Saturday, December 27, 2008

NAS galore...again

Well my replacement SS4200 has arrived surprisingly swift. That left me a lot of time to tinker with the serial console part again, but I couldn't get it to work. I noticed that the BIOS on this unit was a different version than the old one, maybe that's why.

The trouble is that you need to access the BIOS to change the boot order. But as soon as a new disk device is recognized, the boot order is changed. Bummer. The nice workaround that I used was to utilize SATA hot-plugging. Although it's specifically not supported with the EMC firmware and also it's stated to be unsupported in Intel's docs, it works surprisingly well. ;-)
In case anyone needs to know: First plug in the power cable on the drive, then attach the SATA cable.

Friday, December 19, 2008

ss4200 RIP

Sweet, now just after I thought the new NAS is really coming along nicely, the PSU dies on me.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Debian on the SS4200

And debian it is!
I've blatantly plugged the DOM into the IDE socket of a standard PC and fired up the ubuntu server installer. You have to compile a custom kernel however, since the stock ubuntu kernel lacks the IDE drivers for the SS4200.

A custom kernel needs to have IDE_GENERIC, IDE_PIIX and BLK_DEV_IDEDISK for the ide controller to be detected.

The E1000 module has the network driver, and the BLK_DEV_DS is quite nice to have USB storage support.

To compile and install I've stuck to this guide, I've used a vanilla linux kernel ( though.

The tough part wasn't compiling the kernel though. Its getting the BIOS to always boot from the DOM. The RS232 header didn't work for me as described here. I had to resort to a PCIe x1 graphics adapter and do it the old-fashioned way. I've tried to use a straight through cable without success.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

NAS galore

After using the brave Linksys NSLU2 for more than 3 years, I've finally found a successor. :-) Before I spoil the news I'd like to elaborate on what this amazing little device was used for.

Running unslung the little slug has fought bravely and I've used it to automagically fetch podcasts, record streams, serve audio and video.
It's amazing what can be achieved with a 266Mhz CPU and staggering 32MB of memory. Although there wasn't a day when I didn't make use of any of those services, the slug easily had uptimes >100 days. Due to the lack of moving parts it was inaudible, too.

My device of choice is the Intel SS4200, which looks ridiculously powerful in comparison. It features a 1.6Ghz Celeron CPU (dual core) and sports 512MB of memory. The beauty is that all those components aren't soldered on, but socketed. So changing components is a piece of cake. When dealing with such numbers there are bound to be moving parts, and I've yet to see how to tune those fans for least possible noise. I'm certainly going to run the OS off an SSD so that the HDs can spin down when idle - something that was tricky on the slug to say the least ;-).

I still haven't made up my mind about which OS to use. I have considered freenas, some rpath appliances and of course debian/ubuntu. The huge debian userbase would certainly coem in nice....

Although the SS4200 seems to be a nice device, there seems to be little information on hacking it. The only useful information I've found so far was in this blog. For what it's worth I'll blog about my experiences putting *IX on this thing soon ;-)