Saturday, 14 April 2012

Performance Test Metrics

One of the principal negatives I've been reading about Storage Spaces is the poor performance of parity-protected volumes. Having used UnRaid for some time, I'm quite used to the performance limitations of parity-protection and am quite happy to live with this in my use case (serving media files) as it's mostly about reading data and the benefits of parity protection in terms of maximising disk space usage and resilience are important factors to me.

However, I'm interested in the performance I'm getting and finding ways of improving access speeds and so have conducted some tests to benchmark the current system and have a way of determining the efficacy of any future improvements.

Friday, 13 April 2012

UnRaid is a tough old cookie

The Reconfigured UnRaid
Having migrated my data to my sparkling new MediaServer8, I wanted to reconfigure my UnRaid server to transfer some of the 1TB disks to the Windows Server 8 box and replace them with smaller 500GB drives I had lying around.

As part of this process, I also downgraded the hardware from an i3 based CPU & motherboard to an old Dual Xeon config with PCI-X SATA card.

So, having removed three of six 1TB drives from the UnRaid system and replaced them with the 500GB drives, replaced the CPU & motherboard and completely changed the way the drives were connected to the system, to my utter amazement, the UnRaid system booted perfectly on the new hardware and furthermore, a lot of my data was still accessible!

Of course, anything that resided on the 3x removed drives was gone but a remarkable amount of stuff was still there. In fact, it proved somewhat difficult to erase the entire system and get back to a fresh, empty UnRaid.

I'm impressed that the system was so resilient and am happy to continue using it for my work archive now that I've seen how it reacts to catastrophic events!

Thursday, 12 April 2012

Comparing directory contents using PowerShell

In transferring files to and from Windows Server 8 storage spaces, I found myself needing to compare source and target directories to determine if any had not copied correctly.

I could have used something like WinDiff but having been using Linux for a while, thought there should be a command line way to do it :-)

Here's what I found to work;
$d1 = get-childitem -name -path F:/from/directory -recurse
$d2 = get-childitem -name -path T:/target/directory -recurse
compare-object $d1 $d2

I'll just be a minute dear....

This should have been easy!

Some things are supposed to be easy but are not. This is one of those things!

My task was to extend my storage pool on Windows Server 8. What should have been a 5 minute operation turned into days of hacking and frustration. But I got there in the end.

My motherboard provides 6x SATA connectors on the board itself along with a single (2 channel) PATA connector and some free PCIe slots.

To get the server up and running, I had connected 3x 1TB drives to the onboard SATA ports and had configured them in a Storage Pool. The OS was installed to a 500GB IDE drive and a DVD ROM was also on the IDE channel.

This ran great but when I set about adding drives to extend the storage pool, things started going seriously downhill.

Friday, 6 April 2012

Whole House Audio - Step 1

SqueezeBox Radio
As noted, I've bought into the Squeezebox line of audio playback devices. I started with Squeezebox back when it was a Slimdevices product. It's subsequently been bought out by Logitech who've let it languish and there's a big question mark over it's future. However, I like it, it still works and there's a few reasons I'll keep using it;

  1. I've invested in some hardware (Squeezebox II & Squeezebox Radio)
  2. The SqueezeServer (now Logitech Media Center) Software is flexible & mature
  3. There are software players available as well as the command line SqueezeSlave

Based on all of the above, I'm happy to stick with the system for my DIY whole house audio set up and want to get it configured on the MediaServer8. First step is getting the SqueezeServer software installed...

Thursday, 5 April 2012

Intel Graphics really do leave a lot to be desired

Sapphire HD 4350
In the Plex setup post, I noted that I'd observed some stutter on content being played on this machine. In viewing more content, I realised it was actually pretty bad, SD content would have skips and stutters on long pans, zooms & tracks. HD content would hardly play at all, dropping a lot of frames.

I'd configured the machine with the onboard X3500 graphics which provide HDMI and VGA outputs. With the HDMI connected to my Sony Bravia and with the latest Intel drivers, no settings in driver control panel or inside Plex seemed to have any affect.

I decided to try a discrete video card to confirm whether or not it's a problem with the intel video chipset.

Tuesday, 3 April 2012

Random Linux Notes

In working with linux systems and VMs as part of this project, I've learned not to use exclamation marks as part of user passwords on windows machines you hope to connect to from Linux command line!

Also, here's a really useful command for listing the size of directories in the current directory;

du -hx . |grep ^[0-9.]*G | sort -rn| head -n 100

(replace the '.' with the path to any other directory you want to list)

Monday, 2 April 2012

PLEX is go

So I've installed Plex Media Server (v0.9.5.3) and Media Center (v0.9.5.2) and all is working, but not perfectly.

Installation was painless and I let the server re-index all the media as I didn't feel like transferring databases and the like.

Clients running on other machines play perfectly, even insanely high datarate HD content.

However, the kids watched a movie using the client on the server itself connected to our lounge TV (via hdmi). I noticed some shudder & jitter on slow pans and zooms. When next accessing the Server Manager, I noticed 17 performance issues reported, all of which were CPU threshold related with Plex reportedly maxing out the CPU.

100% CPU usage is apparently normal when transcoding media according multiple posts on Plex forums. However, I would not expect the Plex Client to need to transcode media - unless I'm missing some codecs  on the machine.

I'll need to look into this a little more.

Sunday, 1 April 2012

My First VM

With the server up & running, drivers sorted, storage spaces set up and data transferred, it's time to start adding applications.

The rather refreshing Maraschino front end to NZBAPP

First up it's the old partnership of Sickbeard and Sabnzbd. Both have windows .exes available and both installed and launched no problem. I transferred my sickbeard config.ini and database from my UnRaid install and did a mass update to repoint the path to the show directories. Surprisingly, this all went very smoothly and with Sabnzbd set up through it's wizard, I was ready to roll.

Or was I?