Posted in Computers, Networking, Windows Server

My Comments on an HP MicroServer N40L

I’ve been playing with an HP MicroServer N40L for a few weeks now. Initially, I installed Ubuntu 11.10 and tried it out for a few days, but wiped it and installed Windows Server 2008 R2. I plan to use this machine as a file and media server, so I’m exploring a few options out there to give me the most flexibility and allow me to do what I want.

While reading a few blogs and forum posts, I’ve noticed most people – or at least a lot of them – are using WHS 2011 on their MicroServer. I don’t have a license for WHS 2011, but do have licenses for Server 2008 R2, so that’s what I’m using so far. In addition to using it as a file server, I would like to do some minor virtualization, mainly to separate the main OS from the media apps.

After upgrading the RAM from its initial 2GB to 4GB, I tested ESXi 5, which ran okay (a little slow using local storage), but not being able to use local disks as pass-through disks for the virtual machines was a big turn off, so I discarded that idea.

I’ve been running Hyper-V Server – initially on a full Windows installation, but then decided to try it on Core, and so far it’s been great. One of the best things about Hyper-V that fits my needs is the ability to use a local disk as pass-through. This way, I can install the OS on a VHD and use pass-through disks for storage. Been testing this for a few days, and I don’t see much (if any) of a performance hit when copying files from the network. When copying large files from a networked PC to the virtual machine’s pass-through disk, file speeds range from 20-110MB/s+, really depends on the kind of file I’m copying. Large files such as ISOs or MKVs are the fastest to copy, mostly at 90MB/s+.

Not all is nice and pretty with Hyper-V on Server Core, as it initially requires a bit more work to get properly configured and running, but once it’s up, it’s a “set it and forget it” kind of thing. I may post my installation and configuration notes for Hyper-V on Server Core 2008 R2 from beginning to end in the near future.

Posted in Computers, Linux, Networking, Ubuntu, Unix

Setting Up Ubuntu Server

I’ve chosen to bring back to life an old PC that I had sitting in storage, install Ubuntu Server, and use it as a file server at home.
One of the things I’ve always taken for granted when setting up an OS  installation (PC & Mac),  is partitioning. Rarely questioning my decision, I’ve always used a single partition and dumped the OS, programs, and data files in it. If the OS needed a reinstall, I’d just back-up the data to an external USB drive, wipe the drive clean and start all over, and restore the data.

Now, this doesn’t seem so easy to do or accepting when setting up this Ubuntu-based server. Numerous online readings, articles and forum posts suggest using a partitioned drive to separate the OS from the data and the rest of the system, and this is where I seem to be stuck – making a decision on whether I should do this or not, understanding how it works and WHY.

Before I continue, I’ll add that I’m a total beginner to the Unix/Linux world; previous terminal exposure has been very, very little on the Mac, so I’m not very fluent using Ubuntu, much less without a graphical interface. I have to “Google” every other command or task I want to complete.

Returning to the partitioning and setup, I’ve noticed that I have quite a few choices:

  • Separate partitions for /, root, boot
  • Separate partitions for /, root, boot, /home, /srv, /usr
  • Formatting as ext3, ext4, vfat (FAT32), LVM, NTFS…

So, needless to say, that given the fact that I have so many options, I am quite confused as to which one is the correct one for my needs. I want to select one that will allow me to keep my data safe, and keep the OS separate from the data, so I can do repairs and reinstalls without the need to move hundreds of GBs to an external device, and then transfer it back to the main server drive.

After much thinking, reading and debating, I think I have settled with the following, for now:

  • 100 MB /boot partition
  • 512 MB /swap partition
  • 10 GB / partition, formatted as LVM2
  • Remaining disk space is not formatted and still debating how to format it and partition it.

For now, all that remains is that I continue to do some research and reading, ask questions on the Ubuntu forum, evaluate my needs and go from there. I’d hate to format it one way because ‘everyone else says so’, only then to realize that it’s difficult for me to maintain, given that my knowledge on the system is so limited. I plan to have a final decision within a few weeks so the server can be finally ready to go online and starts to serve data to my internal network.

Let’s see what the future holds…

Posted in Computers, Networking, Technology

Getting a NAS

I’ve been looking into the idea of getting a NAS (Network Attached Storage). This would greatly help me in the aid of keeping all the files in one place, as well as the backup for my Mac.
I currently use two to three external hard drives to store data: A Western Digital MyBook, which is where I keep my Time Machine backups, as well as other application files, music, movies, and anything else that I don’t need access to on the go. I also use an internal 3.5″ EIDE hard drive connected to a USB to Sata & EIDE adapter that I purchased from Newegg a while ago. While this helps me switch hard drives quickly, it’s quite cumbersome because of the need to carry the hard drive, plus the adapter box with all its cables. Many times I’m away from home and wish I had “a file” with me, only to realize it’s sitting on my desk at home – unplugged and offline on my external MyBook drive.

I’ve known about NAS for a while, but never really cared much to have one. It was until recently that I discovered this specific one, from Netgear – the ReadyNas Duo

I’ve been considering a diskless setup, which allows me to select the hard drive of my choice. It’s likely that I will be purchasing Western Digital Caviar Green hard drives, which allow me to select the maximum capacity available and know which hard drive my system is using.

Such device running on a fast wireless and ethernet network would be a great way to keep everything centralized and in one place. I could wirelessly backup my Mac and my wife’s laptop, as well as stream music to any stereo in the house using the Apple Airport Express, and watch my digital movies in the big TV.

The possibilities are endless, and I’m sure with great planning, documentation and implementation such system would be of great benefit. The idea of a NAS just came to mind – nothing concrete yet, no plans to purchase; but it would be a great way to be more organized and centralized in this digital world of ours.