OS Quest Trail Log

OS Quest Trail Log #60: Time To Grill Edition

Steaks on the grillThe Memorial Day holiday is upon us here in the U.S., signaling the start of summer. The local forecast promises the weather will be perfect for barbeques and picnics. Between flipping burgers and enjoying the great weather there might be some time for tech. If so, I’ll continue on with these recent projects.

Windows Home Server 2011

It seems like forever, but it’s only been since April when I upgraded to WHS 2011 Gold and overall I like it. I’m still using it primarily as a file server.

Performance has been good (not great). I’ve noticed occasional slowness but I haven’t found a cause. It may be my PC or network and unrelated to the server. I need to spend some time benchmarking/testing the drives but so far the problems vanish before I get annoyed enough to dedicate time to the problem.

Ubuntu was faster but I think that’s due more to configuration, and I could change WHS 2011 to match but may not want to. On my Ubuntu Home Server the drives were all on big RAID 5 array. So despite the data protection overhead, reads and writes were across all the spindles. In WHS 2011 most of my drives are alone and contain the entire contents of a share. So while I might occasionally do concurrent copies from different drives, most of the time it’s one spindle handling all the disk I/O.

I’m not sure I’m put out enough to rebuild using RAID 5. The RAID would be through the WHS OS so would be comparable in configuration to my Ubuntu setup.

I have had one low tech problem. The other day I walked into the room to see one of the two 2.5” OS drives had popped out. It was part of a mirror so the server was still running. In this case the mirror saved me, but also caused the problem. Somehow the cage latch broke so the drive popped out. The RAID kept things going but I’ll need to replace the drive cage (with a different model).

Project Web Server 2.0

While hopefully unnoticeable, this website is running on a new server. Still a VPS at Linode, but new.

I was running an old version of Ubuntu that was out of support and I’m paranoid about security updates so it was time to do something. I reviewed my OS options and decided to go with Ubuntu 10.04.2.

So I fired up a new VPS and copied my server over. This did require some down time, the first in over 300 days. The server is small, so it only took about 5 minutes to clone and get the server back online. Then I did the OS upgrade on the new server. Once I handled the inevitable upgrade issues I changed the DNS to point to the new server.

I messed up the DNS change by forgetting to click a button and actually push out the change for this site. So when I shut down the old server the site went down again for a couple minutes. Once I had the old server running and realized what I did (or didn’t do) I clicked the button and waited another couple days to make sure the DNS change propagates everywhere before shutting down the original server.

Now that that’s sorted out I’m rebuilding the “old” server again. Maybe it’s my Windows background, but I always prefer clean installs over upgrades so I want to do that. Plus there’s some plumbing changes I want to make and it will be safer to do them before the server has any sites on it.

Project MicroServer

The latest addition to the home data center was the HP MicroServer. It’s become my favorite piece of hardware, ever. I don’t think it’s a secret that I write articles in advance and schedule them to be published. By the time my HP MicroServer trials was published I had a second one on order, this time with a plan.

As for the first one, it’s still running Microsoft Small Business Server 2011 Essentials. It’s also still taking it’s first backup from my Windows Home Server. It’s taking a long time, plus I’m doing two backups totaling over 10 TB. One is to the Drobo and the other is to the 9 TB scary RAID drive so I can test that out with a bunch of files.

The slow file copies brings up…

Network Upgrades

I think the slowness is due to backups just being slower in general (due to error checking, file tracking and so on) but my home network needs work as the two servers are two switch hops apart from each other despite being in the same room. So I also ordered a 24-port switch to consolidate everything into one switch. Twenty four ports is clearly too much but, at $140 the well reviewed D-Link DGS-1024D was a better value than smaller switches. If the “Green” moniker is more than marketing it may use less power than my current daisy chain of switches. I’m hoping that the single switch will reduce latency and improve performance. But if nothing else, it will reduce the power cable tangle.

I’m going to be looking at the second HP MicroServer as a router/firewall. My network is small so I think the server will be able to handle it. The main problem will be the number of network ports (1 for management, 1 for the cable modem, 1 for the LAN). I could probably live without the dedicated management NIC but it’s preferred. Also, today I have cable & DSL which would require a second WAN connection, but I’m hoping to drop the DSL once I get a better handle on usage. Four ports is doable, but would be a hassle so I’ll hold off on that until I do some more testing.

Windows Home Server V1 Countdown

My Version 1 Windows Home Server still lives, but the end does approach. Currently it lives as a backup server. It wakes up in the morning just before the WHS 2011 backups run and then goes back to sleep when they’re done.

But once the backups are moved over to the MicroServer I’ll shut this box down for a cleaning, testing & rebuild. While the server has been reliable for awhile, every time I open it up for a change I seem to have a different problem when I’m done. So the last bad hard drive is still in there. It might be bad port or cable but I’ve been afraid open it up again. I’m leaning toward resurrecting Ubuntu Home Server on this rather than keeping WHS v1.

The June Quest

I’ve got 3 pretty significant projects underway. The HP MicroServer project will be a a lot of fun and something I could get lost in for days.

There’s the network rebuild project. The new switch should be easy and clean up my shelf space if nothing else.

But then there’s the router/firewall which I’ll dub MicroRouter since it will be on a MicroServer. I had trouble getting my DSL to work with Untangle but I don’t want to spend a lot of time fighting that. I’m going to try other software (and Untangle again). While I may dump DSL, the slower DSL is suitable for testing and I can use it while everything else stays online and segregated from my testing.

Then there’ the web server rebuild. Another fun project but one that suffers from scope creep as I try different things. The longer I take the more it costs me since I have two servers so there’s an incentive to focus and get it done.

But first there’s the long holiday weekend.