Thankfully, not going crazy

•June 25, 2012 • Leave a Comment

As a follow-up to my previous post, I’m not crazy.  It looks like the problem was with the second switch going wonky on me.   After moving the connection further upstream, everything appears to be working just fine.  Hooray for silent (but deadly!) hardware failures!


Taken 2

•June 22, 2012 • Leave a Comment

So, Liam Neeson is doing a sequel to Taken.  The first one was awesome, he reminded me of Jason Bourne. The setup (as shown in the trailer) for this one looks plausible, so hopeful it doesn’t fall prey to sequel-itus.


Hardware, software, or going crazy? Troubleshooting the network

•June 21, 2012 • Leave a Comment

Over the past few weeks, I’ve noticed some hiccups in my LAN.

It started with scp’ing files over to arrakis.  Larger files would just time out after a short while.  But we’re not talking that large.  We’re talking in the order of 2-3 MB.  I was able to resolve this by either using rsync or appending the -C flag to enable compression.  It was a minor annoyance, but I figured I had to have just missed a setting when I upgraded openssh sometime in the recent past.   At that point, I didn’t notice anything else amiss.

Within the past week, the family noticed issues playing back movies stored on arrakis.  My son had been watching a movie on one of the PVRs and came running to me saying that it had cut off.  I put it back on for him and tried to get him to tell me when/where it had cut off, but he couldn’t put into words where it had happened.  So, I chalked it off to either him or his sister accidentally hitting ‘stop’ on the remote.  A day or two later, the kids were watching Coraline (wonderful movie, BTW) when it cut off after a few minutes.  I was able to replicate it multiple times on the single PVR using MythTV and mplayer.   I pulled up the NFS share on my desktop and confirmed that it was dropping at the same place.

I still had our bluray copy on the bookshelf, so I popped that in for them while I investigated.

At first, I thought it had something to do with recent mdadm issues under Gentoo, so I made sure I had downgraded to 3.2.3 and rebooted.  Same thing.  I unmounted the array and ran a fsck, but that came up empty.   I do have one drive that has a few bad spots due to issues with the previous case cooking my drives, but they were marked as bad, so nothing should be writing there.  Smartmon hasn’t reported anything else.

At this point, it has to be a bad file.  I snagged another copy of Coraline from the same group. [1]  Before I did anything though, I created a par2 set against the new copy and used that to check the original.  Par didn’t come up with any issues.  I then did a diff between the two and didn’t come up with a difference there.


So, I went ahead and just deleted the original and copied over the new.

Same problem, different spot.  WTF.

As a test, I mounted the array on my desktop under two spots.  One via NFS and the other via sshfs.  I started two instances of mplayer so that both locations of the same file would play back at the same time.  If was an error with the array, it would fail simultaneously and indicate an error either with mdadm or a drive failure.  If it worked, then I wasn’t sure. I expected it to fail on both counts.   Unfortunately, it did not.   The video playback over NFS failed while the sshfs copy continued on without issue.  I replicated this several times to make sure it wasn’t a fluke.  With this, I was thinking maybe it was an issue with NFS.   Arrakis was still running a 3.3 series kernel while everything else was on 3.4.2, so I reompiled the kernel as well as the nfs-utils package and restarted.

For a little while, it seemed to work.   Then yesterday, Jurassic Park started to have problems.   So this morning, I downgraded the firmware of my router back to a version that I knew was perfectly fine to eliminate that.  I didn’t wipe my settings, though, so that may be an issue.  I threw on another movie for the kids and watched it cut out 3-4 times on me.  To keep them happy, I mounted the array over sshfs on that PVR and they haven’t had a complaint yet.

I only have a few things left to try.  I’ve noticed that arrakis is served off of a second, daisy chained switch.  My network goes modem -> router -> switch 1 -> switch 2.  I had toyed with the idea of running modem -> router -> (switch 1) (switch 2), but was told I wouldn’t see any benefit or detriment by doing it either way. And to be fair, I haven’t in the past 3 years.  But, to rule out a switch flaking out, I’m going to move the connection from switch 2 to the router directly and see what happens.  If it STILL fails, I’m going to replace that cat 5e and switch to an add-on NIC.   If it STILL fails, I’m thinking about replacing the router.

Otherwise, I’m not sure what else it could be.  I don’t think I’ve overlooked anything at this point.  Since it works over sshfs vs nfs, AND the problems I’ve had with scp, I’m pretty positive it’s a network issue.

<edit>I should note that I’ve tried scp’ing files to other machines without issue. It only happens when I’m going TO arrakis. If I manage to get it there, I can transfer it FROM arrakis to my desktop without a problem.</edit>

I’m open to suggestions.

[1] Honestly, it’s easier to buy a copy and download a rip someone else has made than to rip it myself.  I don’t have issues ripping DVDs.  Now that I’ve migrated to blu-ray, ripping takes a lot more work.  20-40 GB for the uncompressed copy and several hours to re-encode and compress that down, only to find out that there are severe artifacts during playback. Ugh. It’s frustrating.  I don’t feel bad about it since I do buy the physical disc.  I’ve been looking at Vudu/Walmart’s idea of trading in your disc and they give you a digital copy that you can stream where ever/whenever you want, but that’s a post for another day.

“Xigmatek 4 in 3 HDD Cage” – A review

•June 6, 2012 • Leave a Comment

Short and sweet:

Replace the fan immediately. No, seriously.  Unless you like “bling” in your case (and I don’t), replace it.

Unless you own a magnetic screw driver or have a ridiculously good aim, do not buy it.  My screwdriver has a fairly week magnetic tip, so the screws kept falling off when I would try to insert them.

5/5 for overall build quality and finish though.

4/5 for ease of use.  Maybe include really tall screws?  Or screws with large heads?   Or larger holes to put said screws through?

Taking a day off

•June 6, 2012 • Leave a Comment

Is it hookey? Hockey? Google says it’s “hooky”.

Regardless of how it’s spelled, I’m taking a day off. A day off from work, from the wife, from the kids. Pretty soon, I’ll be running away from the house.

Just for the day though. I just need some time off from everything to get my perspective back.


•April 9, 2012 • Leave a Comment

I’m not moving, but I did move arrakis to a new case.  I managed to snag a great deal on a Rosewill LSV-L4000 off of craigslist this weekend with the intention of migrating everything over.  The LSV-L4000 isn’t the Norco RPC-4220 that I’ve had my eyes on for the past year, but at a tenth of the cost, I won’t argue.  🙂

I plan on picking up a 5.25″ -> 3.5″ 4-in-3 bay converter so I can migrate over the array on demon-xanth and have everything in one central location.  I’ll eventually replace the Antec (pretty sure it’s an Antec) power supply with a modular Corsair so I can clean up the case a little bit.  Right now, I have the extra cables tied together with a velcro strap and the SATA cables zip tied together.  It’s not a mess, but it could be cleaner.

If I had the funds, I’d love to get my hands on a Highpoint or Adaptec SAS card, that would improve performance and really cut down on the amount of cables I have going around.  If I ever snag that 4220, I’ll have to pick one up.  That’s for another day though.

Loading up the new case was a chore.  I had to move it a few times, and at 49.0 lbs (thank you bathroom scale!), it’s not exactly light.   The first time I pulled it down was because one of the fans was “clicking”  I found a stray cable was in the center fan rack, so I had to clean that up.  I pulled it down again this morning after I found my stash of right-angle SATA cables.   So that’s ~5 times I’ve moved it now.  Ugh.

At the same time that I found my SATA cable stash, I found a firewire bracket and discovered an additional port on the motherboard.  That means my plans of installing my old SoundBlaster card for an additional firewire port aren’t needed.  For the curious, the firewire is used for my MythTV input.  When I move the additional drives over, I’ll be able to retire the slave backend services and use my desktop as a proper desktop.

Dear Lazyweb,

•April 5, 2012 • Leave a Comment

Is it possible to grab SNMP info off of a Cisco DPC3010 cable modem?

One of my spring projects this year is to setup a proper monitoring tool for my LAN and I’d like to include stats from my cable modem. Any suggestions that do not involve replacing the modem?

What’s in a name?

•March 14, 2012 • Leave a Comment

This is a follow-up, of sorts, to an older post detailing my naming conventions.

  • The Demon X(A/N)th is still in operation, but not in a server capacity.   It serves as my sole desktop and occasional gaming computer now.
  • Arrakis has replaced Yggrasil and MaryJane (as detailed here).  It serves as a MythTV backend, file server, PXE server, VM server, Asterisk server and logging server.
  • Genosha has replaced Númenor.  This is a MythTV HD frontend that serves up music, provides a backup service for my primary server, Arrakis.
  • Weapon-X has replaced Atlantis.  This is also a MythTV HD frontend and is actually the most used frontend.  It’s a Mini ITX board in an industrial Mini ITX case that works perfect as a small frontend.
  • Gotham is a NSLUG2 that is in the process of being retired. It has provided SNMP monitoring. This runs Debian.
  • Bespin is replacing Gotham.  In addition to cleaning up SNMP monitoring, I have it running Samba for the occasional Windows use.  Next up is setting it up as a mail-server for the entire house.  Depending on the day, Bespin either runs Arch linux or Debian.  I’m getting used to Arch and leave it there most of the time now.
  • Prometheus is my wife’s laptop.  Still in use from before. This is now running Ubuntu.
  • Methusela is still alive, I managed to pick up a docking station for it from Goodwill.  I’ve opted to go for Debian as it’s easier to maintain on that machine.  This was also my first, full-time install of Debian.
  • Kashyyyk is my PowerEdge 1650 that I’m still toying with.

What to do with an old server?

•March 14, 2012 • Leave a Comment

For my birthday last year, I forked over $30 for a Dell PowerEdge 1650, which I considered a good deal.   Dual-processor P3 1.4G CPU, 2 G RAM and a 32? G SCSI HDD.  For the most part, it’s been sitting in my garage idling away.

I did get Gentoo (of course!) installed on it and it has worked just fine.  Compiling takes a while and I’ve been toying with the idea of installing Debian or Ubuntu-server on it as a change.  I thought about putting Fedora or a *BSD variant on it, but I don’t really have much experience with either.  Over the weekend, I wiped the drive and installed Windows Server 2003.  I had an old disc laying around from a trial I registered for and it worked.  This weekend, I think I’ll register for the Windows Server 2003 trial and run with that for a while.  Microsoft provides instructions on how to extend the trial up to 260 (?) days.

In my mind, I had originally picked it up to toy around with building a hardened web-server, but that hasn’t panned out yet.  Most other services that I need are being handled by my MythTV/fileserver or my PogoPlug.  I could throw FreePBX on it and get a pretty-GUI for Asterisk, but my current install of Asterisk is working just fine for my current needs.  If my basement had been designed differently or if I had a larger house/basement and the equipment was in an unfinished area, I’d throw it into use as a firewall/router.

At the end of the day, I still don’t have any big ideas for it and I just screw around with the idea.


Power overwhelming

•March 5, 2012 • Leave a Comment

This weekend, I finally got around to picking up a server-grade UPS.  At least, it’s a UPS that’s intended for a rackmount.  Right now though, I’m debating on whether or not I was taken for my money.

I bought an APC Smart-UPS SU700RMNET, a 3U battery back up off of craigslist.  The guy claimed to have never used it and bought it second hand himself and that the batteries were dead.  I plugged it in this morning and heard it power on and saw a light pop on for a second on the back then nothing.  I grabbed my handy-dandy multimeter and tested the outlets, but no joy.

Thankfully, it’s fairly simple to take apart. When I did, I connected my probes to the connection right off the plug to confirm I had steady power there and I do.  When I checked from the motherboard leads out to the outlets, nothing.  In reading the manual, it’s not supposed to turn on without batteries for safety and the batteries may have sat for a very, very long time. And, to his credit, he did specifically state it needed new batteries.  In checking the batteries though, they are putting off 10 VDC.  I’ll wait until I pick up a new pack this weekend before I worry.


(The title is a quote from StarCraft.)