Computerus

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Thad
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Re: Computerus

Postby Thad » Fri Jun 05, 2020 3:23 pm

Thad wrote:So as you've probably guessed by now, I do not trust The Cloud. However, it is the year 2020 and I would very much like for my data to sync from my phone to my desktop to my laptop to my HTPC to my other HTPC to my tablet to my other tablet to my ebook reader to my other laptop and look the point is I have a fuck of a lot of networked devices.

I've got Nextcloud set up on a Rockstor server in my house. I've had no end of trouble with it and I'm pretty close to throwing my hands up.

If I do want to explore setting up a remote filesync server on someone else's metal (possibly still using Nextcloud but, presumably, without all the fiddling I have to do to run it on my own machine), are there any good, trustworthy, reasonably-priced remote servers where I can set up a VM? Amazon and Google are right out and I'm not thrilled at the thought of going with Microsoft, either.


So this is the thing about that:

A decade or so back (around the time I got a laptop and started using a password locker), I started using Owncloud on my Mac Pro to sync files across my various devices. Eventually the Mac wasn't up to the task anymore; it's from 2006, it's unsupported, and while I could probably get Debian or Fedora to install on it, a 2006-vintage dual-Xeon* consumes a ridiculous amount of power by modern standards and I'd just as soon not have one running 24/7.

So I did some research and figured a dedicated NAS OS would be the way to go. The best-known OS for this purpose is FreeNAS, but the community didn't seem very friendly. Here's an excerpt from the hardware guide they had up, specifically targeting new users:

ZFS loves memory. If you are shocked at the idea of a NAS needing 8GB of memory, get over it. Buy 16GB at a minimum. It's 2013. Memory is cheap. FreeNAS and ZFS requires a minimum of 8GB. You are not special. You are not the exception to that. You must outfit your box with at least 8GB. But seriously, you are strongly encouraged to go with 16 or more.


So, y'know, great first impression. And the rest of the forum seemed much the same -- insistence on expensive system specs that were far out of proportion to simple home-use cases, coupled with insults and condescension.

So I wound up going with Rockstor, which is basically trying to be a Linux equivalent to FreeNAS.

And let me tell you something: given that my choice of Rockstor over FreeNAS was based primarily on how friendly their communities seemed, I have been entirely satisfied with my choice on those grounds. The Rockstor community has been friendly and helpful and responded quickly whenever I've asked for help.

And their Owncloud plugin worked great, for years.

But eventually I started having trouble with it. The Owncloud plugin was out of date, and I had some trouble with filesystem corruption on Btrfs.

So, the deal with Btrfs is, Sun introduced a filesystem called ZFS back in 2001, and it's become the gold standard for network storage. And back before Oracle bought Sun and ruined everything, they released it under an open-source license. Unfortunately, that license is generally believed to be incompatible with the GPL, which the Linux kernel is published under, so ZFS support can't be included in the Linux kernel.

Btrfs is the Linux community's attempt to provide the same kind of robust filesystem for fileservers that ZFS does. And it sucks. To give you an idea of what a goddamn mess Btrfs is, take a look at the Btrfsck documentation, which spends its first section explaining that Btrfs's repair tool will most likely fuck your shit up and you should only use it as an absolute last resort after you've tried everything else.

Now, to be fair, I used Btrfs for years without having any trouble -- but then, as if to make up for lost time, I started having a bunch of Btrfs problems all the past year or so. I had problems with my OpenSUSE desktop, then my Rockstor server, then the Manjaro installation that replaced my OpenSUSE installation.

Around the same time as my Btrfs issues on Rockstor, my Owncloud clients all started complaining that I was running an ancient, unsupported version of the server software. Whatever upstream Docker container Rockstor had derived its Owncloud plugin from, it was no longer maintained.

So I asked about this on the Rockstor forums, asked if there were plans for a new Owncloud container or maybe Nextcloud, the fork that most of Owncloud's original developers have switched over to (think OpenOffice/LibreOffice). While there was no new official Owncloud plugin, and no Nextcloud plugin, one of the forum mods put together a Nextcloud plugin for me based on the official one he found on Docker. Again, the community support for Rockstor is great and I can't praise those guys enough.

But, they're just a couple of guys, and while they've provided the best support they possibly can for my use-case, I think I've hit the limits of what they're able to help me with. They haven't been able to provide much guidance on the problems I've been having with Btrfs and Nextcloud, and I've had ongoing performance issues, lockups, and filesystem errors.

And so I'm done.

In the years since I first looked into FreeNAS, it's been bought out by another company, and they seem to have cracked down on the asshattery in the community forums. That post I linked up above isn't even there anymore; I've linked to an archive.org version from last fall, and even that archived version has been updated to reflect that these hardware recommendations don't reflect the current standards.

The new company is still in the business of selling expensive hardware; its cheapest NAS device is $700, without any storage. But for home users, the new management provides much more reasonable hardware requirements than the old forums did; none of the "if you have less than 16GB ECC, or if you're using AMD processor, we won't even try to help you" attitude that put me off before.

So I'm gonna give FreeNAS a shot. I bought a case yesterday on eBay; it's a previous model FreeNAS box, so it probably would have been the $700 entry-level model a couple of years ago; I got it for about $80 with shipping. I'm not quite sure how functional it is; from the listing:

IxSystems FreeNas Mini NAS server enclosure/case. Condition is For parts or not working. Buyer agrees to accept as is. HDDs not included but motherboard, power supply, power cord, atom processer and 16GB of ECC RAM is included.


So I'm not clear from that whether it just means it's non-functional because he took all the hard drives out, or whether it's actually broken and doesn't work at all. But even if I have to replace the motherboard, $80 is still a good price just for the case. Or, if the RAM's still good, that's a good price just for 16GB of ECC.

So, one more project to keep me busy while I'm stuck at home. And then hopefully before too long I can get back to not thinking about my NAS at all.

* that's dual-processor, not dual-core

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Mazian
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Re: Computerus

Postby Mazian » Fri Jun 05, 2020 4:05 pm

Thad wrote:So I'm not clear from that whether it just means it's non-functional because he took all the hard drives out, or whether it's actually broken and doesn't work at all.

More than likely, it's an Atom C2000-series system, and that means it's non-functional because original silicon for those chips die early.

On some motherboards, this is repairable; it's an easy fix on a Synology DS415, and on the SuperMicro C2750 board in my NAS, a preemptive repair with less than a dollar in parts resurrected at least one other person's dead board. However, to my knowledge, the ASRock boards in the old FreeNAS Minis does not expose the same clock line and doesn't have a known fix, other than motherboard replacement with revised hardware.

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Re: Computerus

Postby Thad » Fri Jun 05, 2020 4:31 pm

Thanks for the info; that'll probably save me some time troubleshooting and trying to fix. And means that, likelier than not, the case and the RAM are probably still good.

I won't order a new motherboard and processor until I'm sure that's what I need, but it shouldn't be too hard to find a reasonably-priced option that'll take ECC and won't use too much power. I shouldn't need much in the way of CPU power for this, though I've seen the Sempron in my Rockstor box at 100% often enough that I'll want something better than that.

But then again, if the Atom does work, I guess I'll stick with it, and that's most likely a downgrade from the Sempron in terms of performance.

ETA: Found the FreeNAS page explicitly listing the motherboard clock signal issue. It's covered under warranty, but the warranty on the one I'm buying is almost certainly expired (only lasts 1 year; they extended it to 3 years for any shipped prior to February 2017, but obviously that doesn't help me).

I also found the FreeNAS Mini and Mini XL Motherboard Replacement Guide and the Official FreeNAS Hardware Guide.

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Re: Computerus

Postby Thad » Sun Jun 07, 2020 6:43 pm

I've spent the past two and a half months looking at the way I had the HDMI cable coming out of my monitor to connect to my work laptop and thinking "I really should get a longer cable and run it around the back of my desk; if I leave it the way it is, sooner or later it's going to knock my drink over right on my keyboard."

It turns out I was right!

So I immediately disconnected the keyboard, wiped it down, flipped it over, and left it overnight. Plugged it back in this morning to find it was shorting (wrong key presses).

Took the keyboard apart, went at it with compressed air, Q-tips and alcohol, and a hairdryer (on the "cool" setting). It's currently disassembled and sitting under a fan; I figure I'll leave it there overnight. If it works tomorrow, great, I'll screw everything back together; if it doesn't, I'll put the parts together, attach it with maybe 4 of the 24 screws, put the rest in a baggie, tape the baggie to the keyboard, and donate it to AZ StRUT; maybe some high school kid can make a more successful project of fixing it than I did.

Decided not to wait to see if I could fix this one before I ordered a replacement; if I've fixed this one, then it'll be good to keep it around as a spare but it was old and starting to come apart anyway (the covering over the palm rest has a tear and is starting to peel off). I've been using the Microsoft Natural family for probably 25 years but decided to go with the new Logitech K860 this time. There are a few things I'm skeptical about -- I've never had much use for a wireless keyboard on my main desktop (and while the button to switch over to my laptop would be useful given that I currently spend much of my day going between my personal desktop and my work laptop, that's no use to me since I have a wired mouse and will need to move a USB cable between the two machines every time I want to switch anyway); there's a bunch of shit that relies on proprietary desktop apps that don't run on Linux, so I'm going to have to figure out how the open-source equivalents work; and I may need to figure out how to remap some keys since I don't see an F-lock anywhere. But it's got solid reviews, and it manages to have a mostly-full keyboard (including 10-key but not Pause/Break) while being not quite so much of a behemoth as the Natural 4000.

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Re: Computerus

Postby Thad » Mon Jun 08, 2020 4:26 pm

The surgery appears to have gone pretty well. No more shorts; keys all seem to be working correctly now. The "c" and the spacebar are a little spongy. Still think this is a good time to get a new keyboard, but good to know the old one still works.

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Re: Computerus

Postby mharr » Mon Jun 08, 2020 5:58 pm

Also good to know which hardware is the Trooper version and will likely survive several rounds of home repairs.

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Re: Computerus

Postby Thad » Mon Jun 08, 2020 6:30 pm

Oh yeah, the Microsoft Natural definitely has longevity on its side; like I said, I've been using them since the mid-1990s, and they've all lasted a pretty long time.

I got an original MS Natural new sometime in the '90s; it must have lasted at least 4 years, because it was discontinued in '98 and I replaced it with a Natural Multimedia Keyboard, which was released in '02 (my recollection is that the spacebar broke off my original). I don't remember why I quit using the Natural Multimedia but it seems like it was around '06 that I bought two Natural 4000s, one for home and one for work, and that's been my setup ever since. (Not the same two for that whole period; I remember I fried one by using the wrong power connector on a USB hub. There may have been one more replacement in there but I'm not sure; at any rate, 3-4 keyboards in 14 years ain't a bad track record.)

There's a reason the Microsoft Natural 4000 has been around essentially unchanged for 15 years (despite attempts at a successor like the Sculpt and the 2019 MS Ergonomic Keyboard). It's not a perfect keyboard; it's huge and it's a little mushy -- but you can't get a better ergo keyboard for the price, and they last forever. I'm ready to try the K860 and see if it's better, but I still think the MS Natural is pretty damn good.

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Re: Computerus

Postby François » Mon Jun 08, 2020 8:20 pm

I've just realized I still use the same cheap BenQ keyboard I bought with my first computer more than twenty years ago. It worked great then and it still works great now, though literal decades of heavy daily use have partially worn off the the paint on the A, S and D keys. (But not W for some reason.)

I should probably consider buying a spare at this point, but I would not have guessed this thing would turn out to be the love child of a Game Boy and a Nokia phone.

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Re: Computerus

Postby Mongrel » Mon Jun 08, 2020 8:33 pm

I think I've mentioned I'm still using the first-ever keyboard that came with my first-ever computer as well, this was back in (I think) 1998. It's an [looks at model number for maybe the second or third time ever in 22 years] IBM KB-3923.

Still works great. Hell, a few of the letters show some wear, but every single one of them is still fully visible.

That's 22 years of Mongrelposting this thing has survived.
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Re: Computerus

Postby Thad » Tue Jun 09, 2020 12:27 pm

I've got a Model M. AFAIK it still works great, but I don't generally use it because ergo keyboards are more comfortable.

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Re: Computerus

Postby Thad » Thu Jun 11, 2020 11:26 pm

Got the case. Motherboard lights up but there's no POST beep, no picture on the VGA, nothin'. Is that consistent with the clock signal issue?

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Re: Computerus

Postby Mazian » Fri Jun 12, 2020 10:33 am

Entirely consistent. The missing clock signal is for the LPC bus, which isn't used for much... except for loading the BIOS.

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Re: Computerus

Postby Thad » Fri Jun 12, 2020 12:41 pm

Cool. Won't spend too much time trying to troubleshoot or fix then.

I'm thinking Supermicro A2SDI-4C-HLN4F-O as a replacement. Alternately, I could get something with a 4-core i3, but then I'd also have to upgrade the power supply; if I stick with Atom then I won't need more than the 250W it's already got.

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Re: Computerus

Postby Thad » Fri Jun 12, 2020 5:35 pm

I decided that before I go throwing down $300+ on a new board, I should at least contact ASrock support to see if they have any suggestions.

A tech got back to me and asked if I could access the web console. I plugged in a network cable, fired it up, and lo and behold, I saw a new DHCP lease in my router panel. Sure enough, the web login comes up.

I don't actually have any login credentials, but hopefully there's a way to reset them. Might as well see this through and exhaust my options before I go buying a new board.

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Re: Computerus

Postby Thad » Wed Jun 24, 2020 3:10 pm

Took a bit of doing but finally got a quote from ASRock to RMA the motherboard. They want $240 for it. (Plus whatever I have to pay to ship it, plus probably the price of an anti-static bag because I don't think I have any that big (ETA I found a big enough anti-static bag).)

Which is probably a good price for an 8-core Atom motherboard. I was looking at paying $100 more than that for a 4-core (though that 4-core would have been a generation newer than this one, and a SuperMicro board, which seems to generally be better-respected than ASRock).

I've got time to think about it, anyway.

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Re: Computerus

Postby Thad » Sat Jul 11, 2020 1:09 pm

Shipped my motherboard to ASRock; got a confirmation that it was received on Monday the 29th.

On Wednesday the 8th, I asked for a status update.

On Friday the 10th, I asked for a status update again, because I hadn't gotten one after my Wednesday e-mail.

I finally got a response saying that it was delayed because I hadn't paid the $240 for out-of-warranty repair. Which they had told me would be the charge, but never actually sent me a bill for.

I'm beginning to understand why I see so many people saying "Buy SuperMicro; ASRock's support sucks." If it takes multiple e-mails to prod them into sending a bill to someone who wants to pay them $240, how bad is their support for people who aren't trying to give them money?

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Re: Computerus

Postby Mongrel » Sat Jul 11, 2020 2:07 pm

This could go in the crimes of UI thread, but I'd rather just have a solution than bitch.

I keep my OS on a small partition and most of my data is on a main (D:) drive. Now it turns out that Avorion has 1) save files that hit over 5+Gb at endgame(!!!)(okay, that's not out of line with Minecraft server saves), and 2) there's no option in the game or in Steam to change the save file location (what the fuck, guys), which is in the Steam default location as a subfolder in your AppData.

While I can accommodate a couple of full-size save game files, and I'm not playing multiple games at a time anyway, it'd be trivial for them to eat up the 30 Gb or so free space on my OS partition, so I'd like to store them elsewhere, as I do for just about any other game with large saves.

Is there a Windows (7) setting or hack which would allow me to move the files elsewhere but have Windows pull them as if they're in the original folder?
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Re: Computerus

Postby Thad » Sat Jul 11, 2020 6:24 pm

Try a symbolic link. You can create a file or directory that actually links to a different location.

You'll need to run a command line (cmd or PowerShell) as an admin. The command is mklink [link] [original file]*, and you'll need a /d flag if you're linking a directory.

It's a Unix feature awkwardly bolted onto a Windows filesystem so I suspect there are some opportunities for it to behave in weird and unexpected ways, but in my limited experience with it it's worked okay.

...and please stop using Windows 7; it stopped receiving security updates in January. FYI, Avorion runs natively on Linux.

* which, in keeping with forty years of DOS tradition, is the opposite order of how it's done on Unix; fuck you, Microsoft.

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Re: Computerus

Postby Mongrel » Sat Jul 11, 2020 9:33 pm

Thad wrote:...and please stop using Windows 7


The plan is to upgrade everything when it's time to build a new computer, which isn't too far off for Starr or I. Pretty sure these boxes are closing in on a decade of continuous use.

As for the rest, I'll see if I can get it to work! Thanks.
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Re: Computerus

Postby Grath » Sun Jul 12, 2020 1:51 am

I'm still using Windows 7 because I'm lazy (and Windows 10 had some spooky stories out every time I was thinking about biting the bullet and upgrading.) I'll probably do a new build this fall when the next latest generations come out, now that I'm back to being overpaid.

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