski | 0 Comments

I recently upgraded to FreeNAS 9.1 once it was GA. I have always used compression on the volume that stores all of the virtual machines - instead of using DeDupe which requires considerably more RAM, and doesn't appear to be as forgiving. That being said, the volume has been configured with LZJB compression and I was seeing about 40-50% compression ratios. Then I converted the volume to LZ4 compression. *Note: Modifying compression only effects new data written to the volume.

After storage vMotioning and copying around all the VMs, I saw an additional 9-10% improvement in compression - here's some numbers:

  • 13.98 GB vmdk with lzjb = 12.61 GB vmdk with LZ4
  • 23.32 GB vmdk with lzjb = 20.77 GB vmdk with LZ4

All in all, I was able to reclaim about 20GB of space from compression.

20. August 2013 21:37
by jake rutski
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The Ultimate Windows Media Center Build and Troubleshooting Guide

20. August 2013 21:37 by jake rutski | 7 Comments

After many years (and iterations) of Windows Media Center PCs, I have finally arrived to a place where the benefits outweigh the issues and I have full approval from the 'Board'. Take a look at all of the previous posts here: http://blogs.serioustek.net/archive.aspx#cat-Fine-Tuning-Media-Center-7

We are now using HTPC Windows Media Center PCs on our Primary TVs and for once, everything is working perfectly, and there are ZERO 'weird little issues' that I have to explain away to my Wife (or anyone that tries to use the system). First, let me address some of the major issues I've had in the past and how they've been resolved - some of them are additional hardware components, and some are software solutions.

  • Boot Times
    • This used to be an issue but the combination of having an SSD as the primary drive and the fact that the PC is hardly ever powered off or rebooted and stays in S3 sleep means that the system is as responsive, if not more responsive than a cable box. I've also found that some TVs boot slower than waking an SSD based PC from sleep.
  • Sleep Issues
    • These systems stay in S3 when they are not in use, so sleeping and waking needs to be perfect - this was not always the case. Here's some issues experienced:
      • Upon wake, the TV showed a black screen; Media Center was running, but only showed a black screen. Usually a reboot fixed the issue, or if you could get to task manager and close it forcefully. The fix: The Media Center Standby Tool (MST) - see the build section for details
      • Upon wake, HDMI audio failed. Simply closing and re-opening Media Center would resolve the issue. The fix: MST
      • Selecting the guide bounced back to recorded TV. Never figured this one out... The fix: MST
  • Heat and Noise
  • Cable Provider Service Updates
    • This issue has not been nearly as much of an issue since the HDHomeRun Prime is powered on at all times, and as far as I understand it, stores the Virtual Channel Table (VCT) locally. Any updates pushed by the provider are received by the HDHomeRun and the VCT is always up to date - no need to leave a PC on to receive the updates.
  • Remote Control Issues
    • Using a universal remote is fine, but ALWAYS use the standard Windows Media Center remote programming codes - don't use 3rd party codes (or a 3rd party remote that might come with a TV tuner or HTPC chassis). The standard Media Center remote is more than capable of controlling all the needed functions as well as bringing the system into and out of sleep.
  • Coax Signal Strength Issues
    • Having the HDHomeRun Prime connected directly to the primary coax splitter, resolves any signal strength issues, and as long as network is available, the Prime can be located nearly anywhere needed.

 

 

The Build

 This section will outline the procedures, hardware and tools used to make the perfect cable box replacement.

  • Hardware
    • HDHomeRun Prime- essentially makes a Cable Card tuner available over the network - in the case of the Prime, three tuners. While not required, this tech resolves several issues, and allows for a very compact setup assuming that networking is available.
    • Network- a wired network is required for the Prime - in fact, it has a 1Gb network interface, so if you have 1Gb networking gear, it will use it. My initial testing of streaming live TV over a wireless network showed to fairly unreliable, but I believe more testing is needed.
    • Video Card- Must be capable of at least 720P or 1080P video. The older i3 processors with HD 3000 video work OK at 1080P but I have seen some choppiness. The newer HD 4000 Intel chips work great at 1080P.
    • HDMI Audio- Not required, but it makes things 100 times easier. This is where the AMD-based video cards take the win - all of the Radeon HD 5000 series and later cards have an onboard HD audio decoder - and the stream is sent straight out the HDMI port - full 7.1 bitstream audio to the receiver? Done. The Intel HD chips also have HDMI audio, but I am not certain about their full capabilities.
    • SSD- An SSD drive is a must - it just speeds up everything. If you need more storage space, use a 2nd drive (internal or external...or iSCSI if you're feeling adventurous)
  • Software
  • Procedure
    • Assemble hardware
      • Ensure BIOS is set to AHCI (should be the default nowadays anyway)
      • Check for anything in the BIOS about sleep - make sure S3 is enabled, and be careful with things like 'hybrid sleep' or S3+S4
    • Install Win7 with SP1
    • Install ALL Drivers - not installing all drivers, or the proper drivers can interfere with sleep functionalityIf using the HDHomeRun Prime - install .NET 4 and then the latest HDHomeRun software
    • Open Device Manager and browse through most of the HID hardware and USB hardware - on each, go to the Power Management tab (if available) and disable 'Allow this device to wake the computer' on EVERYTHING except for the IR receiver.
    • Open the control panel and find Power Options - set these to meet your needs, but here is what I set:
      • Dim the display, turn off the display, put the computer to sleep: Never
      • Advanced Power - Require a password on wakeup: No
      • Power button action: Sleep
    • Launch Media Center for the first time - allow express setup to run. Set the following:
      • Media Center window is always on top
      • Always start Media Center when computer starts up
    • Install the Shark007 codec pack (and x64 add-on for x64 systems)
    • Install MST and configure
    • Close Media Center - let Media Center update run (we're waiting for the DCT advisor tool to be updated)
    • Configure auto logon - open regedit and modify the following under HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows NT\CurrentVersion\Winlogon :
      • DefaultUserName - username goes here (create if it doesn't exist - String - can also be in the form of domain\username)
      • DefaultPassword - password goes here (create if it doesn't exist - String...cleartext password...I know)
      • AutoAdminLogon - 1 (should exist - DWORD)
    • Run Windows Update and install all Hotfixes - reboot (repeat as needed)
    • Re-open Windows Media Center - Go to the Extras Gallery and run the DCAT (the icon is COAX cable) - once finished, run Live TV setup
    • Customize Media Center as you like - add media galleries, set your preferred channels, color code guide categories, etc.

Some Issues I've run into in the Past

  • Guide data doesn't download: All channels show as 'no data available'. Usually re-running 'Live TV Setup Wizard' will resolve this. But sometimes you may need to clear out the guide data forcefully. Do the following
  • System randomly wakes up from sleep or never fully goes to sleep: As noted in a previous post here, some hardware just constantly tries to wake a system - most notably are keyboards and mice. Run the 'powercfg -lastwake' command from an elevated command prompt to see what woke the system, and prevent it from waking the system in the future in device manager.

 

That's it - any questions, just ask. Thanks to the following websites for always having a ton of useful information:

http://www.hack7mc.com/ - Hack 7MC always has a ton of cool stuff like adding themes and customization

http://experts.windows.com/f/ - This is the old 'TheGreenButton' forum turned into. I have not used it much since the conversion, but there were always some great users on there willing to help.

http://www.thegreenbutton.tv/forums/ - Possibly another offshoot of the TGB forums...since no one seemed to like being taken over by Microsoft forums.

8. August 2013 22:43
by jake rutski
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Intel NUC i5 HTPC Review

8. August 2013 22:43 by jake rutski | 0 Comments

The Intel NUC looked appealing ever since I first saw it - it provides HD 4000 graphics, an i3 or i5 processor, an SSD, HDMI output, and 1Gb LAN all in a 4" by 4" by 1" package that can even mount on the back of a monitor with a VESA mount. Here's the Intel reference page: http://www.intel.com/content/www/us/en/motherboards/desktop-motherboards/nuc-i5.html

When my son started crawling and pulling himself up on things, he became VERY interested in buttons and lights and breaking EVERYTHING. That being said, we needed to downsize our primary TV. Using the existing HTPC really didn't work - he could still press buttons and the wires were pretty ugly:

So I decided to make the Intel NUC i5 an HTPC and mount it to the back of the TV. Here's the box contents:

Please note that there's not a C5 power cable in the box to power the brick...but the box makes the stupid Intel jingle instead....really Intel? Come on man. I decided on some Crucial memory - 2x4GB PC3-12800 and a Mushkin Enhanced Atlas 60GB SSD - it's an mSATA interface.

 

The Rosewill remote is for an IR receiver. Removing the 4 screws in the NUC exposes the bottom of the board:

And here's everything installed:

Ended up tucking the antenna wires down into the side of the NUC - I thought about removing them, but then thought there might be some use for them later. Once booted, the Intel Visual BIOS is pretty slick and gets everything configured:

Here's what the back of the TV looks like - no wires hanging down. The IR receiver is mounted to the bottom of the TV with 3M double stick tape.

Here are a few notes about the setup:

  • This isn't exactly using the VESA mount on the back of the TV or mount just due to the way the mount works...but it's still mounted to the TV and is not visible.
  • There are known issues with the onboard NIC and the HDMI port directly next to it. I am using a mini-displayport to HDMI adapter to use the port that is the farthest from the NIC. Otherwise, the NIC would drop connection several times when waking from sleep.
  • The IR Receiver that came with the Rosewill RHRC-11001 frequently prevented the system from waking from sleep...it simply stopped responding to IR commands. Using a different receiver worked perfect - keep in mind this is S3.

28. July 2013 20:37
by jake rutski
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StarTech HSB430SATBK - Fan Replacement

28. July 2013 20:37 by jake rutski | 0 Comments

The StarTech HSB430SATBK is a great drive cage - it fits into 3 5.25" external bays and gives you 3 3.5" SATA hot-swap HDD bays. Unfortunately, fans going bad is not uncommon. Here's a quick how to if you ever need to replace the fans on the StarTech 4 bay HDD cage.

First remove all the screws from the back plate - don't remove the screws from the fans - they are screwed into the plate.

On the bottom of the plate, you'll find the control board for the fans and the LEDs - it is held in by 4 screws - remove them:

Lastly, you'll see the 2-pin fan connectors on the back side of the controller board. Simply unplug them, unscrew the fans and replace.

28. July 2013 20:15
by jake rutski
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Insteon Review Part 2: In the Kitchen

28. July 2013 20:15 by jake rutski | 0 Comments

After the success of the previous Insteon test as noted here, I decided I would try installing a device into a heavily used area - the kitchen. We did not have any under-cabinet lighting, and 6 large overhead flood lights were just overkill...so I bought some small fluorescent lights and two OutletLinc Relays and figured that I had the perfect location for a SwitchLinc.

So I bought a SwitchLinc 2487S to control a light above the sink and the two under-cabinet lights (plus 2 other modules assuming it works). I installed it and linked the 2 modules and everything worked fine...then I noticed a ridiculous buzzing sound coming from the switch. It's very heavily documented here: http://www.smarthome.com/forum/topic.asp?TOPIC_ID=10296  ...I should have heeded the warnings.

So I exchanged the first "faulty one" for a new one...waited for it to arrive and installed the new 2487S one night so as not to disturb the family. But to my dismay, the same buzzing noise was audible from across the room!! This was not acceptable, and it was immediately ripped out of the wall.

Further reading indicated that the dimming version of the 6-button KeypadLinc did not have these issues - and I promptly called in yet another return\exchange except this time I did NOT want another 2487S - I wanted to exchange for the dimming 2486DWH. It should be noted that this second tech insisted that the buzzing is the "expected behavior" but that the exchange would still be honored.

While I didn't really need dimming for the primary load, I figured it couldn't hurt. In the end, the wife was "happy" with the dimming capability of the light above the sink. AND the fact that it does not buzz at all is a HUGE improvement. While it was painful to return\exchange the first 2 2487S KeypadLincs - the dimming version works perfect and we now have great under cabinet lights.

Also of note - if you press and hold the 'Scene A' and 'Scene D' buttons, the dim backlighting LEDs will turn off leaving only the main load On\Off LEDs.

7. July 2013 08:18
by jake rutski
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ATT Galaxy S2 Jelly Bean Update

7. July 2013 08:18 by jake rutski | 0 Comments

A few weeks ago, I received a text from ATT telling me that there was an update available for my Samsung Galaxy S2 - Jelly Bean. The directions included a link to a website (http://www.samsung.com/us/attgalaxys2/update) that eventually instructed me to use Kies to apply the update, just like ICS - no OTA update here. I then realized that I needed to install Kies on the computer I was using and proceeded to do so...this took forever - even on a system with an SSD. It sat on this stupid "Installing hotfix" screen forever - and it looked like it installed about 37 "hotfixes" before actually installing the Kies application:

After opening the Kies application in 'basic' mode instead of 'Lite' mode my phone was connected and recognized - I first did a backup of the data on the phone:

...then proceeded with the update that I was prompted with. First, it will download the firmware presumably to a temporary location on the laptop.

The update will then sit on the following screen for some time without showing any notice that it is doing anything...either this screen, or the Kies home screen will go dark gray and not responding.

Then finally something happens - the downloaded file is decrypted and decompressed and something happens. The phone will likely reboot two times during the process.

 

Done! Your phone is now updated to Jelly Bean 4.1.2 - most of my personal data was preserved...phone records, MMS records, app data, history, contacts, etc. The home screens were the biggest things that I noticed were NOT ported (and the root binary). After some use I'll post an update about functionality and what not - the biggest thing I'm testing now is to see if it can stay connected to a 2.4GHz N wifi network with wireless multimedia turned on.

4. July 2013 15:33
by jake rutski
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FreeNAS Build Project: Part 3

4. July 2013 15:33 by jake rutski | 0 Comments

This post is slightly out of order - I'll do part 2 with all specs, hardware, and pictures shortly. For now here's some brief preliminary findings - the configuration:

  • 4 mirrors of 2 x 146GB SFF 10K RPM drives
  • ZIL housed on 1 mirror of 2 Intel 330 60GB SSD drives
  • DL380G6 with 30GB PC3-10600R RAM

ESX is connected to this via NFS (I know sync writes...that's why the ZIL is on the SSDs). So in theory, the raw spindle performance should be something like 500 IOPS. Here's a 75% write, 100% random IOmeter test:

While ~1100 IOPS isn't great, for the spindle count it's not bad. Plus, looking at the ARC hit\miss count, if more of the reads were cached, I am betting the performance would be better. I'll likely add an SSD L2ARC and\or more RAM to the system. 

And here's a 100% Read, 100% random test: (obviously this is all coming from ARC)

 

More details later.

17. June 2013 20:55
by jake rutski
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Project Connect - DLNA Live TV Streaming

17. June 2013 20:55 by jake rutski | 0 Comments

SiliconDust continues to give service providers the metaphorical middle finger - with a single device, the HDHomeRun Prime, you can:

  • Watch live TV with Windows Media Center PC
  • Turn your Windows Media Center PC into a DVR
  • Extend the above PC to your XBOX and watch Live TV on it
  • Do all of the above on 3 devices simultaneously
  • Or record 3 shows at once

And now, with the introduction of Project:Connect and DLNA certification you can also:

  • Watch live TV streams on nearly any DLNA player - TVs, PS3, etc
  • Watch live TV on any Windows 7,8 based PC (without Media Center)
  • Watch live TV on your mobile device

So why on earth would you want or need any cable boxes?? Here's the forum page for more info: http://www.silicondust.com/forum2/viewforum.php?f=47

All you need to do is update your HDHomeRun Prime firmware to version 20130328 - it can be downloaded here. Once the device is updated, open the config UI, select the device, and go to 'Channel Lineup'

Next you will need to do a channel scan - this will likely need to only be done once....and any time your service provider changes the VCT. Once the channels are scanned, they will show below the menu:

That's it really. It should now show up as a DLNA device - you can see it in Windows Media Player under 'Other Libraries' (The HDHomeRun Live DMS is how it will show up for all DLNA clients):

*Note: I have had difficulty using native WMP to play the streams - it sits on 'buffering...' a lot and only plays every once in a while. This has been documented here: http://www.silicondust.com/forum2/viewtopic.php?f=57&t=14259 and appears to be an issue with WMP and rendering 'sender-paced streams'. Either way - VLC works fine (View - Playlist - Local Network - Universal Plug'n'Play).

I also tested this successfully with our almost 4 year old Samsung 55" LCD. The only problem with this is that there is no real way to effectively get an EPG and changing channels is not the fastest thing in the world.