Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Moscato Update

Until the price of hard drives come down a bit, I will just be running my raid setup that was in my dell sever. Its 2 2TB drives set up for redundancy. I redid my static IP table so that all of the IPs and ports make more sense now. This lets me intuitively ssh into any of my 4 machines without having to do mental gymnastics. All of my computers can now access Moscato's raid both on and off site. My friend was complaining about not having enough space on his 320 GB laptop. I do fine with a 128 GB ssd in my primary laptop because I have a server that I can reach from anywhere in the world that has my files!

I put Moscato in a closet. As it turns out, closets don't usually have outlets in them. I got one of those adapters that makes a light bulb socket a regular outlet. I also put Moscato on its own UPS in case of power failure. I measured the power draw at full tilt and got a draw of around 40 watts! In contrast, My dell server is 150-200ish watts. How cool is that? I am guessing that it will run for a very time on the UPS given its low power draw. It was running on wireless for a while, but now I got another Cat6 cable from monoprice.com to connect Moscato to my router. This prevents wireless interruptions from silly things like microwave ovens and things. Thus my server is now hardened against microwave Hot Pocket attacks. 

Who uses closets to store jackets and things? That is so 2011. Instead I put my ol Dell monitor in there with a keyboard and mouse. If I want to interact with the machine physically, I just walk over there and use the computer. Since the computer is sealed in a closet and is designed to be quiet, I can't hear it at all. It is like it isn't even there. Here are some pictures of the new setup. Since my room is dark, I had to use a flashlight to help my wimpy camera on my phone out.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

The First Life of Moscato

This was the first time I had truly built a computer completely from parts. It was a really great learning experience. When I got to the packages, I whisked them away to my work-bench. I first started by opening up the case, and getting a feel for what I had set myself to. The case had more fans in it than I had previously thought. I only thought it had the fan in the side panel, but it also had one on the roof and rear.

I figured out how to clear out the 5.25in bay spacers to make room for the bay adapters. Once I installed the 3 bay adapters, I then installed the fan controller as well. I had originally intended to put the controller in the top most 5.25in bay, but due to my haste, I had forgotten about that. I ended up putting it the bottom bay. This is actually a better location for the controller. If the server sits on a desk, the display will be more easily readable. If the server is on the floor(say near-ish my bed) then the light from the display will not bother me. This also means I didn't have to redo 48 screws by hand. I then installed the power supply and motherboard. Next I spent two hours or so looking at pin-out diagrams to connect the front panel, power supply, and fans. I wanted to be especially careful to make sure that I wasn't going to break anything. I then put the SATA card and the RAM into the machine. Once I was convinced that I had hooked everything up to the point where the machine would boot, I put Ubuntu 11.10 on a thumb drive. The machine was assembled on my floor up to this point, and then I moved the operation to my workbench. I hooked up my old dell screen with 1600x1200 resolution, keyboard, mouse, and thumb drive armed with Ubuntu. When I first turned the machine on, I thought something was broken because it was so quiet. I reset the box and waited again, and then the Ubuntu start-up screen launched. Mission accomplished.

This rig is very quiet. In fact, I had to turn off the infamous Dell T110 to truly appreciate the quiet. My refrigerator was still way louder. The 230mm roof fan is exceptionally quiet when set to "low" via a switch on the rear panel. The fans in the hard drive bays are also very quiet under 1100 RPM. At about 500RPM, the bay fans are exceptionally quiet. Depending on the actual heat output of the all of the drives when they are installed, It might be appropriate to enforce a minimum speed of 500RPM to provide some airflow but also stay quiet. The solid state power supply, solid state drive, and slow efficient fans work together to be exceptionally silent. I put one of the temperature leads onto the heat-sink on the CPU. Under idling, the temperature reads around 110F. In contrast under load, I have seen it get to 116F; a pretty cool running machine too.

I name all of my computers after wines: merlot my Dell T110, syrah my Dell XPS 17in, and malbec my Acer Aspire. I mentioned my naming scheme to one of my friends, and she quickly replied that she had recently had a glass of Moscato....and it was done. Below are some pictures of the process.

Here are the packages! 

Here are all the parts lined up on my workbench.




Assembly in Progress

Since I live in a man-cave, It can be a little dark sometimes. My flashlight has magnets which I used to attach the light to the case in various ways. This was one example of how I put the light on the case to help me build.

The solid state power supply goes in!

The Installed Cooler Master Bays

The Motherboard Goes In!

The moment of truth! It worked!

Operational, but not final. The cables are a mess.

Naming the Machine

It works

All Bay fans on.

When I turn a fan off with the fan controller, it turns the LED fan light off too. It is kinda neat to be able to see if a fan is running or not.
357 updates..........

Monday, March 5, 2012

A Power Efficient and Quiet Server

Right now, I have a Dell Power-edge T110. It works well, but it is noisy and overpowered for serving files and archiving. It also lacks the space to house a nice stack of drives. I want a server specifically for archiving and file serving. My family has numerous hard drives which contain terabytes of family generated media, and I want all this media collected and backed up redundantly. I want a server that is:
  • Low power
  • Quiet 
  • Fanless as possible
  • Raid six
These requirements are driven by needing an always-on quiet machine. Right now, the dell is noisy enough that I can hear it across my place and it is rather thirsty.

The Case is designed to hold everything and a bag a chips. The major requirement is that it needs ten 5.25 inch bays. It will need nine bays for the three Bay Adapters and one bay for the Fan Controller. More on the fan setup later. This setup will allow the server to hold one sixty four GB SSD and up to eleven hard drives which have yet to be selected. The SSD will have an adapter to allow it to fill a three and a half inch drive space. The hard drives for the raid will be purchased at a later date. Each bay adapter can hold four drives and a fan. There will be a temperature probe running from the fan controller to each bay adapter. The temperature probes will be thermally coupled with the bays via some good ol' Artic Silver When the machine is idling, the fans maybe off or running really slowly.  When you ask the server to work for you, the fans will kick-in if there is enough heat in the drive bays.  The fan controller can control up to 4 fans, and it uses 4 temperature sensors to provide information to drive its behavior. Each of the 3 banks of hard drives will get its own temperature sensor, and the large case fan will be controlled with the fourth temperature sensor. In summary, this will allow the fans to activate on an as-needed basis.

The motherboard is a low power dual core atom processor which is passively cooled. This is done to conserve energy and reduce heat output. It also has six sata ports and a host of other input and output connections. In the spirit of being quiet, the power supply is fanless and very efficient. The motherboard has a sata card in the PCI slot to give a total of ten ports. This will allow nine drives to act in a software driven raid 6 configuration with the final drive holding the operating system. In the raid six configuraion with nine two-terabyte drives, there will be eighteen terabytes of usable space with the capability of loosing two drives. There are four gigs of RAM in a two by two configuration. The ram has a CAS latency of four-four-four-twelve.  

Stay tuned for more assembling silliness!