How To Configure Nas Server – I decided to get a network-attached storage (NAS) server because I needed a central and secure place to store all my large files. As I shoot RAW photos and collect more digital videos (camera, dashcam, digitized home videos from the 1990s and a drone) I use more hard drive space. I also enjoy flipping servers and stuff and think a home server can be used for a variety of things. My Raspberry Pi works well for my home automation, but a bigger server would speed it up. I’m trying to learn Blender and looking at a machine learning course. Both require a fairly modern GPU. Finally, I enjoy learning about computers.
I want some redundancy in my storage so that I don’t lose all my data if the hard drive fails in 6 years. A good off-site backup schedule is the best way to handle this, but it is difficult and I wish it was more automated. I am considering the following options:
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Since I only want to buy 2 drives today I decided to do ZFS mirroring. If I upgrade later I can convert the whole thing to RAID-Z1. I really want to try this ZFS business.
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The first step is to choose the motherboard and processor. My niche is a combination of serious but power efficient NAS with goofing around with GPU stuff. So I’m looking for:
As for the CPU, I am surprised that my 2011 laptop CPU is still very good with a score of 6,619 and a power rating of 45 watts. The pace of growth has really slowed down.
For the size, I decided that the Mini-ITX form factor was perfect. Most motherboards of this size that support ECC RAM are very expensive and take power-hungry Xeon processors. This guy got a $1000 board, which isn’t great but I was hoping for a price range or two below. After much searching and weighing the options, I decided that non-ECC RAM was less likely to cause errors and went with regular RAM. I found a nice 25W processor that got 9400 passmark (Intel 7700T). During this search, I found the Wikipedia listings of i7 processors (and i5, i3s too) very useful. It looks like you need a slosh i3 or a more expensive and powerful Xeon for ECC RAM support. The i3-7100T is a strong low-power contender, but I can’t go slower than my 2011 laptop because I want to triple the Blender renderform.
I found an epic board with all the bells and whistles I wanted: the ASRock Z270M-ITX/ac. Not only does it have dual gigabit LAN but also WiFi, so if I want I can create an upside-down neighborhood-ternet, something I’ve been dreaming of for a long time.
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For cases, I found the Fractal Design Node 304, which is small and has room for up to 6 hard drives. Nice!
For hard drives, I went with two Red Series Western Digital 8TB NAS drives. They are spinning platters but low power and designed to last forever. I see that motherboards now have these things called M.2 ports where you can plug in small SSD hard drives for your operating system (the last PC build I did was in 2002). So I got a 500GB SSD for that.
For machine learning, I know I want an nVidia drive because they have CUDA and most of the libraries I’ve seen seem to use it. I’ve seen a lot of great webpages where people basically say that the nVidia 1070 with 6GB is good for learning medium-sized real-world problems, but it might struggle a bit for larger practical problems. Since my goal is to learn some ML, I think this is a perfect middle-of-the-road compromise. Cheap, low power and powerful/future proof: I’m keeping an eye on this beast because I want it to be a contender.
The building is very simple. When I first turned it on it didn’t show on the screen. I plugged it into a TV monitor via one of the motherboard HDMI ports and tried to change it. Eventually I figured it should be on the nVidia GPU (the bios defaults to it) and the TV should be plugged in when the PC boots. The bios arrived and I was a happy man.
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I knew I was pretty high on power consumption when I got the GPU, but I had no idea how bad it was. My two WD hard drives arrived a few days after I installed the original parts and I was happy to see 25 watts of useless power consumption without them. When they arrived and I plugged them in, I got 40 watts of consumption when the thing was under light load, peaking around 70 watts. At 11 cents/kWh, my Raspberry Pi costs $40 a year to keep running, compared to $5 a year. Not too bad, but I’ll let the Pi run the home automation system now and turn on the NAS when needed.
There are some great options like FreeNAS to easily manage your NAS system. Many people are happy to use it. Personally, I stay away from pre-built applications like this because I like to tinker around at the low level so I know how everything works. However, if you don’t want to spend a lot of time learning this crap, don’t bother! I went with Ubuntu 17.04, which like most Linuxes has ZFS and NAS and Samba and all that good stuff. I installed it via USB drive and installed all my favorite programs, set up SSH, got nVidia’s proprietary drivers and off we went.
Getting a ZFS mirror up and running is trivial. After I figured out what my 8TB drive was called, I ran:
And then I started filling it. I hard-wired my laptop to my gig ethernet port and copied over 500 GB of stuff. It’s fast! Sweetness! For Windows sharing, I need to set up Samba if my wife wants to join the fun. NFS is enough for now.
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I found out about ZFS snapshots and it blew my mind. It’s like version control on your hard drive. So if you delete everything, you can restore.
At this point I started thinking about permissions and user management. How can I control access to PCs on my local network? As it turns out, the NAS only does UID matching by default, so if the user
Will come and hook up to my wifi and set his UID to 1004 too, then NFS will serve him files like I have. This is usually fine for a home unless you have talented teenage hacker kids. NFS4 supports Kerberos encryption so I’ll have to figure that out as well and see if I can get it to work as it’s a bit tighter.
So, how to remote control this thing? Apparently SSH works well for text-based management, which I’m used to on my webserver and at work. But I want some GUI action on this guy, specifically:
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X to pass the graphics and run them from the command line. It pops up on the client PC and works fine.
For others, there are many problems. If you try to run Blender with X forwarding, you get:
3D hardware acceleration doesn’t transfer well to X. This is the problem you get when you try to run Gnome3. Maybe VNC can work for me. I’ve been reading all about this Remote Access X thing called XDMCP and am having trouble getting it to work. After struggling forever I found the following:
First things first. The computer is booted and no one is logged on. How to access the GUI remotely. To get remote access to the GDM3 login screen, I did this:
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None of this is secure and VNC sends everything over the LAN unencrypted so you can’t use it if your Wifi has any malicious characters (at least not using SSH tunneling with VNC stuff).
On second thought, if I want to run Blender, I can configure the vnc server to start a gnome-session (or something lighter) when starting the Xorg instance. The downside of this is that it cannot control the actual TV for media server use.
However, it’s still not good but I’m making progress. If you know better or cleaner ways, please let me know!!
There’s still a lot to do, including setting up machine learning libraries, getting Samba, configuring Kodi for the media server, tweaking power settings, and more. I’ll be in touch if anything goes well. As your business grows, so does the amount of data it needs to store
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