Friday, July 26, 2013

Adding noise to the server room

The last few days have seen me changing my entire IT, not in terms of the system, rather the location. A land line connection needed to be pulled for the phone (skype - land line DECT combi phone), the RED ethernet had to be rewired and finally an ethernet switch was made redundant.

All in all, I am still running the following system:
  • smoothwall express with RED and GREEN connections, running a squid caching proxy
  • my old WiFi-router as an wireless access point (WPA2 of course)
  • the good ole ACER H340 running NAS4Free with a RAIDZ-1 ZFS pool using four 1TB disks, serving as a media server, a file server and a backup server
  • an AMD E-350 system running FreeNAS with a RAID-0 scrap data storage with two 2 TB disks
  • my good ole Buffalo NAS (1TB)
All storage devices are running NFS, SMB and AFP, expect for the Buffalo, which has nof NFS.
To me it is somewhat clear, the H340 is the main, safe, data storage. However, it happened today, one of the 4 HDDs stopped its service. We had a nice warm summer day, temps at about 27 centigrade. The HDDs in the H340 were running at about 50º centigrade, which is somewhat warm.
I shutdown the server, let it sit to cool for some while and fired it up again. The HHD was back, however, some data was potentially written when the HDD took a break. Luckily, I am running a ZFS pool, hence, the disk could be fixed, in ZFS this is called "clear". Everything is back to fine again.

The incident made me rethinking about the H340. There is a post on the internet somewhere, in which someone discloses a mod which changes the H340's case fan.
That seems to be exactly what I need to do, I figured. Indeed, the H340's regulated case fan sucks air out of the case. The fan is arrange such, that air is forced along the HDDs, before exiting the case. Well, that makes some sense :-s Drawing a regulated low amount of hot air along some disk drives...
In my scrap box, there still was this unregulated fan which came with the Antec water cooling used in my workstation. This thing is a real blower, however quite noisy, hence, I did not use it in my workstation PC. However, now that all my servers are in a dedicated noisy room, why not using it in the H340.
This noisy Antec fan is now doing service to blow cool air into the case, over the HHDs, with the following impact, on that same hot summer day (eve):

Temperatures before mod:
  • CPU: 45º C (essentially independent of the ambient temp)
  • HDDs: 47º - 50º C (during idle)
Temperature after mod:
  • CPU:  24º C (essentially the ambient temp)
  • HDDs: 29º - 36º C (during a ZFS pool scrub)
And here is the downside of it. A very quiet device device is now turned into a very noise but well cooled NAS.
Mind you, the H340 is a perfect machine for running NAS4Free! (see earlier post)

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Turn Your Old WiFi-Router Into a Wireless-AP

You may have noticed that I am busy renovating my IT. Some days ago, I posted a short text about the use of smoothwall as a caching web-proxy. Now it seems time to also hand over the routing to smoothwall. At the time of writing the last post, I simply hooked up my WiFi-router to the smoothwall box, telling it to get WAN from it (by DHCP). The rest of the routing was done by this trusty but old router. Downside of this router, it is equipped with 100Mbps only, while the rest of my wired network is 1Gbps.

Went shopping today, and grabbed a simple 5 port Gigabit switch, which is now connected to the smoothwall box.

How to get WiFi? I still could use the old router and tell it to get WAN from said switch. To tidy up address space, it would however be nice to have an Wireless access point in place of a WiFi-router.
A quick search in the internet revealed this page:
Very cool stuff! Works like a charm!

The next step would be to loose the cheap Gigabit switch again and integrate everything in the "production environment".

Saturday, July 13, 2013

WiFi for Hacks

The dear reader may have noticed that a concept called hackintosh caught my attention. Actually, some years ago, when Leopard (OS-X 10.5), the thirst OS-X running on x86 hardware, came out, I already built various systems (Intel Q6600, Intel E4600) capable of running OS-X.
That gets us what a hackintosh actually is. It is a PC, mainly based on Intel processors, which is able to run Apple's OS-X under certain circumstances. To learn more, please search the internet, also about the legal implications/requirements.

The whole trick about hackintoshs is to find the right hardware, being compatible with the original OS-X. Mind you, the name hackintosh refers to the hardware, not the operation system, meaning, that the OS remains absolutely original, i.e. unchanged and non-hacked.

There are to mini PCI-e cards which are fully compatible with OS-X 10.8 that I know of (and actually tested):
  1. Broadcom BCM94322HML 
  2. Atheros AR5BHB92
My hackintoshs are based on GA-Z77N-WiFi and GA-H77N-WiFi mobos. Both boards come equipped with an Intel mini PCI-e WiFi/BT-combo-card. Whilst BlueTooth is working fine under OS-X, the WiFi part of this card is just dead.
Some additional info here, the Intel cards are equipped with 2 coax connectors, which is reflected by the 2 aerials provided with the mobos. Both cards mentioned above have 2 coax connectors.

From here, there are two options:
  1. keep the Intel card for BT and use something else for WiFi
  2. exchange the Intel with any of the two mentioned above and use something else for BT 
I personally went for option 2. And here is why:
There is a TPlink WiFi PCI-E card which is 100% compatible and works really well. However, there is only one PCI-E slot with the mobos mentioned above. Using this slot forces the use of the low power on-board graphics. There are other options like compatible USB WiFi devices, however, I believe that the bandwidth would be compromised here.
The second option provides full bandwidth for WiFi, leaving the single PCI-E slot for a GPU. On the downside, one now has to look for an alternative BlueTooth device. It happens that I own a couple of old USB BT devices. All those devices seem to be compatible with OS-X. Due to the low bandwidth of BT, I can easily live with the USB solution.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Modding Stuff for Astrophotography

Dear regular reader, by now you should be aware that I tend to think outside the box. My affiliation to astro-photography should be known, at least to readers of the knightsQRSS list of a couple of years ago, when I proposed stacking spectra to improve the SNR, as it is done in webcam-astro-photography.

So, here's another one for you, now we are crossing computing, the extreme corner of modding that is, with astronomy / astro-photography.

As we all know, human (biological) night vision (scotopic vision) is controlled by a molecule called "rhodopsin" which takes a couple of ten minutes to build up (cf. adaptation). It triggers the rods to go into night mode. In human vision, the rods create a gray-scale visual impression, like a good ole B&W-TV. The problem with scotopic vision is, that is disappears when a certain amount of light within the scopic wavelength range is seen (literally). Luckily, however, the scoptopic range ends at about 620nm. Meaning that red light will not affect scoptopic vision, i.e. red light will preserve the rhodopsin level in the rods. This is actually the reason why the night illumination on yachts, warships and vessels alike is red.
Now, check out the spectrum of red LEDs.

Now, lets turn to computer modding, something I never actually understood. To me, a computer has to perform and that's about it. Overclocking is somewhat understandable, so is watercolling, which are both concerned with performance.
Modding seems to be about visual appearance of a computer, which I personally never cared about. However, look at the recent IBM mainframes, i.e. zEnterprise architecture, these boxes are all odd, prismatic and what not. Did IBM copy the needs of modders to apply it to boxes worth millions of bucks? It seems so!
Modders are also interested in illumination effects of their boxes. Here it starts becoming interesting for the astronomer. Next to mean green and cool blue, there also is hot red illumination available for the modder.
Check this out!

Here comes the link between the two, modding and astronomy: in a modern observatory a computer is mandantory, to check sky-charts, control the dome, control the telescope mount or record data from a digital camera. A computer is found in every observatory I know, be it professional, be it hobbyist, be it amateur.
So, instead of illuminating the inside of your computer, you could equally use the device to illuminate the outside of your computer sitting in the observatory, hence the observatory, with a chain of red LEDs, preserving your scotopic vision during your astro session.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Delidding Photos (i5-3570k, i3-3225)

As promised, here are some photos taken during the process of delidding Ivy Bridge CPUs.

beginning to de-lidd the i5-3570k, knife stuck good, grease still present

different corner now, grease removed - mind you cutting the corners first does the trick

heat spreader and PCB apart - nasty black glue and grey thermal paste all over the place

glue removed (finger nails)

thermal paste removed by means of "akasa TIM clean" (citrus based)
same done to the i3-3225, although this was the second delidding, I cut myself, which did not happen during the first

Monday, July 8, 2013

More IT (scrap NAS)

More IT going on at my home. Some time ago I experimented with proxmox virtualization (déja vue!) and virtualization clusters. At the time, I built a second AMD E-350 rig, which at some stage was converted into a scrap-NAS for data migration purposes. To do this, I grabbed a 2TB-USB2 storage device which was on sale, salvaged the HDD and dumped the rest. The actual HDD would have been more expensive at the time. I figure the USB3 marketing helped to get a cheap HDD (WD green series).
At some stage, I decided to buy a second 2TB-USB2 storage device, in order to salvage the HDD.
Both disks are now living happily next to one another in the same mITX case, alongside with the E-350 board.
This setup is now my new 4TB scrap-NAS, running FreeNAS w/ZFS (stripe) for increased performance.
In the course of experimentation, I played with noise, energy and compression levels provided by FreeNAS. My preliminary decision was to run at maximum energy saving, minimum noise level and lzb-compression. Although very appealing, zfs-dedup remained dis-engaged, remember, it is a scrap-NAS.

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Overclocking the Hack

By now I am building Hackintosh setups for years. In the past, I was sticking to what the average user would be doing, happy to see my hackintosh doing what I want it to do.

With my present "production" hackintosh, yes, I do own the licenses, i.e. bought the DVD, thing are different. This particular build (i5-3570k) opens the possibility to overclock... and this is exactly what I am describing in this post.

The Hackintosh I am using is built in a BitFenix prodigy (white), I is equipped with an Antec Kühler 60 closed water cooling system and 1.6GHz DDR3 RAM. Speaking of the cooling system, the fan provided by Antec was too noisy for my taste, hence, I used the back fan provided by BitFenix for the radiator.

This blog is about overclocking... now that you know the baseline, let's talk about overclocking!

After some experimentation, I came up with the following parameters:

Base clock frequency: 109MHz
CPU clock ratio: 46 - resulting in a CPU clock of 5.01GHz
RAM clock at 1.744GHz (the RAM I am using being rated at 1.6GHZ)
Cinebench (on OS-X) reports a CPU score of 5.84 pts

CPU temperatures, running SETI@home at full cpu power, stayed below 50C.

Mind you, I am running a water cooled system! Overclocking from 3.80GHz to 5GHz is not nothing...

Saturday, July 6, 2013

improve your web experience

Yet another off-topic post. Lately I am not doing a lot of radio. However, I think that the occasional experience with IT can be at least as much fun as good ole ham radio.
One of the last experiments was virtualization using proxmox on an AMD E-350 low power dual core processor. This particular system is now equipped with an additional ethernet card (100Mbps) and serves as a firewall w/ caching web-proxy using Smoothwall Express 3.1 RC1. The hardware I use is a total overkill: 8GB RAM and 250GB HDD space. As I said, it was used for experiments with virtualization.
The surfing experience has improved a lot since static features of webpages are now locally stored in the caching proxy.
Using smoothwall with squid is highly recommended!

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Delidding the i5-3570K CPU

Yet another off-topic (non-radio that is) blog entry.
Having built the Core i5-3570K and the Core i3-3225 Hackintosh, the next field of experimentation was to understand the temperature differences of the core, as displayed by some software products.
To run the CPU cores at full load, I used SETI@home.
Doing that, I observed a 10 degrees centigrade difference between the hottest and the coldest core. I Believed that this would cause a lot of thermal strain on the CPU chip.
Hence, I decided to do what others did before, delidd the CPU and regrease the cooling.

I took some pictures during the process, there are not dissimilar to the ones which could be found on the www, i.e. a knife being stuck between the aluminum heat spreader and the CPU's PCB, etc. on demand, I will share my pictures...

My system is cooled by an ANTEC Kühler 60 and ran up to 52 degrees centigrade for the hottest core. Using MX2 between the heat spreader and the chip, as well as the heat spreader and the cooling pump, the hottest core shows 50 degrees centigrade. There is still a 10 degrees difference between the hottest and the coolest core.

Was it worth the trouble delidding a CPU, potentially damaging it? NO certainly not. However, it was fun to do it, and hence, I would do it again.

Should you intend to to this exercise yourself, here a tip: run your Ivy Bridge CPU hot before trying to cut the glue. The glue being soft helps a great deal reducing the risk of damaging the PCB due to larger forces being applied.

Mind you, delidding your (expensive) CPU is at your own risk!

Update: I noticed that the temperatures of the cores are much more linked as they were before. One core running at 100% load, whilst the others are at idle will increase the temperature of all core essentially equally. Before the delidding, this single core would got hot, while the others remained cool. Therefore, I would recommend the mod, which seems to remove thermal stress on the die of your cpu.

Update 2: Decided to nevertheless de-lid the Core i3-3225. In the process, I cut myself with the stupid hobby-knife. Probably, due to the lower price of the i3-3225, I was not taking as much care, and hence, the knife went straight into my thumb. Same procedure as before, cleaned the die, applied MX2 to the inside also to the outside, i.e. between the heat spreader and the cooling fan.