ESXi Whitebox

Wanted to share my success in the installation of ESXi 6.0 onto some generic hardware. This is typically know as an ESXi Whitebox.

I purchased an Asus B85M-G mainboard which has supported onboard sata controllers, however the onboard Realtek driver needs to inserted using the creation of some custom installation media. But it too will work following that process.

To create the custom installation media you will need to use ESXi Customizer which can be found over here. The process was very easy. You’ll also need to grab the net55-r8168 offline bundle which can be found here and the entire process I covered is documented here.

The Asus B85M-G mainboard will give you 6 x sata ports with 2 x pcie x1 slots and an pcie x16 slot. Board can take 4 x DDR3 memory chips for a total of 32GB. Should make a reasonable home ESXi Whitebox for many.

If you need some additional network ports, I noticed in the post here, that some folks suggest you can buy HP NC360T dual network cards and hack them to be used in the pcie x1 slots. I haven’t got one of these yet to attempt it, but I might consider it. As using up those slots and leaving the pcie x16 available for a hardware raid card with battery backup would be ideal.

Below is a screen capture showing the network card as being detected and used by the installation.

20151220-esxi6.0.0-realtek-nic

Intel i3 NUC Update

The Intel i3 NUC is going great. It’s awesome to have 16GB of ram installed, and a 500GB laptop drive. I also put in a m.2 SSD from Samsung. It’s a fantastic machine for the form factor. I was surprised to find that it runs Minecraft well with the onboard Intel GPU.

I think I will be building another one in the next few months. First I need to probably consider setting up another NAS.

 

TiVo Series 3 Internal 2TB Hard Drive Upgrade

We’ve had a TiVo Series 3 for a very long time, in fact we actually have two units. I purchased the first one very early on when they came out and the second unit I got during a run out of refurb units (a year after I got my first).

We did have a 1TB DVR Expander for each unit, as I bought one at full price on first unit purchase and got the second at a promo price with the refurb unit. Unfortunately they never stood the test of time and died some time ago. You can imagine recording with a 160GB internal drive is not that great when it comes to space available.

About 4 months ago, I stumbled across some discussion on Whirlpool relating to upgrading the internal hard drive on these units and what would be required to be performed. You can read all about it in this thread here. I downloaded everything required and figured I would do this sometime. I actually also have and older computer that would work as the machine to perform this.

Recently circumstances changed and subsequently with the fall out associated with IceTV failing to deliver our Skippa.tv we decided to upgrade one of the internal drives in our TiVo Series 3.

I purchased a Western Digital Green 2TB – Model WD20EZRX, and proceeded to follow the directions on the forum post here and here (later link the one I followed, shown in summary below by bullet points).

Basically I got my computer I was going to use, hooked up my new WD20EZRX drive (and booted the wdidle3 ISO I downloaded). I executed wdidle3 /D to disable IntelliPark on the WD drive, if it has worked you will see “Idle3 Timer is enabled and set to 3720 seconds (62.0 minutes)”. This means it had worked. Shutdown the computer, disconnect the drive. Since you should remove power from the drive to ensure this change takes place on next restart. You could boot wdidle3 ISO and check it by running wdidle3 with no switches to see that it reports it back.

Next you need to burn the JMFS ISO and ensure that you have removed the original drive from the TiVo Series 3 and connected it to first sata port, and your drive you will clone to (WD20EZRX) onto the second sata port. I now used a USB cdrom, as I had no free sata ports. So booted the JMFS ISO.

  • Run the menu item to do the disk copy from original drive to new drive.
  • Run the menu item to do the expansion of your new drive.
  • WD20EZRX doesn’t support AAM setting, so nothing to be ran relating to that.
  • wdidle3 already performed earlier.
  • I opted to supersize my drive, which means after all steps above done, shutdown. Using WinMFS to “turn on supersize”. This requires your machine booting from Windows, having new cloned drive connected on sata bus and selecting it and enabling the supersize. After this is done you can shutdown, install drive in TiVo Series 3 and look at all the new space.

Screen grab below showing output post JMFS expansion (step following clone operation);

tivo-series3-jmfs-expansion-screen-capture

Screen grabs below showing before and after capacity obtained;

Before Upgrade
Before Upgrade
After Upgrade
After Upgrade

New AMD Gaming PC build

In the last week or two I have come to the conclusion I really want to get another Gaming PC build going, as I really want to play Battlefield 4 with some friends. In addition to playing a few other games on Steam.

As I looked at pricing, I came to the conclusion that I will end up going with an AMD based system this time around for a change, since the price point works well for what I want. I am still throwing ideas around of end product and specs, but so far I have concluded that these will probably form the basis of the build itself.

CPU:

AMD FX 6300 6-CORE BLACK EDITION CPU, 3.5 GHz, Turbo Core up to 4.10 GHz,Total L2 Cache 6MB, L3 Cache 8MB, Socket AM3+, 32nm, 95W ($157)

OR

AMD FX 8320 8-CORE BLACK EDITION CPU, 3.5 GHz, Turbo Core up to 4.00 GHz,Total L2 Cache 8MB, L3 Cache 8MB, Socket AM3+, 32nm, 125W ($217)

MAINBOARD:

Gigabyte GA-970A-D3P ($123)

VIDEOCARD:

Gigabyte Radeon R9 380, 4GB GDDR5, 1792 Steams, WINDFORCE 2x (GV-R938G1 GAMING-4GD) ($368)

I’ll continue to post updates as I determine any additional items.

Mikrotik RouterBoard RB951G-2HnD First Look

As noted in yesterday’s blog post here, our Mikrotik RouterBoard RB951G-2HnD arrived and I have managed to take a few pictures.

You’ll note I have taken photos of the unit with the recently purchased Mikrotik RouterBoard RB260GS switch. As you can see the enclosure for these units is exactly the same.

If you want to check out the product specifications you can do so by clicking the model name on this post or refer to the table below;

Product specifications

Details
Product code RB951G-2HnD
CPU nominal frequency 600 MHz
CPU core count 1
Size of RAM 128 MB
10/100 Ethernet ports 0
10/100/1000 Ethernet ports 5
MiniPCI slots 0
MiniPCI-e slots 0
Wireless chip model AR9344-DC3A
Wireless standards 802.11b/g/n
Number of USB ports 1
Power Jack 1
802.3af support No
Supported input voltage 9 V – 30 V
PoE out No
PoE in Yes
Voltage Monitor No
CPU temperature monitor No
PCB temperature monitor No
Dimensions 113x138x29mm
Operating System RouterOS
Operating temperature range -20C .. +50C
License level 4
Antenna gain DBI 2.5
Current Monitor No
CPU AR9344-DC3A
Max Power consumption Up to 7W
SFP ports 0
SFP+ ports 0
USB slot type USB type A
Number of chains 2
Serial port None

I still need to spend the time to plug it in and configure it, which won’t be too difficult, as I will take the configuration off hAP Lite I am using currently. Will post up another post in a couple weeks on how I progressed with the configuration of the unit and what not.

 

Nice new Mikrotik RB951G-2HnD arrives

Managed to get down to the local PO to pickup my parcel. It was my nice new Mikrotik RB951G-2HnD unit. Will be posting some pictures of it in the next day or two.

I need to get it configured, I don’t really need the wifi built in, but I figured we could set it up on its own network and have it as a guest portal.

You can purchase a Mikrotik RB951G-2HnD from Duxtel in Geelong, Victoria.

Mikrotik RouterBoard Hairpin NAT

I thought I should do a quick post about Mikrotik RouterBoard Hairpin NAT and Port Forwarding. The post in which I used to set this up on my router is found here.

The best explanation for this, would be that if you want to have say http from the public interface forwarded to an internal host, while not impacting LAN access to the RouterBoard’s http port. The forum post linked is how to best handle this situation.

It also allows your internal LAN clients to access your public IP and forward to the appropriate host/service internally too.

Mikrotik – Total convert

As you will have seen in one of my previous posts (here), I have a Mikrotik RB450G which I purchased and have been playing around with.

I must say I am a complete convert, I really love the hardware. The amount of things it can do and how configurable it is really makes it a great bit of hardware.

It brings back the memories of when I would run a old PC as a linux router/internet gateway when I could run mrtg on it and constantly have a record of link utilisation etc. This is done on the Mikrotik too, and I love it.

I just purchased a TP-Link TD8817 in the last few days, to have this permanently hooked up to the Mikrotik RB450G and will run my ADSL via bridged modem. Mikrotik is handling everything. When I move and eventually get an FTTH service, I will just need to reconfigure the Mikrotik accordingly.

I still have lots to understand about RouterOS, but so far its working very nicely and doing everything I need of it.

My plan is to play around with queues and what not further, so I can put the kids devices into a group that gets a percentage of bandwidth available, however for now I am marking packets and assigning them priorities to keep the link quick for stuff that needs it. Like web browsing and email.

Exetel Evening Network Congestion

For months now I have been seeing major Network Congestion on the Exetel ADSL2+ Broadband service. I’ve reported this a number of times and it is brushed off indicating that the problem is a service based one.

Well unfortunately that’s not the case, as come business hours the same network transfers slow in the evenings are fast again, which basically tells us that the Exetel Network / Up stream provider is clearly hammered/congested/shaped.

Below is some test downloads, which show the date/time they started and ended, along with the size of the files, URL used and average through put.

pi@bravo ~ $ date
Wednesday 15 April  21:05:46 AEST 2015
pi@bravo ~ $ wget http://mirror.internode.on.net/pub/test/100meg.test
--2015-04-15 21:06:07--  http://mirror.internode.on.net/pub/test/100meg.test
Resolving mirror.internode.on.net (mirror.internode.on.net)... 150.101.135.3
Connecting to mirror.internode.on.net (mirror.internode.on.net)|150.101.135.3|:80... connected.
HTTP request sent, awaiting response... 200 OK
Length: 100000000 (95M) [application/octet-stream]
Saving to: `100meg.test'

100%[======================================>] 100,000,000 94.3K/s   in 17m 47s

2015-04-15 21:23:53 (91.6 KB/s) - `100meg.test' saved [100000000/100000000]

pi@bravo ~ $ date
Wednesday 15 April  21:23:56 AEST 2015
pi@bravo ~ $ wget http://download.gimp.org/pub/gimp/v2.8/windows/gimp-2.8.14-setup-1.exe
--2015-04-15 21:23:57--  http://download.gimp.org/pub/gimp/v2.8/windows/gimp-2.8.14-setup-1.exe
Resolving download.gimp.org (download.gimp.org)... 209.132.180.179
Connecting to download.gimp.org (download.gimp.org)|209.132.180.179|:80... connected.
HTTP request sent, awaiting response... 200 OK
Length: 91931728 (88M) [application/octet-stream]
Saving to: `gimp-2.8.14-setup-1.exe'

100%[======================================>] 91,931,728  34.4K/s   in 43m 3s

2015-04-15 22:07:02 (34.8 KB/s) - `gimp-2.8.14-setup-1.exe' saved [91931728/91931728]

Now below is my PPPoE out interface traffic graphs covering today, and the time the above clearly present, as you can see the link is capable of loads more through put, but during the evening its not remotely possible.

Come tomorrow after 9am I will perform the same downloads and post up the results below this line and you can see that what I am saying, and been seeing is evident in the material presented.

MikroTik – RB450G

I recently came across an MikroTik RouterBoard 2011 appliance, and it’s not something I haven’t heard of, as I have a friend who loves the gear.

Unfortunately I never got to play much with it, as no one knows the Administrator details and/or associated password. So this made doing some troubleshooting in the environment a bit difficult.

Decided it might be a good reason/idea to purchase a RouterBoard, since I will probably need to reset the unit for a friend, and before doing this, would like a good understanding of the device and configuration. I was about to order a new RouterBoard RB450G when I noticed someone had a unit for sale on ebay. So I bought that one at a good discount over the new one.

Looking forward to it arriving so I can make good on my research and start the configuration.

I am also looking at purchasing some of the wireless gear from MikroTik as also have a need to replace some 2.4Ghz Wireless Access points for a hotel, so will be purchasing an MikroTik Groove and testing out HotSpot capabilities of the RouterBoard etc.

Transport Sync – The hardware and the software

Since getting my Transport Sync and seeing reports that the drive when formatted by the unit may not be accessible by any other means. I thought I would investigate this further myself.

I took the external drive I was using and attached it to another Linux machine. As I expected when I did this I could see 3 partitions had been created on my external drive. The first was a 1GB (primary partition 1), followed by ~1.8G (logical partition 3 ) and the rest of the drive space (logical partition 4).

I’d heard that the drive my not be mountable outside of the unit/use. However, that’s not true. I could mount all the partitions and traverse the contents without an issue. However, the layout of the disk is not what you’d expect. See below, as your share name s in the web portal are linked to what looks to be a UUID type relationship.

# ls -la
total 48
drwxrwx---    7 embedded embedded      4096 Mar  9 21:36 .
drwxr-xr-x   18 embedded embedded      4096 Mar  9 20:20 ..
drwxrwx---    5 embedded embedded      4096 Mar  9 21:00 54f6e0afbe034963343d3082
drwxrwx---    2 embedded embedded      4096 Mar 12 21:53 54fd66fdbd1f46071996b985
drwxrwx---    6 embedded embedded      4096 Mar 12 12:07 54fd720c591f467c6196b991
drwxrwx---    8 embedded embedded      4096 Mar  9 21:27 54fd75569ac07c7e7896b97e
drwxrwx---    3 embedded embedded      4096 Mar  9 21:37 54fd77969ac07cf43196b97e
# pwd
/replicator/storagePools

Anyways, under these UUID named directories is the data that you would get under each of your shares etc.

I also pulled down a copy of the diag logs and reviewed those too, and noticed that rootfs for the Transport Sync is downloaded from connected data and is used to build the OS onto the external drive etc (including a network boot prior to that happening). Determined that Transport Sync when in a labmode or beta state would have ssh daemon enabled. Worked this out from the init.d scripts (nS50ssh) contained in the rootfs that was downloaded (rootfs-3.1.9.17914.tar).

Source: /etc/init.d/nS50ssh

start() {
    if /usr/bin/in-labmode || /usr/bin/is-beta || [ -e /replicator/configuration/ssh ] ; then
 	    echo -n "Starting sshd: "
	    /usr/sbin/sshd -f /etc/ssh/sshd_config -h /etc/ssh/ssh_host_rsa_key
	    touch /var/lock/sshd
	    echo "OK"
    fi
}

I made some tweaks so that when I unmounted the drive and attached back onto my Transport Sync, it would boot and enable ssh. So I could dig a little more around, and can see the architecture information below of the system;

# cat /proc/cpuinfo
Processor       : ARMv6-compatible processor rev 4 (v6l)
BogoMIPS        : 239.20
Features        : swp half thumb fastmult vfp edsp java
CPU implementer : 0x41
CPU architecture: 7
CPU variant     : 0x0
CPU part        : 0xb02
CPU revision    : 4

Hardware        : Connected Data CNS3411 Portal Board
Revision        : 0000
Serial          : 0000000000000000
# uname -a
Linux cd_haven 2.6.35.12-cavm1 #14 Tue Jun 24 14:51:41 PDT 2014 armv6l GNU/Linux

The program that seems to do all the heavy lifting is “replicator” and this is something connected data has developed, and has ties to Drobo as far as I can tell also.

I recently installed Windows 10 RC and installed the Transporter Desktop client on and was surprised to see that the Transporter Library shows up in Windows 10 RC as a drive letter, this was pretty cool I thought. So my D: drive on Windows 10 RC after installing the client is associated to the Transporter Library folder.

Crucial 256GB m550 SSD

I’ve been in the market for a new SSD, as the one I had was a little small. Just as I was about to purchase one I saw a special come up for Crucial 256GB m550 SSD. So I ordered one.

This has been installed into my Intel Celeron based NUC and it makes a massive difference over a traditional drive. I’d previously been using a Corsair 120GB SSD so I knew what to expect.

I still want to purchase another one for everyday machine, which will also be my gaming machine too. Not sure what brand I will buy for that machine when it comes time.

Transporter Sync – Use case

As previously posted I bought a Transporter Sync, as after some review I could see a use case for it and felt it could be a good addition for me and my environment.

Below I am going to talk about my use case and provide insight on how I am using it, so that others might get an understanding of some of the capabilities of the device. This is merely a sample of the capabilities, as when you have 2 or more units you can sync data between them (including data contained in the Transporter Library folder).

First thing I should mention is the folders associated with the installation of the software, and this is something they cover on every client installation performed, however it can seem a bit confusing, but it’s really simple.

Below is a screen grab showing the welcome message from the installer.

transporter_folder_vs_transporter_library

Transporter Folder is files/folders that will exist on any computer where the client is installed, unless your use selective sync to turn them off to stop syncing on that computer.

It will also contain a folder called Transporter Library, which if any data is copied to this path will ONLY exist on the Transporter, and will not remain on your computer. So if your computer dies or the Transporter dies, data in the Transporter Library goes with it. HOWEVER, Transporter Library folder can be configured to sync to another Transporter device associated with your account.

Example below, on what this Transporter Folder might look like, note I have created several shared folders, hence I have a number of additional folders shown, blurred out for privacy reasons.

transporter_folder_windows_client

 

For example the folder above named Public, is a shared folder I created using the Web Portal that allows me to drop files into this location, and send web links to people so they can view the file and/or download the file.

transporter_web_portal_shared_folder_creation

 

The next screen from the Web Portal is the properties for the shared folder, you will note that it has Transporter Require: No, so I can create web links to any content from my Computer of any content on this shared folder.

transporter_web_portal_shared_folder_properties

Below is a demo showing me right clicking a file and showing the Transporter content menu for creating a link to a file.

transporter_context_menu_create_web_link

Below is a link to the file as created above, so you can see what it looks like;

Click here.

Created links can be viewed/managed from the Web Portal too, as shown below;

transporter_web_portal_manage_links

From here you can delete them, and set an expiring for it.

The feature of the product which I was most excited about, was Special Folders. Below is a screen capture as taken from the Transporter Windows Client where I am looking at the Preferences, where this is configured.

transporter_windows_client_special_folders

In this example, I have selected “My Documents” and what happens when I do this is that the existing files/folders in “My Documents” are moved to a folder that is named after my machines host name. Soon as that is complete, it starts to sync the entire contents to the Transporter hard drive.

At this point, if I save anything into the “My Documents” folder structure top level, and the newly created folder with my machines host name. It instantly syncs to the Transporter.

Now the magic happens when I install the client on another computer that I use, and enable this feature again on the next computer. It will again create a folder under “My Documents” that is based on the machines host name, and move all the data below this. It of course instantly syncs this data to the Transporter.

However, you will also see the folder and data from the first machine appear too. Like wise when I go back to the first computer, it will show the data from the 2nd computer’s “My Documents” folder.

The creation of the folder based on the machines host name, is stop file conflicts where both machines might have the same file name, and allows you to manually merge it all. i.e. move content back to the My Documents top level folder to create a true single pane.

Now when you save any files/folders into My Documents on either computer, both machines instantly see this due to an immediate sync, and transporter gets a sync too. Now you could access this data from the iOS and/or Android device too, once you log on with your user account used on the Transporter Desktop client installs.

Selective Sync is an option that can be used to limit what shared folders sync on other machines, so if you had 3 shared folders, you might not want all 3 shared folders to sync on your 2nd computer, so you could turn them all off, or just individual ones. As shown below;

transporter_windows_client_selective_sync

I’ll post more info and screen captures in the coming days, but I wanted to post out something to account for what I have used so far.